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What is the difference between Individual Coaching, Group Coaching, and Team Coaching?

What’s the ICF definition of coaching?

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as:

“Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. The process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity, and leadership.”

In other words, coaching the client reveals untapped resources that support them in developing their internal resources to become more equipped for facing their doubts, and struggles to better respond to their environment’s needs.

What is the difference between professional and life coaching?

In professional coaching, the coaching’s focus is professionally related questions, such as onboarding in a new position, developing skills needed in the work environment, communicating with peers, bosses, and the team, and career development.

Whereas life coaching focuses on personally related questions such as improving the relationship with the partner and with children, letting the best self emerge for facing personal issues and developing a spiritual activity.

What is Individual Coaching?

Individual coaching sessions happen with a coach and a unique coachee. It’s a one-to-one partnership.

The coach and the coachee meet over time, usually, a 6-9 months assignment to work on how the coachee can develop skills to face their environment (for example the relationship with the boss, and the family dynamics).

The professional coach creates an intimate relationship where the coachee feels safe and empowered.

During my career as a professional coach, I noticed that individual coaching often has a “multiplicator” effect on the environment to even change it.

For example, during a coaching assignment, the client and I worked on her relationship with the team. She was too direct and abrupt, and the team felt not empowered and, consequently, lacked motivation.

We worked on her communication style with the team. She learned to adapt her communication to every team member’s needs and improved it during team meetings; she also improved it during team meetings. After a few sessions, she noted that the team started becoming more proactive in reaching the objectives, and the climate in the team become more relaxed, and joyful. She was happy to come to work and enjoyed this new way as well as her new communication style.

What is Team Coaching?

The ICF definition of Team Coaching is the same as the one of Individual Coaching, but in this case, the coaching happens with a Team.

A team is defined as a group of people performing interdependent tasks to accomplish a common mission or specific objective and be mutually accountable.

A high-performing team effectively meets and communicates in a way that raises morale and alignment, engages with all the team’s key stakeholder groups in a way that grows performance, and provides constant learning and development for all its members and the collective team. (Hawkins).

In other words, here we are talking about a “natural” team, meaning people who have a common boss or sometimes two common bosses with a hierarchical relationship.

A team can permanently work together with a Team Leader, or gather for a specific project, in this case, the boss is the Project Leader.

Team coaching is often aimed at increasing team cohesion to:

- Face a new challenge

- Define a new vision and strategy

- Onboard a new boss

- Onboard new team members

- Etc.

Sometimes the team is newly formed, and the team members don’t know each other. In that case, team coaching is aimed at creating a trust to develop personal bonds.

For example, I recently coached a newly formed team who was struggling because they immediately had to jump into their tasks to solve an emergency. As a result, they were not well coordinated, and many of their tasks overlapped. They were exhausted because this misalignment caused a lot of stress and energy waste.

We started the Team Coaching with a fun exercise to know each other in a personal light (they answered questions like “what are your hobbies?”; “what are your talents?”, etc.).

They felt energized and started to develop trust in each other. Then we focused on defining each other’s roles and responsibilities, which brought clarity. Finally, we worked on a yearly timeline to define their projects and priorities over time.

At the end of the Team Coaching, they felt equipped to face stressful situations. After two months we had a follow-up session where they showcased their achievements and their projects. They also raised and solved some questions to move forward.

They were surprised about their level of trust and openness to solve issues together, their work become much more fluid, and they felt heart-lighted and happy to be a team.

What is Group Coaching?

At the Group Coaching Institute, we define Group Coaching as “a collective learning technique practiced within a small group of people who decide to meet regularly to share their experiences to increase their performance. They better understand the issue at stake and develop strategies and action plans. They follow a step-by-step methodology where, in turn, they are clients and coaches.”

During Group Coaching the group learns simultaneously how to solve issues and how to coach since they coach each other through Group Coaching.

The Group Coaching sessions are facilitated by a Master Coach who unfolds the process, teaches the group members how to coach each other, and supports them in helping the client to find a solution.

Group Coaching members are usually peers who belong to different teams, there is no hierarchical relationship. Sometimes they even belong to different organizations.

It creates and develops cross-functional relationships and as a result Group Coaching breaks silos, and enhances collaboration and mutual understanding.

Group Coaching can also be used in between training sessions to support the application of learning on the job. It creates mutual trust and bonds, and it develops participants’ networks across the organization.

One of my Group Coaching cases involved a project manager who struggled to manage multiple stakeholders. On top of it, he was requested to reduce costs, since the project went out of budget.

He showcased this situation to the group, who supported him to clarify this complex situation and better managing his stakeholders. Some of the group members had also experienced cost reductions and could give him relevant advice. At the end of the session, the coachee had a clear idea of how to move forward and convince his stakeholders to reduce costs only in one part of the project because reducing them in the whole project would have put them at risk.

How to choose between Individual, Team, and Group Coaching?

The topic of our next blog will be this: stay tuned!

At the Group Coaching Institute, we designed an ICF Certified Program that simultaneously teaches Individual and Group Coaching. For more information, go to

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