Welcome to the third and final part in this mini-series on how HR, L&D and Talent colleagues can design and deliver your own in-house group coaching.
In the first part we looked at how you can establish the business case with your internal stakeholders, for beginning to think about this as an intervention. We explored the real and tangible benefits to the organisation and to the individual leaders and their teams. We also affirmed how cost-effective this approach is. The second post looked at the ‘who’ and the ‘when’ using a group coaching approach makes good sense. There are an almost limitless set of situations when this intervention works well but a couple of ways that you may not have thought of, included our exploration of using group coaching for apprentice and graduate onboarding.
And so, to this final post, where we will focus on helping you with the nuts and bolts of ‘how’ to set up your own group coaching for success. Follow the steps outlined here and you give yourself and your leaders the very best chances of delivering all the key impacts that you want.
The first consideration to be clear on is what is the scope of the group coaching. What topics are in scope? How many leaders are going to be in each group? How many sessions will there be? How long will each session last and with what frequency? These are just some of the practical considerations to think about in relation to the scope of your group coaching.
We’ll revisit the topics to include/exclude more fully later but for now, let’s just say that anything that relates to the wider purpose of setting up the group coaching in the first place e.g. supporting leaders through an organisation-wide transformation project, should be given the green light for discussion.
With regards to numbers: we have seen as many as 14 leaders involved in groups and as few as 3, which feels like either way too many on one hand and too few on the other. These very large or very small groups are liable to end up as something different from what we understand group coaching to be. Indeed, our Group Coaching lead here at Exigence, David Mayes, offers you the following advice,
“Keep it tight. Don’t be tempted to increase numbers just because it’s ‘in-house.’ 5 or 6 leaders with diverse roles seems optimal for maximising the learning opportunities by allowing people airspace whilst keeping them focused.”
The number, length and frequency of each session does vary widely and we have seen many combinations work well. At Exigence we believe that our job as coaches is to do ourselves out of a job. We want the leaders we work with to become self-reliant, rather than dependent on the group or the coach. Therefore, a clearly defined group coaching timeline needs to be established clearly and early in the process. Communicating this clearly defined end point is important for all concerned.
Typically, we see six sessions plus an onboarding and offboarding session work well. Group sessions are best held on a cadence that works for the organisation and the leaders involved. Anything less than a three-week gap does not leave leaders time to work on the commitments they make and the experiments they want to run; more than 6 weeks between sessions and you can find the energy waning.
One important further consideration is that the time for each session is sufficient to allow every participant to receive coaching from the group and the coach, should they choose to do so. This is partly why having very large groups proves difficult.
The coaching team and methodology
It would be challenging to deliver highly effective in-house group coaching with a team that are not experienced coaches. The great news is that many larger organisations have built fantastic in-house coaching academies, full of enthusiastic and qualified coaches. However, in the same way that Team Coaching requires a whole additional skill set from those skills that make a brilliant 1:1 coach, so Group Coaching requires the development of a wider range of skills, including: effective facilitation, some coach-the-coach capability and a sprinkling of one-to-many development skills too.
A way to approach developing your group coaching team, is to provide in-house development for those who will be the group coaches. A great way to make the group coaches’ development specific is to have a recognised in-house group coaching methodology. It is not important which approach you adopt, but it is important you adopt an approach so that each participant enjoys a similar, yet individualised experience. At Exigence we have our own proprietary methodology, called Concise Coaching® that all our coaches are deeply familiar with. Concise Coaching® is a tested approach to delivering ‘brief coaching’ and gives our group coaches the confidence of a rigorous and tested approach for their work with our customers.
Again, David Mayes offers some helpful insight here:
“A key part of the facilitator’s role is to keep the group true to the process, balancing the needs of each individual and the group. A structured session helps provide an optimal, transformative experience.”
Contracting and Re-Contracting
Contracting between coach and every member of the group and between the leaders within a group is essential. This can be done any number of ways. We tend to include it on our open programmes as a discrete part of the onboarding and then in the first session too. Areas we like to ensure are agreed:
Confidentiality: Of the content discussed, the people involved, how people showed up etc. Clear and concrete agreement here is never a guarantee but certainly improves the chances of creating and environment where leaders can be open and transparent.
Process: If group coaching is to avoid morphing into a peer mentoring session, a roundtable discussion or even a mutual pity-party, then respecting the process is key. Leaders committing to attendance, working hard to be the best they can be for each other and staying focused makes for a great experience.
Mindset: Coaching done well combines support with challenge. Sometimes a situation calls for more of one than the other. Leaders on group coaching need to know what they can expect the experience to be like and importantly, that they are always in charge of that. Need more challenge? Let the group know. Struggling a bit today and need to step back a bit? Inform the group. Come willing to be challenged and stretched and grown. Be open to asking for - and receiving - some help, when that is what you need.
Sometimes a group fails to be as effective as it might, which is not entirely surprising when you consider that the group is made up of human beings and all that entails! But if after adjustments have been made and the experience and progress are not near their potential, then it is time for some re-contracting. Inexperienced coaches fail to call out this often enough for fear of feeling like they have failed. A group of leaders succeeds because of many different factors, including, but not exclusively, the performance of the group coach. Ultimately a swap of coach may do the trick but before that is the solution you jump on, try re-contracting first and using that very moment to review the efforts and impacts of each individual and the collective.
From us to you
Here are three powerful questions to help you plan starting group coaching in your organisation:
- What resources do we already have that can make in-house group coaching successful?
- What additional resources do we need to design and deliver great in-house group coaching?
- When shall we start? ;-)
We hope that regardless of the size of your organisation and the experience level you have with group coaching, this mini-series has provided you with lots of valuable help. We think group coaching is a highly flexible and affordable way to scale the benefits of coaching. It is also very achievable to run groups effectively in-house. If you need any further advice just set up a short call, we'd be delighted to help if we can. Best of luck.
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.