Can small group coaching deliver the flexibility you have been looking for?
Summary: OD and LD professionals are looking for programs that are flexible, focused on participants, scalable and customisable. Fastlead hits the sweet spot between individual coaching and conventional management training
Written by Alistair Gordon 14 Apr 2020

Image credit: Greysor Jorelemon on Unsplash

Most front-line leadership programs are workshop sessions held over a few days. Organisations pull participants out of the front line, often flying many of them in from other locations. The trainer spends these few days trying to teach them how to lead, by flipping open their heads and pouring in 12 to 14 topics. They are then expected to hit the ground running as newly minted leaders.

At HFL, we have researched over a thousand participants who have undertaken this sort of intense workshop training. Front-line leaders dislike it for several reasons:

  • They don’t like being pulled away from their real job for two or three days; their teams need them.

  • They don’t like trying to cover so many topics in one training program; they would prefer one topic at a time, and time to practise.

  • They don’t get personal attention in big groups;l they prefer smaller groups where they get personal attention about real problems on their real teams.

  • They don’t like being “taught”. They prefer discussing experiences with a coach and colleagues, and figuring out answers to problems. They want a highly experiential approach to learning.


Curriculum-based small group coaching - and our Fastlead program in particular - addresses all of these concerns.

In our program, each “pod” has one coach and three participants (occasionally four). Each two hour session concentrates on a single specific topic. Participants, and/or their managers, and/or their L&D team, can choose from 14 front-line leadership topics.

Frequency is episodic - typically monthly. Cycles of sessions are either 6 session or 8 sessions.

At the end of each session, participants agree on which skills they most wish to work on, and the following month report back on successes and learnings.

Of the 14 topics in the Fastlead program, one is mandatory and runs first: ‘My Leadership Brand’. Following this is a typical range of subjects - for example, topics such as Leading People Through Change, Setting Performance Expectations, Coaching & Developing Others, Motivation and Mastering Managing Up.

The flexibility of Fastlead

OD and LD professionals are looking for programs that are flexible, focused on participants, scalable and customisable. Fastlead hits the sweet spot between individual coaching and conventional management training. It is an increasingly popular option.

Small group coaching, such as Fastlead, provides both the participants and their organisations with real flexibility. There are many ways to execute the program.

  • Choice of topics.

All topics can be determined beforehand or the participants can choose them. Sometimes it is a combination of both. Our experience is that participants love being able to choose their own subject areas. Milliennials in particular love being able to choose – they see it as a real benefit.

The Fastlead program includes a development needs assessment upfront. This ensures each pod and each program is directly relevant to all participants, and identifies participants who share common development needs. There are no dead periods.

  • Pod composition There are different ways to populate each pod.

Birds of a feather pods – where participants are from the same group within the organisation.

Silo buster pods – where participants are from different parts of the business, to help them build a cross-organisational understanding.

Geography buster pods – one of the biggest costs of conventional leadership development is flying people in and putting them in hotels for a few days. With Fastlead, smaller groups can usually be put together from attendees at a single site, which saves substantially on expenses. Because the sessions are short, any remote participants can be included via Zoom or another videoconferencing tool. It is a great way to break down geographical barriers.

  • Varied number of participants

The number of participants can be varied – though three or four in the pod is an ideal number. The sessions can be varying lengths – even with a full day to begin with subsequent shorter sessions. Each pod can have a different program, chosen to be particularly relevant to its participants. Fastlead’s modular nature enables extreme flexibility.

  • Scalability

With small group coaching, and in particular an established program and team such a Fastlead, is highly scaleable. Organisations have started with one pod of three participants; others started with 38 pods and 150 participants.

Small group coaching gets results

Small group coaching works. Participants feel supported, they can share each others’ challenges, and they can work together outside their pods. And in small groups it’s OK to hold each other accountable for behaviours, homework, and change.

Feedback from participants - and their managers - is universally positive. Many participants claim it is the best training they’ve ever had.

To execute small group coaching properly for front line leaders, you need systems, experience, a well-researched curriculum, and a host of highly trained, accredited coaches. At Fastlead, all this infrastructure and capability is at your finger tips - established, honed, proven, cost-effective, and easy to deploy.

Check out what some of our customers have to say here.

Check out feedback from hundreds and hundreds of participants here.

Request a Fastlead Briefing Deck here.

Check out our Three Flavours of Fastlead - programs for front-line leaders, middle managers, and sales leaders - here.

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