Jennifer Britton, MES, CTP, CPCC holds a similar concept of group coaching as the other two coaches: “Group coaching—a small-group process throughout which there is the application of coaching principles for the purposes of personal or professional development, the achievement of goals, or greater self-awareness, along thematic or non-thematic lines”. She further elaborates that group coaching also includes facilitation and training skills.
Grounded in coaching processes and skills, group coaching utilizes core coaching skills and competencies, while adapting skills and approaches from facilitation and training.
Britton developed a “Continuum of Group Processes” which ranges from training, to facilitation to pure group coaching. Her contention is that group coaching will fit somewhere on the continuum, combining all three skills in the process. She emphasizes that where the group falls will depend on the mix of the clients, underscoring that groups are client directed.
Group coaching, then, is similar to individual coaching because the process is client-focused and client-driven. Core competencies can and should be practiced in the group setting just as with one-on-one coaching sessions. However, groups add a peer dynamic that enhances the coaching experience for each individual. Group coaching also differs from individual coaching in requiring coaches to develop additional skills to help facilitate the group process.
Each coach presented her own version of a successful group coaching process. Rather than list each coach’s process details, the common elements are highlighted below:
- Limiting the group size to a maximum of 7-8 clients. Less reduces the group dynamics and more reduces the coach’s capacity to give individual coaching attention.
- Identifying a clear mission or theme for the group while still maintaining individual goals within that theme to generate cohesiveness.
- Creating a safe space for the group through a pledge of confidentiality to allow individuals the opportunities to expand and learn.
- Offering opportunities for conversation and collaboration so clients can experience the positive group dynamics.
- While drawing on facilitation skills to keep the group moving, emphasize coaching first, to the group as well as to the individuals.
- Conducting the coaching sessions using the ICF core competencies, especially active listening and powerful questions.
- Offering opportunities for accountability to the clients’ peers as well as the coach.
- Providing closure for the group when the group disbands.
Group Coaching In A Retreat Setting
One coach addressed the retreat environment in relation to group coaching. Jennifer Britton commented as follows: “…there is often a fuzzy dividing line between workshops, retreats, and group coaching. Components of all three can be present in a program and labeled with any of these three titles. The title used often depends on your audience and what label is most important to them. Some of the similarities between the approaches are:
- workshops, retreats, and group coaching programs all can be offered in an intensive half-day, one-day, or longer format; and
- all draw on group facilitation, skills, and often experiential principles. It is possible to bring a group coaching approach to workshops or retreats.”
After exploring general coaching theory, practices, and methods of delivery including individual and group coaching, it can be concluded that retreats can play a valuable role in jump-starting a meaningful coaching relationship as long as there is sufficient accountability and follow-up to ensure success.
Retreats generally take place in a relaxed environment separate from the workplace or residence where participants can focus completely on the agenda. Although the retreat may be limited to a few days, each day allows for multiple coaching sessions. When reviewing the elements of successful group coaching, retreats can accommodate most of them. Participants can be carefully chosen to control the size of the retreat group and ensure the individuals share a common theme. A good location can enhance the feeling of a safe space to instill trust and openness. The balance of the success elements will be brought to the retreat by the coach.
The area of concern is accountability. Since coaching is a process, the isolated location and short period of time between coaching sessions is not conducive for clients to “test” their behavior changes, plans, and goals in their daily work/home environment. It is recommended that follow-up sessions, either on an individual or group basis, be conducted for an agreed-upon period of time after the retreat to facilitate permanent change.
In summary, effective coaching is an ongoing partnership between the coach and the client that focuses on the individual. The purpose of the partnership is to support positive and fulfilling changes in the client’s professional and personal life. Coaching can take place on a one-to-one basis or in a group setting. Both allow for the coach to use the core competencies for professional, effective coaching.
Group coaching offers an added dynamic of client to client interaction as well as coach to client interaction. Group coaching can be done in a variety of venues that support group success as outlined earlier, and retreats should not be overlooked as a place to allow participants the opportunity to fully concentrate on self awareness, goal setting and forming an action plan in a shorter time period. To maximize effectiveness, however, a key component is follow-up either in group coaching sessions or on an individual basis with the coach for a period of time after the retreat to support change.
Cockerham, G. (2011). Group Coaching A Comprehensive Blueprint (Chap 1)Bloomington IN: iUniverse Kindle Edition
Thornton, Christine (2010-04-03). Group and Team Coaching: The Essential Guide (Essential Coaching Skills and Knowledge) (p. 9). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.
Britton, J. (2010). Effective Group Coaching: Tried and Tested Tools and Resources for Optimum Group Coaching Results (Chap 1) Mississauga Canada: John Wiley & Sons Canada Ltd. Kindle Edition
Ibid. (Kindle Edition, location 696)