Bringing Coaching to the Masses – Without Developing Masses of Coaches

Tom GibbonsCoachingLeave a Comment

The most common model of coaching today is one where there is a coach and a coachee; two different individuals with differing roles within the coaching interaction.  A quick Google search of the phrase ‘executive coaching’ produced over 1,700,000 links so it is safe to say that coaching using this model, is alive and well.  People find value in this model and want to do more of it in their organizations but the cost quickly becomes prohibitive.  The typical next idea is to use the same model but add more coachee’s and do group coaching.  A Google search of the term ‘group coaching’ produced 648,000 links.  It seems it’s not so popular.  Part of the reason we have found that it is not so popular is that the thinking behind one to one coaching, whether in person or distance, is applied to a group and it doesn’t work nearly as well.

We have worked successfully with a different design that overcomes some of the problems of the current group coaching model.  It has its own challenges, but what if you could do group coaching without a coach.

In order to imagine this you have to really look at what is happening in a common coaching environment and analyze it from a technical, interactive perspective, not a people perspective.  Some of the components of a typical organizational coaching environment include:

  1. A coach with an acceptable level of legitimate expert power.
  2. A coachee (or coachee’s) with a need to change or enhance performance through different behaviors.
  3. A controlled conversational structure (primarily controlled by the coach).
  4. An expectation of improved performance by the coachee.
  5. An adequate amount of time for the process to impact the coachee’s performance.

When you look at the 5 points above, it is really only point 3 that is crucial to having an actual coach working with a group.  What the coach is doing in point 3 is managing the power dynamics of the interaction, managing the flow of the conversation or interaction, bringing forward relevant points, typically from data that the coach has collected about the current performance of the coachee and moving the interaction to some point of behavior change that can be tested out by the coachee.

When we looked at this and the other 4 points above, plus accessed a lot of work and thinking about group process and organizational change we found that it was possible to replicate point 3 with an initial structure to the way a group could interact with each other that produced a similar dynamic as having a coach present but without the need for the coach to be directly involved.

The other 4 points are dealt with in the design of the coaching groups, the introduction of organizational and individual development concepts for the group to filter their discussions and the need for the group to work with real organizational challenges they face.  This design then supports coaching groups that meet on a regular basis to work on real business issues and produce immediate, impactful change. 

Our work as consultants is to work with an internal steering committee (critical to the success of the initiative), design and deliver the larger group learning sessions that introduce key concepts for the group to work with and meet with the steering committee on a regular basis and make adjustments to the process as needed.  Our involvement typically lasts about six to eight months in total with the organization meeting with the steering committee, delivering learning sessions, following up with leadership and monitoring the initiative in conjunction with the steering committee and coaching groups.  The coaching groups continue to meet long after we are no longer involved.

It is important to realize that even though this design looks very simple, it is based on considerably different thinking and concepts than what makes one to one coaching work.  We have written a more extensive paper outlining this thinking and the specific details of the design. If you would like to read/download a copy of that paper, please just click here – Group Coaching

It is possible to have successful group coaching without the coach.  At least how we typically define a coach in organizations right now.

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