Coaching Circles® combine the power of action learning and integral development in coaching to support leaders in creatively tackling the challenges they face while practicing the coaching skills they need on the job. This methodology has the potential to quickly expand the reach and payback of coaching in your organization and to extend the benefits derived from the leadership or management development programs you offer.
How do coaching circles work?
In the action learning tradition, a small group of 6 to 8 people comes together to meet on a regular basis. During these meetings, each person successively uses their own “airtime” to present an issue or challenge (most often within the scope of a broader project) and to receive coaching from the rest of the group. In its simplest form, there are typically four elements to each airtime:
- The presentation by the client of the issue or challenge they are facing;
- A period of collaborative inquiry designed to help the client apprehend this challenge in new ways and generate appropriate and practical future actions;
- A period of reflection where everyone sits quietly to ponder what they learned from this exploration, i.e. how this particular challenge resonates with their own situation, what they better understand about the organization, what struck them about the process, etc.; and
- A period where, in turn, participants voice their own insights and observations and where the client highlights to the group what has shifted in their perspective and what he/she intends to do with regard to what was explored.At the beginning and end of each day, the group interacts in different ways, connecting with each other, inquiring into their individual and collective experience, using dialogue to explore emerging themes and sharing their learning.
What is the impact of coaching circles?
Coaching circles provide a unique opportunity for people to observe themselves and to observe others in action. Each time the group connects, engages in a dialogue and works together within defined airtimes, windows into the each other’s world potentially open up. The way people speak, ask questions, and offer feedback on the recurring breakdowns they encounter within their respective projects tell us a lot about their way of being in the world.
This coaching process gains momentum during the successive airtimes that make up the full experience. When supported by a learning coach, the group usually builds their coaching capacity more quickly and becomes more adept at translating their insights and their skills back on the job. The learning coach can also gradually introduce themes and distinctions every time the circle meets to enrich their learning process.
When coaching circles meet regularly (every 6 to 8 weeks), there is an opportunity to build a very powerful community of practice driven by a practical curiosity, a love of inquiry, and a deep care for the success of others. With time, the group can learn to function effectively on its own, able to self-regulate, self-correct and learn on a continuous basis.
Coaching Circles® is a registered trademark in Canada of our partner organization, Impact Coaching.