Group coaching is the best of both worlds—you could call it a hybrid of coaching and training—where we put a small number of coachees (ideally four) into a group.
The program begins with the individual, is based on individual goals and strategy, and individual projects, and applies all the principles and techniques of Individual Coaching—but in addition, we use a group for interaction, support and efficiency.
We use regular group workshops, over several months, to introduce theory, models, frameworks or other useful concepts or tools for communication or leadership, and to interactively discuss, practise or apply them to projects or problems. Each workshop is focused on a theme and objective, such as ‘Presence, and being able to project it’, but we do not stick to a set structure or list of topics, as in a typical training course. Rather, we use the experience or current challenges of the group members to explore the theme in a structured way.
Theoretical learning happens faster and more comprehensively in a group environment. Within a group one can observe others learning—finding interesting interpretations or applications of learning, making mistakes, grappling with new ideas. There are opportunities to take brief time-outs to observe or reflect; there is a readymade audience for communication practice or floating of ideas; there is a naturally supportive team-building process.
I have used my own group coaching model for 10 years. It works enormously well for mid-level executives. The key to engagement and ultimately success is to tailor the learning to the specific needs of the coachee, and never deliver a ‘canned‘ training program.
In my experience, many executives are rather cynical about training they have experienced. My guess is that they have usually been at the top end intellectually of the group, and the training has targeted the lowest common denominator, and probably one learning style, and has been efficiently ‘canned’ accordingly, ignoring the intellectual needs of the faster learners. The trainers have learned the content, but seldom had sufficient depth of experience in the subject, nor perhaps the intellectual acuity, to engage, motivate and keep up with these faster and more demanding learners. Consequently the learners have usually been distracted and bored.
(And if you are a corporate trainer hoping to develop this group coaching method, be warned: a lot more intensive preparation, experience and background learning is needed than for a typical structured training course. You don’t control it; you can’t wing it or fake it. That is why I am confident putting my content online. At this level, coaches must have comprehensive knowledge and experience, and must apply that flexibly to the needs of the learner—not assume common existing knowledge, interest, learning style or objectives.)
Most group coaching programs run over several months and include 6-10 workshops and a larger number of individual sessions.