Group coaching can be a catalyst for both individual and organizational change. Its ‘active ingredients’, however, are not commonly understood. Greater awareness of why and when group coaching works can help maximise its benefits. Anecdotal evidence and research suggest effective sessions share a number of key characteristics.
Group coaching is known to help break down barriers to communication, build trust and solve specific and practical problems in organizations. An interpersonal learning process, it can create the impetus for change. Its effects can be explained by psychology and psychodynamics.
Good coaches use the ‘clinical paradigm’ as a conceptual framework for group sessions. They recognise that people are products, not just of their genetic inheritance, but also of their experiences, and will often re-activate in current relationships and situations behaviours and attitudes ‘learned’ from relationships and situations in the past. Through careful facilitation, they identify negative or destructive thoughts, feelings and behaviours and outdated perceptions of the self.
Much like group therapy, group coaching helps people examine and reflect on their own behaviour, the behaviour of others and the inter-relationship between the two. It holds up a mirror that lets people see things more clearly and helps provides the motivation for change.
This is the general context. What are the specific processes that underly group coaching? What is the X-factor it provides? And how do its effects differ from those of one-to-one coaching?
Research and experience suggest successful interventions have certain characteristics in common. These can be summarised as ten points:
These psychodynamic processes create tipping points for change.
Group coaching can help companies address specific problems — ranging from how to integrate a newly acquired business or a new IT system to how to make meetings more productive.
More generally, it can foster the trust needed for effective collaboration and lay the foundations for real information exchange in organizations, creating networks, cutting across silos and breaking down barriers to communication.
It should not, however, be seen as a ‘quick win’. It will need to be preceded by ‘ground work’ and followed by further intervention from the coach and further investment from group members.
Assessments of participants by organizations for leadership competencies, and feedback from colleagues and family and friends, will help ‘jump-start’ the process. Post-session conference calls with coaches, follow-up sessions to re-examine action plans, and peer coaching from another member of the group will help keep people on track and maintain momentum.
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