• Mar 08 2024

Strengthen Your Structured Leadership Development Program with Group Coaching

Group coaching is a powerful tool for developing leaders and organizations, particularly when part of a structured development program designed to target a specific set of capabilities. In this article, you’ll learn how to determine if group coaching is right for your leaders and how to integrate ExecOnline’s Group Coaching programs into a structured leadership development initiative.

The need for structured leadership development

As innovation and technology continue to reduce the half-life of skills in the workforce, leadership development is increasingly viewed as mission-critical to ensure organizations are prepared to navigate an ever-evolving business environment. At the same time, there is increased pressure to demonstrate that leadership development initiatives move the needle by showing a measurable return on investment. 

A structured approach to leadership development can accelerate leaders’ ability to learn and apply new skills by:

  1. clearly outlining the capabilities leaders need to navigate current and future challenges, and 
  2. offering curated learning and coaching opportunities that meet the unique learning needs of leaders. 

The most effective structured leadership development initiatives are:


By curating the development topics and experiences for leaders, you provide them with a clear blueprint for building the capabilities that will improve their ability to drive impact against organizational goals.


Setting clear deadlines and expectations for completing a development program boosts engagement. When leaders get busy, it can be easy to deprioritize learning in favor of competing work priorities. According to eLearning Industry, setting and enforcing deadlines for L&D programs can increase completion rates by 30%


Structured approaches to leadership development build in goals and key performance indicators from the start. Your goals may be to increase leaders’ confidence in a set of capabilities or to increase retention and engagement among a leader cohort. 

Start by identifying your goals and understanding the metrics and means by which you will measure the success of your initiative. ExecOnline’s Impact Measurement offers comprehensive data on participant enrollment, engagement, learning outcomes, and ROI of individual programs.


Structured programs help reinforce the uptake and application of new concepts by empowering leaders to explore a topic from a variety of angles via a variety of learning formats. Formats may include synchronous and on-demand courses, coaching, and peer discussion groups, all targeting the same capability or set of capabilities. The flexibility of a multimodal program helps leaders learn at their own pace while encouraging perspective and knowledge sharing that can deepen a leader’s understanding of the leadership topic. 

Group coaching reinforces learning

Group coaching is particularly effective at reinforcing the application of skills and retention of concepts among a cohort of leaders. Compared to learning alone, coaching combined with learning increases leaders’ likelihood to apply new concepts by 50% and doubles their likelihood of being recognized for their performance.

At ExecOnline, Group Coaching is a shared experience in which a selected group of leaders is guided by a professional leadership coach to explore a leadership theme, collaborate on shared goals, and reflect on the skills they need to achieve those goals.

Group coaching helps leaders dig deeper into leadership topics by encouraging knowledge and perspective sharing among their peers with the guidance of an experienced coach facilitator. When paired with other learning programs, such as on-demand courses, group coaching can reinforce and accelerate the application of newly learned concepts.

It also serves to boost leaders’ engagement and retention: participants of ExecOnline Group Coaching report being more committed to staying at their organization and more willing to go above and beyond in their role as a result of their experience.

How to add ExecOnline Group Coaching to your structured leadership development initiative

ExecOnline’s Group Coaching framework creates an opportunity for leaders to meaningfully engage with a leadership theme over three sessions, inviting groups to explore the theme as it relates to their performance at the individual, team, and organizational levels. This approach helps leaders understand how to maximize their individual and collective efforts toward common goals. 

These themed, three-session coaching programs can be paired with related on-demand courses to reinforce learning outcomes and accelerate the application of new concepts. Here’s an example of how you might structure an integrated learning and coaching journey for a cohort of new managers over the course of one year in ExecOnline’s platform: 

Above: Illustrative example of a structured, 12-month leadership development journey for new managers using
ExecOnline on-demand learning and Group Coaching programs.

In the above example, on-demand learning programs are sequenced throughout the year to incrementally build foundational leadership skills. The structured learning and coaching journey kicks off in the first quarter with a series of Group Coaching sessions focused on the Manager Essentials theme. During this quarter, leaders also complete the 6-week, intensive Launch Into Leadership program, which is designed to prime leaders for their new role by helping them shift their mindset, build their leadership toolkit, and learn tactics for motivating and managing teams.

For the remainder of the year, leaders participate in shorter on-demand programs–roughly one program every two months–that are designed to sequentially build their leadership knowledge and capabilities. These learning programs are complemented and reinforced by another 3-session Group Coaching program focused on the theme of Impactful Communication, an essential pillar of competent leadership.

This structure gives direction and momentum to leaders’ development, and provides frequent touch points with coaches and peers to reflect and connect on newly learned concepts. Because all ExecOnline programs include a project component (by which leaders apply new concepts directly to a real-world challenge in their role) these touch points with peers and coaches are also invaluable opportunities to receive feedback and share best practices and lessons learned.

In this model, intensive, more concentrated learning and coaching is front loaded into the first quarter of the year to jump-start the learning journey, and rapidly build rapport and a shared understanding of common leadership goals among the cohort. The rest of the year presents a more flexible, sustainable structure that is designed to accommodate busy leaders while maintaining the momentum and impact of learning.

Over the course of 12 months, the leader cohort will have received up to five certificates of completion from top business schools and management experts, executed five applied learning projects to drive greater impact in their role, and reinforced their learning and formed valuable peer connections through six Group Coaching sessions.

“My sessions were very energizing and inspiring. I appreciated being able to step away from the job and view things more holistically. I’m already feeling more excited about my goals and priorities.”

ExecOnline Group Coaching participant; Director at a distribution services company

Start designing your structured leadership development program

Ready to start designing your structured leadership development initiative? Here are the steps to get started.

  1. Understand your organization’s top priorities and objectives (read more tips on identifying your company’s goals).
  2. Identify the capability gaps (using surveys and stakeholder interviews) that need to be addressed in order to meet organizational goals.
  3. Identify the leader populations at your company whose development will drive the biggest impact toward organizational goals (for example, new managers, high-potential leaders, senior executives, etc.)
  4. Based on the leader population(s) you identified, decide what mix of learning modes will be most impactful for that population.
  5. Select from ExecOnline’s Curated Collections and Group Coaching themes to target particular leadership capabilities and amplify learning outcomes. 

Interested in exploring ExecOnline’s Curated Learning Collections and Group Coaching themes?

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