Rule four: Over communicate the importance of appropriate nomination
Summary: A single nomination from a participant who shouldn’t be part of a pod - or who doesn’t want to be there, or who doesn’t understand why they are there - will be disastrous. Make sure managers understand the need to nominate the right participants.
Written by Alistair Gordon 04 Jun 2020

When it comes to a leadership program for 15 participants – a typical workshop cohort size – if you accidentally accept a nomination from someone who shouldn’t be there, or doesn’t want to be there, or doesn’t understand why they are there - the percentage impact to the group is about 10%.

Yes, we know, one 15th is about 7%. But ask any facilitator, and they’ll tell you they spend one tenth of their time and energy managing the toxic impact of disengaged or highly cynical participants. (Which means, by the way, that the rest of the participants get only a little over 6% of the facilitator’s attention.)

Make a mistake in small group coaching and the impact is at least 33% in a three-person pod – and probably much more. The whole relationship between participants is impacted. One person not turning up regularly has a worst impact.

This means that the basics around the correct nomination procedure for small group coaching has to be more robust than usual.

Then there is the added complexity of nominating a manager as well – because the way in which effective small group coaching design works is that the managers of the participants are highly involved through the program. Which means they have to be ready to take on their responsibilities as well. We’ve learned the following processes and elements work best.

Brief managers on the program first. Be specific about nomination criteria

First amongst these is that the participant wants to be involved in the development program. Secondly, the manager is prepared to accept the responsibilities that go with nominating their direct report. Third amongst these are that the managers understand that – because it is small group coaching – their participant has to attend every session, without fail, and the policy is “use it or lose it” (see ‘Rule 6 - ‘Be totally prepared to be inflexible’).

A detailed Participant Guide, and a matching detailed Manager Guide

This guide explains the structure of the program, the rules, and contains the coaching contract, outlining the responsibilities both the manager and the participant are signing up to.

Clear nomination criteria, with as few exceptions as possible

If the program is a high-potential program, HFL recommends the nomination should come from the participant, not the manager. The nomination needs approval from the manager and another senior person outside the chain of command.

A Red Flag system in the early stages

Our coaches are authorised to raise a red flag if they feel that (a) the participant is not engaged or (b) the participant hasn’t been properly briefed about why they are on the program. In this way, we can quickly swap out a participant and add in a new one, without disrupting the other participants in the pod too much.

We all know that leadership development programs are only as successful as the commitment of the participants on the program to want to learn, and become better leaders. A really robust nomination process is the first building block to an outstanding successful program – the right participants, for the right reasons, with the right attitude.

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