Research Paper By Nicole Scott
(Business Coach & Career Transition Coach, UNITED STATES)
As organizations struggle to redefine themselves and maintain the competitive edge necessary to outperform the competition, the competencies of leaders necessary to design and manage this change has evolved just as rapidly and coaching has been used to facilitate the transitions necessary to be effective leaders. The use of organizational development strategies as a distinct discipline from human resource management has also spurred the current state of the need and appetite for group and team coaching, if for no other reason than scalability in order to reap the benefits of individual and executive coaching that companies now value on a larger scale.
While the concept and definition of organizational development are not new, with the most frequently used definition of Organizational Development coming from Beckhard’s 1969 work, new methodologies of supporting the planned, organization wide, top-down managed efforts has emerged, including coaching. He defines Organizational development as “an effort (1) planned, (2) organizationwide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge. (p. 9)” While executive and life coaching may well be the first things that people think of when someone mentions coaching as a methodology to support organizational development initiatives and employee development, especially at the top, there is an increasing body of recent research that supports the value of coaching being accessible to all employees within and organization. The benefits include more innovative and higher quality work products, better collaboration and higher engagement (Coltsmann, 2017).
Blalock, et. al. provides a slightly more modern definition of Organizational Development (OD) saying it is “…a field of research, theory, and practice dedicated to expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of people to accomplish more successful organizational change and performance.” In order to bring coaching to the masses in its traditional one-on-one process, we would need many more coaches in this world! It follows that group and team coaching is getting some attention, though many still are finding their way to a full understanding of, first the difference between coaching many and instructor-led training classes, as well as the differences between group coaching and team coaching as separate, though related, processes.
For those who understand what coaching is, the distinction between group and team coaching and instructor-led training is easy. It is the distinction between the group and team coaching that becomes most important to understand so that the the proper application of the ICF Competencies based on group member relationships and goals can be applied.
Objectives of Group and Team Coaching
Often we will see the terms of group coaching and team coaching used almost interchangeably. However, this is an incorrect equation.
A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable. (Katzenbach and Smith, 1993, p. 45)
In this context,
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a group as a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship.
The key to the difference between a group and a team is that the members of the team are not only mutually accountable, but also mutually reliant on each other to reach the common goal. Whereas, members of a group are not mutually accountable nor do they each necessarily rely on others within the group to meet their individual goal, even if the goal is the common uniting factor.
It is the different interdependencies among group and team members that crystalizes the distinct nature of group coaching and team coaching. The objectives, process, and appropriate use of each of these two types of coaching interventions are distinct and need to be used appropriately. For each, the foundation of the goal is development and creation of additional awareness that leads to improved performance, but it is at this point that the two diverge.
According to Schulte and Liska (2014) the purpose of group coaching is individual leader skills development. The objectives of group coaching are:
- To expand the depth and breadth of the competencies of the individual cohort members in the identified areas targeted for development
- To define and solidify each cohort member’s leadership vision and mission
- To create a shared leadership culture and define the common language used among leaders
- To improve overall efficacy and skill as a leader
To elaborate, within the group-coaching context, the developmental focus is on each individual group member and not on the group’s collective performance as a cohesive unit. Group coaching within the organizational context is centered on a core topic, typically related to leadership, change and/or talent development for succession planning purposes. Group coaching is leveraged as a strategic development intervention to support individuals in their growth and ability to contribute to the organization in current and next level roles. The goals and objectives are not to improve the performances of the group members as a uni t, but individual for the purpose of individual achievement, which then leads to enhanced organizational performance.
A typical group coaching process includes assessment of each member in order to identify individual opportunities for development that are common among the members. The assessment may also play the role of defining group members based on the needs of the group that were previously unknown but surface because of the assessment.
Cohorts are formed based on the topic and there is typically a kick-off event to introduce the cohort members to each other and lay the framework for the coaching engagement. Establishing the coaching agreement looks a bit different in group coaching. In group coaching engagements, the agreement is centered on 1) the group deciding and agreeing on exactly what aspects of the core topic or theme will be explored 2) the shared agenda for the group coaching and 3) mutually agreed upon rules for interaction. These are the expected and agreed upon ways in which the group members will interact, communicate and hold each other accountable, including confidentiality (Britton, 2015).
Multiple group coaching sessions are held over a predetermined period of time. The goal of the sessions is exploration of the core topic, or topics, and movement of each cohort member from awareness to action that results in growth.
To summarize, the process for group coaching includes:
- Group cohorts are formed based on the topics that have been identified as opportunities for their individual development (e.g. self-management, management of teams, conflict management, etc.)
- Coaching is launched with a kick-off event to introduce the group cohort to the process
- Periodic sessions are held that explore the core and related topics and result in action items for each individual
- The final event serves as a capstone opportunity for each cohort member to present on their individual development over the course of the program and is typically presented to the company’s senior management
- Post cohort, there is typically membership into an alumni network
The purpose of team coaching is to improve team performance as a cohesive unit versus individual member development. The goals of team coaching are:
The establishment of a shared team identity
Definition of context within which the team functions
Creation of team mission
Increased trust among team members
Improved team functioning through improved competence related to how to function based on team membership and group dynamics (individual team member strengths and abilities as they can be leveraged within the team)
Identification and reflection upon barriers to team performance
Individual development is a function of team needs and development
Creation of sustainable solutions to challenges
Identifying structures that support reproducible behavior
Agreed upon by the group
Howard Guttman, for example, developed a model of team development and higher-level performance that includes coaching as the main mechanism for the transformation. In order for the team to move through the four stages of development, the team must have breakthrough moments. Coaching, in Guttman’s model, assists the team to establish news ways of thinking and working, which leads to these breakthrough moments. Through the coaching process, these new ways of working become the new norm within the team (Guttman, 2008).
The process of team coaching is similar to group coaching, with a few important differences. Elements of the team coaching process include:
- Organization of a kick-off and final event
- Scheduling of regular team coaching sessions
- Development of a shared vision, shared performance criteria and shared rules and rituals
- Individual Coaching of the team leader
- Supervision of the team members that help to ensure adoption of the shared vision, performance criteria and rules and rituals.
There is the additional layer of team accountability to each other, as well as individual coaching for the team’s leader. The accountability helps to establish and transition to the new team norms that the team has established. The individual coaching of the leader ensure that s/he transition his/her role in the new vision and is also positioned and ready to successfully maintain and sustain the changes.
ICF Competencies and Other Skills Needed to Facilitate Coaching in Groups or Teams
In Gorell’s 2013 ICF blog post, she highlights that individual coaching skills alone will not translate to the ability to successfully coach in groups or teams and meet the ICF core competencies. Gorell points out that one of these key additional skills is knowing which type of coaching is applicable, team or group, so that the appropriate process can be applied. This is integral to establishing the coaching agreement in terms of application of the ICF core competencies.
In both group and team coaching session, the dynamics around meeting the ICF core competency of establishing trust and intimacy are more complex than in individual coaching, as well. In group and team coaching engagements, the coach must establish a trusting relationship with each individual member and with the group or team collectively.
Furthermore, the dynamics in group and team coaching are such that the coach must work to manage the multiple relationships in the room in order to ensure that each member feels safe in sharing his or her views and thoughts on an equal level with not only the coach, but the other members of the group or team. The co-creation of the agreement and any rules that will govern the coaching engagement are now multifaceted. The use of direct communication, active listening and powerful questioning become even more important in the group and team setting in order to manage and ensure a true co-creation of the agreement and establishment of goals for the engagement. There must be consensus and agreement by all members of the group or team, otherwise, the agreement has not been established. The coach must also be very comfortable with the reality that there will always be multiple agendas, as well as multiple ways in which people in the group or on the team learn, and therefore how awareness is generated (Britton, 2013).
Britton (2013) includes a list of additional skills beyond the ICF core competencies necessary to meet the ICF standards that she suggests are necessary to be an effective coach of “the many.”
These areas of additional skills include:
- Adult Education
- Group process
- Group facilitation (both skills and experience)
- Experiential education
- Instructional design
- Relationship systems
Britton (2013) states that it is these additional skills that allow the coach of the many to create appropriate process that establishes the structure needed by the team or group and permits them to do the work. Unlike an instructor-led training, the coach, steps in and out of the conversation, as need. The members of the team or group, just as in individual coaching, are the primary carriers of the conversation, only in the situation of group or team coaching, the members co-create the direction and awareness primarily among each other and not primarily with the coach.
Coaching, whether individual, group or team, is about sparking awareness through conversation that leads to action and development. The ICF core competencies provide the foundation for guiding coaching engagements, not only with individuals, but also with groups and teams. The key to proper application of the core competencies is realizing that these are merely the beginning and not the end of defining how coaches must interact with their clients and that additional skills are necessary to make a transition from individual to team and/or group coaching.
Beckhard, R. (1969). Organization development: Strategies and models. Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley
Blalock, S. J, Bone, L. Butterfoss, V. L., et. al. Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, research and practice, University of Pennsylvania http://www.med.upenn.edu/hbhe4/authors.shtml, accessed 6/3/2018.
Britton, J. (2015). Effective Group Coaching 101: The 5 Key Skills Any Group Coach Needs! Accessed 6/2/2018 from https://www.thecoachingtoolscompany.com/effective-groupcoaching-101-5-key-skills-group-coach-needs-jennifer-britton/
Britton, J. J. (2013). From one to many: Best practices for team and group coaching. Jossey- Bass.
Coltsmann, C. (2017). How Accenture is building a coaching culture to empower employees. As presented at the ICF 2017 Converge17 conference.
Gorell, R. (2013). Coaching People in Groups: the three dilemmas. Accessed 6/30/2018 from
Guttman, H. M. (2008). Great business teams: Cracking the code for standout performance. John Wiley & Sons.
Katzenbach, J. R. & Smith, D. (1993). The wisdom of teams: Creating the high-performance organization. Harvard Business Press.
Schulte, P & Liska, G (2014) Group Coaching versus Team Coaching – Where are the differences, USP-D enhancing effectiveness white paper.