Don't Trade Purpose for Tactics

The importance of “why”

In our group coaching certification program cohorts we often hear coaches looking for ways to add “value” to their groups. However, when group members focus on “how” questions  - “How do I figure out what is next in my career? How do I get to a healthy lifestyle? How can I be a better parent?”, group coaches may miss the opportunity to challenge the group to first explore their “why” by immediately trying to answer these “how” questions.

In order to feel they are providing value, coaches will pull out from their library of frameworks, trendy acronyms or the latest research that answers the “how” questions. Yet, when observing groups in this moment, we see them continue to be dissatisfied and rationalize away the answers to the “how” question. That is because they are not looking at the motivators and values that are not being met, instead they are looking for a quick fix.

As coaches, we can,  (and we should!) challenge the group to pause and gain clarity as to their why. This provides incredible value, and transformational opportunities — much more than going into a subject matter expert mode  in service of answering a “how” question.

To take up this challenge we encourage you to:

  • Reflect a few minutes before your sessions: Why we are YOU doing this work? Based on this vision, how do you want to show up to achieve this purpose?
  • Listen intently for not just the words, but also for the emotions not addressed or acknowledged in the group.
  • Ask the group to pursue hunches and get curious: What is it that a group member is really saying? What is it that they are NOT saying? What makes that important for them? What would a change do for them?
  • Use your groups’ own words to excavate the “why.” If someone says it is “exhausting” to do that thing they want to change, ask them to explore “exhausting”: What drives that? Where is that coming from? What would need to shift? What makes that critical for them?
  • Hold back from providing answers. Rather, strengthen your questioning to lean into the “why” conversation. Once the group fully excavates their “why,” the “how” is almost seamless. The group will feel more at ease brainstorming and coming up with experiments.

As group coaches, we need to open the door to self-awareness and self-management and we can set the example by checking our need to “provide value” and instead, trust the power of the group coaching process to transform.