Group Coaches Are Group Facilitators

At Ultimate Coach University, we teach some courses in group coaching.  Most beginning coaches are concerned about doing too much telling, training or directing.  The perspective we try to develop is one in which group facilitation is a key part of group coaching.  Here’s why:

Coaches are always facilitators.   A facilitator is defined as “one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.”  That’s what coaches do.  Whether it’s one-to-one or with a group, coaches create an environment within which learning, self-discovery, curious invention and the like occurs.

The focus is the individual in the group setting.  Groups are not teams. Teams have a goal that requires a specialized participation from everyone.  Groups do not. Groups exist because the group members see an individual benefit from being there.  As a coach facilitator, the goal is to maximize the benefits for all of the individuals in the group.  The only goal of the group is to maximize the individual’s achievements.

Group dynamics are more complex. The coach always has part of themselves in the coaching and part of themselves monitoring the coaching.  The coach is responsible for time management, focus, productivity and accountability.  Those occur when the coach is monitoring (facilitating) the interactions.  In one sense, the coach is both mental in and mentally out of the coaching space.  When group coaching, the mentally out part is more complex.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • Instead of overall time, the coach has to manage the portion of time available for each person to talk.
  • When each person talks, it changes the communication expectations for everyone else.  Imagine a group of sales leaders and one says, “This month sucks. My top people have taken the month off, nobody wants to promote, and our ability to attract new people is terrible.”  The group can easily spiral down from there.  Somebody who is having a good month may hesitate to talk because they don’t want make other participants feel bad.

In short, the coach has to manage the group in order to produce an environment that will maximize things for each individual.  The coach may have to interrupt clients, add topics to the agenda, or cut some topics short for the purpose of getting the most for everyone.

Peer coaching opportunities arise.  I’ve been working with groups for nearly five years. In that time, one of the benefits for everyone is what they get from the other participants.  They get a diversity of opinions, questions from the group, and suggestions to move things forward.  In addition, the group members get to hear others being coached in real-time and strong role modeling in communication skills.

Ginger Cockerham defines group coaching in her book, Group Coaching, as “a facilitated group process led by a skilled professional coach and created with the intention of maximizing the combined energy, experience, and wisdom of individuals who choose to join in order to achieve organizational objectives or individual goals.” In other words, coaching and facilitation are conjoined.  When we start with the assumption that the two go together, the resulting coaching is stronger.