Joanna Lott Coaching

How to Create a Successful Group Coaching Programme: Fay Wallis’ Journey

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How to Create a Successful Group Coaching Programme

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity this week to chat with Fay Wallis, a Career and Executive Coach, so she could share her valuable learnings from launching and running her successful group programme, Inspiring HR.

Incidentally, her podcast, HR Coffee Time, is charting in the top 2% of all podcasts worldwide! Quite an achievement when there are around 3.5 million podcasts out there.

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In our conversation, she shared so much gold on how to create a brilliant group experience and why we should start now and get perfect later – because perfect never comes. 

Here’s what Fay had to share. Enjoy!

How I started out in coaching

I set up my company, Bright Sky Career Coaching, nearly eight years ago, starting off as a career coach to all professions. I resisted niching for so long, yet it made such a difference when I finally did (only a year and a half ago!), choosing to focus on being a Career and Executive Coach to HR professionals. That’s when I saw a dramatic increase in the business that came my way.

What inspired me to create a group programme

 You, Jo, for one! I’d seen you in action running your group programme and thought you were amazing.

And I was doing a lot of outplacement work with organisations, where you support people being made redundant, helping them to move on and achieve their next goals.

Although I’d built a good reputation and had a lot of work, it could be unpredictable and all consuming, which ended up feeling unfair on my family.

I still wanted to help HR professionals, but I wanted to be in control of when I was helping them – that’s when I decided to start my group programme.

I’ve got an HR background and I understand the challenges they face, how lonely it can be at the top and how hard it can be for them to get buy-in for their ideas.

More than coaching

I realised that I could create a group programme that wasn’t just coaching but could also include an element of training, introducing concepts and frameworks that I knew would be helpful.

It was also really important to me to help the group to bond and connect so that, once the group programme was over, they would continue those relationships and have that ongoing support and camaraderie, which makes such a difference when you’re having a bad day or you’re feeling stuck.

Engaging people in my creation phase

I’ve learned over the years that inviting people to share your process brings them with you on your journey.

You can post something basically saying, “Isn’t my programme great!” and they can scroll right past.

But getting people actively involved really helps them to notice you, pay attention and engage with you. It also means that you’re creating something useful that they actually like.

Running polls on LinkedIn about what people thought of my programme name ideas, and asking what podcast art cover image they preferred, for example, got a lot of traction and it was fascinating to read people’s thoughts and opinions.

On the right track?

During my creation phase, I also did research with a lot of HR professionals to check that I was on the right track and building something useful.

It’s so crucial, because it’s way too easy to spend a huge amount of time tucked away, head down, creating something you think people are going to love and that you can’t wait to share with the world.

So many people online tell us it’s easy to create an online course, making bold claims about huge success. I bought into that and so it was pretty demoralising and depressing when I didn’t get much interest because I hadn’t done my research first.

How my programme has developed

I first ran my programme as a pilot, setting out what I was planning on creating and the topics I would be covering each week. I offered it at half price in exchange for their feedback on the content as they worked through the programme, and running it this way really gave me the confidence to experiment.

I’ve now run my programme six times and it’s interesting to see how much of the content has changed over time.

Getting feedback on what’s working well and what’s not, and what they’re really enjoying and getting huge benefit from, means that you can constantly tweak and evolve your content to be even better.

And, although there are elements of my Inspiring HR programme that will always stay the same, I’m always changing little things. I love learning, and constantly evolving keeps things fresh for me too.

Challenges I’ve faced along the way

So, I learned the hard way about what not to do in the creation and promotion phase.

Running the programme had its own challenges too, when I first started.

It’s a six-week intensive programme and we meet once a week for a two hour group session covering various topics.

Gelling as a group

The first group didn’t really bond as a whole, which was an issue as it had been really important to me to create a long-term outcome for people after the programme finished.

I realised this was because the content was so jam-packed I hadn’t given people enough time to get to know each other properly at the start, and build relationships.

I was given great advice about keeping the content light, which I didn’t listen to at the time as I felt that more content equalled more value for money, but now that I’ve run this programme six times I understand what she meant.

There’s a real power in giving people the space to talk, to share their experiences and discuss their challenges.

And I really recommend a brilliant book by Priya Parker, called The Art of Gathering, that talks about how important it is for us to come together and how it enriches our lives.

Setting clear expectations

I really need accountability, and a lot of others do too, and I soon realised that I needed to be clearer about getting pe-work done before the group sessions, so everyone was on the same page and could make the most out of the sessions.

It was also key to highlight the importance of committing to the sessions and being on time, no matter how busy you are.

One-to-one sessions

I used to offer several one-to-one sessions as part of my group programme, but people would save them up as they felt they’d need them later. That meant everyone was then booking at the same time which became too overwhelming and demanding for me to manage my time and fit everyone in, especially as I also have my regular clients outside of the programme.

Then, I took the one-to-one sessions out of the programme offer and hardly anyone signed up! It was obviously part of my programme that people wanted, so I now offer one one-to-session. This still adds a lot of value but makes it manageable for me.

It’s a great feeling when someone in my programme books their one-to-one session then arrives saying that I’d already covered in a group session what they’d planned to talk about!

Upping your game

Any platform where you’re publishing regular long form content, whether it’s a podcast episode or a blog article or a video, whatever it may be, you’re constantly having to research themes and topics, and you’re learning so much from that research and prep, and from your guests too if you have them.

Deciding how long your programme will be

Although a coach I know who specialises in group coaching commented that my content sounded like it could run for six months rather than six weeks, I realised that six weeks works well for the many people who are working around term times.

And, if I’m honest, I also originally chose six weeks because my inner critic was making me doubt myself – what if people weren’t enjoying it and they were stuck with me for months!

Whatever number of weeks or months you choose for your programme will depend on your focus and the transformation you’re hoping your clients will achieve.

The first week will be very much about helping the group bond, setting them up for success, and laying the groundwork in managing expectations.

It’s also important to give plenty of time in your final group session for everyone to say goodbye to each other, like a ritual.

How I filled my programme

My podcast has brought a lot of HR professionals to me, and I’ve built a substantial audience.

But I can still get disappointed if sign-ups are low-ish for one of my programmes, and then I’m reminded that I hardly promoted it at all.

You’ve got to push yourself out of your comfort zone and do much more marketing than you’d think. Social media… mailings… videos… everyone is incredibly busy and you have to be front of mind when they’re ready to hear you.

How I made my content engaging

 If you love what you do your enthusiasm will be infectious. And the more you understand your content the more confidently you’ll present it.

To make it engaging, I thought about how I feel when I’m attending workshops and webinars, and what I find resonates and is stimulating, and I watched and learned from lots of other group programmes and masterminds.

My top three lessons learned from building and launching my programme

 1)    Go for it, even if you feel terrified and your inner critic is telling you it’s not going to work. To me, it’s about confidence. Still feeling nervous but having the confidence to push through. That’s your fuel for action.

2)    Progress is better than perfection. Switch your mindset from thinking everything has to be perfect to reminding yourself it’s an iterative process. Absolutely do your best to make it as good as possible, but make it better and better along the way rather than holding yourself back waiting for it to be perfect before you start. It’s just not possible.

3)    Do your research and canvass opinions to help you shape your content into what people really want. And, although you’re genuinely reaching out to people for their knowledge, in some cases they might ask to use your services. It’s all building relationships that you might reap the rewards from in the future.

Thank you for joining us on this journey.

Fay’s story is an inspiration to the impact of specialisation, the power of community, and the importance of resilience in marketing.

Whether you’re considering launching your own group programme or looking to refine an existing one, there’s much to learn from Fay’s experience.

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Hi, I’m Jo, and I’d love to help you on your coaching journey

I spent 20 years in corporate HR but faced challenges balancing work and family. Refusing to settle, I ventured into coaching, seeking financial success aligned with my values. Overcoming limiting beliefs, I developed strategies to attract clients, leading to the creation of my Reliable Results Path. Now, I support coaches in achieving their goals through my Business of Coaching program. My values of honesty, personalization, and courage guide me, fostering a community of impactful coaches who believe in inclusivity and making a difference. More about me




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Hello and welcome! I’m Joanna Lott, and I’m passionate about empowering qualified coaches like you to build brilliant businesses.