Group Coaching: The Flying Fish
by Leslie Brown
Originally published in Coaching for Transformation
I sat in the empty training room awaiting the small group of youth participants from our housing program and found myself drawing a blank. Suddenly I could not remember the definition of coaching nor could I recall anything about my intention for the day. In my swirl of confusion I caught sight of Nemo, my physical reminder of the momentum of the day “Just Keep Swimming.” With my intention suddenly clear I began to focus my energy on my deeper agenda which was to introduce coaching as a way for youth to bond with each other as well as begin thinking about life beyond their time in foster care.
As the participants started to arrive with their mumbled hellos and scowling faces I began to question my readiness to facilitate my first coaching group. However, as the group began to peer from up under their low pulled hoodies I realized that they were as nervous as me and my role was to create a safe space for them to open up and engage. As I picked up Nemo I saw a couple of them get really curious about the presence and relevance of the fish. I used it to my advantage and began to get the group warmed up by asking who had seen the movie “Finding Nemo.” Several youth raised their hands and I asked a brave volunteer to give the premise of the movie. My next question was “What does this movie have to do with the lives of foster youth?” Suddenly I noticed a shift in energy as the group moved from trying to figure out my angle to focusing on the questions before them.
I invited a few people to share their responses and then shifted the focus back to creating a safe space. I began by developing a conscious community conversation and once again brought out Nemo to support facilitation. The goal of the activity was to ensure that all voices in the group were heard and that each person had an identified support partner (a support partner, acknowledges their partner’s comments or adds their experience in response to their partner’s comment). I asked that each youth go around the circle and answer the question, “What do you need to be successful in a group?” While some youth struggled with the question, others were able to clearly articulate and I saw others begin to build from the ideas presented. As each person added a new layer to the conversation I began to capture the themes on chart paper. After our discussion we all agreed on the things that would serve as a conscious community agreement.
Once we finished the agreements I shifted to our final activity and asked the group, “What are the core barriers for transition for youth leaving foster care?” The room suddenly became quiet and many of the youth began to shift around in their seats looking for a way out. As I begin to be sucked into the nervous energy of the group I saw Nemo out of the corner of my eye and picked it up and tossed it to a youth. As the youth caught Nemo he began to share his response and just as naturally threw it to another youth who acted as his “support partner.” This strategy worked for the duration of our time together and provided me the opportunity to facilitate the coaching group with the support and momentum of Nemo the flying fish. My biggest lesson learned was that the momentum required in a coaching group starts and ends with the coach and the key is to “Just Keep Swimming” and the power of coaching will take over and support the group in moving forward.
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