Quick Fixes for 10 Group Coaching Mistakes Nearly Everyone Makes the First Time

Group coaching, masterminds, teleclasses and workshops are fantastic ways to leverage your time, earn significantly more and give your tribe a richer experience that has lasting impact. But if you are not used to working with groups, it can feel a bit intimidating.

group coaching Rhonda HessThe best advice I can give you is allow yourself to be vulnerable and let connection and collaboration take the lead. Sure be the authority, but also understand in your heart that the magic of groups is in the group

Everyone makes mistakes. They are never fatal to the program. At worst you might upset someone, but if you’re tracking the energy, you’ll know that and can easily make up for it by being real, owning your mistake and offering an offline private conversation. I’ve been amazed how in those circumstances the individuals always come back as more enthusiastic contributors who take leaps in the program.

Here some favorite facilitation mistakes and how to avoid or correct them.

  1. Too much information
    Limit yourself to 3 key points for every 90-minute period. Illustrate your point with powerful open-ended questions, exercises and stories that are relevant.
  2. Content is overly intellectual or too fluffy
    Aim your content at the average participant and then be ready to throw in some advanced or beginner concepts as needed for the group.
  3. Getting way off track or being too rigid with the agenda
    Plan in some time for interesting (short) sidetracks. Ask permission of the group before you stray too far from the agenda. “Is everyone interested in taking this side track?”
  4. Pacing is too fast or slow
    Listen for how well the group is staying with you. Adjust your pacing to suit the group. Be willing to redesign a bit on the fly.
  5. Losing the group
    Even if it’s your intention to deliver educational content in lecture mode, build in ways attendees can participate (such as Q & A, breakouts).
  6. One participant dominates
    Ideally, you want participation from everyone without one person dominating. Set the tone at the very beginning: “This will be really fun if everyone participates with laser statements and questions. To allow everyone to speak I ask that you get to your main point or question within 30 seconds. I’ll ask you for more information if we need it.” Use limiting phrases: “Let’s hear from 3 people who have not shared yet.”
  7. Weakly phrased questions
    Pithy and challenging questions are the trademark of masterful coaching and facilitation. Take the time to plan a few of these for every 60 – 90 minute group session. If no one responds right away, count to 10, then check in… “Did that question land with anyone or was that the wrong question?”
  8. No continuity
    Connect everything you present together into a main theme that fits your topic and is highly relevant to your audience (your target market).
  9. Technical difficulties
    Of course, test all equipment and systems before in a trial run. But technology is naturally unpredictable. Even the most polished big players experience technical difficulties so don’t take it hard if it happens. Your audience will understand if you’re relaxed and flexible. Be ready to switch to lower tech ways of delivery on the fly if needed.
  10. Stepping over a participant’s feelings or comments
    Always validate feelings. And invite transformation. If you don’t agree with what someone has shared, use the “Yes and…” method of validating the participant’s contribution while also including your key point.

However you tend to present, try pushing out of your comfort zone a little bit each time. Record your sessions and listen to the recordings. Notice your pace, energy level, responses. Get feedback from your participants, outside the group, with an evaluation form or a follow-up phone call.

MOST IMPORTANTLY look for the gift of every group experience. Take in the good moments and forgive yourself for the awkward ones. You’ll get better and better at this the more you do it.

I’d love to hear your questions or favorite facilitation mistakes – or mistakes you’ve witnessed in group programs you’ve attended (no names please). And share also how you lived through mistakes and did better next time.

  • Thank you for this, Rhonda! I don’t know, but for some reason your articles/insight are like magic. How do you KNOW? This inspired me big time. One of the mistakes I’ve made with my Bootcamps is a  biggie: I wasn’t consistent. If I marketed it as a 6 week consecutive group thing, I would miss one and reschedule it therefor breaking up the consistent flow of the energy. I would do this a couple of times throughout the course. I realized this HUGE fear crept in saying: “What are you doing? These people will think you are a fraud!” It took me sometime to work with that voice and not let it whip my behind. 🙂

    • The easiest thing to do in these cases is own your “mistake” with the group and then ask for their feedback. It clears the air and makes it easy to move forward.

      How do I know? I’ve made all these mistakes countless times. It’s so good to know that perfectionism is boring and being real is where the juice is!

  • Thank you for this, Rhonda! I don’t know, but for some reason your articles/insight are like magic. How do you KNOW? This inspired me big time. One of the mistakes I’ve made with my Bootcamps is a  biggie: I wasn’t consistent. If I marketed it as a 6 week consecutive group thing, I would miss one and reschedule it therefor breaking up the consistent flow of the energy. I would do this a couple of times throughout the course. I realized this HUGE fear crept in saying: “What are you doing? These people will think you are a fraud!” It took me sometime to work with that voice and not let it whip my behind. 🙂

  • This article couldn’t have came at a better time for me! I’m getting ready to advertise my first group coaching event. This article put so much in perspective for me. I don’t have to be “perfect”, just be authentic and make sure the participants feel validated and heard. Thank you so much Rhonda! 

    • I’m so delighted I reached you with that point, Kristen. Over and over I’ve seen that it’s being real and connecting that makes the biggest impact. Congrats on your new group. May it fill fast, be a blast and have them coming back for more!

  • This article couldn’t have came at a better time for me! I’m getting ready to advertise my first group coaching event. This article put so much in perspective for me. I don’t have to be “perfect”, just be authentic and make sure the participants feel validated and heard. Thank you so much Rhonda! 

  • Lakisha

    I agree Rhonda. Three through seven can be most difficult when starting out for any coach. I know I ran into them several times as I coached my first set of groups. After assessing my delivery and content, making some adjustments, I’m going for it again!!!

    • Brilliant! That’s exactly how you become a master. Believe me, after 13 years of doing groups, I’m still learning and tweaking. Sounds like life.

  • Stephanie

    My biggest flub to date was moving too fast for my audience. My initial assumption was that they were tracking the “Conscious Conversation” approach to the group’s intended topic because of the many written updates and instructions I’d provided beforehand. However, when we physically met for the first time, everyone reverted to the old meeting paradigm behavior, complete with personal agendas, desire to assign tasks, fear of not getting needs met, or feeling threatened by others reactions, that we had to begin again from the beginning. It was an amazing experience for the entire group because we all recognized our propensity for bringing our pasts to the table, but changing our dominant model for getting things done required a much longer lead time.  ~Stephanie

    • Thanks for sharing, Stephanie. I’ve seen that dynamic too. It’s almost as if there needs to be a review or refresher each time you meet just to help people back into the new paradigm.

  • Lori Radun

    My biggest mistake was asking participants to share their answers from the week’s homework.  Many of the participants didn’t do the homework, and when people did share, it just made for a very boring interaction.  So what I did the following week was ask for volunteers to be coached on a specific issue relating to the topic we were working on at the time.  Some people were nervous, but this worked out great because individuals actually got their issues resolved and others on the phone were able to experience the power of coaching. ~Lori Radun

  • Michael Van Osch

    Rhonda – thanks for sharing this, excellent. Really appreciate your count to 10 when waiting for an answer – helps show members your intention and leadership. cheers, Michael

    • Patience truly is a virtue! Thanks Michael.

  • Laurie Cameron

    One challenge I had many years ago was similar to #6: 2 people in the group had diametrically opposed religious views. It took a lot of conscious energy to honor them both and make the strong, respectful and consistent request that they each honor the other’s perspective – that both were valid. Sometimes I just wanted to shout “get over it!” to them, 😉  but I was able to breathe into it and continue to hold the energy. I hope it was also valuable for the others in the group to witness.

    • Wow that is a sticky situation. I love your solution of breathing into it. I know from first hand experience that there is NO one better than you at holding space for everyone in a group. To me, you are the consummate facilitator, Laurie!