5 Essential Tools for Group & Team Coaching | by Jennifer Britton

Building and crafting your toolkit is important for group and team coaches. Just as with coaching individuals, our conversations are going to touch on a variety of different topic areas, using a range of approaches.

What's different when coaching teams and groups is that you'll have multiple learning styles, goals and priorities in the room. For example, some group members may be more visual and reflective, while others may be more kinesthetic and hands-on. Unlike one-on-one coaching you will need to manage these all at once.

This month's article explores five different tools for group and team coaching.

Tool #1 - Goals - The One Page Plan

An essential foundation for all coaching conversations, including group and team coaching, is working with clients around goals. Specifically, it's important at the start for individuals and teams to identify their goals and focus areas for your coaching conversations.

In a team coaching context, we usually work to create greater alignment around the collective goals, helping team members explore their own impact and individual connection with team, department or organizational goals.

In group coaching, it's likely that each individual group member will have their own unique goals. For example, a business coach working with a group of business owners may have one member focusing on growing their social media strategy while another is focused on growing their team. Providing time for group members to explore their focus areas more deeply, as well as learn from peers is a crucial part of any group coaching conversation.

One approach is to get group members to create a "One Page Plan" of their main goals. This "One Page Plan" can be as simple as a 5 x 5 table made in Microsoft Word, with columns created for the GOAL, a DESCRIPTION, TIMELINES, RESOURCES and a space for notes.

Group Coaching: It can be useful to have individual group members share their individual goals with each other early on so they can see connections with others, and also what is unique about their own path.  Having clients complete and share this between sessions 1 and 2 helps to create the roadmap for the group and supports group members with seeing their connection to others. Note: As with any plan, it should be iterative, changing as the process unfolds.

Team Coaching: Teams can create a collective "One Page Plan" of their key goals and then keep it visible (eg. in their cubicles) throughout the coaching.

Action: If you don't already have one, create a one-page plan template to use in your group and team coaching.

Tool #2 - Visual Cards

One of the most versatile tools group and team coaches have in their toolkit are visual cards. Visual cards are an amazing "conversation sparker" and can create hours of memorable dialogue, insight and connection.

Picture/word cards are a different approach to get clients connected with their visual channel, and to explore issues individually or collectively. There are a wide range of visual card decks in the market place - from full sheets of paper to smaller hand-held decks.

When creating my own visual card deck, Conversation Sparker™, I realised there are a few key elements to make visual cards work in groups and teams:

  • Ensure you have sufficient cards for the group or team - a 4:1 ratio of cards to individual is useful (so multiply your participants by at least 4 to get the number of cards needed).
  • The cards must be portable and easy to hold.
  • Consider first how you would use cards in your groups and teams, and then source cards (with images and/or words) that meet that specific purpose.

The ways to use cards and themes you can explore are endless. As I cover in my 40 Ways to Work with Visual Cards E-manual (Editors Note: see the link in Jenn's bio), we can incorporate visual cards in a variety of conversations, for example:

  • Exploring innovation and ideas
  • Problem solving,
  • Visioning
  • Values
  • Teamwork

Action: Explore the range of visual cards that exist and how you might incorporate them in your work.

Tool #3 - Breakouts

Having group members work in smaller 'rooms' or groups helps boost trust and connection. In addition, having the space to articulate ideas verbally gives clients further insights about their own ideas.

Virtual Breakouts: Breakouts are available on some virtual channels like Zoom, creating an important engagement space. These online Breakouts mimic the smaller conversations which dominate many in-person group and team coaching sessions. Note: Breakouts may not be viable for larger online groups.

In a recent "Effective Virtual Conversations" community call I shared these tips for making your (virtual and in-person) breakouts work:

  • Keep breakouts small - i.e. 2 - 5 people.
  • Be sure to provide enough time for dialogue and sharing.
  • Provide breakout groups with clear instructions and at least one prompting question.
  • Provide instructions (on what you're looking for) if you want someone to report back at the end.
  • Keep breakout partners consistent for shorter programs to help build trust and connection.
  • Assign roles in larger breakout groups, for example, one person to lead the conversation, one to take notes, one to report back.

Action for virtual group and team coaching: Check out if Breakouts are possible on the platform you use, and explore the different elements available in most virtual platforms - breakouts, annotation and polls.

Tool #4 - The Wheel of …

One of the seminal coaching tools is the Wheel. Most of us are introduced to this as part of our initial coach training.

A valuable baseline and benchmark took, the Wheel can be expanded away to encompass a variety of different themes. From the Wheel of Life, to the Wheel of High Performing Teams, or the Wheel of Small Business.

I use the wheel framework regularly in both virtual and in person work. It can be part of the pre-work, sent out for people to complete before the call which we can then discuss as part of our session.

Editor's Note: We offer a FREE Wheel of Life Template (life balance wheel) and also a Free BLANK Coaching Wheel.

Kinesthetic Wheel

The "Wheel" can also be a kinesthetic, body-oriented activity done in real-time - whether virtually or in person. Get individuals in the group (or the team collectively) to create a wheel and "walk it".

Ask people to tape a wheel on the floor (or draw on an extra large piece of paper or card), label the wheel and get them to walk around it physically. Then get them to stand in each segment and "feel" into the score for each segment before taping or drawing their score on the wheel.

The "results" can be explored individually or collectively depending on the outcome you want.

Remember that groups and teams can also create their own labels for the different parts of the wheel. Like many other kinesthetic approaches, the physical wheel is usually remembered for months to come.

Action: Consider how you might adapt the Wheel and bring it into your group and team work. What "Wheels" do you already have, or could you create, for your program work?

Tool #5 - Powerful Questions

When in doubt, turn to questions. Questions are the backbone of any coaching conversation, including when we're working with groups and teams.

An additional benefit of focusing on powerful questions is that you'll also start to build team/group/individual capacity in the area of questioning.

A quick refresh of some of the more common elements of "powerful" coaching questions:

  • They are concise - usually only 4-6 words each.
  • AVOID stacking or asking two different questions at once!
  • DO ask ONE question in TWO different ways to cover different learning styles! For example, "What does that feel like?" and "What does that look like?" could connect with different people. Pay attention to which questions resonate with which group members. For more on this, check out my article: How to Grow Your "Coaching Questions" Muscle in Team & Group Coaching
  • Remember that questions frame the focus of the session. Questions can be used to explore new ideas, synthesize existing ideas, support action or enhance awareness. What is the best type of question in the moment?
  • Watch how you start your questions. Questions that start with "What" are usually the most expansive, opening up the space for possibilities. Questions that start with "How" usually take people into a process mindset - How will I do this? And questions that start with "Why" may put group or team members into a defensive stance or justification mode.

Action: Take stock of some of the questions you use regularly and swap questions with colleagues! This can help us get out of the rut of asking the same questions all the time.


Tools and activities keep our work fresh - and make every conversation different. What are your next steps in building your group and team coaching toolkit?

Want to learn more? Pick up a copy of the 40 Ways to Work with Visual Cards E-Manual or a signed copy of Effective Virtual Conversations at our Potentials Realized store.

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Jennifer Britton

Contributing Author:

Jennifer Britton, MES, CHRP, CPT, PCC, is the author of seven books and has influenced a generation of coaches in the realms of team and group coaching. You may have read her writing, including Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010), the first book in the world to be published on the topic of group coaching; From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching; or her latest, Reconnecting Workspaces: Pathways to Thrive in the Virtual, Remote and Hybrid World (2021).

Since 2006, Jennifer's Group Coaching Essentials and Advanced Group and Team Coaching Practicum programs have become known as the must-do training in the area of group coaching. Focused on providing coaches with best practices in designing, marketing and implementing group coaching, these programs have helped thousands of coaches launch their own group and team coaching programs in a wide variety of settings (public, corporate, non-profit). Together both courses are approved for 18.75 ICF CCEUs. These are the first two of 10 course pathways leading to certificates in Group and Team Coaching.

Potentials Realized's ICF-CCE programs are geared for aspiring group and team coaches, especially those wanting to work toward the New Advanced Credential in Team Coaching (ACTC) with the ICF.

Also check out our neuroscience course for group and team coaches (NLE-A), Team Coaching Essentials  and ACTIVATE Your Team and Group Coaching Superpowers. Prefer podcasts? Listen in to the Remote Pathways podcast, which explores the many different pathways to remote work, business and leadership.

Learn more about Jennifer & see all their articles here >>

Image of Group of clients in breakout meeting by Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

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