Group Coaching: Ten Essentials

Group coaching – The 10 Essentials

1. What is group coaching?
2. Group coaching definition
3. How does group coaching differ from typical coaching relationships?
4. Time-for-Money
5. What is the difference between group coaching & team coaching?
6. How does group coaching differ from individual coaching?
7. What are the benefits of a hybrid coaching model? 
8. What is the number 1 potential mistake a group coach must avoid?
9. Biggest surprise of being a group coach
10. Group coaching in leadership development


1. What is Group coaching?
Grounded in core coaching principles, group coaching uses elements of individual coaching and expands them into a small group format. This combination leverages the collective wisdom and support of the group, while making it a safe and respectful environment. In general terms, group coaching:

  • Consists of 4 – 14 (although a group of 8 – 12 is ideal) compatible individuals who share a similar interest 
  • Is a dialogue-rich, group-sharing format that is facilitated by a coach 
  • Focuses on personal and professional growth of each group member
  • Leverages the insights and wisdom of individual members in a group

A few developmental areas well suited to the group coaching format include:

  • Soft skills development
  • Increasing one’s self-awareness
  • Critical thinking and decision-making skills development
  • Manager/management skills development
  • Leadership skills development
  • Learning Agility development
  • Personal and professional skills development
  • Inter and intra-company knowledge sharing 

Group coaching fosters individual development in its’ participants. This makes group coaching highly effective, and generally more impactful than typical training and other developmental initiatives. 

2. Group coaching Definition
Group coaching: a dialogic process that leverages insights and experiences of group members to attain individualized personal and professional growth.

Group coaching’s focus is on each participant achieving personal and professional growth through the support of a group. It does this by facilitating a challenging dialogue in a safe and encouraging environment.

3. How does group coaching differ from a typical coaching relationship?
In general, both individual and group coaching facilitate deep, transformational development in its participants.   The overarching objective of each can also be quite similar. For instance, in an executive coaching context, the objective of each member could be to “enhance business behavior and results”; this objective remains the same whether it’s pursued in an individual or group coaching format.

There are also distinct differences between the two.  In an individual coaching format, the coach generally focuses solely the individual needs of their client. In the group coaching format, the coach will focus on the developmental needs of each member, as well as the group as a whole. 

While each participant gets less undivided attention from the coach, the power of the group more than makes up for it. The social learning that occurs in a group from listening to other members’ stories, ideas and concerns is a powerful mirror for an individual’s growth process.  Participants also receive candid feedback from multiples sources, which speeds the development process. Finally, the exposure to fresh ideas from other group members is priceless. 

Another unique benefit of group coaching may not be related to coaching at all (although definitely of significant value). For many future leaders, their greatest challenge is finding and refining their voice. They need to learn how to give and receive feedback, encourage others, help others achieve their goals and how to be vulnerable. In a group coaching construct, individuals commonly discover their voice as a leader naturally and without effort. You can’t do this in an individual coaching format.

4. Time-for-Money
Coaching operates under a professional services framework, meaning the coach is compensated financially for their time. Since most coaching relationships operate within a one-client to one-coach ratio, the number of clients a coach can work with is constrained by the number of hours available. This constraint limits the upside of what a coach can earn and the impact they can have in an organization.

External Coaches: Numerous studies verify that organizations would like to increase the availability of executive coaches to their employees, but are limited by their budgets. In these instances, group coaching offers a viable alternative. In most instances, group coaches can provide a lower cost-per-coaching client-offering, while at the same increasing their revenue per engagement. For instance:

  • Individual Coaching: Let’s assume you charge $200 per hour with most sessions lasting 1-hour. Gross revenue per session equals $200.
  • Group coaching: Let’s assume you charge $100 per session for each group member with sessions lasting 2-hours. You have 10 paying clients in the group. Gross revenue per session equals $1,000, which equates to $500 per hour.

In this scenario, you are able to increase your revenue per hour by 2.5 times using group coaching.

Internal Coaches: The time-for-money relationship also exists for internal coaches. Providing a group coaching program can significantly increase the number of employees that can participate. It leverages the insights that can be gained from having an individual coach, while budgets remain mostly unchanged.

5. What is the difference between group coaching & team coaching?
Group coaching and team coaching are different formats with different objectives. Team coaching is focused on achieving established goals set for the group as a whole. For team coaching, words like trust, teamwork, collaboration, decision-making and expectations are core to the team coaching process. The desired outcome is team-based and team-focused. Although it could be an outcome, achievement of professional growth is not the key objective of team coaching.

In group coaching, the focus is on the individual achieving their personal/ professional goals in a group environment. Words like reflection, encouragement, respect, belonging and vulnerability are integral in the group coaching process. While team coaching is focused on how the team works together, group coaching is focused on the individual’s development process. This is why group coaching fits in extremely well with leadership development initiatives and other developmental programs an organization might have or need.

6. How does group coaching differ from individual coaching?
While the basic constructs of coaching remain the same, there are significant differences. In group coaching, the coach is there to guide, at times encourage, and on occasion even challenge their members. However at the end of the day, a group coach’s predominant role is to facilitate. They manage the process, the members of the group, the energy of the group and maintain the safety necessary to do group work. Facilitation is different than coaching, yet can be equally rewarding.

For these reasons, coaches commonly choose to become trained in a group coaching process like the Peer Insight program offered by Growing Your Leaders. A proven process and methodology will provide the necessary structure and insights essential to being an effective and successful group coach. 

7. What are the benefits of a hybrid coaching model? 
A hybrid model that combines individual and group coaching can meet a broader range of a client’s needs. The model leverages the strengths of each into a unified and coherent package. For instance, a sample offering could provide 4-group coaching sessions with 2-individual coaching sessions. By providing group and individual coaching together, your coaching practice is positioned to meet the business needs of your clients. 

8. What is the number 1 potential mistake a group coach must avoid?
Most coaches start out as individual coaches, master the craft of coaching, build a business and then choose to become a group coach. Because of their strength in individual coaching, experienced coaches may be prone to doing individual coaching within the group structure. This is not group coaching; it’s counter-productive, and must be avoided. 

To be a successful group coach, you must put away your desire to directly advise. Instead, a group coach must focus on facilitating the group dialogue, thereby uncovering the insights and voices of its group members.

9. Biggest surprise from being a group coach
Being a group coach comes with many benefits. Yes, there is the potential of increasing your time-for-money ratio, thereby increasing your earning potential. However, the biggest benefit comes from listening and learning from group members. The insights learned from group members is a gift, a gift that will help you become a better group, as well as individual coach. 

10. Group coaching in leadership development
Most organizations would like to increase their coaching resources for their emerging leaders and executives, while also reducing the cost of coaching sessions on a per-client basis. Group coaching is an obvious solution for this challenge. In a group coaching situation, 8 – 12 individuals led by an executive coach can provide the structure, the cost savings and most importantly, the learning environment conducive to an emergent leader’s needs.

The Group coaching environment is the optimal means of developing future leaders essential to leading in the 21st Century.