How to Structure a Group Coaching Program That Delivers Results

May 13, 2023

Read time: 4.5 minutes

It was 2019, I was working as a Director of People & Culture at a tech company where coaching the CEO and leadership team was by far the most rewarding part of my role. While I did some coaching on the side, I sought out mentors and signed up for several programs to prepare me to leave my full-time job. 

I was determined to make coaching my primary focus.

One of the things I enrolled in was a 12-week program that cost several thousand dollars. It was led by a friendly coach who was kind and well intended. Once I was inside, the program was overflowing with content.

It was hard to know what to focus on.

The group calls were interesting. On one occasion, the coach led us through an NLP exercise. Otherwise, the sessions tended to alternate between her asking if anyone had any questions or her going on tangents about her success.

I didn't bother attending the last couple calls.

I've previously shared how you can create a program that people actually want and outlined that one of the benefits of creating a program in your coaching business is it gives you a structured process to use for group coaching. Good group programs are amazing. They allow those enrolled to learn from others as part of a community, often at a lower price, while giving you better leverage for your time.

When done well, a group program can amplify the results of those enrolled.

But it's easier said than done. The unfortunate truth is that many group programs don’t quite deliver as promised. If you're a coach who's been around for a minute, you've likely signed up for a group program that left you feeling a little underwhelmed.

Today we're going to show you how to structure a Group program that gets people results.

I'm saying "we" as I've invited Group Program Expert Kerry Dobson to collaborate with me on this one. She's an ICF certified coach with a Masters of Education in Workplace & Adult learning who's not only led over 100 group programs herself, she's trained over 200 people to be trainers. She knows group programs.

When I started ripping apart my group program last fall, Kerry was the first person I reached out to for advice.

Let's jump into it........

Maybe Don't Create a Group Program

There seems to be an almost flippant approach with some coach “experts” suggesting everyone should have a group program because "it’s an easy way to scale your business". Keep your shirt on. The first step in creating a kickass group program is maybe don't just create one because some guru said you should.

Don't go counting your Stripe notifications before they hatch.

The truth is that group programs are only really effective if you have a large enough community/audience to support them. When you’re just starting out, group programs can be challenging to fill.

Questions to ask yourself?

  • Are you already in demand with 1:1 clients?
  • Have people asked you for a group program?
  • Are there people that have been interested in what you offer, that you'd like to serve, who can't afford your 1:1 services?
  • Have you helped several people achieve the result you're promising with your group program?

You don't need to answer yes to all of the questions, but if the response is no to every one, maybe you shouldn't announce your group program tomorrow.

Speaking of results....

Define the End Goal

If you decide that the time is right for you, the next step is getting really freaking clear on the end result of your program. If you don't define the end goal, how could you possibly know what to include or how long the journey needs to be? Plus, how will you ever be able to enrol people into this mystery tour?

Can you imagine an airline that sold flights to an unknown destination?

Sure, if the company had an incredible reputation already, you might get a few thrill seekers getting on a plane to who knows where because it'd make for a fun story afterward, but most wouldn't roll the dice. They wouldn't even know what to pack.

Do they need hiking gear?
Shorts + sandals?
A big winter coat?

Without knowing where the plane was going to land they might just have to pack it all.

And that's what happens to your group program when there isn't a clear destination. You have to overcompensate by including everything and anything. Overwhelm them with content in hopes something sticks.

You want to get clear on the end goal. Are you promising....

  • The 6 week action plan to launch your own kickass group program with confidence
  • A personalized, sustainable, and easy to do at home workout practice so you can feel strong and fit without the hassle of going to the gym.
  • Becoming the confident leader that speaks up, shares their ideas, and gets promoted.

The more tangible the result, the better.

Map Out the Key Milestones

Now that you know the ultimate destination, you want to map out the steps that they need to hit along the journey to get them there. 

Remember when we said maybe don't rush out to launch a group program too early? Many struggle knowing the milestones because they haven't helped enough people get to this end goal, they're trying to create a program for too broad of a group, or they're heavily focused on the information they're going to provide without considering the experiences, breakthroughs, and realizations that need to occur along the way.

It's something I've faced before.

In 2015, I onboarded 250+ people into a fast growing company with a multi-week new hire program that I both created and led. When designing the program, the first step my mentor guided me through was gathering representatives from every relevant department to help us map out what was required. What did the new hires need from us, and what did we need for them at every checkpoint between the moment they signed their offer letter to them being a fully functioning and high contributing team member.

The logistics part was straightforward: where to go on their first day, what to expect, and what to wear.

The experience piece took a bit more effort: How did we want them to feel leaving on day 1? How could we help them quickly make friends on their team? How could we show them our values instead of just saying what they were?

It got more difficult from there.

That's because the definition of what it meant to be a "fully functioning and high contributing team member" varied immensely from team to team and role to role. The requirements for this to be true for a junior Project Manager were drastically different compared to a senior Creative Director. So while their onboarding could be similar for much of the first week, what they needed to succeed from the second week onwards was rarely the same.

Even when the end goal is clearly defined, it can be a struggle.

So if you want to avoid your clients having a group experience that's bad for them, for you, your business, and your reputation, start by being honest with yourself: Are you truly ready for a group program? And if you are, clearly define the end goal and map out the key milestones for a specific audience so you can create a kickass group program and help more people.




When you're ready, here's 2 ways I can help you

1. Clarity, Clients, + Confidence WorkshopWant to learn exactly what you need to consistently grow your coaching business with clients you love to serve, without the BS? Check out the free workshop here.

2. Die Before They Do: "It's a work of art! The depth and raw humanity is unparalleled!" and "Must read for anyone on a personal development journey- especially entrepreneurs." Those two of glowing five-star reviews of my book Die Before They Do.

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