Effective Group Coaching 101: The 5 Key Skills Any Group Coach Needs! | By Jennifer Britton

Group Coaching - 4 people sat down having a discussionGroup coaching is continuing to take root in many different forms these days. From group coaching processes that are part of a leadership development initiative, to public groups bringing together individuals with a common focus, group coaching is an "intimate conversation space".  In today's world group coaching provides an important space for conversation, dialogue and reflection for small groups of individuals. The synergistic experience of being part of a peer learning process is at the heart of the group coaching experience, which is grounded in the individual goals of each participant and, where applicable, the collective goals of the group.

This article explores five core skills any group coach needs, many of which we can also encourage group members to sharpen their own skills around. The 5 Key Skills are:

1) Creating A Shared Focus and Shared Expectations

Creating a shared agenda and shared expectations are foundational to any group coaching process. Things to establish include:

  • What is the common ground bringing the group together?
  • What is the focus?
  • What areas do the group members, individually, and collectively want to focus on throughout the coaching process?

In a group or team coaching situation it is even more important to "co-create" shared expectations. With group members bringing different perspectives and vantage points it is important to explore the question "What's expected?" Get granular together around things such as:

  • What people can expect from the coaching process
  • What group member expectations are of each other
  • Identifying common theme areas you will be exploring
  • Creating shared group agreements
  • How you will work together

Questions for you to consider: What questions do you want group members to be in dialogue around to create your shared focus and expectations? What activities will prompt this creation?

2) Goal setting

Goals form the foundation of any coaching process. In a group coaching setting, individuals will be working on their own set of goals, and there may also be a shared series of goals.

For many years I have led coaching groups with small business owners. Each business owner has their own specific goals for our work together, such as growing their business or introducing new income streams. Collective goals often emerge when group size is smaller, for example, all six business owners may also be wanting to work on expanding their social marketing strategy.

On the peer level, creating shared support for goal focus, achievement and celebration is a key part of, and motivator, throughout the group coaching process.

Question for you to consider: What are you doing to invite a focus on goals throughout the coaching process?

3) Creating Accountability

Going hand in hand with goal setting is creating a focus on accountability. This is a key distinction between group coaching and other related disciplines such as training and facilitation. A key part of the coaching process is having clients identify the actions they would like to be accountable for session to session.

Group coaching is a sustained conversation and we should be working with group members around what are their next steps. This also applies to one-off conversations. In addition, many coaches today are also incorporating platforms such as online journaling tools or secure social media platforms to connect group members in between sessions.

Throughout the group coaching process each group member may be creating their own individual commitments. Group commitments may also emerge, such as a business owner group's collective commitment to take action around a marketing strategy. Each conversation, it is important to leave time for each person to share their own commitments for the period ahead. Notice how other group members get "sparked" by others' ideas.

Questions for you to consider: What are you doing to support conversations and a focus around accountability? How are group members able to share their successes and insights with each other?

4) Concise Communication

Bottom lining, laser speak and headlining are all key to ensuring that all the voices around the table, on the phone or web are being heard. Communication can take a number of forms - verbal, written, and visual. Invite participants to communicate in the ways they find most meaningful. For example, the response to the inquiry "What does success mean?" could be illustrated in many different ways by different group members. For some it could be a collage, for others a drawing, for others a story.

One of the skills I share at the start of any group coaching process is the skill of bottom lining. It is an encouragement for each of us to get to the core of the stories we want to share.

Just as in business today, concise communication is an art form. In the group coaching process it allows for space to hear from everyone in the group, and also opens the door for other communication to take place outside of the "conversation space".

Questions for you to consider: What does concise communication mean for you as a coach? For your team members? How can communication be supported beyond the session? Email? Facebook? Online journaling? Other?

5) Supporting The Group Process

Finally, masterful group coaches deepen their appreciation and awareness of group process issues. As soon as we leave the realm of individual coaching, and move into the realm of coaching "many" it is important to be noticing what is happening in the dynamics of the group. Tuckman's group development model including forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning provides an important framework for group (and team) coaches consider in their work.

Questions for you to consider: What's happening within your group right now? What's working well? What's needed? What questions are important to deepen the learning and awareness for the group in terms of its' own dynamics?

In Summary

In closing, it is always important to remember that group coaching is a sub-discipline of the coaching profession. As such, we want to continue to lead with core coaching competencies such as goal-setting, accountability and communication, while deepening our understanding of key group issues.

Jennifer Britton, Potentials Realized, Copyright 2015.

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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 >>


  1. Samantha Adams

    Great Post! Most of the points mentioned here are also important for individual coaching that I had with Kathy McKnight. Its amazing how effectively accountability changes your perspective of life. Point #3 is like the soul of life coaching session. If you win at that, nothing will even stop you.


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