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Beyond Coaching 1-on-1. How to Coach Groups

written byErickson Coaching Internationalon 09/06/2015

Coaches that have built up successful coaching businesses often run up against a problem faced by many kinds of entrepreneurial consultants: they hit a wall in terms of the numbers of clients they can schedule to coach 1-on-1, putting a cap on their coaching earnings (there are only so many hours in a day). There are three ways to adapt: raise prices – a risky maneuver in a competitive industry; hire coaches and spend more time managing, less time doing the hands-on work; or start coaching groups.  

This is a growing field of opportunity, particularly in corporate or executive coaching. Organizations that are looking to maximize value across one or more teams may bring in a coach to do the job. It also makes business sense for you – they may get a lower rate per coached team member, but overall, you’re getting paid more to coach in the same time frame as for 1-on-1 coaching. This can be lucrative and a great way to expand your coaching business, but you may need to shift some gears when it comes to your coaching style.  

When you’re training to be a coach, a lot of the focus is on 1-on-1 coaching, so you may need a refresher on how to coach groups without getting ganged up on.  

Also, be sure to check out our previous post on the difference between team and group coaching before you get started – depending on who you are working with, the objectives might be different and so you will need to adjust your coaching sessions accordingly.  

Make Sure You’ve Got Buy-In from Everyone.
That starts right at the top, from the boss who is going to want to see results down to every member of the team. The employer or department head needs to be completely on board with the process, because otherwise your coaching sessions and any follow-up activities may be seen as a distraction from the team’s core job duties. At the same time, even one member who seems to think this process applies to everyone but themselves is bound to be a disruptive influence to others.  

Ideally, this is all understood by everyone on the team before you even walk into the room for the first time but it doesn’t hurt to lay down the ground rules and expectations so everyone’s on the same page.  

Understand the Organization.
You may need to overcome self-imposed silos between people from different departments (e.g. sales and marketing, or product development and HR) with very different priorities. See who the leaders are within the team or multiple teams and incorporate them into the process, making use of the trust and respect they already have.  

Build Chemistry with the Team Over Time.
You don’t need to be best friends with everyone, but a positive personal rapport with members of the team certainly helps when you’re in the process of going over hurdles to be crossed and weaknesses to be corrected. Respect is earned, on both sides, but you’ll need to make an effort.  

Emphasize that This Is a Longer Process, Not a One-Off.
This applies in 1-on-1 coaching as well, of course. But in coaching groups, there may be a tendency by some members to adopt better habits only when you’re around – instead of cultivating and internalizing them for the long term. When you are gone, they need to retain those habits that keep getting better results.  

Reassure The Team You’re Not There to Fix Something Broken, But to Make It Better.
Your shared goal is getting better results. The truth is that if these people were poor performers in the corporate world, they’d already be gone. The boss is investing in maximizing their potential – and you’re going to help the team (and the individuals involved) make that happen.  

Set Clear, Measurable and Practical Goals.
Again, you would also want to do that with 1-on-1 clients, but when coaching groups, it is imperative that each member understands they’re all being subjected to the same standards and challenges – and most likely in a corporate environment, that there is a reward at the end. Adhere to those metrics and milestones and watch the spirit of competition facilitate faster progress than even you might have expected.  

Follow these rules when coaching groups and you’ll be on the track to success.

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