When Coaching Doesn’t Work

In this episode, Mike is back on the show to discuss some reasons why coaching doesn’t work. How to set the tone, building a relationship with a client, and so much more. Enjoy!

Table Of Contents

  • Building A Good Client – Coach Relationship First
  • Lack Of Commitment To The Process/ Having Accountability
  • How Clients Can Ask To Set Good Expectations To A Coach
  • Are You Talking More Than You’re Listening?
  • Slow Down Your Rate Of Speech
  • What Do You Value As A Coach?
  • Look At Yourself First And Figure Out Your Values

Building A Good Client-Coach Relationship First

April:    Today what Mike and I are going to talk about is when coaching does not work, and I think we can look at this from a variety of different levels because there’s a lot of things that goes into that. The first question that I wanted to pose is on whose side is it? Is it the coaches, is it on coaches side that it’s not working or is it on the client’s side that it’s not working and it could be either or both.

Mike Bledsoe:    That is an interesting thing because, it all starts with how the relationship is set up in the first place. A lot of times the conversation is happening between the coach and the client from the very beginning sets the tone for the entire relationship and whether someone’s going to be coachable or not. And it’s really the coach’s responsibility.

April:    Okay.

Mike Bledsoe:    To create a really good foundation. So that first interaction is to create expectations. So it’s really … When someone comes to a coach, a lot of times they don’t know what they don’t know and they’re coming to the coach because the coach is the expert. And all too often what I see and what I’ve dealt with in the past for myself is a lot of coaches do not set up expectations for the clients and for what’s going to be required of them. And then also clients don’t know what they can get from the coaches. I know a lot of clients under utilized coaches.

I remember when I was running a gym, I would get frustrated a lot of the times because clients would have a shoulder that was bothering them or their back was bothering them for months and months and months. But they never said anything about it. And the client a lot of times is shy or they feel like they’re going to make the coach wrong by saying, “Oh my shoulder hurts.” And like they’re blaming the coach. And so they don’t want the coach to feel bad that their shoulder hurts or the client thinks that they’re doing something wrong and they don’t want to admit to somebody else that something’s going on in their body and they want to be able to impress the coach. They don’t want to approach the coach with something wrong.

April:    Yeah.

Mike Bledsoe:    The truth is most clients are experiencing some type of physical pain in their body and the coach may be able to help them, but the conversation is not even happening in the first place.

April:    Okay.

Mike Bledsoe:    So in this example specifically, it’s good to, when you’re … This is an example of setting up really solid expectations as a coach to say, “Hey, do you have any injuries?” And then also get really deep into the why. So the coach always explaining why we’re doing something, why I’m asking you this question, why we’re doing this exercise. And when someone really understands the why they buy in. So as a coach you’re really wanting to get buy in and if you get buy in from the client and they’ll be on board with a lot more suggestions. And have a lot of trust.

April:    Yeah. Yeah, so building the relationship is a good place to start, you would say?

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah. I like the idea in the beginning of a coaching relationship, talking to the client about what it means to be coachable and I been in a lot of coaching relationships where I was the coach, but I also always have a coach and the last coach that I was being coached or that I’m coaching with now, I sat down with him and one of the things he asked me is, “Why did you hire me?” And I said, “Hey-

April:    That’s really important.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah, this is the results I’m looking for. This is what I feel I’m stepping into and I need support. And one of the things I recognize in some of the coaching relationships I had before when I was working with a coach because I was not 100% transparent and to what was going on in my life. I would hide things, things I was embarrassed about. And when things weren’t working and I was hiding things, the coach was not able to help me at all.
So, being a coach and then being coached, I go, “Oh, my frustration with clients a lot of times they’re not sharing what’s really going on.”

So when I sat down with my coach, I hired a new coach back in January. What I did is I said, “Hey, I am committed to full transparency. Even when I’m really uncomfortable with what I want to share, I’m going to share it.” And one of the things that he did it for me was, okay, well when you want to hide, when you don’t want to share something, what are some of the behaviors that show up? So he was really interested in my patterns behavior because different people hide in different ways.

April:    True.

Mike Bledsoe:    So I have a tendency, if I’m stressed or not wanting to share is to just work more. I was like, I’ll work harder and I’ll start like creating things to be done in the business and then I’ll get them done even though it’s not really moving the needle forward. Same thing happens with athletes is a lot of times, instead of sharing what’s going on with their coach, what they do is they hide it and they work harder. It’s like, Oh, I’ll just push harder. I’m not … Something’s not working. So it’s obviously the fact that I’m not working hard enough and so athletes will push and push and push and this is a pattern that I have and that pattern is very, very typical.

April:    Okay.

Mike Bledsoe:    So I like to bring that up. So setting expectations in the beginning and having a conversation of what being coachable is. And then as a coach if my clients aren’t listening to me, it’s usually because I’m not listening to them. And so I have a practice for learning how to listen to the clients and also getting us on the same page around language. What is it that I mean when I say this or when I say that?

April:    Yeah. I find that it’s really important too because at some points you could be on the same page and not know it because you’re using language differently. So that’s an important small detail that comes in to be really big in the end. Now as far as setting up expectations, you’ve touched on a few of the things that I had come up with as well. One is unmet expectations on both ends. Two, is unclear communication and you already touched on that as well with language and that goes into your kind of being on the same page as far as my expectations as well.

And then setting up along that line as well as setting up how to be coachable and telling your coach or like coaching your client to be coachable if they’re not already. And so can you go into a little bit more about on one hand how a coach can set up, help set up expectations and then also what the client can ask for too.

Going Deeper & Staying True To Yourself Lack Of Commitment To The Process/ Having Accountability

Mike Bledsoe:    So for the coach, setting up expectations is this is, how we communicate. If your coach in a gym. You can say, “Hey, when we’re in the gym, we’re going to schedule times. We’re going to sit down together or we’re going to be training in the gym and this is the perfect time to ask me these types of questions and you can hit me up on the Facebook group or you can hit me up on email.” Every coach has to decide what level of touch points, how many touch points they want to have with clients, and then give them access to that as much as possible and communicate that as much as possible. It’s like, “Yeah, if you need something, you hit me up here, here, here and here and this is how the program works.” And so each coach should have a process for which they get their clients results and the clients need to be aware of how that process works. And getting the client in the very beginning to say, “Hey, I’m committed to your process as a coach and I agree that I’m going to work inside of this process.”

A lot of times when I see a coaching fail is because the client challenges the coach and says, “I’m not going to do the process that we agreed upon.” There’s a lack of commitment from the athlete or the client, and what ends up happening is they want to do it their way and when a client gets to do it their way. The problem is they’re going to get the same results they’re going to get before they had a coach.

As doing, it their way is what got them the result of where they are now and if they want a result beyond that, they have to commit to a different process and so-

April:    Commit to a change and be coachable for that change.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah, having that commitment to the process that the coach sets up in the beginning is really, really important. I know with a strong coach, we set up very clear expectations and you’re going to have access to a Slack group. There’s a weekly ZOOM call. It’s at this time, it’s all these. You need to have consumed the content by this day. There’s a process and if you commit to the process you will get a really amazing result. But if you … A lot of times what happens to for clients is it’s so different than what they were doing before that there’s an internal conflict.

April:    I was just going to ask that. What if like a client is looking for some coaching and knows he or she wants some coaching yet the process is so new and different that they have a hard time opening up to that new process.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah. This is where the coach, if the coach witnesses that, the client straying away from the process and calling them out on it. And saying, “Hey, you’re not committed to this process or you are trying to do it your way.” And letting them know before it goes too far that they can expect diminished results.

April:    Okay.

Mike Bledsoe:    So a lot of times I’ve seen coaches letting that go too far. The athlete or the client is … They’re not committed to the process, not committed to the process. And then they come to the coach and go, “I’m not getting the results that I wanted.”

And so this is where it’s really great as a coach and having accountability and going, “Well, this is the process. You actually didn’t participate fully in the process, so I can’t promise you the results of the process.” And so it comes down to that and having accountability and catching the client before they complain. A lot of times what happens is the athlete or the client will start complaining and then the coach comes back and it’s like, it’s too late then. They’ve already built up some resentment or something like that and now it’s not going to work.

April:    Right? Yeah. So a coach that can can catch that before it happens and reel them back into … Keep them accountable towards the goals that they hired the coach for. Yes?

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah. I’ve had clients too. I remember when I was running a gym. I made the mistake of allowing people train twice a week. I was like, “Oh, you can buy a cheaper membership and train just twice a week.” And then I had a couple of clients that they came in and train together and they were coming in twice a week, most weeks. But once a week, every other week, something like that. And they go, “Why am I not getting the same results as this guy over there?”

I was like, “Well, you’re getting one or two day training results and their getting five day training results.”And they were upset. And then when they were able to see that, that’s what they were getting. It was like, oh, I’ve only been coming twice a week. Of course, I’m not going to get the results of the person that’s coming in four or five times a week.

April:    Yeah.

Mike Bledsoe:    So being really, really clear on that, and I’ve had clients that maybe they have an unlimited access to classes or something like that, and then a few months in they go, “Well, I’m not getting the results I want.” And then I look at a log of how many classes they attended. It’s like, “Look, you attended six classes in two months, this is what you’re getting.” And people think they’re doing more than they are. So a very common … The mind plays tricks on us and makes us believe that we’re doing better than we are because we tend to mistake thinking about things for doing things.

April:    Yes. I was just going to say that too. Thinking about things and doing things are very different and, which is why I think language is very important because the language and goal setting and vision casting, I think that can be a very important part of the setting the expectations part of the meeting with the coach and client as well as. Because yes, we have all of these things that we’re thinking about in our mind and oftentimes certainly for me, I know this was something that I went through before I was in the strong coaches. I did far too much thinking and not enough taking action and once I took action minimally on setting my goals and then made it a mantra. So I used my language to tell myself to take action. Literally my mantra was I take action. You helped me set that one up.

It turned from thinking into action. And so that also like for those people who are thinking more than doing but think they’re doing more. Like just calling them back into integrity and saying, “Hey look, this is what you’re actually doing and you wanted to make a change, so let’s really figure out how to get you to take that action.”

How Clients Can Set Good Expectations To A Coach

April:    So another question on the client side. So we’ve talked about the coach setting up expectations for how the best way to get the most out of a coaching program or a course or just one on one coaching. What kinds of things can a client ask to set good expectations for the relationship as well?

Mike Bledsoe:    A client needs to be clear in communicating what result

they’re looking for. What type of timeframe they’re looking for the result, and then what level of commitment they’re ready to bring to the table. Because the client can say, “Hey, I’ve only got an hour or two hours or three hours a week.” On the client side very … Like I said, having that transparency and saying, “Hey, this is how much sleep I get. This is what my work is like. This is what I can show up for.

This is the result I’m looking for and this is the timeframe in which I want this.” And then asking the coach of what’s the support you’re going to offer me as a client and what does that look like specifically? And so really getting the specific details of what’s going on. I think a lot of what I experience is clients will avoid asking these questions because they want the coach to like them. So they put the coach in this authoritative position and they want to be liked by the coach. So they don’t really ask too many questions. It’s kind of like, yeah, you know, whatever you think. And then as the relationship goes on. Again, the results aren’t being met from whatever reason or expectations aren’t being held because the expectations were never verbalized or never communicated.

And when that happens and there’s a lack of expectations on either side, resentment can show up and then the client will subconsciously stop showing up.Whether it’s physically stopped showing up or they’ll be checking out mentally and they’re just kind of like going through the motions and they’re not really showing up.

April:    Yeah. So really clarity on both ends is like, hey, here’s what I expect and hey, here’s what I want from the … Here’s what I expect of you as my client as if you’re a coach and then from the client. If you’re clear with what you want out of your goals and about your commitment level, then that’s a really good baseline to start off a coach client relationship.

Are You Talking More Than You’re Listening?

April:    Awesome. And when you’re building the relationship and especially as you get through … Like you’ve been working with someone one on one for a while or even a group one-on-one for a while. One thing I noticed sometimes is coaches can be very, very talkative. We’ve gone through the training, we have this big base of knowledge that we want to share with everybody and we end up doing a lot of talking instead of enough listening. And I can attest to being on both sides of that. Sometimes I feel like I’m talking too much as a coach and also being on a client or a member side and I see coaches and I’m like, I get it. Can we actually do the work now? So one of my big questions is basically, are you talking more than you’re listening? I think that’s as a coach, are you talking more than you’re listening? I think that’s something that can get in the way of a good coach client relationship. What are your thoughts on that?

Mike Bledsoe:    There’s a tendency for coaches to overcoach. So there’s two things is I think it stems … I’ve noticed it stems from the same place, which is coming from a place of wanting to sound smarter, and wanting, again, this comes back to wanting to be liked and wanting to sound smart. So you end up dumping all the information you know about the squat or whatever it is on that person in that moment and correcting them all the time.

As a coach, it’s my job to do a lot of listening and a lot of watching to find out what’s the one thing they need to hear to make the next step. What’s the one thing they can improve? Say if it’s movement, what’s the one thing they could improve that’s can take them there and then focus on that. Focus on that, focus on that. Until, they’ve got that down. They’ve got that down.

And yeah, just there’s a tendency to over teach over coach and it’s good to sit back and I see this in different industries to do it inside of coaching is people will just deliver so much information that it’s overwhelming. So there is a time for that, but that’s a time where you’re teaching, it’s a seminar or a conference or whatever. This is where when you’re going to unload all the information and see what people can digest but in a coaching situation. Yeah, it’s mostly listening and finding out what is it they need to hear to make the next step and really recognizing where the client is in their journey.

Slow Down Your Rate Of Speech

April:    And as a coach, I’ve been coaching members and clients and have caught myself talking too much or giving too many cues at once. And I see their eyes glaze over and they’re like, “Oh, I got to do all of this at once. How am I ever going to remember? How am I ever going to learn how to snatch if I have to do all of these things at once?” So I’ve put a big practice in lately too slowing not only my coaching and my speech down, but slowing down and having patience with the process that they’re going through. Maybe this is the first time they’ve snatched and they need to hear the cue. A certain queue 50 different times or 50 times in order to really … And then actually feel what it feels like in order to first of all, get that. And then we move on to the next thing.

I do also notice that we’ll see a client, get it one time and then kind of forget it. Like they’ll understand it and then they’ll forget it and then they’ll try to move on to the next step without having really let that one step absorb into their brain and understand how it feels to do with their body. Especially we’re talking about a movement here. So on that note as well, I do think it helps to have patience with the way that you are coaching and make sure the client is not only understanding it but implementing it.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah. There’s something that I want to pluck out that you said that was really good, which is slow down your rate of speech. And I’ve coached people where they’re talking and I go, “Can you please slow down your rate of speech?” And they start doing it for about 10 seconds and then they get back from the old pattern of speaking quickly. If someone was talking fast that I find that it’s coming in from a place of not feeling heard. I don’t feel like I’m being heard, so I’ve got to hammer them with more information. So we can go into childhood psychology on that but I find also that fast talkers tend to come from big families. And so there’s this pattern of behavior from childhood of needing to say a lot really fast in order to be heard, even though that person never feels heard. So the coach is talking too much or a client is talking a lot in really fast. It’s lightly coming from a place of wanting to be heard, not feeling heard.

And so we can either go back and tackle what’s going on psychologically, which is not going to happen in a gym. Or we can say, “Hey.” And as a coach, there’s one little new technique that I learned recently, which is only speak on the exhales. Take an inhale and then say what you got to say and then exhale. So say more with less. So it’ll challenge you to really get your point across in a sentence or two and then shut it up and let it soak in for the client. What’s going on? Or if the client has something they want to say, it gives them a huge opening for them to come back with something.

April:    That’s interesting. I’m going to try that. I’m going to try that next time I coach. Anyway. Cool. On that note as well, as far as slowing down, it’s certainly a practice for me and I’m noticing it a lot now as I’m learning to podcast and learning to speak live and have a conversation is, if I talk slower than I can express things more fully. Instead of, it’s a higher level of quality with fewer words versus a lot of chitter chatter with low value and difficult to understand. And one thing that I also learned from Mark England was just something to practice, which I just did now before we got on here. Is find a book and read it dramatically and slowly for a couple of minutes before you get in front of people, whether it’s a podcast or a class.

And I find that to be really fun. It takes my brain, it gives me something very specific to say and it allows me to be very expressive, which I like doing. You can see me talk with my hands and I find myself very much able to speak more clearly and I understand myself better too. So if I’m understanding myself better, I hope that I’m getting my message across better and other people can understand me better as well.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah. If people are confused, the speaker is usually confused.

What Do You Value As A Coach

April:    Yeah, yeah. It is all a practice, that’s for sure. I want to review real quick what we talked about. Ultimately, you hit all of the things that I came up with for when coaching does not work and I think we went over all of them. The first one was unmet expectations and so we went over a couple of reasons or a couple of ways that coaches and clients can communicate well what their expectations are. One more note on that is that like you can both as a coach and as a client decide that you might not want to work with that person. And I think that’s the biggest thing that you can do when you set those expectations at the beginning is say, “Hey, these are my expectations for you as a client because I’m the coach and these are my expectations for you as a coach because I’m the client.” If those don’t meet, it’s okay to say, “Hey, no thank you.”And basically refer them out to someone else who you think they might connect with better. I think that’s a really important thing to know when to draw that line.

Mike Bledsoe:    That’s a values and boundaries conversation. What do you value as a coach? Do you value yourself or do you … And constantly give in to your clients when they want to break the rules. And contact you or demand more than what you’re willing to give. Or are you always giving into a client and now it’s draining you and all this kind of stuff? Most clients give in or most coaches give in to unreasonable requests from clients and it ends up hindering the relationship overall? It’s good to have as a coach, really set boundaries and stick to them.

April:    Yeah, so unmet expectations, like I said, that is the first thing we talked about and then we talked about clear communication on both sides. That goes along with the unmet expectations or setting up those expectations is like as long as you’re communicating those clearly both at the beginning and throughout the coaching client relationship as well. That’s going to be a really good way to help your coaching work better. And finally, we touched on this a little bit as well, is the willingness to be coachable, or in this case, since we’re talking about when it doesn’t work. If a client is unwilling to be coachable, that can certainly hinder the relationship there. And I think that comes down to as well, meeting clients where they’re at. So that you can basically meet them at their level and help them where they’re at instead of say, giving them something that would be too much for them. So there’s something that that coach can do for that as well. And then also having the client be coachable to, yes?

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah, absolutely.

Look At Yourself First And Figure Out Your Values

April:    Do you have any other … Anything else to say about when coaching doesn’t work or how to make coaching work better?

Mike Bledsoe:    If you’re a client and the coaching isn’t working, really look at yourself first and see where you may not be showing up or where you’re not committed to the process or if the process that you’re committed to is even something that you actually want to be doing. And then it may mean finding a coach that is more aligned with how you want to work and how it works for you.

And then also look at the best results that you may be getting as a client. You may be missing out on results because you are not committed to something that’s very different than what you’re used to. And doing something that’s comfortable is going to hold you back. It’s like, “Oh, I want different results.” And so it’s like, “Well, you’re going to need different behaviors and different behaviors are going to require different thoughts. And those different thoughts and behaviors can become uncomfortable.” So it’s really looking at am I avoiding discomfort by doing things that are outside of the normal or is this really out of alignment with … Is this impacting the rest of my life in a negative way? And it’s really my heart telling me to step away.

April:    Yeah. Important to know and figure out those differences and know where your values are for sure.

Mike Bledsoe:    Yeah.

April:    Cool. Awesome. Well, Mike, I think that’s all we’ve got for today. Thank you very much for all that insight. Also, if you want more information, more little nuggets and tidbits of things that will help you with your coaching business. Go head over to The Strong Coach Instagram account. You can see what our coaches are doing. So go check that out and we will see you next time with another episode.


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