In the first part of this three-part series, we established why you might want to design and facilitate Group Coaching inside your organisation. The business-case is well established that this approach has both direct, planned for advantages e.g. driving delivery of key impacts and improving cognitive diversity, coupled with the several positive effects that are often the results of the “hidden curriculum,” such as reinforcing the culture of the organisation or developing more effective networks. The impacts on your business of these latter benefits, sometimes impossible to measure and even to plan for, are real and often significant.
In this post, we’ll look at when group coaching is the right development approach to take tactically and strategically. We’ll also explore who group coaching is a great solution for.
We have seen coaching of all kinds work in so many contexts over the years that it would be easy to suggest that group coaching is a panacea to all the situations you, your HR colleagues and the wider business want to improve. That would be an error. Group coaching, as we have already established, is a brilliant intervention, bringing with it many organisational and individual benefits, but it is not the right fit for every challenge or goal that the business faces. From the research and our own experiences, there are three situations when group coaching works especially well:
1. Organisation in transformation
2. Supporting the growth of your talent pipeline
3. Developing a coaching culture
We’ll explore these in more detail below and if you have had particular success with group coaching in other settings, we would love to hear about it. Connect with us and share your insights!
Organisation in transformation
It is often quoted that a particular percentage of transformation programmes fail to achieve their objectives. That percentage ranges from about 30% to as high as 80%, depending on who you choose to believe. We take a slightly different view: All change programmes succeed and all change programmes fail. You probably will not deliver everything you planned to across every individual in the business but you’ll also achieve several victories you had not anticipated.
One common factor in well-executed transformation programmes is the communication to and the preparation of, those who will be expected to lead and manage such a wide-scale change. Leaders and managers who are going to facilitate the desired changes across their teams and the organisation at large, can be supported in doing so, through an effectively run group coaching programme. Group coaching sessions are an ideal way for leaders to get to grips with the challenges of transitioning to where the organisation is heading, as well as, importantly, embedding that change over the long-haul. For all the benefits described in Part 1, group coaching is a great fit at times of organisation-wide change.
Supporting the growth of your talent pipeline
Effective leadership development has shifted dramatically over the last few years. Sheep-dipping large cohorts of leaders and managers through a curriculum that was the same for everybody but an ideal fit nobody, is a fast-fading memory. Individualised learning and development is the way forward.
Whilst it is possible to provide your talented performers individual coaching and mentoring through the use of skilled in-house teams of coaches, it is more difficult to deliver and more demanding on resources than adopting group coaching. For that reason alone many organisations could be persuaded to adopt this approach. However, there is more to it than scalability and cost-effectiveness. When talented people come together in groups a certain kind of alchemy happens and whole cohorts of talent go from good to great.
What happens to promote such a shift?
From our perspective, several things seem to be at play with talented individuals in groups that are perhaps not as central when those same individuals are engaged in one-to-one coaching that makes this approach even more powerful:
- A positive undercurrent of within-group competition can develop that promotes even greater results than might otherwise have been the case.
- A collective group energy develops that produces a synergistic effect where 1+1+1+1+1= 7 (or even 8!)
- The complexity of organisations can be somewhat addressed for highly talented performers by providing them with increased opportunities to connect with other key players.
Developing a coaching culture
When an organisation decides that it wants its leaders and managers to develop more of a coaching style, one important step to achieving that is allowing those same leaders and managers to experience what it is like to receive coaching and to practise delivering it. Whilst that can be achieved en masse, it makes more sense to create these opportunities through small groups. Why? Because, not only do your people managers get the learning opportunities they need to be able to embed a coaching style that they can take back to use with their teams but they get the added benefits we outlined in Part 1 too. You and the organisation get double the value by using group coaching as the primary method to develop an organisation-wide coaching culture.
In the three situations above, we have looked at using group coaching across your whole business, or at least large cohorts, typically starting synchronously. This relies on having sufficient in-house resource to deliver group coaching in this way and may require some phasing for different cohorts if you do not have a sufficient number of skilled group coaches. However, we should add that group coaching can also be provided on a needs-led basis too. Got a small group of managers who need some support now? Group coaching works well in this more ad hoc situation too.
As you can see from the discussion around when to employ group coaching, it is a good fit for many stakeholder groups, especially your people managers and your talent pipeline.
There are more people that you may consider this approach for too. For example, you could also easily employ Group Coaching as an approach for apprentice and graduate onboarding. These new starters may well find it incredibly powerful to use this collective style towards induction as a way to enable sense-making, tracking progress, overcoming challenges and also to feel less alone in those early weeks and months. At a different career point, outplacement support could be supplemented with some group coaching. This has long-felt like a great way for those individuals impacted, to feel that the organisation letting them go, still cares. The optics just look better than farming them out to a third party outplacement coaching provider.
When the decision has been made to pursue group coaching as a solution, the “who” of a group is an important consideration too. Groups can be largely homogenous or more mixed. There are pros and cons to each. Groups consisting of members from a similar level within the organisation works well in many settings but might not be so effective when looking to develop networks or diversity of thinking. Mixed groups generally work very well, developing all sorts of skills and attitudes across the group.
One specific situation to manage when it comes to who should be in a group, is the often held impression that more senior leaders need to be in groups with other senior leaders. When your senior leaders hold highly sensitive organisational or market knowledge and when that information is likely to be where much of the coaching conversations centre, you can certainly make a case for keeping more senior leaders together. Aside from that unique situation, the assertion that senior leaders should stick with other senior leaders, is frequently driven by other factors that in themselves make for interesting coaching conversations! One thing is for certain, seniority is no predictor of coaching capablility. As members of groups will spend a good deal of time coaching and providing feedback on coaching with each other, mixing levels of seniority for this purpose is often a very positive approach.
From us to you
Here are three powerful questions to help you reflect on starting group coaching in your organisation:
- What transformation programme that we have started, could be supported by group coaching?
- Where else in our business could we use group coaching to support individuals?
- How can you move this forward today, in order that your leaders and the wider organisation benefit tomorrow?
So as we hope to have helped understand when you can deploy group coaching in your organisation. It is an incredibly flexible approach, which can be planned for whole cohorts of your business or more reactively as the needs arise. Whilst often used at times of transformation, the scope for adopting it innovatively are legion.
In part 3 of this series we shall look at what you need to do in order to give your group coaching programme the greatest likelihood of succeeding. 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.