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Group Coaching 101
Working with a group can generate powerful benefits, which stem directly from the incredible energy and different viewpoints that arise within a group coaching program. Unsurprisingly, group facilitation requires a different approach than we bring to one on one coaching. It’s rewarding work that can also present unique challenges!
If you’re thinking about launching your own group coaching program, it’s good to know the five fundamentals.
Your Role As Group Coach
“Your job as a coach is to gently hold in your hands the magic and dynamism and interconnectedness of the group as people tell their stories and find their own answers.” - Noelle Cordeaux
Running a group coaching program is both an art and a science. It’s up to you to create the container where the magic happens. What this means is that you’re not only showing up as a coach, but as a team leader too.
In a group program, your coaching expertise and training can be applied in creative new ways. You curate the experience by creating focus, setting the tone, and keeping things on track.
As a group coaching facilitator, your job is to:
- Establish a shared theme and agenda from the outset
- Work with the group to establish mutually agreed-upon ground rules for engagement
- Gently redirect group members to remember and abide by agreements as needed
- Work with the group to determine individual and shared goals for your time together
- Create group accountability
- Support the individual goals of each participant
Consider the following ways you might apply your existing coaching skills in a group setting.
Use your communication skills to drive participation. Coaching techniques such as bottom lining, asking for permission, and active listening take center stage within coaching groups to ensure that all voices are heard.
Use your reflection skills to refine and enhance the group program experience. Throughout the course of your program, regularly ask yourself:
- What's happening within the group right now?
- What's working well?
- What's needed?
- What adjustments and changes can you make in real time to meet participant needs and deliver even greater value?
It’s important to remember that facilitating groups is like a dance. You want to flow in the moment, understanding that not all the moves will be choreographed in advance!
Expect the unexpected, and know that you don't need to control it all. Be prepared, have a plan, and show up in full presence. Trust your ability to lead, and have fun with it as the group develops its own special chemistry. Even with the same curriculum, no two groups will ever be the same.
How To Structure Group Programs
“One of the misconceptions about group coaching is that you need to be at the podium, telling other people what to do. Group coaching isn’t like doing a Keynote speech. The most powerful facilitators get a group to have a life of its own by asking good questions.” - John Kim
You don’t need to do it all. Powerful group coaching programs are a hybrid of structure (brought by you) and processing (generated by the participants). At its best, your program will be a co-creation between you and members of the group.
Tips for creating powerful groups
1. Be clear about the main goals of the group. Organized, topic or module based content can help your group understand what to expect. It also creates a cadence for the experience itself.
2. Pacing the sessions in a predictable way is important. Humans in groups function really well with rituals. Starting each session with an opener and then closing space for reflection will help group members synchronize both energy and expectations.
In a group program, modules typically run 30-60 minutes in length. Your topics could be paced over a period of weeks, in one day, or over a weekend workshop. Want an example of what this might look like? If you are running a half day group coaching session, you might want three or four topic groupings, with short breaks in between.
3. Prepare questions and prompts to stimulate group discussion around the topic at hand. Keep them simple to help yourself and the group stay on track.
As you come up with your prompts, consider:
- What do your group members value?
- What questions, exercises, and activities will help people deepen their awareness around the issues the group is exploring?
4. Use your coaching skills. What separates group coaching from workshops and facilitated sessions is that you’re including accountability. People are working together, building on one another’s energy around a common theme. If there isn’t forward momentum toward a clear outcome, it isn’t group coaching.
Goal attainment - in whatever way that is defined for your group - is a key part of the coaching process.
Stimulating Group Participation
As facilitator, your role is to drop the meaty questions, then step back and let the group find their own answers. You can engage group members using a variety of different conversational tools.
If you're planning to faciltate an online group, be aware that approaches that may work well for in-person experiences don't always translate in a virtual environment. Take some time to investigate the right tools for the platform you're planning to use.
There is no set template that will work for every group, so think about what techniques you prefer and don’t be afraid to experiment along the way!
Some methods you might want to try include:
- Large group discussion
- Paired conversation - partner group members in twos for a more private topic
- Breakouts with 3 or 4 others where people can share their insights and ideas intimately
- Chat boxes and threads in an online room or group app
- Apps that use audio or video messaging, such as Voxer or Marco Polo.
- Using annotation tools to poll people for their ideas
Managing Group Members
“In order for a group coaching space to be safe, there have to be ground rules.” - John Kim
Your group will be complex because any group of humans is complex! Your role as a coach is to anticipate that, and help group members navigate interpersonal complexity as it arises.
Establishing ground rules for your groups is a productive way to set shared expectations. Consider what you think makes for a supportive, safe community.
Examples of group norms include:
- Honoring confidentiality
- Respecting the ideas, opinions, and identities of others
- Sharing airtime (not interrupting, allowing everyone to contribute, etc.)
- Group norms around cameras on/off, muting yourself when not speaking
- Zero tolerance for bullying or hate speech
Despite our best intentions, there may be times when someone says or does something within the group that does harm. One approach we take in the JRNI Coach Training program when this occurs is the “Oops, Ouch” method for relational repair. If you'd like to use a format like this, it's something you can introduce to the group at the start so everyone knows how it works.
Oops: If something comes out of your mouth that you realize may be harmful, or isn’t what you intended, own it by saying “Oops” and asking for a redo.
Ouch: If someone says something that hits you in a way that feels bad, signal it with an “Ouch”. This can in turn prompt an “Oops” and repair opportunity for the speaker.
Celebrating wins and building momentum
In group coaching, members are working in a collaborative space toward achieving individual goals. Be sure to include ways to share accomplishments, recognize progress, and cheer one another on!
Group Coaching Business Model
By facilitating group programs, you are in essence creating a micro-community. Group programs help to attract a client base that’s grounded in shared values and interests. Over time, your programs can become an organic form of marketing for your coaching business.
One reason group coaching programs are so popular is that they offer an accessible point of entry into coaching. For many people who’d like to work with you, the group program fee is often more affordable than investing in a series of 1:1 coaching sessions. It’s also offers a way to try out your services and approach before making a larger financial commitment.
Group programs can be a great way to scale your coaching practice. They are both a marketing tool as well as a pipeline for 1:1 clients. Often group members will spin off to individual coaching in order to go even deeper with their personal work.
Want to Become A Coach?
One of our values at Lumia is that we dare to be different. Our coaches ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out Lumia Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.