Collective Coaching: The Next Level of Group Coaching

Feb 19, 2018

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is success.                                                            

– Henry Ford

Coaches call this by many names: group coaching, team coaching, and systemic coaching. I prefer using the word collective coaching as it embodies deeper intervention to a broader objective.

For long, coaching has been directed at individuals. It started with (and still is) remedial, though through the façade of growth of the individual. However, it has moved away from a negative connotation of being there to reform the sinner to one that elevates the star.

Organizations are moving more towards collective coaching for several benefits, such as:

  • Addressing needs of individuals, teams and organizations
  • Focused on larger organizational objectives that individuals and teams can contribute to
  • Performance as well as mindset improvement
  • Cultural change in the organization
  • Cost effectiveness

What is Collective Coaching?

Let us look at other, related terms before we tackle the definition of collective coaching.

Group Facilitation

A facilitator plays a far more silent role in a group intervention than a trainer or a coach, and intervenes only occasionally when guidelines are breached. The group is self sufficient and capable of producing its own outcome without external inputs. This is an ideal scenario often not achieved.

Group Coaching

A group coach plays a more active role in holding a mirror to the group, exploring and challenging as needed, and, in subtle ways partnering the group to move towards a desired outcome. The mythical ‘invisibility’ of the coach is in being non-judgmental.

Team Coaching

A team coach has the responsibility to bring a disparate group of different interests into a bonded entity with a common purpose and identity. From this point this may be similar in process, and yet vastly different in approach than working with groups.

Systemic Coaching

A systemic coach brings in a third element of organization to the individuals forming a team with the larger needs and objectives. Purpose here is to align individuals through teams to the organization.

Collective Coaching

Collective coaching is systemic coaching taken to the next level, looking at the team as an additional member. It is the invisible thousand pound gorilla whose unseen presence dominates the process. The team has its own identity, purpose and vision different from that of the organization and the team members. The coach’s job is to explore with team members to reveal these. This is the ‘who’ part of the team coaching. Once established, these can be aligned to the identity, purpose and vision of the organization and individuals.

Why “Collective”?

Carl Jung hypothesized collective consciousness. That hypothesis has been well established through scientific studies. In every team there is a collective unconscious. It has both bright and shadow sides, reflecting the alignment or lack thereof of the values and beliefs of the organization with those of the individual.

The collective coach will create awareness in the group of these unconscious gaps in values and beliefs between them and the organization. This awareness can lead to corrective action and anchoring.

The more the coach treats the team as one entity, the more successful is the exploration.

Let us look at what studies show up for what makes great teams and what would stop them from being even good teams. Project aristotle of Google and Lencioni’s book on Dysfunctions of Teams are excellent resources to learn how collective coach well.

Functions of Great Teams

Google’s Project Aristotle studied 180+ teams over several years and resulted in findings that listed the following as critical elements of great teams.

  • Psychological safety:
    • Absence of fear of being criticized or ridiculed, confident to be open in expression, free of anxiety
    • This can be enhanced by
      • Seeking inputs from members involving them
      • Engage and share work/life experiences
  • Dependability:
    • Interdependence on one another to support and take care on one another
    • This can be enhanced by
      • Role, responsibility and accountability clarity of individuals and team
      • Open and transparent work atmosphere
      • Awareness within the team through coaching
  • Structure and clarity:
    • Objectives and Key Results (OKR) across the organizations, teams and individuals communicating expectation of outcome and reviews based on OKR
    • This can be enhanced through
      • Structured Engagement & Review process
      • Continuous and consistent communication and feedback
  • Meaning:
    • Alignment to Purpose and value of organizational mission and vision
    • This can be enhanced by
      • Aligning individual values with organization through coaching
  • Impact:
    • Am I making a difference and is the organization making a difference?
      • This can be enhanced by
        • Sustainable vision and goals of organization going beyond bottom line profits
        • Recognition of individual and team contribution
        • Culture of appreciation

Dysfunction of Teams

Lencioni’s classic talks about why teams don’t function well.

  • Absence of Trust
    • Lack of empathy and interpersonal sensitivity
    • This can be addressed by
      • Coaching to create empathy and social awareness
  • Fear of Conflict
    • Silence and violence in Crucial Conversations
    • This can be addressed by
      • Coaching to communicate directly and openly using the Coacharya OLAA process
  • Lack of Commitment
    • Lack of clarity in expectations and roles
    • This can be addressed by
      • Coaching for outcome, awareness and action
  • Avoidance of Accountability
    • Lack of dependability and responsibility clarity
    • This can be addressed by
      • Objectives & Key Results
      • Consistent reviews and feedback
  • Inattention to Results
    • Lack of organizational vision, mission and values
    • This can be addressed by
      • Co-created vision and collaborative action

Myths to explode and misconceptions to explore

  • Team needs to have a unified membership: Purpose of good collective coaching is to build a cohesive team with a congruent identity. Coacharya’s SPEED process achieves that at its first step. Teams can be built with cross functional and cross hierarchical membership, and can be unified through a common organizational objective.
  • Team and group coaching are the same: Groups need not have a common identity though they may sometimes work to a common purpose. Members of groups can move in and out. Teams will have fixed membership during the coaching process. Emotional bonding differentiates a team from a group.
  • Team Coaching is facilitation: Group facilitation need not work at all at the collective level with a common identity. The process may have both interpersonal and intrapersonal elements with the facilitator ensuring process hygiene, and no collective outcome need emerge. Sensitivity labs are a good example of facilitation working to individual awareness in a group setting without eliciting collective awareness.
  • Collective Coaching is transactional: Collective coaching can address transactional objectives of the organization, and yet the process can create transformational awareness aligning values and beliefs.

Questions for the Coach

What other processes can you deploy to create teams from groups with:

  • Psychological Safety & Trust
  • Dependability without Conflict
  • Structure & Clarity in Results
  • Meaning to create Accountability
  • Impact to create commitment
Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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