Individual 1-to-1 coaching is a well-known and common practice within many organizations, particularly with executives. It certainly has its place. However, I really believe that we grossly underestimate the not only the ability of leaders and line leaders to cultivate their leadership skills with each other, but the wealth of benefits that group coaching brings with it.
Let’s unpack just a few of the ways group coaching adds an additional layer value to the company and its people.
Group Coaching Drives Continuous Learning
As one of our clients expressed so well, “When you bring in someone from the outside, they feed you for one day. When you give us the tools to feed ourselves, we will continue to grow.”
By giving your own leaders the tools to teach, coach and learn from one another, you are providing them with the skills they need to be successful as leaders.
There is so much “untapped wisdom” in our organizations, leaders who have mountains of experience to share but no platform to share it through. They can learn from each other and share best practices. They can build their coaching skills while broadening their understanding of the business. Group coaching is really a vehicle to help cascade a culture of learning and development throughout your organization.
Group Coaching Offers Context
Rapid, constant and disruptive change is now the norm. In this complex environment, understanding organizational context and culture is a challenge for even the most skilled external 1-to-1 coach. We need to provide platforms and opportunities where they can engage and exchange ideas; where they can broaden their thinking about the business in real time…not in some isolated classroom or with an external coach who doesn’t understand the context of their job.
When leaders from across the organization gather in peer groups, it gives them the unique ability to adapt their learning into the context of the business and the situation they’re facing. Not only will a person receive encouragement and helpful advice, but it comes from a from a place of understanding about the culture, values and mission of the business.
Group Coaching Accelerates Collaboration
Today we are in the Age of Collaboration; we require leaders to be able to work together, to engage with peers, to harvest ideas. The need to innovate and collaborate will separate the industries that thrive from those that cling to survival. Leaders need to storm the boundaries of mindsets, silos and processes to keep their organizations relevant.
Peer learning and coaching communities allow leaders to exchange and connect together to share fresh perspectives and new ideas. It breaks down turf wars and fiefdoms to tap into the intelligence available across their organization and beyond company’s walls. As an added bonus, in addition to building cross-functional bonds, these collaborative relationships and peer support are two key ingredients in both employee and organizational resilience.
Group Coaching Develops Soft Skills
Soft skills are non-negotiable, but they are also the hardest skills to develop and hone. Our ever-changing, fast-paced workplace demands that leaders have strong communication and collaboration skills, high EQs and the ability to coach their teams to new heights.
Individualized coaching in particular doesn’t give your leaders the opportunity to practice and further develop their skills. Saying “our people aren’t ready to coach each other” is a lame excuse that simply limits the potential of your managers. Believe me, they’re ready and they need to have multiple opportunities to practice so that they increase their confidence in the arena of coaching.
Group Coaching Deepens Engagement
Engagement – that touchstone of everything HR-related. Everyone seems to be worrying about how to engage their top talent, from the newer Gen Z employees to older GenXers and Boomers. Engagement gives people a sense of purpose and belonging. As I write this, we are slowly, hopefully, emerging out of a pandemic and, especially, in these times of uncertainty, our capacity to stay grounded in a sense of purpose is of the utmost importance.
HR, as a whole, simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to help employees discover and connect with the drivers that fill them with their greatest sense of purpose. This is where group coaching can step in. During these sessions, leaders outline their challenges, ask questions and offer up thoughtful feedback, allowing each person to reflect and ultimately find their own answers. In short, they help each other discover and deepen their own sense of purpose. When people have a purpose and work has meaning, your talent becomes more deeply engaged and happier in their roles.
Change is Now
I believe that we are seeing a massive shift in terms of what leadership looks like in our organizations, how we are meant to lead and how we can best support leaders in developing the skills needed to be successful today. There is no question in my mind that organizations that cultivate learning communities of leaders will be well poised to meet this shifting tide.