Group coaching is one of my favorite activities. But I used to think that I would never coach a group.
When you imagine running a group coaching program, are you afraid of looking foolish, or being wrong, or not enough? Afraid of not having all the answers? Afraid that you can’t create value for a group? Afraid that people won’t show up? Worried about what could go wrong?
Wondering how could group coaching ever be as impactful one-on-one coaching?
I get it, I’ve been there.
These days I’m clear that group coaching is often more impactful than one-on-one.
I once thought that I would never… coach by phone, coach on Zoom, run coaching retreats, build a membership program, teach on video, write two articles twice a week, hire a team, run more than one business, or coach people who are wealthier, more successful and more intelligent than me.
And now I do all of them.
I never imagined that I would coach on stage in front of 1,000 people, coach leadership teams of big corporations, coach hundreds of people on Zoom, or coach on a weekly podcast. I was once afraid of all of these things.
And now I do all of them.
If you want to coach groups…
Group coaching let’s you add an offering to your coaching menu that’s a far lower bar to entry than 1:1 coaching.
It’s less intimidating to clients.
And it can be far more lucrative to you.
Plus, I’ve always had a 10-20% re-enrollment rate. A percentage of every group I’ve run has always joined a repeat group, or they have become a one-on-one client because they trust me and want to go deeper still.
How to create a kick-ass group coaching program
1. Create a tiny group. 3-5 is a great number for your first ever group.
2. Fill the group one person at a time. Use The Prosperous Coach Approach. Sell the experience of coaching, not the concept of coaching people. Give people an experience of what you do and explain that there are two ways to work with you—one-on-one and group coaching. Let them choose.
3. Make it easy for the first person to say yes. You can literally tell people, “I like to make it easy for the first person to say yes. If you are in, you will get one-on-one coaching from me, twice a month, for the next 3 months, until the program begins.” I’ll often create an incentive for the first 2 people to say yes because then I know the group is off and running. You can create a different incentive for each person.
4. Set a minimum, medium and maximum number. Love to have 10 people in a group? Set a minimum of 3. That’s the number at which you are on, no matter what. Years ago, I felt devastated when I hit the start date of my first ever group coaching program because we had six members and I had been hoping to have ten. So I reframed things. With six participants, instead of ten, they would get almost double my time and attention. I would blow their minds. And I did. One of those participants is still a client of mine, almost 13 years later.
5. Create a scholarship. If you have someone you really believe in who may not be ready, or may not have the finances, for the program, you can create a scholarship. Do not offer them a “free” spot. They won’t treat it seriously. Instead, ask them, “If I was to create a scholarship for you to join my group coaching program, would you be interested?” If you get a yes, respond: “Consider this as me investing in you. My company will cover the full $X,000 cost of the program. So, here’s what I require of you: First, that you keep this confidential, as I cannot offer this to everyone. Second, that you show up as if you had invested the full $X,000 yourself. If you are a yes to both of these conditions, you are in.”
Do not offer a scholarship for the first 1-2 spots in your program. You need to find out if the program is viable, first. It is viable when people pay money to join it.
6. Coach one person at a time. How do you coach in a group? You coach one person at a time, in a group setting. Explain this distinction at the start of your coaching program: “Every time I am coaching one person, I am coaching everyone. So, stay alert, as you never know where your next insight may come from…”
7. Two ways to start.
(1) Put a date on the calendar. Pro: It will put you in hustle mode and you will work hard to fill the program by that date. Con: It can feel a little stressful, especially as you get closer to the start if you are not close to your minimum number.
(2) Have a rolling start date. Let people know that there will be 5 people in the group. As soon as the first person joins, they get one-on-one coaching from you, until the second person joins. Then they get one-on-two coaching from you, until the third person joins, and so on. Pro: There’s a great incentive for the first person to sign up. Con: You may not do the hard work needed to fill the program.
8. Pricing. Price your group coaching between 10-30% of one-on-one coaching.
9. Hybrid model. There’s nothing to stop you from including a monthly or quarterly one-on-one coaching experience for group coaching clients. You’ll get to know them better and you’ll give them a taste of what it would feel like to be your private client.
10. What to coach a group on?
(a) Just Show up. Each session, ask who would like to be coached and coach away. Let them know that your aim is not to coach every person, each session. And keep a note of who you have coached, so you can balance out the coaching, over time. Personally, I recommend that you plan less than you think. But I understand that for your first ever program, you might want to over-prepare, so…
(b) Create a curriculum. Here’s a simple way to do that: Make a list of the top five things you—or your clients— struggle with the most. Or make a list of the top five insights that have impacted your life the most. That’s your curriculum for the first 5 months of a 6 month program. Keep month 6 open for whatever comes up during your time together.
11. Create clear and powerful agreements. I create strong, clear agreements with clients in any group I run. Here are 4 of the 14 agreements we have in 4PC:
- Power: I understand that the power of 4PC can be granted only by me, not by Rich and not by other members of 4PC. And I agree to create 4PC powerfully.
- Courage: I agree to put courage over comfort. I agree to lean into my edge.
- Responsibility: I understand that coaching is a potentially life-changing experience. I also understand that I remain responsible for my choices, actions, thoughts, and feelings throughout the coaching program.
- Success: I understand that there are no such things as unrealistic goals. Just unrealistic time frames. There’s no way to know quite when I will turn my Impossible Goals into reality.
12. Timing. Let them know you will be online 10 minutes in advance of the call. Begin on time, do not wait for latecomers to show up. Model the importance of being on time by reading a story or starting an exercise at the top of the hour. Let people who are late know that they can catch up later by watching the video. But don’t berate people for being late.
13. Create space for frustration. A great coaching group can feel like family. But just like family, you’ll have moments when you frustrate one another. This takes courage but my friend always runs an “I hate John!“ session, midway through his group programs, to relieve tension. He asks them to tell him all the things in the program that are frustrating them or ways that he has pissed them off. He listens and acknowledges them without being defensive and it’s an incredible way to clear the air.
14. Model vulnerability. Will people feel comfortable to go deep in front of others? That depends, some people will never open up in a group setting but they love being in a group to witness others. If you want to build vulnerability in a group setting, go there first. Open every session with a fear, a doubt or an insecurity of yours. Share your failures, so they feel comfortable sharing theirs.
Admit that you don’t have all the answers. You’re a coach—having the right answers is far less important than asking the right questions.
Let them know that you don’t mind whether or not they agree with you. You are there to challenge and provoke their thinking, not to be right.
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