Better Together: Equip your leaders to navigate disruption with group coaching

For many organizations, Covid-19 is causing a shift to a virtual workplace that is creating challenges around communication and community, particularly for leaders who are trying to navigate this disruption while keeping their teams focused and engaged. Group coaching is one of the best ways to harness the collective intelligence of your leaders as they navigate this rapid change in workplace realities. And the great news is, it works just as well virtually as it does in person!

In case group coaching is new to you, here’s what it allows leaders to do:

  • address real issues in real time
  • share strategies and exchange best practices on what’s working and what’s not
  • maintain connection, build engagement and create a sense of community regardless of proximity

At The Roundtable, we’ve been leading group coaching sessions both in-person and on virtual platforms for close to 15 years. Here’s what we’ve learned about how to make them work effectively:

The Must-Do’s for Group Members

  • Get the right technology. Our current favourite platform is Zoom for its ability to let all participants see each other, the amount of breakout groups you can have and the stability it offers.
  • Make sure group members test the platform BEFORE getting on the call. Nothing worse than losing time while individuals try to get their connection working.
  • Get on video. It’s important that you see the whites of everyone’s eyes. Virtual learning creates more temptations for distractions. A working webcam is important and increases connection within your group.
  • Use a headset to improve your full focus and minimize the distraction of other sounds.
  • Review any pre-reading in advance and be prepared to get engaged. Group coaching is all about sharing experiences and learning together. If you show up unprepared, you affect everyone else’s learning experience. Bummer.

The Good-To-Do’s for Group Members

  • Build a ten-minute reminder in your calendar in advance of virtual sessions to allow time to log into the call to test your microphone and video set-up. Murphy’s Law dictates that a platform update will kick in right before your call.
  • Find a location that is quiet, where you won’t be disturbed.
  • Shut down/remove all possible distractions (email, phone, a deadline that’s looming) and give yourself time to mentally “clear your agenda” so you can focus on the call.

Must-Do’s for Group Coaches

  • Provide pre-reading and session agendas in advance. This helps everyone maximize their time together.
  • Help group participants clear their minds by giving members five minutes to write their to-do’s and then set them aside. This mental clearing allows people to give themselves permission to be present.
  • Take time at your first group session to establish confidentiality agreements and provide ground rules for the sessions.
  • Accelerate psychological safety by using a simple ‘get to know you’ exercise. One of our favourites is to ask group members to share an object of personal meaning or significance and use it as a way of introducing themselves to their colleagues.
  • Bring your energy and enthusiasm to the call, pay attention to your body language –it affects your voice too.
  • Use names when directing questions to individuals which will prevent either total silence or everyone talking at once.
  • Mix up the energy by leveraging breakout rooms for small group discussions.

For our group sessions, we’ve found that 75 to 90 minutes is a good length of time for group coaching work. If you are using group coaching in your learning, how you are you leveraging it now during the Covid-19 experience? Would love to hear your tips.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can convert your existing leadership programming into virtual group coaching programs or how to maximize your existing one-to-one executive coaching programs into high impact group programs, feel free to reach out to me for some more tips on things to keep in mind.

Glain Roberts-McCabe is Founder & President of The Roundtable, an organization that helps leaders navigate disruption, change and growth through group coaching and mentoring programs. 

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