Group coaching: what is it? In this blog, I use some case studies to explain how to investigate the group’s goal.
In a series of long reads, I will illustrate what I do in my daily coaching practice, with some examples of group coaching. This time, the focus is on the goal of the group, investigated by the group itself.
‘what is our goal as a group?’
In this example, there is a group with members that knew what their mission was in the organisation, but they were unable to act on that mission. Their purpose was very broad and general; they didn’t feel they were improving the organisation or were contributing effectively to the organisation.
The question to be investigated (‘what is our goal as a group?’) was the result of a previous group coaching session and it was now the starting point for a next* group coaching session.
During the previous group coaching session, it became clear that the group missed having a clear goal within the organisation.
It was obvious to the members what their task was and what the organisation was asking them to do. But they felt they were going from event to event without any direction. They had no opinion of their own on what exactly was the (internal) customer’s demand. They had no idea what was the best way to structurally and effectively support that internal customer.
Just to be clear, this example deals with a non-hierarchical team that has a task. Within the self-governing organisation, the team is free to determine the content of the task.
group members waiting
The lack of clarity about the goal resulted in long meetings, group members without explicit opinions or points of view, and a constant retraction of decisions. After all, how can you be satisfied with what you achieve if you don’t have goals?
results of the intake interview
The intake interview consisted of many questions, posed by me in my role as a coach. And I kept asking questions. The answers given by the group members indicated that the members had different views of the organisation, the status of the organisation, the goal of the organisation and what the organisation wanted to achieve.
The starting point for establishing a common goal was not clear. In other words, the group first needed a shared (and accepted) view of what the group thought was the organisation’s ‘state of being’.
The first thing to do in the group coaching session is to create a shared picture of the organisation.
No specific preparation was needed for the group members, other than to think about the joint group coaching session and what they felt was essential to achieve.
As a coach, I had to think of the right way of quickly and effectively creating a shared and accepted view of the organisation. Sometimes that is clear immediately, sometimes it can be a drawn-out process of thinking/feeling/searching/investigating before the right and the best way is determined. In this case, I was thinking and creating the content of the day until the last moment before we started the group coaching session.
the group coaching session
a brief introduction
The day started with a brief summary of a previous group coaching session and the results that were the starting point for this session. Next, there was a brief introduction about metaphors and my explanation that talking in metaphors sometimes can lead to more clarity faster than talking in facts.
metaphor: the organisation as an organism
I had created a large outline of a human figure with painting tape on the floor. The words ‘organisation’ and ‘organism’ look similar for a reason. I asked the group to assume that the human figure on the ground was a representation of the organisation.
The organisation as an organic living being. With organs that have functions and tasks to ensure that the body can live and that influence each other. But also with a heart, a soul, a past, a memory, a future.
investigative questions about the organisation: what is the current situation?
I used various types of questions to get the group to talk about how the organisation worked.
The first question I asked was whether the organisation was male or female. This started a conversation between the group members. In this example, they determined that the organisation was partly male and partly female. One of the group members completed the human figure on the ground with painting tape.
The conversation quickly moved to the head of the figure; the fact that the ears were closed and the mouth was open. But also that the head had little support. It seemed that there was a second head, on the shoulder of the human figure on the floor.
In this human figure, the hands were the executive elements of the organisation and the legs the support services. Some departments were the bloodstream. Some of the body parts were amputated; and without them, the organisation could hardly go on further.
In the end, the arms (the connection between head and hands) were very underdeveloped, and one of the legs was missing, threatening to topple the organisation.
Every time a change was determined, the human figure was adjusted on the floor with painting tape until there was a final image that everyone agreed with.
investigative questions about the organisation: what is needed?
As a next step, the group members together improved the human figure on the floor: what is needed to make it a healthy and functioning organisation? The figure was supplemented and adjusted with painting tape.
The next question I asked was which tasks this group would now want to take on to improve the human figure.
goals and tasks
The conversations to reach a clear picture of the ‘current status’ and the ‘desired situation’ took a relatively long time. However, setting clear goals and tasks was done relatively quickly!
The image shared by the group was so clear to everyone that there were only a few tasks and goals left, which were so evident that the group wanted to get started right away!
In this example, it is clear that sometimes there is a question hiding behind a question. That second question must to be answered first. In this case, the group was looking for a uniform view of the organisation. If the question behind the question has been answered, all the follow-up questions are also often answered quickly.
What you need, as a group, is courage – the courage to spend time on something that you don’t immediately recognise as useful or necessary. And you need the courage to trust your coach.
*for reasons of privacy, some examples are a combination of facts/events of different groups
read the other (Dutch) blog articles in the series ‘group coaching in practice’:
- group coaching in practice: explained in 5 steps
- group coaching in practice: ‘we don’t know each other’s qualities’
- group coaching in practice: ‘we are not cooperating properly’
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