I remember many years ago taking part in an exercise class. It was in the days when aerobic style dance styles classes were all the rage and the top instructors used to attract big crowds. Often it was because they just looked so good up there and could move so well but I loved this guy’s classes, not only for those reasons, but because he had the ability to make you feel that he knew you were there! And cared whether you were enjoying it or not. How did he do that with over 50 people in the room?
I used to observe these things and soon noticed that eye contact was the thing that made him special. Instead of looking at some distant point above people’s heads, he kept coming back to focus on each individual. I still don’t know how he did it but I felt special. I felt “seen” and it made all the difference. I spoke to other people about his popularity and they said the same thing.
I have tried to remember this ability or talent that this man had (his name was Marcus for any old aerobic fans) and it has helped me in countless presentations when I felt nervous or just wanted to connect better with people. I have tried to make sure that everyone felt seen and listened to if I could draw them out. Not always possible in big groups but eye contact works. It makes the person listening feel recognised and it can relax a presenter. And if there are any skeptics in the room, don’t ignore them – focus on them!!
Now of course we are developing the area of group coaching and we need to be even more aware of building connection in the room. It is very important that the facilitator makes each person feel that their presence is important and if they can build a good connection with each individual in the time they have, then that will be very powerful indeed. But there is something else that will have an even greater effect on the group’s cohesion and success. And that’s building connection between the group members.
Another old health club story. Years ago we used to think that the success of a Health Club was largely due to the quality of the team we employed and their ability to “connect” with the members. Until a report came out that stated that “member to member interaction” was more important than anything in their rating of satisfaction and enjoyment in the time they spent in the Club.
So when we hold group coaching, we need to remember some key points.
- Connect with each and every member – even if it means taking some time at the end.. We can do this by eye contact and trying to draw them out but respect that some people are less likely to speak out than others
- Try and help the group create an inclusive “vision” of what they want to achieve – even if they have specific health outcomes that they alone are there for. This will build cohesion and a sense of belonging.
- But even more important – help the group members connect with each other. As often as possibly and with each and every other member. Only in this way will you guarantee they will keep coming back when life might otherwise have got in the way. Having buddies to work with is also a great “connector” but being part of a team is everything!