September 2021 seems to be marking the “Back to Work,” which for many translates into a “Back to the Office”. What this means varies according to the individual, their culture, country, health and social care system. But, one thing seems to emerge across the board: the need to find a new way of working together that will adapt to and respect the needs of the individual at the psychological, emotional and physical level, while also promoting professional growth, collaboration and prosperity for the organization.
What can help create a space where we feel safe and heard? Where we feel accepted and supported in our differences, while also capable of responding to the upcoming challenges? We found the answer in Group Coaching.
What is Group Coaching?
Group Coaching is a peer learning method structured in groups of typically 5-6 people, built on transversal collaboration and aimed at problem-solving, by deepening awareness around key issues that a member of the group, in turn, proposes to the other participants. It originated in Canada by MD practitioners to offer the best care for patients.
I previously learned it as the “Co-development” methodology developed by Payette and Champagne and since then, I practiced it to manage remote teams, engage leaders, find solutions to day-to-day questions, develop trust and accountability within a group and the workplace and so much more. The participants spanned from HR professionals to managers and leaders, employees, and external collaborators, leaving everyone at the end of the journey wanting more.
In fact, group coaching’s major merit is to reinforce collaboration, which is one of the most important skills in today’s business landscape. It creates trust, strong bonds, and the capacity to really connect with other human beings on multiple levels, promoting a deeper kind of listening, presence and a sense of engagement. The mutual understanding of each other’s position ensures the insurgence of genuine care and the development of a deeper sense of empathy.
How Does it Work?
Typically, in Group Coaching you start by creating a peer group of 5 or 6 people, made up of members from different teams or from the same team (let’s say that team coaching is a “sub-category” of group coaching). Then, the group meets regularly virtually or in person. In turn, each member of the group is a client or a coach. So, if you’re the client, you will be coached by the rest of the group members, and if you’re one of the coaches you’ll help the designated client. While being a client, your peers work with you to resolve an issue you’ve chosen by expressing – one at a time, while the others listen – their feedback, input or experience on the topic at hand, supported by a facilitator. At the end of the process, the “client” who exposed the issue and listened to all the interventions, is free to ask questions, deepen some aspects of the conversation and draw their conclusions.
What are the Benefits?
Group Coaching presents many advantages:
1. IT’S EXPANDABLE. As the democratization of coaching proceeds full speed and the coaching process is finally accessible to people at every level of the organization, group coaching grants the plus of having a wide reach. Instead of one-on-one coaching, group coaching reaches multiple individuals at the same time. For instance, now that companies are developing their internal coaches, who are often HR professionals, instead of coaching one person at a time, these HR representatives can coach 5-6 people at once.
2. IT’S FLEXIBLE. Group Coaching is composed of a group of peers from any background. You can practice group coaching with a team, or with any other peer of your choice within the same organization or from different companies. It can be done remotely or in person and responds to the agreements of the group: the participants will establish the cadence with which they will meet, when and for how long. Group Coaching is a tool in the hands of its makers. Extremely flexible, it allows for a wide range of possibilities.
3. IT’S INCLUSIVE. Each member is fundamental in group coaching, as they bring something new to the table with their different abilities, experiences, and points of view. Inclusion is of utmost importance if you want to find an effective solution together. Every voice needs to be heard, even if it doesn’t necessarily match with yours. Group Coaching is meant to help acknowledge those different backgrounds, accept them, and use them to the group’s advantage. As the valorization and integration of differences and being open to really listening to others becomes pivotal in the contemporary society, group coaching offers a unique possibility to experience and build that kind of listening, starting in the workplace and hopefully expanding this skill to every other interaction.
4. IT’S EMPOWERING. The collective dynamic fostered by Group Coaching entails the creation of a space where every member is proactive and aware of their impact on the group. Creating such dynamic takes time, trust, and tact. Each participant needs to commit to the group, be aware of their boundaries, as well as their responsibilities, so to be able to send and receive powerful feedback whilst acknowledging their peers and their sensitivity. Furthermore, playing in turn the role of the “client” and the one of the “coach”, allows participants to gain a completeness and an autonomy in regards to the process, that permits to make it replicable in other situations in life.
5. NATURALLY FORMS A MANAGER-COACH. Nowadays a leader who wants to be competitive needs to possess “coaching skills” – the most in-demand skills for 2021 – such as active listening, powerful questioning, emotional intelligence, communication and collaboration. Through these skills leaders gain personal awareness and can help their collaborators define their goals and achieve them through self-development and self-discovery, magnifying their impact and empowering their reports.
Finally, What’s the Impact of Group Coaching?
The Human Capital Institute and the International Coaching Federation conducted a study where they evaluated the coaching culture and its impact in over 600 companies. In organizations with a strong coaching culture, 2 out of 3 employees considered themselves highly engaged, compared to half in the rest of the sample. And also, 51% of these companies showed above the average earnings in their field, as opposed to only 38% in the remainder of the sample. The study noted four main indicators of the coaching impact: 1. improved teamwork, 2. higher employee engagement, 3. enhanced productivity, and 4. appeased personal and social relationships.
We have been running group coaching for 20 years and clients consistently ask for more sessions. They feel the evolution of the group and of each member throughout the meetings. Gradually, the group merges, people gain confidence, and the topics become more and more interesting as people get to know each other.
Now that finding a way of working together is a priority, we need this flexible, adaptable tool that can fit any physical limitation and digital preference, while providing a safe space where people can learn how to share, collaborate and create trustful bonds to help each other thrive.