Why Group Coaching Sticks

Have you ever been on a day-long training program, only to wake up the next day with only a foggy recollection of what you learned and little idea of how to apply it?

You’re not alone. It’s called the Forgetting Curve. Through his experiments and studies, psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that without any reinforcement or connections to prior knowledge, information is quickly forgotten—roughly 56% in one hour, 66% after a day, and 75% after six days.

5 Key Factors

The way in which we take in new ideas and other information plays a huge role in how much we retain. Neuroscience research on how humans learn tells us that five key factors need to be in play for what we take in to stick.

1. Say it Out Loud

A study published in the journal Memory, confirms that the action of processing new ideas and information out loud means that we are much more likely to remember them. Group coaching requires active involvement. Participants actively discuss issues, share ideas and offer feedback. All of these acts of verbalization increase a conscious awareness of actions, behaviours and new concepts, and increase the odds that learned information will be retained long-term.

2. Reflection

When we can anchor information and tie learning to a personal experience, it improves the transfer to long-term memory. By its very nature, group coaching helps us make purposeful connections and associations to new thoughts and insights. It gives leaders the space and time to take stock of workplace challenges, mull over solutions or make sense of experiences.

3. A-ha Moments

We all recognize that change is a journey, not an event. It’s filled with those little eye-opening realizations that challenge our beliefs along the way to our destination. When everything suddenly becomes crystal clear. Those are the moments that change us, forever. In this talk, Britt Andreatta, PhD, author of Wired to Grow, says that these a-ha moment are when neurons connect and that “when people have a moment of insight, where they see something in a new way it is unforgettable.”

4. Sharing Stories

What are the learning moments you remember the most? The odds are it has to do with a story someone told you – not a framework, a theory or a definition on display in a PowerPoint, but an unfolding narrative, a personal anecdote shared by peer or a mentor. Stories stick because when we listen to them, our brains light up. Studies have shown that a story can increase the levels of oxytocin in a person’s brain, and elicit empathy and subsequent cooperation in the listener. This is why peer group coaching opens us up to deep learning and behaviour change.

5. Trust

“Fear destroys the capacity to learn.” – Bruce D. Perry, psychiatrist and researcher

Trust is everything. Without it, those four factors above just won’t work. A learning environment must commit to being a safe and confidential space. When leaders feel “psychologically safe” (Kahn 1990, p. 708), they feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable. I’ve often stated that leadership is lonely, and this is one of the many reasons why group coaching can be so powerful. Leaders no longer have to go it alone. When you can create a safe space where members are willing to be vulnerable with each other you exponentially accelerate their capacity to learn and develop.

The Stickiness of Peer-to-Peer Group Learning

As organizations move more quickly, and time becomes more of a premium at all levels, learning and development must be proactively integrated with approaches to help leaders learn in real time.

Group coaching amongst peers helps to retain learning by creating a safe space where leaders can openly exchange ideas and tell each other stories from their experience, where they can talk through new strategies and reflect on them, and in the process have those a-ha moments where their way of thinking and doing is forever changed.

At The Roundtable, we design all our programs around the strategic priorities of the business and administer program surveys 6 to 12 months after program completion to test the ‘sticky’ factor of the learning. 

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