What is group coaching?

Group coaching, at its heart, is about creating self-discovery, decision and action within a group.

But what does that mean in practice?

In traditional one-to-one coaching, there is a direct and powerful relationship between the coach and the client in which the coach creates a space for a direct conversation and learning to take place.

In group coaching, this is no longer the primary role of the coach. The power of coaching does not reside in the questions the coach asks which create learning, discovery and curiosity. The power resides in the learning and exploratory space that the coach creates between the members of the group.

We can think of it this way:

Imagine each person in the group carries with them a private well of knowledge, of questions and concerns, and of capability and strength.

When first the group comes together, each person brings their well in to the room but it is initially walled off and watertight.

Group coaching aims to break down the walls of those wells so that they become a pool from which the group can access the combined wisdom, ideas, passion and knowledge in the room.

Yet it also respects that the wells are private and so only requires the individual to give as much or as little as they want to.

The wonderful thing is that group coaching can only ever replenish and fill the well and not drain it!

The coach’s role then is not about asking powerful questions or challenging an individual, but rather creating, maintaining and nurturing the space that allows the group to function as a self-coaching entity.

As we will explore in the next chapter, the coach is less concerned with the specific content of the session and more with the process by which he or she manages the group’s interaction.

It is a different skill set from coaching that requires a fine ear for incongruence, limiting beliefs or faulty thinking. Instead, it’s about holding the space, facilitating participation, managing dynamics and knowing where the line is between a group learning experience and someone feeling picked upon.

Probably one of the biggest challenges for coaches in undertaking group coaching is their relative invisibility and seeming passivity in the process and outcomes.

Great trainers, teachers and workshop leaders create learning through their knowledge and skills. Great speakers inspire, entertain and engross their audience. Great group coaches are like the best sports referees – often at their best when not needed but ready to make their presence felt when the time’s right!

How is Group Coaching Different?

Group Coaching vs Facilitation

A common question that arises is the difference between group coaching and facilitation.

In many ways, they are the same thing.

Group coaching differs in that the coach is often more involved in the process; feeling the energy, noticing and naming emerging patterns, offering their sense-making where facilitators are more focused on managing the process. But these lines are not clear.

Group Coaching vs Teaching and Training

Whilst teaching and training will often use elements of coaching to create learning and whilst both concern themselves very much with managing group processes and group dynamics, they are also fundamentally different.

Both teaching and training are predicated upon the location of knowledge being primarily with the educator. True, that person will often use coaching techniques to create thinking and tease out ideas. But, if the learning objectives are not ultimately delivered, the trainer or teacher will have not have met their outcomes.

So training and teaching presuppose certain learning objectives that must be met. Coaching has no such learning outcomes. A group coach could go into a session with no idea at all of what is going to come out of the session. They will almost certainly have some sense of what the session will explore and they will have a process that they will use. But they won’t have a vested interested in the specific outcomes of the session or the decisions of the participants.

Group Coaching vs Presenting

Traditionally, presenting is a very one-sided affair! The presenter may have time for questions and engage the audience in some interactive discussion of their needs. However, like training and teaching, it is assumed that the presenter is the expert in the subject and has specific knowledge, skills or ideas to offer the audience.

The expertise for the group coach is not in the subject matter but in their ability to create the space for discovery to take place within the group.

Group coaching offers an exceptional way to harness of the power of a group to impact the lives, self-understanding and performance of the individuals within. Done well, it is truly transformational.

To find out about our Certificate in Group Coaching, go here.