How to Structure a Group Coaching Program (Models + Tips)

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Group coaching programs are often a natural next step to either scaling your one-on-one coaching to meet increased demand or adding greater personalization to a course to ensure your clients get the help they need.

In this way, a group coaching program falls between an independent course and one-on-one coaching. We define a group coaching program as any program designed for multiple clients that include a community and some form of coaching.

In this article, we’ll start by differentiating three typical models used by group programs. Then we’ll dive into our tips on how to structure a group coaching program.

Let’s talk about the models.

Different Group Coaching Models

The three main types of group coaching programs differ in several aspects.

  • Size: Is your group program better with a small group, or is it conducive to a larger one?
  • Timing: Do you want everyone working on the same topic together?
  • Pacing: Can clients move forward at their own pace?
  • Length: Do clients have access to your content forever or for a limited time?
  • Content: Is the content fixed as a structured program, or is it new content every month?
  • Purpose: Is the focus on teaching a new skill or perspective or maintaining growth and mastery?
This table compares some of the common aspects of the three group program types
This table compares some of the common aspects of the three group program types

What we list here are common trends for each type. However, there are variations and hybrids. These models serve as guides and should be tailored to your needs.

Let’s look at each in more depth.

1. Cohort-Based Group Coaching

The cohort model is exciting because it features a launch. The defining start and end dates of cohort-based courses do more than bookmark progression; they become a way to celebrate new beginnings and commemorate everything your clients learned along the way.

The cohort-based model might remind clients of a school program where they participated in a group of similar students and learned from a teacher. This structure gives the following benefits:

  • Accountability: You can set expectations and milestones. For example, a business coach might expect clients to create a description of their product suite by a specific date.
  • Group projects: You can group coaching clients together for an assignment. For example, an event-planning coach might pair clients up to plan an event.
  • Focused live topics: You can cover content in live group coaching sessions and allow for questions. All questions are applicable since everyone is in a similar stage.
  • Practiced delivery: Once you deliver this program a few times, it becomes easier to present every time.

This model presents a few drawbacks that can limit your reach or effectiveness. If you like this model, you’ll want to work through these typical challenges.

  • Community: Your cohort is formed from all new clients, which can feel polite but awkward when compared to dropping them into an established community. Consider how you can create a feeling of camaraderie. Research Tuckman’s model for help.
  • Leadership: In established communities, those with leadership skills answer questions or suggest resources. But in a cohort-based group, you are the sole leader, meaning clients look to you for all the answers. Consider what your schedule can support.
  • Constant rotation: You’ll need to fill your program every cycle, so consider how much time you’ll need to spend marketing your program. If your program takes four months to complete and two months to fill, you’ll need to consider running it every six months.
  • Varying needs: A lock-step program means clients who lack fundamentals or have a full schedule may feel behind or overwhelmed. And your advanced clients can feel frustrated as they wait for new content to drop.

If you love being hands-on as you guide a small, intimate group, cohort-based group coaching programs may be perfect for you!

It’s fulfilling to see a group “graduate” frequently. It can also be an easy way to gain feedback, testimonials, and a reputation for launching your students toward their desired goals.

One great example of a cohort-based group coaching program is Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain live cohort, which helps people manage their information. While it’s described as a course, it fits our definition of a group coaching program because it offers direct coaching and personalized support in a group setting.

Tiago Forte uses facilitators to manage his many clients in his four-week program
Tiago Forte uses facilitators to manage his many clients in his four-week program 

2. Standard Group Coaching Program

The standard group coaching program runs for about two to six months. This model is a highly convenient option for motivated clients and experienced coaches. This model shifts the burden of accountability and motivation to the client.

This type of group coaching is like a course with added group coaching benefits.

Let’s dig into the benefits.

  • On-demand: The learning content is on demand. Clients can sign up anytime and get dropped into your program immediately. This lets them feel a sense of momentum when they sign up.
  • Self-paced: Clients can move forward at their own pace. Some clients like moving more slowly to develop mastery along the way. Others will want to move quickly or skip any familiar steps.
  • Pricing: This program is often the lowest price because it includes the least access to the coach. Demands on the coach are lighter, and you can support a greater number of students than in the cohort model.
  • Adaptable: Clients can prioritize their needs. This is an excellent option for coaches with an extensive course library.

The program also has a few downsides that are important to consider.

  • Automation: A standard group coaching program must-have tools and triggers set up in advance. Coaches use automated processes to motivate and keep clients on track so they get results.
  • Recorded: Much like an evergreen course, you’ll need to record your program beforehand so your clients can get started. Since it’s best to deliver live group sessions a few times to get practice and implement feedback, this is best with an established program.
  • Community: Since you’re dropping new clients into an established community, fostering its health is vital. Monitor your group to ensure it’s as supportive as your clients expect.

If you have a proven coaching program, if you can work indirectly through managing a healthy community, and you love automating an experience with tools and technology, a standard group coaching program could be the perfect fit for you.

Success with Digital is an example of a group coaching program. It offers Live Labs group coaching with its online courses and certifications.

In Live Labs, Success with Digital offers coaching in digital marketing
In Live Labs, Success with Digital offers coaching in digital marketing

3. Membership Model

While there are many different types of memberships, a typical membership involves access to a course or past content, a community, and monthly live events.

Memberships are often a fabulous way to support ongoing learning and development with content that engages and drives conversation within a community of like-minded people.

Some advantages of a membership model include the following:

  • Continuous growth: This model is an excellent option for clients who want to specialize in the membership topic, for example, a professional association.
  • Greater depth: Because membership offers continuous learning, it can encourage more in-depth conversations among group members.
  • Peer support: Members vary in skill and experience, which gives newer members the benefit of receiving support, answers, and ideas from informal leaders, lessening the burden on the coach.
  • Smaller fees: The membership model is generally a lower cost and, if associated with a client’s business, can be a tax write-off or count for continuous education. Despite its low cost, because memberships can be larger, you can still generate significant revenue.

Be sure to address the following considerations as you develop your membership community.

  • Community: Your community is one of the two most important benefits of membership. But that also means you’ll need to spend time nurturing your community.
  • Website: Your coaching website must support free content, paid content, and community. While you can do this with two Facebook groups (free and paid), it fails to give the same experience as a community platform.
  • Content: Your members expect new content consistently. It can be a challenge to make it feel fresh and relevant. Analysis of the community comments and their challenges can help you generate ideas.
  • Growth: Rapid growth can change the feel of a community, yet growth is necessary for your business. Consider how to expand, onboard new members, and prepare existing ones to embrace the change.

If you love growing and managing a large community, discussing in-depth content, and presenting live coaching sessions to a crowd every few weeks, this could be the perfect fit for you.

An excellent membership example is Tonya Leigh’s School of Self-Image, which supports women in mindset, style, and surroundings.

This shows what’s included in the School of Self-Image membership
This shows what’s included in the School of Self-Image membership

Tips to Conduct Group Coaching Sessions Effectively 

Once you decide on the group coaching model that’s best for you, you’ll want to create your group coaching program. The following seven tips can help you structure a coaching program that’s ideal for a group.

1. Set Goals for the Program

Ask yourself this question: “As a result of my group coaching program, my clients will be able to…” You want to complete this sentence with what they can think, feel, and do because of your coaching program.

When you come up with the best answer to that question, you’ll have a goal that drives all the decisions you’ll need to make about your coaching. You can turn that goal into your mission statement and a vision board.

Here are a few examples. These goals make great endings to the statement, “As a result of my group coaching, you’ll be able to….”

Krista uses her goal as a clear benefit on her group coaching page
Krista uses her goal as a clear benefit on her group coaching page

What happens when a program is successful with goals like these? Your goals help you prioritize content and attract the right clients.

2. Assign Roles Within the Group

Your strategies for managing your community will differ based on whether it’s a larger group (as with memberships and standard groups) or an intimate, short-term group (as with cohort-based groups).

For intimate, short-term cohorts, prioritize direct communication with members. With larger groups, assign roles and prioritize communication with emerging informal leaders. Let these trusted members shape the group’s dynamics. As your group grows, you may want to hire someone to help manage your group or hire a group expert for personalized advice.

3. Incorporate Different Learning Techniques

Most coaches have a few favorite teaching techniques. While these could mean a signature style for your coaching method, you’ll want to avoid falling into habits.

Here are some benefits of changing up your technique:

  • Reduce lectures: Most coaches, teachers, and mentors fall into lecture mode because it’s efficient. But it’s not always effective. See if you can set up a situation for clients to discover new truths or breakthroughs independently.
  • Improve attention: Whenever you roll out something new, people pay attention. Our brains pay attention to anything new or different. Use this brain feature by capturing attention with something unexpected.  
  • Use the right tool: Some tools are better for certain situations than others. Consider the best problems for a case study, demonstration, role play, or discussion. Match your activity to the desired outcome.
  • Offer preferences: People prefer to learn in different ways. Some clients prefer to read, whereas others prefer to listen or do something with their hands.

4. Use Technology

Use technology to manage your coaching programs. Technology is especially vital in the standard and membership models.

A coaching platform like Upcoach, or a community platform like Circle, can make it easier for you to deliver a quality experience for your coaching program.

Additionally, a coaching platform can help you better manage your group with specialized features.

  • Granting access to structured content
  • Monitoring accountability and habit success
  • Managing communication with clients and admin
  • Tracking your clients and engagement
Upcoach includes a program builder that can make it easy to implement your ideas
Upcoach includes a program builder that can make it easy to implement your ideas

When you’re just starting out, or if you have only a small intimate group, you can likely use Facebook and Zoom to coach and manage clients with a Google spreadsheet. Still, as you grow, professional platforms have the potential to make life easier.

5. Allow Time for Reflection and Sharing Experiences

While you may view long, frequent sessions as having exceptional value, they can unintentionally burden your clients.

Here are some questions to ask when planning the frequency and length of your sessions.

  • How much time will clients need between sessions? If you ask clients to complete a life map, consider that it could take up to six hours. A week might not be enough time.
  • How can you encourage mental processing? New information is more easily adopted when you allow time for you to share new content and for your client to process it.
  • How overwhelmed are your clients right now? If your clients are busy, create short, powerful sessions. People don’t learn as well when they’re overwhelmed.
  • How motivated are your clients? Highly motivated, confident clients can tolerate a “firehose” approach. Others need smaller lessons or support with templates and tools.

A daily journal is one way to encourage reflection and share experiences, even on their own time. This activity is an example of how clients can explore what they learned in the last session and apply it in their lives.

You can create a workbook or journal to facilitate the assignments between sessions
You can create a workbook or journal to facilitate the assignments between sessions

6. Put the Coaching in Your Group Coaching Program

The coaching in group coaching can be problematic. The larger your group is, the more difficult it becomes to deliver personal coaching consistently. These are a few group coaching options.

  • Round robin: Everyone is given a chance to get coached. This is best for small groups.
  • Hot seat: Clients submit questions, and you select those that benefit the whole group.
  • End of call: Anyone can raise their hand and receive coaching.
  • Private coaching: Each member receives one or more one-on-one coaching sessions.
  • DM access: Clients get DM help with a sales call, a technology issue, or emotional support when their mother-in-law creates a scene.
A community platform like Circle makes it seamless to coach and connect in a single place
A community platform like Circle makes it seamless to coach and connect in a single place

7. Celebrate Success and Rate Performance

Celebrating success is so much more than simply having a good time. It can also remind your clients of everything they accomplished during your program! This can absolutely create stunning testimonials for you.

Here are some essentials for off-boarding calls.  

  • Rewards: Hand out rewards or recognition. It could be a title, a GIF, or a certificate to remind them of what they accomplished.
  • Next goals: Ensure they have a plan for continuing to implement what they learned or progressing to their next goal.
  • Summarize: Ask clients to summarize what they got out of the program or if they’d recommend it to a friend. With permission, use clips of this on your testimonials page.
  • Feedback: Ask specific feedback questions either on the call or in a follow-up form. You’ll ask more questions when your program is new and fewer once established.  

Off-boarding is just as important, if not more important, than every other coaching call because it reinforces the value your clients received.


Group coaching programs can be incredibly beneficial to your clients. Choose the one that makes the most sense for you, your clients, and what you’re teaching. And be willing to chart your way with a hybrid option if none of these three fits perfectly.

Which of the three programs suits you and your clients best? Are there any tips that surprised you or that you think are missing?

Share your responses below. We want to celebrate with you.

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