Every company is a group – sometimes a very large one – organised by being broken down into smaller groups. As coaches we may work with teams, or with specially created learning groups, in which learning is multiplied as people learn from each other’s dilemmas as well as their own. Over time, these experiences can develop flexibility and interpersonal skills to a high degree. In this way groups can make a tangible contribution to business advantage, but equally importantly, influence the intangibles that underlie long term business health and prosperity.
Put simply, if people fell more connected to a larger worthwhile undertaking, they work harder and stay longer because they feel good about themselves and their place in the company, and in the world. All executive coaching is to some degree a bridging process, helping the individual make sense of, and work effectively in, the context of their organisation. Better than any other kind of intervention, well run groups can foster feelings of connection and common purpose.
Groups are essential to the development of effective leadership and collaboration skills. Every leader requires a group (team), and effective leaders share the work of leadership with their team colleagues by communicating their experience authentically so that others have the opportunity to contribute. New advances in neuroscience persuaded Daniel Goleman to extend his concept of emotional intelligence to social intelligence, a more relationally based understanding of the interpersonal competencies needed to inspire others. Groups are by far the most effective method for developing these competencies.
In difficult economic times, successful companies understand that planning long term, and keeping staff well motivated and involved in solving business problems, is critical. When a company fails to do this, and instead create a culture based on fear and anxiety, ‘groupthink’ often prevails, the reductive process through which group members systemically exclude information needed to make better quality decisions when faced with challenges. Properly led groups, on the contrary, can help people face hard reality together, fostering resolve and generating creative, realistic solutions to business challenges. Groups can help individuals overcome stress and other ‘knee-jerk’ responses to threat or change, and so work productively once again. In troubled economic times, this may be the difference between sinking and swimming.
Group coaching includes two broad based areas: team coaching and coaching learning groups, which are groups that have come together specifically for the purpose of learning. A global survey of group coaching identified that around 60% of group coaching was targeted on intact teams, and around 40% on coaching groups of individuals from different organisations. The group coach is always working with either. team or a learning group. This is a simplification, but it is a useful one for the practitioner.