Five Lessons from Group Coaching

Our clients are fortunate. I do very little group coaching these days, relying on the skilled talent of Debra Saneda and Anne Chamberlain to fill that particular niche.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy sitting with groups and unpacking their challenges. It’s that I enjoy it alittle too much – I sometimes can spend too much time unpacking.

Now that the Floricane team is in the midst of one of its biggest projects – group leadership coaching for a large slate of managers in Richmond and Hampton Roads – we’re focused on coaching for impact. Anne and Debra are in the midst of an eight-month project involving 17 different groups of managers. Each group will have five coaching sessions, and participants will also do homework, attend several training sessions and develop plans for their teams.

Two of the biggest takeaways I’ve had from our ongoing coaching work? The value of creating space for managers and leaders simply to slow down – and the importance of facilitated opportunities for peers to share their struggles, solutions and best practices.

Listening to Debra and Anne discuss the flow and tenor of their first round of group coaching discussions – all 17 of them! – in December, I’m struck by how deeply they have to listen to each unique discussion. The volume of active listening they do in a week is amazing, and the act of that listening alone is of value to their coaching participants.

Five lessons I’ve drawn watching our team engage in group coaching work:

  • Time and Space: Managers and leaders have a hard time creating space for themselves. Coaching forces a mental timeout, and an opportunity to reflect – and plan forward.


  • Peer Discussions: There are circumstances in which we find group coaching (of peers from different teams without reporting relationships) creates amazing dialogue and value. Sometimes, it’s simply recognizing that other managers deal with the same chaos as you do that helps.


  • Active Listening (and Questioning): Having someone listen deeply to your challenges, and your successes, and asking hard questions to focus your attention can be a game changer.


  • Being Heard: Sandwiched between busy teams and even busier bosses, many mid-level managers have no one to hear them. That isolation can be paralyzing, and demoralizing.


  • Lather, Rinse, Repeat: Sharing, setting a plan in place, making commitments – and then coming back in two or three weeks to be accountable (to your coach and your peers) can be a truly motivating set of habits. Do it often enough, and you develop new muscle memory.