As more and more executives are seeing the value of leadership coaching for themselves, they’re looking to provide coaching for their teams as well. In part to save money, but also to create an internal environment where the team learns together and collaboration happens more fluently.
Executive coaching one-on-one can be powerful, no doubt. A client may have some difficult issues to work through, and prefer one-on-one coaching for personal reasons. For some, it’s the right fit because they want to touch on personal issues as much as corporate ones. Others use a coach to brush up on specific skills, seek a promotion, transition to a new role, identify ways to handle a situation with a boss or co-worker, or work on interpersonal skills.
Why Group Coaching Works
Group coaching can be quite rewarding for the company and team. I’ve seen teams walk away with a sense of empathy for the co-workers, teamwork and camaraderie they just didn’t have before.
With this kind of coaching, we can build a sense of trust and emotional safety because the individual members get a little vulnerable, so they get know each other on a deeper level than they have on a day-to-day at work basis. This is especially true in companies where roles are siloed. When the marketing, engineering and sales teams barely know each other, there is little understanding of what each other is doing, much less who they are as human beings.
For example, coaching a group on a topic related to emotional intelligence like diversity is much more effective when broken up periodically with dyads (two people speaking one on one) and really listening to each other as well as revealing a part of themselves.
If conflict within the team is an issue, where the group is becoming divided (othering) we can bring them together by showing that, in the end, we are all quite similar. Seeing the humanity in each other creates opportunities for empathy and compassion. We might do any number of exercises such as “just like me”, active listening practices, or group exercises where people self-identify with various topics (dog lover, cat lover, runner, was adopted, was bullied as a child, bullied others as a child, etc, etc). Movement exercises can be quite revealing as well. The practice is crafted to fit the specific needs and inclinations of the team.
These exercises are successful because they take us out of our usual rut in the office. Once we are OK with being a little vulnerable with each other, trust is established and it’s easier to speak to each other as humans. This trust, once developed, continues to flourish after the initial practice. We check in periodically with other practices and analysis or work with individuals as desired.
I believe people love this type of interactive and personal exercise so much because it’s generally lacking in their lives. They have superficial conversations with others in general, especially in the office, but these deeper, more personal connections are what we crave as humans. It’s addictive, really.
From my own perspective as an executive coach, I love working with teams because change happens more quickly when everyone is involved. Coaching one person may not address underlying corporate issues that can be helped with a little time with the team. In addition, it’s scalable financially and in time invested by everyone involved.
Lastly, team coaching is much higher energy. When you can get a team really engaged with each other and practicing together it can be mind-blowing, and the ripple effect can be felt throughout the company. Group dynamics can “un-stick” old habits and ways of thinking with the support of the team.