How to Set Up a DIY Coaching Circle

coaching circleThe women I work with are taking big leaps, such as relaunching their careers, starting a business, or taking their career to the next level. At times, working towards these goals can be frustrating and isolating. Being a part of a coaching circle can make the difference between success and stagnation.

Oprah says, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”  Belonging to a coaching circle is one effective way to do just that.

Simply put, a coaching circle is a small group of individuals with common goals who want to work on those goals in a supportive and motivating environment. At formally structured working meetings, all members have their turn in the “hot seat” during which the rest of the group serves as that person’s Board of Advisors. Group members offer each other honest feedback, brainstorming, cheerleading and much needed truth-telling.  In the numerous coaching circles I have facilitated for my own business as well as iRelaunch, I have seen deep, trusting relationships develop contributing to tremendous professional and personal progress.

Coaching circles facilitated by a trained and experienced coach is ideal. The coach serves as leader, moderator and brings specialized tools and resources. Sometimes due to cost or availability, having a coach lead the group doesn’t work. In those cases, I would much rather see women pull together a DIY Coaching Circle then skip the experience altogether.

Here are my tips for putting together a group that will keep you motivated and in forward action:

  1. Choose a well-matched group of individuals. The goal is to create a safe and courageous space where members can set big goals, take risks, and know that the other members have their back. Confidentiality is a must.
  2. Set up the structure and expectations for the group. Questions to consider: How many members? Length of each meeting? Who will be the leader/timekeeper or does that rotate? What you are looking for from each other? Will there be specific topics you focus on each session, or more free-form? What kind of prep should members do before meetings? What will be the communication in between?
  3. Determine the format for each meeting. I have found it helpful to decide on the amount of time for group check-in, how much time each person will have in the “hot seat”, and then amount of time for closing that session. We use a timer so that each person has the same amount of hot seat time to bring their wins and challenges to the group.
  4. Train each member to use her time in the hot seat wisely. She should articulate what she needs during that session (“someone to kick my butt into action”, “encouragement”, “another set of eyes on this cover letter or business plan”) and what she hopes to walk away with. It is always most helpful to be crystal clear what you are asking for from the group.
  5. Close with each person committing to specific actions they will focus on between now and the next session. The group should challenge each woman to set stretch goals – something bigger than she would have set on her own but still attainable. And the leader should track these commitments so at the start of the next meeting each person can report back on what she accomplished relative to the goals set. Accountability to the group is a strong motivator.

Due to the challenges of schedules, my coaching circles usually meet in person 1-2 times/month. However, I find that the members benefit between sessions by knowing that they will soon be reporting on their progress to the group. And, they are highly motivated by witnessing each others’ momentum.

Brian Carruthers says “You are, or will become, the average of the five people you associate with the most.” This is particularly important when you are taking a big leap with your career. Who can you associate with to keep you clear and in action?

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