Episode 37: Should You Start a Group Coaching Program?

In this week's episode, we navigate the pros and cons of starting a group coaching program. I speak to my personal experience and offer some advice in the first episode of this four-part series.

37: Should You Start a Group Coaching Program?

Do you need to create a group coaching program? Are group programs the only way to grow and scale your coaching business?   You've probably seen a lot of other coaches starting group programs and you might be wondering whether it's the right choice for you.

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Show Notes

Do you need to create a group coaching program? Are group programs the only way to grow and scale your coaching business?

You've probably seen a lot of other coaches starting group programs and you might be wondering whether it's the right choice for you. I've received so many questions from podcast listeners, Facebook group members, and my clients and students about running group coaching programs and I thought it would be fun and helpful to really take our time with this subject.

That's why we're kicking off a brand new, four-part series to help you create a powerful group program that will serve your clients and support your business.

First up, in today's episode, we're exploring whether starting a group program is the right choice for you, some advantages of group coaching programs, as well as reasons why group coaching might not be the best choice for you. Let's dive in!

Topics covered

  • Why I'm doing this series on group coaching programs
  • Is group coaching the only way to scale your business?
  • The benefit of your experience running therapy groups
  • How group programs have transformed my business
  • The efficiency of a group program
  • Why group coaching can help with preventing burnout
  • What I experienced with my first group coaching program in 2018
  • The synergistic power you unlock within a group
  • Strengthening your private coaching funnel with a group program
  • How group coaching programs can increase your revenue
  • The added complexity of screening clients for a group program
  • Why you'll likely need different marketing strategies for a group coaching program
  • The ideal number of members in a group coaching program

Resources mentioned

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Well, hi there, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity podcast. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough, and I am so excited that we are kicking off a brand new four-part series, all about group coaching. And we are getting things started off right today with the first of four episodes, all about how to help you create a really powerful group program that will serve your clients and support your business. So over the next four weeks, we are going to be looking at whether or not a group program is right for your business. We will be speaking with a program creation expert about the things that you want to have in place before and during your group program. Then in the third episode of this series, I'm going to share with you some of the lessons I've learned through running group programs over the last several years. And then we are going to end this four part series with a coaching call that tackles the issue of group programs.

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So we are going to have an amazing November 2020 together as we spend these four episodes really diving into group programs, and I cannot wait to hear what you think about this series. So as always, you can come find me on Instagram @CoachwithClarity and let me know what you think of the show, and especially about this special four-part series, all about group coaching programs. 

The main reason that we are doing such a deep dive into group coaching program is because that's what I'm hearing you want. I have received so many questions from podcast listeners, from Facebook group members, from my own clients, members, and students about running group coaching programs. So I thought it would be fun and helpful to really take our time with this subject and to really explore whether a group program is the right choice for you, and if so, what it would look like to create it.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's start with that question – should you start a group coaching program? That's what we're going to dive into today, we are going to explore some of the advantages of running group coaching programs within your business, and we're going to look at some reasons why maybe group coaching might not be for you. I want to make sure that we look at both sides of this coin, because as much as I love group programs, I recognize that it is not the only approach to coaching and it is certainly not the only approach to building or scaling your business. And in fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone who says that you must have a group program in order to build your business or to scale – I don't believe they're correct. I think this is certainly one path, and it's a very successful path towards business growth. But it's not the only one. 

So today, let's really spend some time talking about whether a group coaching program is right for you. And the things that you may want to consider as you are starting to create a concept for your group program. 

Now I've been running groups in some form or fashion since I was a social work student in 2001. And in fact, one of my very first tasks when I was a social work intern, was to run a group program for teen moms, and then throughout my career as a social worker and therapist, I frequently ran groups. And now as a coach, I'm able to bring some of my knowledge and experience running therapy groups into a group coaching program as well. It is a little different. There's certainly a different approach and different results that we see from coaching groups versus therapy groups. But yes, I definitely find that my experience running group therapy programs is highly relevant to running group coaching programs as well. 

So over the next several weeks, as we talk about this, I will be drawing on my experience from running both group therapy programs and group coaching programs as well. I will say that incorporating group programs into my coaching business has allowed me to grow it in ways that I didn't even originally think possible. And now most of the work that I do is based in group programs, I run the Coach with Clarity Membership, which is a group program, and I now have a certification program, which is also a group program. So I really love groups, I think it can be an extraordinarily powerful experience for clients and coaches alike. And that being said, it's not necessarily the right choice for every coach out there. So that's why we're going to look at both sides of the issue today. 

We are going to start by exploring why group coaching might be right for you, and then I'm going to share some considerations as to why it may not be the best choice for you right now. So if you're ready to go, let's dive right in. 

When I think about why starting or running a group coaching program might be the right decision for you. There are really five main reasons that come up. The first reason is that running a group coaching program allows you to cover issues that you commonly see in your one on one practice, but you can do so in a group setting, which allows you to be more efficient. So what I have found is that when we niche, when we are really specific about who we serve, what we offer, and how we provide it, then we become kind of the go to expert in our field, which means that we kind of naturally attract clients who want to learn more or receive coaching around that niche. And so what that means is that as we're doing one on one work, we will frequently see our clients experience similar issues, and challenges, and results, in the work that we're doing. So when we take that expertise, and take the common experiences that we see our clients have, and we bring that into a group program, it allows us to address those issues on mass, basically, so we are able to provide the same valuable support that we give our one on one clients, but we're able to do so in a really efficient, effective way. And that actually leads to my second reason as to why group coaching may be for you, which is that we can serve more people in less time, and this is particularly important for coaches who are starting to feel maxed out with their one on one work or with their private coaching work. And this can be in terms of not having enough space left on your calendar for one on one clients, or perhaps we're talking about feeling maxed out energetically, because it does take a lot of energy to provide deep intensive private coaching services. And for some coaches, that can really take a toll. And we do see burnout happen even within the coaching industry, and a lot of times it's because we're just feeling energetically maxed out. So group coaching programs give us a way to serve more people in less time, because now instead of adding more one on one clients to our practice, or additional one on one slots to our calendars, we can hold a group and provide that same high level of service addressing common issues, but in a group format. So that really is a key benefit for coaches who are starting to feel like they don't have the time, or the space, or the energy, to build the one on one part of their coaching practice. By adding a group, they can still bring new clients into their practice, stay the expert in their field, and do so in a way that maximizes their time and their energy.

So the two reasons I've already shared with you really go hand in hand. So reason number one, why group coaching may be for you is that you're able to identify the common issues that you're seeing among your one on one clients and address them in a group setting, which then allows you to serve more people in less time. So that together is really kind of a one-two punch as to why running a group program may be for you, and that was certainly the case for me. 

So I started running my first group coaching programs in 2018. When I started noticing that many of my private coaching clients had the shared desire of starting a coaching practice. So I was doing a lot of business building work with my one on one clients to help them establish their coaching businesses, and so the more I started doing this individual work, the more I started seeing the common questions that would emerge, the common pitfalls that might arise. And so then I was able to take all of that data from my private coaching, and use it to create a group coaching program that would help people come together and build their coaching practices. So that was when I launched my first cohort of my group program, From Couch to Coach, and that was an eight week program that really focused on helping you get your coaching business off the ground, and up and running. It was such a streamlined way to provide information and support to more people at once, and it also allowed me to grow my business both in terms of the clients that I was serving, the revenue that I was bringing in, and also my impact in the field. So I do see from personal experience and also from working with other coaches, that running a group program like that can be efficient, it can be effective, and it's such a fun way to bring an additional revenue stream into your business. 

Now, the third reason that a group coaching program might be for you, is that everyone benefits from the wisdom of the group, including you as the coach and the facilitator. So I find that by their very nature, group programs are highly experiential, we learn through doing and through connecting with other people. And that experience is not unidirectional, meaning that it's not solely my job as the group coaching leader or facilitator to help my group members have that experience, it actually goes both ways. So yes, I'm definitely giving to my group members, both in terms of content, and coaching and guidance and the like. But my group members are also able to give that to each other. And so let's say that you have a group member who has a question or who is going through a particular experience. Yes, as the program facilitator, I'm certainly able to kind of come in and do some coaching around that, ask some powerful questions to get that person thinking of other opportunities, other ways that they might want to approach it, but that responsibility does not always have to fall on me, because there is so much innate wisdom and power in the other group members as well. And so those other group members can step up and provide support too. That's why I think that the best groups are very synergistic. It's when we all come together and work together towards that common goal. And in highly functioning group coaching programs, I think it truly is an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

A group program can have you as the coach, and can have your group members. And each of you independently brings so much value, through your knowledge, your skills, your experience, your intuition. And when everyone comes together and forms a cohesive unit, then it's almost as if that wisdom grows exponentially, and everyone benefits as a result. It's such a powerful experience when that happens, and it's one of the reasons why I believe group coaching programs are so effective, because you're not relying solely on one coach and one client. But you have the wisdom from the group collective to support every single member in that group, including you. Sometimes, as coaches, it's not uncommon for us to feel a great sense of responsibility to our clients, that as the coach, we need to show up, we need to guide them, we need to support them. And as coaches, we do take that responsibility very seriously, and sometimes, as a coach facilitator and a group coaching program, the best thing we can do is step back, and allow the group to kind of work some of this out on their own. Because as you know, when clients are able to develop their own insight and reach their own conclusions, it's a much more powerful experience than if we the coach are handing it to them. And so through the group process, and by engaging with other group members, a lot of times clients are able to have those “aha” moments, and then come up with their own strategies to move forward, and our job as facilitator is simply to create the space in which that can happen. And yes, we can certainly come in and provide some shaping or some guidance as needed but in many ways, the responsibility of supporting the client moves off of our shoulders and on to the group. It's a shared responsibility, which is a powerful experience for everyone involved because, for your group coaching members who are a part of supporting that fellow group member, they feel accomplished, they feel empowered, and they start thinking, wow, maybe I can do this after all. And so that is one of I think, the most dynamic experiences that happens within a group and why providing a group coaching program might be the right decision for you because within a group, everyone benefits from the increased energy, the increased support, the collective wisdom, and really, it just creates such a dynamic, fun experience. So that is the third reason why starting or running a group coaching program might be the right decision for you. 

The next two reasons I want to explore are a little more about the business building side, and how group coaching programs could help you grow your business. And the first reason is because group programs could actually be a funnel into private coaching work. So again, I know a lot of coaches out there are talking about, “you need to move away from one to one work, you need to stop trading time for money, you need to be looking at groups”, what I would say is that within a coaching practice, there is room for pretty much anything and everything you want to create. And so you don't have to give up private coaching or one on one coaching in order to do groups, and actually, groups can be a way for you to build your one on one coaching practice. So it doesn't have to be an “either, or” and in fact, I think it's most effective when it's a “both, and”. So for example, you may have a group coaching program that covers the fundamentals of whatever your niche is. So again, using my own program, as an example, From Couch to Coach was an eight week program that covered the fundamentals of starting and growing your coaching practice. At the conclusion of that eight week program, some of my group members were good to go and they were off to the races, and other group members wanted additional support as they implemented everything we covered in the group coaching program. So that group was actually a precursor to more specialized one on one work with some of those group clients.

This is such a powerful strategy because it serves everyone involved, it's efficient from both the time perspective for you and for your client. It's also efficient from a financial perspective as well, because oftentimes, not always, but usually group programs tend to be at a lower price point than your private one on one work. So that means your client can work with you, gain knowledge, gain experience, and have the advantages that come with being in a group program at a lower price point. So they can cover all of the fundamentals, and then they can do the highly specialized individualized work with you, that is probably at a higher price point. But they're not taking up that one on one time to go over the basics, because they've already done that. So again, it respects their time, it respects their knowledge, and having completed that group program, sets them up to really make the most of their work with you one on one. Plus, they've gotten to know you as a coach, and they know your style, and they know how you like to work, because they've had this experience of being in your group coaching program, and you've had the opportunity to work with them as well. So you've already built this relationship, and you as the coach will already have a sense as to whether or not they would make for an ideal individual coaching client. So you don't have to worry about any of the vetting, any of that preliminary work that you do to ensure that someone is the right fit for your practice, the group program has already done that work for you, and it's already done that work for the client as well. If they've completed the group program, and they've had success and they enjoy working with you, then why wouldn't they want to continue the relationship working with you one on one, being a part of that group program sets both you and the client up for great success working together one on one. And so running that group coaching program can be part of your process even of building your one on one private coaching work. In some cases, you may find that having someone to complete a group program is a prerequisite to your one on one work together. Doesn't have to be the case, but you can certainly do that if you choose. Group programs can be so flexible and how you incorporate them into your business model, and yes can absolutely be a part of growing a different revenue stream like your one on one coaching within your business. So that's another reason why group programs might be the right choice for you, it can actually strengthen your funnel into your one on one work. 

Now there's one last reason I want to talk about why a group coaching program might be the right fit for you, and that does come down to revenue. Group coaching programs are a fantastic strategy to increase the revenue that's coming into your business, and depending on how you structure your group, it's even possible that a group coaching program could be more profitable than your one on one services. So I'm going to give you an example here. This is entirely theoretical, but it's going to illustrate the point as to how you could actually bring more revenue in through a group coaching program.

So let's say that you have a three month private coaching package, so one on one work and that three-month package is $3,000. So that works out to about $1,000 a month. And let's say it includes for one hour calls a month, plus support between sessions, whether that's through email, or voxer, or what have you. But if you're doing four one hour calls a month, then for just that coaching work, we can deduce that your coaching rate is $250 an hour. Okay, so let's kind of keep that in mind. 

Now, let's look at a three month group for half that investment, $1,500. So your three month private coaching is $3,000, your three-month group coaching is $1,500. That includes twelve group calls, and let's say it also includes three one on one calls, I always like to have a call as we start the program, I like to have one in the midpoint, and then I like to have a call after my group coaching program wraps up. So we're looking at twelve, one hour group calls, and then we are looking at three hours of individual work for every client in your group. So let's say that you have a group of six clients, and so those six clients are each paying $1,500 to be in your group. So that's a total revenue of $9,000, you've got the twelve group coaching hours, plus you have three individual hours for each of those six clients, so that's eighteen hours. So the eighteen individual hours plus the twelve group hours, total thirty hours. You've received $9,000 for thirty hours of work, and that brings your rate to approximately $300 an hour for your coaching work. 

So if we compare that to your hourly rate from your individual program, that was $250. So already, we're seeing how your hourly rate has already gone up through your group program. Now there are a lot of variables at play here, we need to consider the number of people that are in your group, we need to consider, you know the rates that you're charging. But just from this example alone, hopefully you can see how running group programs could be a way for you to actually bring additional revenue into your business at a higher rate than maybe you're even doing in your one on one work. 

The other thing to consider too is that typically group programs require less support between sessions than one on one coaching does. So going back to that example, in your private coaching package your three-month package for $3,000. That includes email and voxer support between sessions. In a group coaching program, you don't necessarily have to do that. In fact, maybe you have some sort of private community for your group members, whether it's on Facebook or via Slack, or through Mighty Networks or Circle, there's a lot of options out there for that community part. But because you have that community part, then if a group member has a question or needs support, they can ask it within the community, they could potentially receive feedback and answers from their fellow group members, as well as from you. So you don't have to provide the unlimited support to your group members like you would in a one on one coaching experience, because the group can take care of a lot of that for you. And again, it gets back to this idea of we all benefit from the collective wisdom that the group provides. 

So we've covered a lot already, we've gone through five reasons why group coaching may be for you, and just to do a quick recap. The number one is that you can cover common issues that you see in your coaching practice in a group setting, so that makes it more efficient. Which leads into reason number two, you can serve more people in less time. Number three is that everyone benefits from being in a group, including you because of that group cohesion, and the support and wisdom that everyone provides. So it's not resting solely on your shoulders. Reason number four is that group coaching can also be a really powerful funnel into your private coaching work as well. So it's not that you're necessarily doing groups instead of one on one coaching, but actually your group is helping you find ideal one on one clients for your practice. And then number five is that running groups can increase your revenue potential, and because it's efficient and effective, you may actually find that group coaching is more profitable than one on one coaching. 

So those are five pretty good reasons to consider running a group coaching program, but let's explore a couple reasons why a group program may not be the right choice for you. And the first issue I want to address is that when we are creating a group program, we need to be very intentional about screening ideal group members. You know, when you are working with someone and trying to determine whether they are the right fit for your one on one practice, really all you have to be concerned about is the fit between you and the client, their goals, their desires, and whether you can adequately serve them as a coach, but it's really limited to the two of you. When you are creating a group coaching program, it's not just about the fit between you and that client. It's also about the fit between that client and every other client that's going to be in your group. So you need to consider many personalities and potential effects on group dynamics. It's not just about the coach-client fit, and so I find that when I'm creating a group coaching program, I need to be even more intentional about my screening process or about how I vet clients as to whether or not they would be appropriate for this group. You really have to assess fit from multiple dimensions, and so that is arguably a more complicated process than doing so for one on one work. So that's one reason why group coaching may not be for you. If you do not want to worry about, you know how well the group is going to work together and whether this client will fit with this client and so forth, then one on one services may be a better choice for you right now. 

The second thing to consider is that running a group coaching program will likely require different marketing strategies than you've had to use to build your one on one practice. When you are trying to fill a spot for an individual coaching client, you just need one client. And so you may find that taking a one on one approach to marketing is really effective, you really only need one person. But to fill a group, ideally, you are looking at a minimum of four to six people. Now you can run a group with fewer than four people, I have run a cohort of From Couch to Coach with just three in the past, it was tricky, because if one or if two people can't make a group session, then all of a sudden you don't really have a group, you have a private coach and client or maybe a dyad. I find having at least four and preferably six people in a group is really ideal for group cohesion and from learning from each other. But in order to fill that group with four to six people, you've got to really increase your audience size and the pool of people that you're talking to about your program, and so that may require different visibility strategies. 

So here's an example, when I was focusing primarily on my one on one work, one of the best marketing strategies I had was to go into other people's Facebook groups and be an active contributor. So when people were asking questions about coaching, I was showing up and answering them and being really generous with my knowledge, and I started to become known as an expert in coaching. And so people would tag me, I would do podcast interviews, or guest interviews in Facebook Lives, and all that kind of stuff within those groups. And that helped me connect with people who were interested in one on one coaching. Now, when I was starting my group, what I found was that while I could still kind of go into other people's Facebook groups and continue to be an active contributing member, starting my own Facebook group was actually a better strategy for me to fill a group coaching program. Because From Couch to Coach was focused on helping therapists move into the profession of coaching, I started a Facebook group for that population. It's called From Therapy to Coaching, it's still around today, it's very active. I believe we have over 3,400 members now, but I will tell you starting that Facebook group took a lot of time and a lot of energy and I had to be active and engaged in ways that I didn't necessarily have to be in someone else's Facebook group. And now almost two and a half years later, I can say it was definitely worth that initial investment of time and energy. It's allowed me to grow my group programs and to build my membership and my certification program, but it was a lot of hard work at the beginning and it required me to really view marketing and build marketing strategies in a new way. Now, I don't mean to suggest that you have to start a Facebook group in order to build a group coaching program. You don't. I am sharing this as an example of how you may need to think about other marketing strategies to build a group coaching program. You know, the old saying, what got you here won't get you there. I have found that to be true with group coaching programs. What got me to one stage in my business for private coaching clients would not necessarily get me to the next stage of my business with group programs. So thinking about your current marketing strategies and what you enjoy, you have to really consider whether you're willing to shift gears and try new strategies to bring more people in. And if the answer is, I'm not really sure I want to do that right now. That's perfectly okay, but it may mean that running a group coaching program is not the best choice for you right now. 

And that really brings me to my third reason about why a group coaching program may not be right for you, and that's simply you may not enjoy the group format and all that it requires. And if that's the case, I want to give you permission to really lean into that and say, “yeah, you know, what, I just don't want to do a group coaching program”. You are allowed to say no. And in fact, some coaches love one on one work, and that's really all they want to do. They want that intimate relationship that comes with working deeply with one client at a time. And some coaches don't enjoy running groups or facilitating groups, they find that really draining on their energy. And that's okay, group coaching may not fit your style, or your preferences. And if it doesn't, then I want to give you permission to not do it. I really believe that your business should align with your values, your strengths, and your preferences, and if those do not serve a group coaching format, then that's okay, lean into what you are good at. And if that is one on one work, if that's really what lights you up, then you can absolutely build a successful, profitable and fulfilling business exclusively on one on one work. And I'll also remind you that it doesn't have to be “either or”, it can be “both and”. In the example I gave you earlier, when we were talking about revenue potential, the example group program included some one on one work. So you can still leverage your passion and your interest in one on one work within a group program if you choose. But again, you don't have to, if one on one work is what you love most, then let's double down on that, and let's give yourself permission to say no to groups for now. 

Oh, my goodness, we have covered a lot today, and I think this is the perfect time to move into this week's Clarity in Action Moment. And this week's Clarity in Action Moment is brought to you by my brand new, free download, all about helping you set up your very first or next coaching program. So if you head to CoachwithClarity.com/groupdownload, you will gain access to my free guide that covers some of the most important questions you need to answer as you are building out your group coaching program. I designed it to be streamlined, simple, yet effective, so that you can really key in on exactly what you need to consider as you are building out your program. So again, head on over to CoachwithClarity.com/groupdownload, to gain access to that free guide today. 

So this week's Clarity in Action Moment is all about deciding whether starting your first or next group coaching program is the right decision for you. Your task is to consider the pros and the cons of running a group coaching program and to decide whether it's something you want to move forward on. If you need a little support with that, check out Episode 27 of the podcast where I go over my D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework, and that's the system I use to make decisions in my business and in my life. So if you're going back and forth on whether or not a group program might be the right choice for you, perhaps the D.E.C.I.D.E. Framework can help. And then if you land on, “Yes, I want to explore a group coaching program”, then your task is to start thinking about what that program might look like. Who are you serving? How are you serving them? What are the results? And again, that free guide over at CoachwithClarity.com/groupdownload can help you answer those questions. 

I so hope that you have found this week's episode to be helpful in terms of deciding whether or not a group coaching program is right for you. And if you are coming down on the side of, “Yes, I want to do this”, then stick around because the next three weeks of the show are going to be so helpful in getting your group program up and running. So I hope you will join me next week as I welcome learning design expert Emily Walker to the show. She and I will be talking about all of the things you need to be considering as you are building out your group program to make it an ideal experience for your clients. So I can't wait to connect with you next week, and until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.

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