As a corporate leader, before becoming a coach, one of my major focus areas was managing and leading change. As a coach, this was an area that interested me the most, since much of leadership is about anticipating and managing changes, and, sometimes, even proactively creating them. In today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, driving through the rearview mirror is no option. Coaching – with its future focus and outcome orientation – is a powerful aid to organizations in leading change.
My own experience was that individual one-on-one coaching was not enough. Something more was needed to expand the scope of coaching within an organization to make the process more effective in order to support institutional leadership.
However, when discussing this issue with experienced HR professionals, Organization Development (OD) practitioners and executive coaches, I realized that these individuals had more questions than answers. Many of these questions included:
- What value can group coaching add to leadership in leading change and other corporate challenges?
- Do coaching competencies apply to group coaching the same way they do for individual coaching?
- If they do, how could group coaching be used in a Change Management model?
- What additional skills would a coach need to have to coach a group?
- How else would the group, group members and the organization benefit from Group Coaching?
Since I believe in the power of 7, I have provided the following 7 insights for more effective group coaching through change!
1. Group coaching enables change management
In whatever framework coaching is used, whether it be for behavioral changes, enhancing performance of high-potential executives, or transition, the outcome results from transformation. In cases of one-on-one coaching, this is the transformation of the individual. The coach has no influence over the environment in which the executive works.
In cases where the values of the transformed individual do not align with those of the organization, what results is disengagement and attrition. Group coaching overcomes this limitation through the inherent connection built during coaching between individuals supporting each other while working in the same environment.
In the case of leading through change or another form of cultural shift, it is not enough to change the individual. The change needs to percolate through the fabric of the organization. When one uses models such as ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement) for leading change, group coaching adds value in each stage of the change process.
2. Group coaching builds teams from groups
With a skillful practitioner of the coaching art, group coaching builds an emotional bond between group members to help form an engaged team. Appreciative Inquiry, especially its Discovery process, helps effect the powerful transformation of a disparate group into a cohesive team. This is embedded in the Coacharya SPEED (Sharing Strengths, Present Future, Explore Options, Establish Structure, Develop Action) process, which was recently showcased at the 2015 World Appreciative Inquiry Conference.
3. Group coaching allows organizations to set ROI based outcomes
In the case of individual coaching, it is often difficult to set goals that rise above the scope of the individuals, especially areas that they do not directly control. Groups can be formed with cross-functional members to address various aspects of a business issue. Companies can set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline) goals and these can be measured through return on investment criteria. In addition, outcome for each individual in the group in terms of both qualitative and quantitative terms within limits of accountability can be measured.
The group coaching process achieves multiple objectives:
- Coaching effectiveness of group towards achieving organizational goals can be measured quantitatively through data
- The common organization goal(s) help direct group dynamics meaningfully, allowing the coach to observe individual behavior
- The coaching process goes far beyond the cost effectiveness of coaching into genuine leveraged business value add.
4. Group coaching enhances emotional intelligence
Individual coaching leads only to self-awareness. Any further social awareness is at best indirect. In the case of group coaching, the coach has the ability to create and demonstrate the combined power of self- and social-awareness. This possibility has significant implications in transforming organizational culture through enhanced emotional intelligence. Since sustainable and significant cultural changes in any organization require group intervention, group coaching is relevant.
5. Group coaching creates synergy
The group coaching process can achieve high levels of energy multiplication through synergistic strengths and participant insights. A group coaching process is innovative and creative. Sharing insights within the group can lead to powerful personal transformation as well.
6. Group coaching is a powerful Organizational Development intervention
Several of the participants in this discussion were trained experts in OD. They found similarity between group OD interventions in the form of labs with group coaching, with results being achieved in shorter time frames.
7. Blended group and individual coaching transforms the Organization
Blending group and individual coaching together actually magnifies the effectiveness of group coaching. The group sessions should address larger business goals, while individual sessions address behavioral issues concerning people, which may not come up for discussion in the group.
These seven factors, and I can list many more, can truly transform an organizational culture. What this requires for success are a few simple ground rules.
- Groups can be cross functional or of same function, and would need to have a common organizational focus
- Organization must spell out the group coaching objectives
- Process must be blended, typically 6 group interventions of about 3 hours each, interspersed with 6 hour long individual sessions, over 3 to 6 months.
- Organizations establish a follow up mechanism
Ram S Ramanathan, is a Senior Fellow, Human Capital at The Conference Board. In this role, Ram supports the Human Capital Practice, which includes The Conference Board Human Capital Exchange™, research, conferences, webcasts and programs in a broad spectrum of human capital areas.