I stared at my phone, reading the simple instructions Omar had left for us in the Habitry app during the first Essentials of Habit Coaching cohort.
I swallowed hard. No big deal, I said to myself. I got this. He had just asked us to work on a new coaching habit: “I will start group conversations about change.”
What if everyone says no when I ask them to join my group? What if I don't have anything to say? Dozens of doubts ran through my head about why this group thing was definitely not going to work.
Starting Small and Asking for Help
My free group initially had about 10 people in it, including clients and my sisters. I expressed concerns in our Essentials of Habit Coaching cohort about how tiny my group felt, and so Sarah Campbell, Jason Leenarts, and Chris Forrest all jumped into my group to support me. By writing their own comments on discussion questions I posted, they showed my clients how it’s done. I was able to establish a new normal in my group, and I paid back the favor by joining my fellow coaches’ groups to help them do the same.
Getting Up to Speed with Sharing and Starting Discussions
Just like I ask from my clients, I worked on the group by practicing and acquiring new habits. At first, it was just about doing Omar's original habit: asking the questions to the group every day. Like our clients who are trying to change their habits, I set up my own habit plans for the number of times I would post questions in the week. I obsessively checked my Facebook notifications for a while during this early period, waiting for any chance to practice my skills in questioning, reflecting, and giving affirmations. Like my clients trying out new things, I got a bit excited when anyone took a moment to respond.
Most importantly, I kept showing up for the group, no matter what response I received. I was asking questions, reflecting back to people and responding to their comments and questions. It took about 3 months until I was in the habit of posting every day in the group. Sometimes I’d hear nothing, and other times people posted lots of likes and comments. I learned about what time of the day and what kinds of questions seemed to get the most response, so I leveled up my posting habit — making sure to post at the most responsive time of day or to ask the most popular types of questions every week.
Growing the Free Group
Once I felt confident about what and how I posted content to the group, I practiced the habit of asking people to join my group. This meant personally messaging or talking to people about joining the group or letting someone know about it. I made a list of fans — old college roommates who often liked my fitness-related posts, family (beyond my sisters!), and acquaintances from the gym where I run my business. My process goal: invite one person every day. This habit was easier, because I tagged the habit to trigger immediately after making the daily group post. I’d post in the group, then message someone to tell them about it, and ask if they wanted to join or knew someone who would.
Once I finished my short list of leads, I tried a few less comfortable personal asks. It was torture — way too hard and not very fun! So I tried something different. I branched out and posted a description and a link in other communities in Facebook that I belonged to, starting with the Facebook group for parents at my children's school. They had a post for local businesses, and my post "Free Healthy Community" picked up a few visitors. I did the same in a few other favorite groups. Again, I picked only one to do each day, so it didn't feel unmanageable or like I was on Facebook all day. Sometimes, I skipped it, but the consistency kept producing more people.
As the group has grown, some members — particularly those that know me personally — have asked if they could invite a family member or a friend. And I enthusiastically say “Yes!” because I want those who find value in the community to bring more people that they think would find value in it. Those new, invited people will be way more committed long term than if I ran a Facebook ad scheme to add members.
Cultivating a Community Is My New Normal
My group isn’t the biggest on Facebook by a long shot. It's a speck of dust in the Facebook universe. But if someone had told me six months ago that it would grow to 12 times its original size? I wouldn't have believed them. And the fact is that I continue to make progress every day. It feels totally in line with the best version of my business self to have harnessed the microcosmic communities to which I belong to build my own community.
Here's my friendly challenge to you: Treat yourself like a client. You already have what you need to get started and make more progress than you can imagine. Don't grow it alone. Use your communities to build your community.
Susan Ogilvie is a personal trainer in the Chicago area who helps clients become the best version of themselves. Her community SO Fit Wellness is growing fast.
Essentials of Habit Coaching is a 5-week online program offered by Habitry that helps coaches foster habit-based change in their client communities. Don’t have your own community yet? Join the Motivate Forum, a free community for coaches who are constantly improving their powers of motivation.