Group Coaching is a rewarding, exciting (and sometimes difficult) endeavor. Yet, the personal and professional benefits accruing from this process are great—even transformational. For example, set members often experience a shift from dependence on their usual expertise, assumptions, and knowledge to learning with and from each other; from concealing their fears and misgivings to disclosing their doubts and admitting their perplexities. In order to maximize the Group Coaching benefits, participants must make an informed commitment to supporting and challenging themselves and their colleagues to think about their issue in new ways, to analyzing problems differently, to reflecting on the skills, insights, and mindsets they’ve discovered during their experience, and finally, to taking action.
Comfort with a Diverse Team
Typically, four to six participants comprise the set. Member diversity (that is, people selected from across functions and departments) generates a range of attitudes, values, and behaviors that contributes to productive meetings. Group dynamics are less competitive and more supportive in a diverse group than in a homogenous one. Members who have different backgrounds:
- Exchange views that contradict and challenge (rather than complement) each other. This minimizes groupthink, which discourages the exploration of a variety of perspectives
- Generate different interpretations of the problem
- Examine the implications of their actions on various areas of the organization
- Build new networks
Diversity brings an array of knowledge and experience to the project, contributes richly to the questioning and reflecting activities of the group, and expands the group’s learning opportunities. To complement their variety of skills, knowledge, and approaches, group members should posses the same level of perceived competence and status, so they feel comfortable in challenging each other. While difficult, employees working from remote locations can participate through access to teleconferencing and other methods of virtual participation.
Commitment to Attendance
While each team member understands that attendance at meetings is a priority, there may be times when personal or organizational urgencies limit attendance. Each team needs to discuss how it will deal with this reality. It is generally better for the team to meet less frequently with every member present than to meet more often with incomplete attendance.
The Ideal Participant’s Role
- Interest in the issues and circumstances of set members
- Tolerates ambiguity
- Takes measured risks
- Supports and facilitates others in their quests for learning
- Values, respects and learns from others’ ideas and principles
- Attends to group dynamics and personal and professional growth
- Rotates through a variety of team roles to better understand the process
- Contributes as an equal (All receive adequate and equal “air time” and their ideas and questions are considered equally.)
- Listens actively, reflects, and challenges others to analyze their issues; stimulates new thinking and opportunities for insight and reflection
- Poses questions that stimulate solutions to a problem (divergent thinking)
- Analyzes and plans solutions—and acts collaboratively to achieve goals (takes action)
- Ensures privacy and discretion: discusses the temptations to (and the consequences of) breaking confidentiality
- Helps determine the meeting schedule; attends (and actively participates in) team meetings to ensure continuity
- Contributes to defining explicit, positive group norms that express the group’s central values around expectations, assumptions, and how they will work together regarding individual commitment, confidentiality, and accountability
- Points out counterproductive behaviors using observations and respectful wording, friendly tone of voice, and positive nonverbal language.
Participating in Group Coaching supports set members in examining and developing their values, interpersonal communication style, contribution to the team effort, learning capability, and sensitivity to the realities and operations of their organization.
Coming Up: GC—Creating a Learning Journal
A learning log book helps the journalist recognize learning needs, take advantage of learning opportunities, measure personal effectiveness, share information with others, recall AHAS! and reflect on lessons learned: in other words—to better know one’s self.