Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Group Coaching: 5 Personalities

Throughout the Group Coaching Essentials program I am often asked by coaches new to group coaching "What are the pitfalls to this work? What should I watch out for?". Often times I hear that coaches are concerned about handling some of the "personas" or "personalities" which may show up in a group.

Having worked with literally thousands of group members over the past 20 plus years, here are a few that you may see:

1. "The talker" - In any group program (group coaching, workshop, retreat) it is quite common too have one participant who is a little more verbose/talkative, to the point of taking over the conversation.

To avoid challenges with a more verbose, talkative participant, you may want to: Introduce the Skill of "bottom lining" or getting to the core of an issue, at the start of a program (even when setting ground rules).

Spend time up front before the start of the program, getting to know participants and discussing with them what they can expect from the group process. These pre-program 1-1 calls are invaluable in developing a positive relationship with group members, and clarifying expectations.

2. The Challenger - In any group process you may have one, or more, people who really want to be at the front of the room, and act out by challenging - challenging the process, the timelines, the topics etc.

When you have a challenger it may be because they want to be mroe involved. Have them write on flipcharts, post flipcharts etc. Oftentimes being in the spotlight for a short while is enough for them to have their "need to be seen met"

3. The Quiet One - It can also be common to have group members who are not at all talkative and want to remain very quiet or even silent. This may be due to a number of reasons - they are processors and take more time to formulate responses, they are uncomfortable, they may be more intraverted.

Remember to include exercises or use tools which enable people to write out their ideas, as well as speak them. Also quieter participants may be more comfortable speaking in smaller groups. Again, the pre-program 1-1 calls can help alert you to participants who may indicate that they are quieter by nature.

4. The Joker - You may also find the Joker in your midst. The person who cracks jokes incessently which may not always be appropriate. As the coach and facilitator remember that it is important to take charge and set the tone in your "room" (virtual or real). As a coach you may also want to get curious about what the "Joker" is all about.

5. The SuperAchiever - Many groups often have a "super achiever" - the person who leaves the room and gets done even more than they said they would (consistently). This can be a great motivational force for other group members - seeing another group member "walking the talk". It may also raise the bar for the entire group.
As a coach, notice the impact this is having on the group - is it positive/negative/other? Observe, reflect back what you notice.

What other personas have shown up in your "room" lately? What impact did it have on the group? As always, please feel free to comment below.

Warm regards

Jennifer Britton, PCC, CPCC
Group Coaching Essentials - An ICF Accredited CCE program. Next session starts Wednesday March 2nd (Wed 12:30 - 1:45 pm Eastern - March 2, 9, 16, 30 and April 6)
Group Coaching Intensive - A 2 Day In Person Group Coaching Training program - Toronto, April 2-3, 2011 (Discounted rate on to 2/28/11 for coaches who register together)
Author of Effective Group Coaching: Available at Amazon and Wiley. Autographed copies also avaialble directly from us - http://bit.ly/dAlgf3
Phone: 416-996-TEAM


Cal Habig said...

In in-person group coaching, I know that you give a sign to the talker to signify "get to the bottom line". But how do you do that on virtual group calls? You mention in your book to do it, but is there a discrete and positive way to do it on the phone when everyone else is hearing everything you say? I find myself just cutting them off when they come up for air and moving the conversation by either calling on someone else on the call or moving the conversation to a new direction. That seems pretty abrupt. Ideas? I don't see them in your book.

Jennifer Britton said...

Great questions Cal - In my first call with virtual groups I usually address both the skill of bottom lining, and intrusion.
With bottom lining I typically introduce it as part of the ground rules and describe it as the practice of gettting to the "core" of what you would like to say, sot that we are able to hear from everyone. Often I raise this when group members raise hearing from everyone.
I also will share with group members that part of my role is to keep the conversation moving and as such I may be practicing the coaching skill of "intrusion/intruding". This helps to make it explicit and not something that is coming out of the air. Both bottom lining and intrusion is part of establishing ways of working and setting expectations.
I hope that you may be able to incorporate these tips into your current groups. If you haven't been able to add them into a first session, it's never too late to raise them at the start of a next call.

Cal Habig said...

Thanks. That is helpful.