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Group Coaching – Transforming Groups into Teams

Posted on the 23 March 2012 by Combi31 @combi31

Group Coaching – Transforming Groups into Teams

Some purists will have their hackles up after reading the title of this post, stating that the only form of coaching is one-to-one and any form of group coaching should be termed training, workshops or seminars.

I’m not so sure about this personally and the jury is still out on this one according to some coach colleagues of mine.

Two years ago I became a member of the “French federation of CoDevelopment” after being introduced by the method by a HR director client.

In this article I will explain what Codevelopment is and how it can be used practically in a group coaching setting – you can then decide whether group coaching exists or not, what I will say is, that it is a very powerful and effective solutions to facilitate groups and to help groups of people work as a team.

The overall objective of Codevelopment, we will call it “CD” for the purposes of this article, is to improve professional practices, communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing within an organisation.

It is a very pragmatic process that focuses on real happenings and issues in an organisation and, although the founders of CD, actually call it training, which it well might be, the stance of the facilitator is one of a coach and the notion that the people have the solutions within themselves to solve their own issues, comes directly from a coaching stance.

Stress is placed on sharing, openness and collective thinking – very similar to Senge’s “Learning Organisation”, with the understanding that the result of collective thinking is largely more productive than individual thinking, coupled with aspects of Action Learning to produce durable results.

CoDevelopment is a highly structured and disciplined approach to organisational learning, that aims to help improve problem solving skills, where the initial process is set-up and run by a facilitator, with the objective to leave the responsibility with the group so that the facilitator is no longer needed – roles are transformed from facilitator to group, in order that the learning and behaviours learnt are perpetuated.

So how does it work?

A CD group is made up of  between 4 and 8 people, with an ideal being around 6 people in my experience, who agree to a contract varying between 3 months and one year, meeting at regular intervals to work on issues in sessions that usually last for 3 to 4 hours.

The contract can be prolonged or shortened – but the ‘rule’ is that only the group can decide this, it is not the facilitator’s responsibility to curtail or lengthen the contract.

The facilitator must, at the outset, be objective and neutral from the group and be experienced in group facilitation and all members must be at the same hierarchical level for it to work effectively – there must not be any pressure from authority, if the group is to work effectively.

Groups are split into Client and Consultants – that is to say that one person, The Client, will present their current issue or problem to the group, The Consultants.

It is important that the group is coached individually in order that they are able to make a solid ‘client’ case that they want help in improving, that can be presented clearly before the session begins – this ensures efficacy and saves a lot of time, that is otherwise wasted in building the case during the session, which is not the objective of the sessions.

The group then assembles and the client presents their issues in front of the consultants, who are there to listen in silence, without interrupting nor asking questions for clarification. The consultants job is to help the client enrich their understanding of their issues and to explore avenues of action that they can take – they are not there to provide answers or solutions.

The running of a Codevelopment session is thus in six clear steps :

1. Presentation of the issues / problems by the client in front of the consultants who listen in silence, taking notes if needed.

2. Questions to clarify what was presented by the consultants to aid understanding.

3. Contract is then set out, that is to say what the client expects from the consultants. This does not need to be in the form of solutions, it can be just a question of exchanges of experiences between the client and consultants.

4. Listening – The client then listens to the consultants in silence as they give their reactions and comments on what they heard. Suggestions can be given, although this is not the prime objective. Consultants are only permitted to speak about their personal experiences of similar problems or issues that they have experienced – not about things that they have heard or observed second-hand.

5. Action Planning – The client makes a summary of the session, what they have heard and give a commitment to certain actions that they will undertake and later feed back to the group.

6. Conclusions – This is the most important step, where both client and consultants take turns to state what they have learnt during the process.

The overall objective of the session is built on group learning – what was learnt on an individual and a group level – if solutions are found immediately then all well and good, but this is not the prime objective.

Codevelopment not only helps collaboration, but also helps people to communicate and empathise better, bringing about an understanding of each other that was otherwise absent in the group, which helps people work together more effectively.

People get a greater awareness of the systemic nature of workplace issues and their place in the organisation which interacts with others in a way that may have been unknown before – people become more open and confident as they realize that they are not the only ones undergoing issues and difficulties at work.

People start to feel that they belong to a group working towards common goals, where they are cogs in the wheel that can affect the overall results, which brings about greater levels of confidence and inter-dependence among people.

There is also a realisation that process time is so important, even in times of great urgency in the organisation – that there is a need to spend time thinking about the way that we are working and to sometimes consider alternative ways of carrying out our work.

One of the most striking outcomes is that people learn to be helped, or at least to accept the idea that they can be helped – people are often willing to give a hand and help others, but are not always so willing to accept help – especially during times of difficulty. When people act independently, in the less positive sense of the term, they can be loathe to accept help as this can be considered a sign of weakness or ineffectiveness – a strong group can overcome this.

Generally the learning outcomes are expressed thus :

* I now see that I too have a voice in the group – people are interested in what I have to say.

* I didn’t realize the problems that X in Z department was undergoing and how my department/job affects them.

* I can now go to talk to X when I have a problem with Y and get help from them.

* A desire to learn and to be part of the learning that occurs in the organisation as an actor and less as a spectator.

CoDevelopment works closely with operational and strategic issues, acting as a double-edged sword in terms of learning – not only learning how to approach, think about tackle issues and problems but also to learn about oneself and how we, personally, react, think and learn.

Case studies are used, but they are authentic cases, deriving from the day-to-day reality of each participant that is then directly applied to working practices with a heightened insight and are immediately applicable.

The facilitor’s role is to help the group function and to respect the different steps of the process, sometimes helping by setting out a theoretical framework on which the process is pinned-on. Another part of the role is to help learners take over the role of the facilitator of the CoDevelopment sessions in the long-term and to continue the desire to build a strong, coherent and cohesive group that continues long-after the facilitator has left.

The regularity of the sessions and the fact that participants take away solid, tangible and tools which are directly applicable to their reality helps motivate and produce a desire to be more active than in some training or coaching which can sometimes appear abstract to some learners.

CoDevelopment, arguably builds teams out of groups, centred on solid business issues, facilitates communication, empathy, understanding and the desire to be part of a team, where a group of individuals, acting out of individualism once was.

If you would like a formal chat to see how we can help you set up CoDevelopment in your organisation don’t hesitate to contact us through the site contact form.

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Group Coaching – Transforming Groups into Teams
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