In this first post of our three-part mini-series, we’ll look at the many good reasons why HR and L&D leaders should be considering setting up in-house Group Coaching for all people managers and those considered talent, not just under the current challenging circumstances but more generally too. In Part 2, we’ll outline when and for who, such an approach works really well. Finally, in Part 3, we’ll offer advice from both our experience and that of some of our customers, as well as the research, about how to run effective Group Coaching for leaders and managers in your organisation.
Before we dive into why you may want to take the time to set up Group Coaching let’s agree a definition of what we are actually discussing here. Too often, group and team coaching are used interchangeably, which fails to help understand either of these two distinct interventions. Team coaching helps an in-tact team, often experiencing some transition, to get increasingly aligned and work towards commonly agreed impacts. Group coaching participants are usually not necessarily part of the same team, or even the same organisation, indeed there are some very good reasons why they should not be.
Group coaching has been variously described by coaches and researchers as an ‘intimate conversational space,’ ‘a context for cathartic experience,’ ‘a real community’ or perhaps less helpfully, ‘coaching in a group!’ At Exigence we recognise you maybe less concerned with getting bogged down in the theory than getting to the practical help, so we won’t get tied up in definitions here but instead offer some guidelines on the distinct features: Group coaching typically brings together leaders and managers either from across one organisation, an in-house group, or from several different organisations, an open group. Whilst there are many similarities between coaching in-house and open groups, there are some distinct considerations, which you will benefit from being aware of, when you set up your own in-house groups. This mini-series will focus largely on in-house group coaching.
What is the business case for in-house Group Coaching?
There is plenty of empirical evidence from a range of disciplines that demonstrates the positive power of group work. So, perhaps it is not surprising that group coaching has been shown to provide benefits across many different arenas, helping to improve wellbeing, reduce procrastination, develop creativity, increase both goal attainment and learning transfer for leaders on development programmes.
Furthermore, we suggest additional benefits that you can help facilitate in your leaders through in-house Group Coaching:
- Delivery of key organisational impacts
- Reducing leaders’ feelings of overwhelm
- Reducing isolation
- Improving cognitive diversity
- Providing individualised leadership development at scale
There are many more benefits we could cover but in terms of the greatest value to your business these seem to be areas our own HR customers are especially interested in. Let’s have a look at each in turn:
Delivery of key organisational impacts
Group coaching asks that participants bring real work to tackle during each session. This work can be pretty much anything the organisation deems to be important and valuable. It might be an area of leadership development the organisation is focusing on; a key business-wide transformation project or something specific to the leader. The details are less important than the fact that the leader brings something to work on and at the end of the sessions can track quantifiable progress. With your in-house groups all working at a similar time, the benefits for your organisation will be incredible, as all leaders make significant traction on your imperatives.
Reducing leaders’ feelings of overwhelm
There is something cathartic about engaging in discussion in a psychologically safe, supportive environment. We know that wellbeing improves as a result of coaching even when wellbeing is not the focus of the coaching. Being with other people, working on priorities together, is not just a pleasant distraction but helps make sense of what needs to be done. Often, in our experience, coaching leads to participants getting much better at appreciating what to stop doing - something that too many organisations struggles with. This helps to roll up this individual benefit to the collective level and the whole organisation can benefit from the clearer thinking of those who have attended group coaching.
Many people we work with, unprompted by us, report feeling lighter, clearer and more confident, even after just one coaching conversation. Group coaching provides this opportunity in multiples: many views to be appreciated, not just those of the coach; many ears to listen appreciatively.
“Leadership is a lonely job” is something we hear a lot. It’s not true. At least, it does not have to be. Leaders may have a sense of being alone at key decision-making time, or when they are holding confidential and sensitive information that they cannot share but that is quite different from being lonely.
However, it would be crass not to acknowledge that it is this “alone-ness,” so greatly exacerbated over the last 12 months, which can make leaders feel cut-off from others with whom they can share their concerns or work out their plans. Often caught up in their own heads and feeling isolated, group coaching can alleviate some or all of these feelings, by connecting your leaders with others, whilst focusing on real work. This last point is important and something we will return to, but in order to provide the most value, group coaching that is focused on overcoming challenges and/or achieving real, tangible business imperatives seem to work especially well.
Improving Cognitive Diversity
We run regular senior HR Roundtable events and whilst we would like to think our facilitation and insights are really valuable to our HR community, we also recognise much of the value for our customers comes from the opportunity to exchange views, ideas and resources with other senior players from different organisations, with different backgrounds, who hail from diverse industry sectors. Chemical speaks with Energy, who shares a resource with Financial Services, who sets up a call with Technology. Magical.
Group coaching provides attendees with similar opportunities. Cognitive diversity is extended. Increased mental acuity is achieved. Developed nuance can be drawn upon. When we consider how insular many leaders’ lives tend to be normally, when they are so busy, this has been even more the case over the last 12 months. It has always been important for leaders but opening up minds to new perspectives and fresh thinking, feels especially important at this point in time.
Individualised Leadership Development at Scale
A real challenge for HR, Talent and Learning and Development teams is to be able to individualise leadership development at scale. Whilst the sheep-dipping, classroom-based approach to development is thankfully retreating in the rear-view mirror, it did enable leadership development to be achieved to large numbers of leaders, relatively cost effectively. Where it fell down, was that the learning was hard to individualise to everyone. Group coaching, by its very nature, gives leaders a chance to learn at the level of the personal. Not just the goals and challenges to be overcome that are specific to each attendee but the post-coaching conversation self-reflections, which are both incredibly powerful and deeply personal.
If you employ your own in-house coaching team to deliver your group coaching, you get an additional range of benefits here: All the coaches, the good ones, will also develop as a result of facilitating these incredible moments of leadership development.
From us to you
Here are three starter questions to help you reflect on the case for starting Group Coaching in your organisation:
- What is the need for an approach such as group coaching in your organisation?
- What would you need to do to influence the adoption of this approach, with key stakeholders in your business?
- How can you move this forward today, in order that your leaders and the wider organisation benefit tomorrow?
So as we hope to have demonstrated that group coaching has a lot to recommend it as an approach to helping leaders who maybe feeling overwhelmed, under-supported and uncertain about their capabilities to lead exceptionally in the current climate.
In part 2 of this series we will explore for who and when Group coaching works well. Make sure you don't miss it by signing up for our newsletter.
Exigence works with organisations to deliver full-stack HR leadership development solutions, from Executive and senior team coaching to group and AI coaching. If you would like to discuss how we can help you deliver quantifiable impacts for your organisation, we'd love to hear from you - just contact us here.