Coaching Groups – Ten Favorite Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Group coaching, mastermind programs, teleclasses and workshops are natural additions to a well-leveraged marketing funnel for your coaching business. And they help you reduce your time on the “money for time treadmill”. But if you are not used to working with groups, it can be a bit intimidating.

Every group facilitator starts as a beginner and develops mastery by facilitating.  Everyone makes mistakes. While they are rarely fatal to the program, it’s good to know about the pitfalls in advance.

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

1. Too much information
If you’re delivering information or didactic learning, limit yourself to 3 key points for every 90 minute period. Illustrate your point with questions, exercises and stories that are relevant. Aim your content at the average participant, and then be ready to throw in some advanced or beginner concepts as needed for the group.

2. Low energy
Your energy sets the tone for the sessions. This is especially important in tele-group situations. Your main asset is your voice. Avoid reading from a script. Use the word “you” instead of we or he/she. Speak as if you’re talking to one individual. Raise both the energy and resonance of your voice and modulate it for specific situations – softer and slower to make a key point or show empathy and more powerful to make a key point or challenge their thinking.

3. Getting way off track or being too rigid with the agenda
Plan in time to allow for interesting (short) sidetracks. Ask permission of the group before you stray too far from the agenda. 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. That’s the sign of a master facilitator. Be sure to get back on track well before the end of the session.

4. Starting or ending late
Consider asking attendees to arrive a little early to get settled. Start on time. If you want to allow for extra Q& A, you can let people know the session is approximately ____ minutes long. Never deliver critical information after the set end time.

5. Losing them
Even if it’s your intention to lecture, be sure to build in ways attendees can participate (such as Q & A). People like to be heard and recognized.

6. Weakly phrased questions
Pithy and challenging open-ended questions are the trademark of masterful coaching and facilitation. Be willing to let some silence pass after you ask a question so that people can “go inside” to access their answer. Open-ended questions most often start with what or how and occasionally who or when. Plan a few powerful open-ended questions for every 60 – 90 minute group session. “How did last week’s session shift your perspective?” “What is something new you’ve learned about yourself?” “How did you implement the strategy we discussed?” “What are you taking away from this session?”

7. One participant dominates
Nearly every group has at least one person who shares too much or likes to go into all the details of a story. Use limiting phrases and your leadership authority to set the ground rules for each question you ask: “Let’s hear from 3 people who have not shared yet.” “Please share in laser-fashion the essence of your situation.” “Keep your response to 30 seconds so we can hear from everyone.”

8. No follow up or continuity
Connect the dots of everything you present into a main theme that fits your topic. Bring the beginning points into the end of each session. Be sure to have a call to action. Ask them to practice or implement what they’ve learned. Or, if the session is a mastermind or discussion, ask them to share a takeaway from the session.

9. Technical difficulties
Everyone experiences technical difficulties sometimes. Test all equipment and systems up front. Be easy going, ready to switch to a lower tech method if problems arise. Rather than apologize, say something like: “I appreciate your flexibility.”  “Thanks for staying with me while I fix this technical issue.”

10. Stepping over a participant’s feelings or comments
Learn the “Yes and…” method of validating the participant’s contribution while also including your key point. When someone shares a fear or anxiety, help them to feel among friends: “Who else feels like that?”  “I know you’re not the only one here who feels like that.”

A few more tips…

  • Be willing to push out of your comfort zones and try new things.
  • Record your sessions and listen to the recordings. Audio Acrobat is a fantastic service that also allows you to send out an mp3 of the session to attendees.
  • Get feedback from your participants with an evaluation form. Survey Gizmo works well.
  • Above all, don’t expect perfection, and don’t beat yourself up. If your topic is relevant and valuable, and you are upbeat and accessible, your audience will enjoy you and come back for more.