A Beginner’s Guide to Group Coaching

Group Coaching is a buzzword that is gaining quite a bit of attention in the coaching world.

While most coaches prefer 1:1 sessions with clients, the pandemic has now driven individuals towards learning and growing together in a community. Now, more and more coaches have begun offering group coaching sessions.

When we connect with a tribe of people with similar values and beliefs, people who want to see us succeed -- amazing things can happen.

Being part of a tribe means you have access to different viewpoints, perspectives, opinions, and approaches to problems and challenges.

You get to expand your network of valuable connections.
You get to give and receive help and support.
You get to experience that priceless feeling of being part of something bigger, something greater than yourself...

And that's why coaching groups is such a powerful step for both new and experienced coaches.

Plus, coaching groups can generate massive payoff in terms of income... so everybody wins.

Is group coaching the perfect fit for you and your coaching niche? Read on to learn more…

What Is Group Coaching?

Group coaching is when a coach takes a group of individuals through a coaching journey together to achieve the desired outcome. An excellent group coaching program helps your clients see amazing growth and momentum in their business and their personal life.

It is a great practice that encourages dialogue, discovery, and action, and promotes cooperation and conversation between members of the group.

There's incredible energy and collective wisdom when doing group coaching that's different from one-on-one sessions. This energy and wisdom can rapidly get your clients to their goals. At the same time, you establish an exceptional reputation for yourself as a coach. The group becomes a shared learning space where the members can learn and improve from each other, while you, the coach, can mediate and supervise their interactions.

Coaching groups is not just about getting a bunch of people together and then coaching them for 5 minutes each until everyone has had a turn. And it's NOT an extension of private coaching in a group setting — it's this type of thinking that causes clients to feel unheard or unseen, and they don't get the results they're looking for.

Coaching groups is also different from coaching a team in a corporate environment. Team coaching is when all group members are focused on the same goal. But when you coach groups, individual members have their own goals. You may find that all or some members are in a similar phase or time frame in their lives or businesses, but they still each have their journey towards achieving their desired outcome.

What Are The Benefits of Group Coaching?

Coaching groups are about more than the act of coaching and being coached. It's about the connection, communication, and community that comes from not just you interacting with your clients, but group members interacting with each other.

This is where the magic happens.

This is where the energy of the group and the support that individual clients receive from the group leads to accountability, rapid momentum, and ongoing motivation as everyone works toward their individual goals. 

Group coaching has a range of benefits over one-on-one individual coaching, most of which have to do with the communal environment and collaborative atmosphere employed in this practice. Some of the biggest benefits of the group coaching model include:

1. Problem Solving

Group coaching promotes faster and better solutions to problems because it is a collective effort by an entire group of people, rather than just two individuals in the case of personal coaching. When more members get together to work on an issue that concerns all of them, the remedy will be infinitely better because of the multiple viewpoints and perspectives employed in finding the solution.

2. Promoting Change

Encouraging a powerful, cohesive group to work together towards a goal is a faster and easier way of initiating change than having individuals work towards it on their own.

3. Rise in Engagement

Having more people interacting with each other will lead to more positive engagement for the group members and thus more positive results for them from the coaching sessions.

4. Collective Responsibility

Since group coaching involves multiple people who are working towards their own individual goals, it will build a sense of collective responsibility and accountability for the group members and encourage a mutually supportive environment, where everyone trusts and encourages each other.

5. Conflict Resolution

By having people of multiple viewpoints, perspectives, and backgrounds contributing to a collective conversation, group coaching leads to better and more thought-out methods of resolving internal conflicts by bringing the group together physically and emotionally.

6. Constant Improvement

Group coaching leads to steadier overall improvement for all the group members over time, as the members will be helping each other achieve their goals and collectively working towards their aligned interests.

5 Skills of an Effective Group Coach

A good group coach must have a set of techniques that are geared towards steering every session they conduct in the right direction. It is the coach’s job to supervise and mediate the group members and direct them towards the group’s collective improvement. Some of the most important skills that a good group coach need is:

1. Setting Proper Goals

Many a time, coaching clients wouldn’t know exactly what their goals are and will need help uncovering their needs. A good group coach sits down with the clients and helps the group identify and set their goals, both individually and as a group. This promotes a collaborative effort within the group to work together towards their goals with a clear picture in their minds.

2. Facilitating Communication

Every group consists of multiple people with differing personalities. There might be some who are more upfront and extroverted, while others may be shy and not so confident in themselves. A good group coach finds a way to make everyone feel comfortable enough to open up and communicate effectively within the group. Whether it be through the usage of different modes of communication such as writing in a diary, or just by getting the group to know each other better, the coach should always be able to promote wholesome and organic interaction between the members.

3. Analyzing Group Dynamics

A group coach needs to have good observational skills and should always be on the lookout for changes in group dynamics. They should be aware of what is working in the group’s favor and what is distracting them from their larger goals. Since you are dealing with a group of people and not a single client, it is of utmost importance that the coach can analyze the group and come up with the most optimal approach to coaching them.

4. Ensuring Confidentiality

None of the discussions happening within the group coaching sessions should ever leave the room and it is up to the coach to ensure that all the members are aware of their responsibilities to keep their meetings confidential. This promotes a better environment within the sessions as the group members are more prone to opening up and being honest with each other if they are aware of the confidential nature of the meetings.

5. Crafting Collaborative Opportunities

The main goal of the group coaching sessions is for the members of the group to grow and work together. So it is of utmost importance that the group coach improves relationships within the group and promotes the most collaborative environment possible.

How to Lead Group Coaching Sessions

Group Coaching has some key characteristics that bring the entire group together, help them communicate with each other, and grow at a steady pace. A good coach will optimize the group coaching sessions and improve the learning process by making use of these main characteristics:

  • A Problem

The coach can assign a task, challenge, project, or issue to the entire group and ask them to come up with solutions to the problem. Research has shown that forcing people to solve complex problems as a collective rather than individually tends to result in better and easier solutions, while also working as a good team-building exercise.

  • Questioning and listening

To solve a problem, group coaching encourages members to ask perceptive questions, identify solutions by listening reflectively, and take action to bring about the change. By asking questions, we help promote a culture of introspection and clear reasoning.

  • Undertaking Action

The group coach needs to teach the group to not only think of solutions themselves but also to take prompt action on their own. By enabling them to lead from the front, the coach can keep up the energy and spirits of the group members.

  • Uninterrupted Learning

As each member in the group grows and learns, this benefits the entire group as they are collaborating in their effort. These individuals can then apply these learnings outside the group coaching sessions, and maintain their growth.

  • A Coach

Although the coach assumes a secondary position in group coaching, they have a crucial role to play in ensuring that everything goes smoothly. As the group dynamic changes and evolves with new learnings, the coach can eventually transfer the responsibility to the group itself, so that the group members can learn to govern themselves.

Choosing A Group Coaching Model

One of the most important things to consider in your group coaching framework is program length and delivery. There are no precise guidelines on how long (or short) your group coaching program should be, but a good rule of thumb is to go with a program that's too long rather than too short.

And here's why!

Coaching groups is not an exact science, so don't make the mistake of creating a compact or super short program that doesn't give members enough room to do the work, take action, and start seeing results. Think about creating a group program that's at least three months long. Most group coaching programs are six months long. Some programs even span a year or more.

You should also consider how you want to deliver your group coaching program. For instance, you might want to try a subscription model where clients pay a monthly fee to continue coaching with you in your group program. If this sounds good to you, think about offering a yearly fee at an attractive price point to motivate potential clients to commit to more extended time frames.

A yearly fee in a subscription model is great for two reasons:

  1. 1
    You get to receive payment upfront for the whole year, which is an effective way to stabilize revenue in your business.
  2. 2
    Your clients recognize they've paid a significant amount upfront. This is a powerful motivational tool, and they'll be far more likely to do the work so they don't feel like it's money down the drain.

The subscription group coaching model is not the only model that works, so go ahead and experiment. I have clients who achieved great success using the "cycle method" where they open up their group coaching program to new people every 6 weeks. Some coaches create success by ignoring the "long over short" rule of thumb, as I mentioned earlier. They offer very short or month-long programs. The constant churn and turnover of fresh new faces in the group keeps them excited and energized so they can continue to serve at the highest level.

Your theme is important, especially while planning your delivery method and program length. For instance, group programs on weight loss will work better over a longer time frame, at least six months, so members have time to implement the techniques you teach and see results. A productivity program might work best in a shorter time frame where you want clients to learn and take fast action so they can quickly improve their productivity.

Use your experience, gut instinct, and your sense of what works for your audience and client base to create the ideal framework for your program.

How To Structure Group Coaching Sessions

Much like other forms of coaching, group coaching also comes with its own set of personalized problems when dealing with different clients. Every group is unique, and with each group comes its own set of problems and challenges to which the coach needs to adapt. A good group coach adapts his approach and session framework to fit the needs of each group he coaches.

Some of the most effective approaches to structuring group coaching sessions are:

1. Creating Buddy Systems

In a group, coaches can’t have the kind of direct relationship you would have with a client in one-on-one coaching. To bridge this gap, group coaches can make the group members pair up or form tiny buddy systems within the overall group. By pairing two or more people up, you can pave the way for deeper bonds and better communication.

According to a study published by the Journal of Peer Learning called ‘A Study Buddy Support Scheme’, 72% of at-risk students who participated in the buddy system passed their exams, as opposed to only 49% of those who didn’t participate in it.

2. Focused or Hybrid Coaching

At certain times, the coach may find that the group is not benefitting from the usual group coaching model. In such cases, the group coach can adopt a hybrid model wherein they offer individual coaching sessions to the members that need it before or after complete group sessions to promote more individual growth, which will later enable the group’s overall growth.

3. Group Discussions and Peer Coaching

As the fundamental principle behind any group coaching setting, peer coaching and group discussions allow participants to share. This leads to a more cooperative environment within the group as they question, listen, and identify solutions on their own.

4. Individual and Private Reflection

A good group coach knows that it is important to give each group member time to introspect and sit with their thoughts. This can be facilitated by asking members to write in journals so that they can articulate themselves first, and then share their thoughts later with the group.

How To Create Your First Group Coaching Program

The first step to crafting your first group coaching program is deciding the theme for it.

Because each member has their own goals, it's important to identify the overarching theme for your group coaching program that will connect everyone involved.

You can decide on any theme based on your interest, expertise, experience, and niche as a coach.

Your theme might be around starting and growing a successful business so your group could be for entrepreneurs looking to build their business from zero all the way to 6-figures.

Maybe you're thinking of starting a group coaching program for first-time moms or empty nesters. Maybe your theme is on weight loss if you're a health coach or finding "the one" if you're a relationship coach.

Whatever you decide, your theme will ultimately connect each individual member with everyone else so there's a cohesive, common thread that pulls people together in your group.

Answer these questions to find clarity on what your group coaching program is about:

What is your zone of genius/area of expertise as a coach?
 (example: success mindset, weight loss, productivity, spirituality, etc.)

What are the results you want to help people achieve?
This will determine how to choose the right clients to join your coaching group. (for instance, if you're a success mindset coach, what are the results you want for your group members?

Do you want to coach them around building a thriving business, creating a loving relationship or improving self-worth?)

Why do you want to start a group coaching program?
(Getting clear on your "why" as a coach will help you stay motivated and inspired as you create your coaching program.)

The Secret Sauce of Successful Group Coaching Programs

When it comes to group coaching programs, I've been around the block more than a few times.

I've created programs from scratch for myself and for my clients.

I've designed frameworks, created sales funnels, put together lead-in offerings to group programs, been a guest on other people's programs...

And yes, I've also joined group coaching and mentorship programs as a participant.

Here's what I've observed and experienced over time...

There's a success ingredient that's in all great group coaching programs:
Accountability.

This is when members officially or unofficially "report" their progress to you and other members in the group as they work through the tasks and projects that will get them to their big goal.

Accountability works as a solid support system for your group members to:

- Continue feeling motivated and creatively inspired throughout the time you have together.

- Complete coaching activities, worksheets, audio or video lessons or any other element you share in your program.

- Hit milestones and see measurable results as they progress toward their big goal.

When a group coaching program is missing those 3 key elements, members feel demotivated, bored, and uninspired.

They'll hit a wall.

When your clients don't feel they're making progress, they check out mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

MENTAL CHECK OUT:
A mental check out is when a participant attends calls or appears to engage in the community space, but doesn't do any of the work you've set for them. They don't take action or make progress towards their goals.

EMOTIONAL CHECK OUT:
An emotional check out is when they feel like they've invested time, energy and money, but they're not seeing the changes they'd like, so they take on an "I don't care" approach and start disconnecting themselves from the program.

PHYSICAL CHECK OUT:
A physical check out is usually a combination of a mental and an emotional check out. The client stops showing up, attending calls and participating in the community space, altogether. They officially "drop out" of the program.

You know people are starting to check out in your group program when you see attendance to your live coaching calls and engagement in your community space take a nosedive.

And once that happens, it's very difficult to earn their trust again and get them back on board. So it's crucial to have a solid group coaching model engagement plan.

Which is why you must create deep accountability. Accountability resolves all these issues.

Some studies show accountability can boost goal-achievement from 70% to up to an epic 95%.

This means accountability is the most powerful aspect of successful goal-achievement when it comes to coaching groups.

Here are some ways you can introduce and maintain accountability in your group:

For larger group programs, you could have people move into smaller "breakout" groups where members decide how and when they'll check in on each other's progress and stay accountable.

If you're coaching groups with less than 10 members, you could have people pick one accountability partner or offer to match members up with each other. Partners are responsible for checking in on each other's progress.

You could also have group members share progress on their to-do list each week or month inside the community space. This way, accountability happens across the group where each participant has the rest of the group as an accountability "partner."

Just in case you're wondering...

None of this takes the coach - that means you - out of the equation.

As the coach, your job is to regularly step in, check on progress and offer expert input, insights, coaching and guidance when members feel stuck or challenged as they progress toward their milestones and big goals.

Building Trust When Coaching Groups

Trust is the most important element when you're coaching groups - it creates a safe space so every member can get the most out of the experience.

I want you to think of trust as the glue that holds your group together. Without trust, communication, engagement, and connection decline between you and each individual member and also between the members of the group.

The first thing you need to know about building trust is that it takes time.

Remember: individual members may know you, but some or all other group members are total strangers.

So, don't rush the process and don't force it. Take time to consciously and consistently connect members with each other and encourage interaction inside -- and even outside -- the group.

You can inspire trust in the group by asking "ice-breaker" questions so members can start to feel a strong bond with each other from day 1.

You might want to host a "Welcome to the Party" call at the start of your program for members to share and hear each other's stories and listen to each other's answers to your ice-breaker questions, on the live call.

Another simple but effective group coaching technique to encourage trust is to have people turn on their video during group calls so everyone can see each other. It's the closest you can get to "face to face" conversations, in a virtual world.

And while we're on the topic - do what you can to meet in the real world.

If you have a longer group program - 3 months or more -- you could organize in-person meet-ups and retreats so group members get to connect with each other in real life, talk, laugh, exchange ideas, and walk away feeling heard, seen and understood by rest of the group.

In-person meetings are one of the fastest, most powerful ways to create real relationships and lasting trust when you're coaching groups.

Asking great questions at the start of your group coaching course can increase and strengthen trust.

Here's a list of ice-breaker questions you can use to start building trust in your group:

What are your personal values?

What is your biggest goal in this program and why did you choose this goal?

If you could have everyone else in the group know one important thing about you, what would it be?

Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up in your hometown?

What's your favorite movie/book/song of all time?

If you could invite 3 people to a "dream dinner party," who would they be?

3 Steps To Increase Group Engagement

Some group coaching programs are like a ghost town - everything's quiet and nothing ever happens.

There's low to zero engagement among members.

They don't ask questions, don't offer input or support each other. 

They don't add value to the community or take action on what they need to do to achieve their goals.

In the end, most people don't get the results they signed up for and blame the program, the coaching style, and ultimately, you, the coach.

Then, there are group coaching experiences that are like the Mardi Gras -- something's happening all the time.

The coach and every single member are giving it their all and engagement is through the roof.

The community space is alive with powerhouse questions, comments, answers, and shares. People are connected to each other, inspired and motivated to help.

Live coaching calls are exciting, full of energy, high in value, and regularly attract high attendance. Members have an outstanding, transformational experience and they end up achieving the results they signed up for.

Firing up engagement isn't rocket science. Here are 3 steps you want to follow to ensure your group's engagement starts and stays on a high throughout the group coaching course.

1. Have an easily accessible virtual space. You can use free social platforms, like Facebook groups, where members gather to connect, share, ask questions, and have their questions answered. An accessible virtual space allows people to come together as a community for engagement and connection. This will also create a place where they can celebrate their wins and get support to overcome their challenges.

2. Be conscious of who you let into the group. Group engagement is very tied to your selection process. Members need to be on the same page and have similar challenges and obstacles around your coaching theme so they can connect with each other on a deeper level.

For instance, many business coaches take in group members who are at extremely different levels in their business - they have entrepreneurs just starting out and those who are already at the 6-figure and heading toward the 7-figure mark. This is a massive gap. It's almost impossible to spark conversations and interactions among members because they have very little in common, which leads to a disconnected, disengaged group.

So, when creating your program, it's important to define who is the ideal client profile you're aiming to serve. It will give you the filter you need to find the right people to be part of your group.

3. Decide consciously on the number of people. This can make a huge difference in your group's engagement. There's no such thing as a "perfect number" for groups so this one's mostly up to you.

Some coaches love groups that are bigger - more than 10 people. They like working with different challenges and personality types because it triggers their creativity.

Some coaches enjoy small groups - less than 10 people - because it creates an intimate setting for members to get to know and be there for each other.

If you've tried coaching groups before, think about what worked and what didn't, based on the number of people you had in your group. If this is your first rodeo, think of a number that feels comfortable but stretches you just outside your comfort zone.

You can also talk to other coaches about their experiences to get a feel for what's right for you.

Finally, let's talk price.

When people invest more in a coaching program, commitment shoots up because it feels like there's a lot more to lose.

This makes sense when you think about it.

People want their money's worth and they're far more likely to do the work and be engaged if a big chunk of money is at stake.

When it's time to think about pricing, do your research. Consider your program structure, and what others in your space are offering.

Consider the value of your offer and the transformation you can help people achieve, and make sure you don't underprice yourself.

These are some ideas to boost engagement but as coach and leader of the group, it's up to you to make sure conversation and communication continues to happen.

So get creative.

Don't be afraid to jump in with surprise live videos, bonus webinars or question prompts to get members talking and connecting.

You can even offer fun quizzes, freebies and friendly competitions to kickstart and maintain engagement.

Do what it takes to keep the energy high.

Know that engagement and energy are make or break elements when it comes to coaching groups and a successful program is one that's fully, vibrantly, engaged.