group exercise class

Add Group Coaching to Your Professional Development Toolbox



If you’re someone who sees the value in professional development, you already know that there are a lot of ways to go about it. Degrees, certificates, seminars, self study, mentoring, and coaching, among others. Group coursework tends to offer the most value when aiming to transfer existing knowledge, like how to deliver an effective presentation.

When it comes to changing internal behavior, like how to feel more confident as a presenter, coaching or mentoring probably present better options. Those one-to-one formats offer the benefit of being tailored to individual needs, making them particularly strategic, efficient, and impactful. They also have limitations. Mentoring relies on the availability, willingness, and subject matter expertise of mentors. And coaching can be expensive and unscalable.

This is where group coaching comes in.

Combining the content richness of instructional learning with the individualized attention of coaching and mentoring, group coaching offers some unique benefits. The one-to-many model means less cost per person and the pre-designed format can be easily replicated.

In addition to its economic benefits, group coaching offers experiential learning in which participants grow from observing each other. Think about how it’s easier to spot problems and solutions when they belong to someone else. In a group coaching context, participants are given the opportunity to follow each others’ journeys of self reflection, discovery, and change. Seeing other participants take risks, share struggles, and reach insights–and relating those back to themselves–gives coachees a layer of learning that doesn’t happen in one-to-one coaching.

Group coaching members also learn from watching the coach interact with fellow participants. The most fundamental skills coaches offer are not only universally relevant, they are in areas where we all can improve: presence, listening, and asking questions.

Just as working individually with a coach can span leadership, career, business, or life coaching, group coaching comes in different flavors.

Many professional development activities fall within internal or external programs. Integrating a coaching approach into program events provides an opportunity to resonate with adult learning styles and offer meta learning that can be applied to other areas of the program members’ work or personal lives.

A small group of people united by a shared goals, a team can be vertical (like a department) or horizontal (like an executive team). Team coaching varies from other types of group coaching in that, in additional to individual growth, it’s focused on the team unit and how it functions. Effective team development relies on aligning members with a shared purpose and equipping them with the skills and behaviors to perform its functions successfully.

Similar to a program, participants in a community are joined by common attributes or purpose. This makes group coaching a good fit because members are already part of a shared experience. That commonality makes it easier to identify relevant topics and establish a space that invites vulnerability. Next month I’m hosting a group coaching event for the Thea by Thrive℠ community. Using an experiential learning model to address the topic of difficult conversations, we’ll examine tools, coach someone’s challenges related to using them, and then debrief what we noticed in that exercise.

If you are pursuing professional or personal development on your own, group coaching may still be an option. Look for programs or coursework that include group coaching, and ask questions about what that looks like. As I’ve shared before, “coaching” has become a catch-all for behaviors that are more accurately categorized as consulting, teaching, or mentoring.

Group coaching is a useful tool for any professional development toolbox. In addition to its scalability and unique learning opportunities, it offers a novel construct. It provides a reason to gather, connect, and share for mutual and collective benefit.

Share your Perspective

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Struggling to Thrive?

A lot of the challenges that make work and life difficult are caused by factors beyond our control. But not all of them. Sometimes, in our rush for results and focus on fabulosity, we end up making things harder than they need to be.

I put together this simple quiz to provide a quick reality check and some actionable ideas to help you thrive. Check it out.