Rule 10: Recruit and accredit internal coaches properly
Summary: Coaches can’t deliver consistently without proper, agreed standards and processes. And consistency is critical to small group leadership coaching.
Written by Alistair Gordon 04 Jun 2020

Surely everyone can deliver a small group coaching leadership pod? Well, no – not in our experience (and we have seven years of experience with more than 40 coaches).

Coaches can’t deliver consistently, anyway, without proper standards and processes being agreed. And if you are deploying small group coaching as a leadership program then consistency is very important.

When we first started Fastlead, this was an area we neglected, and it was nearly fatal.

We lost several early clients because we weren’t inflexible enough around coaching capabilities and standards. We’d urge you not to make the same mistake.

If you are deploying internal coaches – that is HR, OD and L&D professionals – we would argue this is an even more crucial success factor.

If you are deploying existing external coaches on your roster, don’t make the same mistake that we did – assuming that executive coaches who got excellent one-to-one coaching feedback will naturally make good leadership coaches of pods.

More often than you might expect, they don’t. Many of our most successful Fastlead coaches tell us that beyond the accreditation they did with us, it took several pods, and feedback from us, before they became really competent.

Why is this?

If you are designing a small group coaching leadership program, that is curriculum based, then running the pods is a curious and shifting combination of facilitation and coaching. And since every pod is different, it’s not possible to mandate specific timings, or even how much time to spend on which parts of the content.

Part of the success of pods is that the participants leads their own development, setting, to a certain extent, their own agenda. This means the coach needs to manage events and timings carefully, and be prepared to flex, but not too far.

After several mis-steps, we decided on a fully-blown accreditation workshop. As a barrier to entry, we expect potential Fastlead coaches to be very experienced and successful one-to-one coaches in their own right.

Accreditation doesn’t cover how to coach. It covers how to modify techniques used in one-to-one coaching, to coaching pod situations. We also spend some time on the curriculum and how we’d like it delivered, but this only forms a small part of the accreditation process.

We have established the Fastlead Eight Principles of Small Group Coaching which are available for download on our Fastlead website.

What can go wrong with coaching?

Too much content

We’ve found that L&D professionals who spend much of their time delivering content, rather than coaching, find it difficult to coach pods. They spend far too long in the pod delivering content (which should be maximum of 25 per cent of the time) – in their comfort zone. They don’t spend enough time asking questions that they don’t know the answer to – the secret of pod coaching and often outside their comfort zone.

Too much detail

People & Culture executives who love a very detailed Run Sheet, and like to stick to it, also tend to find coaching small groups very difficult. One of the key principles of small group coaching is that the discussion can very often – and very profitably – go off in tangents. And small group coaches need to be able to handle that.

Trust – it’s a very big issue.

You can’t have real and honest conversations in coaching pods with leaders unless they know – without any fear of breach – that what goes on in the room, stays in the room (whether virtual or not).

Internal P&C executives have to establish this trust and rule very early on, and make sure that they don’t break it.

For example: A front-line leader complaining about their manager – it stays in the room. The P&C executive may not, under any circumstances, ever leverage that knowledge, because it doesn’t belong to them. They never heard it. It belongs to the participants in the room.

This is the largest single reason organisations often decide to utilise external coaches. You must choose coaches who can build this level of trust with the participants.


All 40 of our Fastlead coaches across Australia and New Zealand have been fully accredited.

We measure the performance of coaches in every pod twice per cycle, and share this information with the coaches, for development and performance management purposes. Several coaches we accredited are no longer deployed after successive average results. We require high performance figures from our coaches on a constant basis to remain on our roster.

Once a year we bring all our coaches together for a coaching conference to practice our skills, provide feedback, and build the coaching community we are so proud of.

Download 13 Rules to build and run your own small group coaching program