Coaching Circles: from One Coach to Many Coaches

There is something both awesome and disturbing about the idea that a bunch of people could be coaching you, all at the same time. It’s hard to imagine how coaching conversations, typically one-on-one affairs, can happen any other way. Yet, working together to support a colleague or peer in breaking through a difficult issue or moving an important project forward is exactly what happens in coaching circles.

When a coaching circle gathers, each member has a dedicated “air time” to explore a significant aspect of their role or mandate. With the help of a facilitator-coach, members gradually learn to go beyond their well-honed tendencies to offer advice or solutions and to step into a coaching posture. This means supporting the client in observing in a new light their habitual ways of doing and being, and in exploring new possibilities for action uniquely relevant to their context and their life.

Like one-on-one coaching, many factors contribute to coaching circles being so powerful, especially when many share the experience. Here are a few:

  • A trusting environment that allows people to share their vulnerabilities without fear of being judged or shamed
  • An openness to learning about self and from others even when resistance shows up
  • A willingness to experiment with new strategies and practices, including using coaching as a development tool, both in the circle and on the job
  • A sense of solidarity among members that supports difficult conversations and getting at one’s truth
  • An orientation to serving others rather than proving what one knows or has achieved
  • Attunement to the client and sensitivity to the rhythm of the group
  • A skillful facilitator-coach (and with time a skillful group) that can spot openings for coaching and support meaningful lines of inquiry for the client and the group as a whole

With these conditions in place, it takes only a few sessions for a coaching circle to become effective and to develop the capacity to coach together in powerful ways. This diversity and synergy enable creativity, resourcefulness and development unmatched in other environments.

If you are a team leader, coach, facilitator or OD specialist, designing and leading coaching circles offer a proven way of growing your business and being part of a fascinating human development laboratory.

Charles Brassard is a NVW faculty member based in Montréal. This piece was originally posted on his website