Group coaching: the new ingredient for virtual training

This has been brewing in my mind for some time now. In a world where we are bombarded with learning content and information, how can we make sense of the noise? Combine this with the rapid shift in the last 12 months to 100% virtual training, with many organisations planning to keep this model, there’s an urgent need to make sure the ‘human’ element isn’t missed out.

One of the successes of the switch to ‘virtual’ everything, is coaching. A two-way conversation has been left relatively intact by the move online. In fact, it’s ‘opened up’ the idea of coaching to many:

  • Less intrusive, as you are still in your own personal space.
  • More accessible, as you don’t have to allow travel time.
  • More private, as no-one else need know.


Perhaps coaching can be the new ingredient to help make training ‘stick’?

Let me come at this from a different direction. One of the most significant ‘learning’ experiences I had in the last couple of years was taking part in group coaching. Every six weeks I met with the same group of three coaches, and our coach supervisor. Together we would explore each other’s challenges and issues as coaches, using group coaching and action learning techniques.

The learning process was often exhausting, as learning (for me anyway) was taking place on three levels:

  • The individual level – I would take a problem or question to the group – I would get answers and insight from the group’s contribution.
  • Group level – I got to hear the other group member’s questions/problems, (quite often being something I could have asked also) – and had a chance to consider solutions/formulate questions, and collectively problem solve.
  • The process level – As we only used coaching and action learning techniques to explore questions/problems, it was a ‘masterclass’ in group coaching techniques, which I soaked in readily.

The reasons for the success of this format were:

  • Being with the same group regularly meant we built relationships of trust, and it became a ‘safe’ place to be vulnerable, to share what we didn’t know or were unsure of.
  • Being guided by an expert facilitator meant that boundaries were respected, and that there was a structure, albeit a flexible one, to each session.
  • The learning was active, not passive. We were all actively involved in coming up with solutions, using whatever coaching method we agreed upon to get there.

I was intrigued – with a background of many years of working with groups and teams and having experience as a coach working with individuals – I realized although I hadn’t fully put coaching and training together as equal components.

The facilitation techniques I had been using for team awaydays, strategy setting days, and project brainstorming/problem-solving were like group coaching ‘light’. Light because it may be a one-off event, rather than an ongoing process. And light because it focused on the problem or issue, rather than going deep with the individual’s learning. I could see the power and opportunity in bringing training and coaching together.

Roll the clock forward to 2020, and after relocating to the Netherlands, as a way of easing myself into a ‘new’ area, I’m offering coaching for ‘personal development’. This offer, combined with an academic study of the outcomes, allowed me to explore the idea of coaching to help individuals work out their personal and professional development goals, and how to achieve them. The results were satisfactory, but as I considered what to try next, I couldn’t help but think that many of the individuals I had coached would benefit from a group process. Partly for the networking, partly for the shared ideas, and partly for the group accountability.

Twelve months later, and I myself have signed up to an ‘accountability group’ for writers that want to be published. A few sessions in, I’m intrigued by the format. It’s deceptively simple, but incredibly valuable. Again, being guided by an expert facilitator is key. But the power of the group cannot be ignored. I found myself working harder on my book just because I knew a session was due.

So, I started to think about where else this format could be used. I consulted with peers, fellow coaches that use group coaching and action learning models, and I have come up with my own.

I’ll be offering group coaching for:

Each will have a different format, to suit. And I can’t help but think that in a year where we’ve all had less contact, less chance meetings with new people, less opportunity to learn ‘out loud’ with others, it’s a perfect fit.

I’m excited to give it a go, are you?

Want to talk about joining in on a group coaching session? Book up a discovery call, we’d love to chat!

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