Use a detailed road map to stay focused and help clients find results.
Every great trainer and/or coach who thrives in his or her business has a plan. In my early days of personal training, I learned that giving clients too much information too soon was overwhelming and often led to failure. Gradually, I discovered I needed a repeatable plan—a plan I could follow to support clients in attaining their goals in a successful, esteem-building manner. My background as a teacher provided insight into how to move from A to Z: outline a great coaching lesson plan. After several years of trial and error, my personal training lesson plan had evolved to include these steps: conduct an initial interview; identify the client’s goals; perform an assessment of the client’s physical status; design an exercise program; provide thorough program instruction; and encourage weekly follow-through.
With coaching, it is equally important to develop a successful lesson plan. A carefully thought-out coaching lesson plan makes it possible to provide clients with the right amount of information at the right time. The previous installment of this “Coaching Fundamentals” column (“Carving Out Your Coaching Niche,” June IDEA Trainer Success) helped you identify your target clientele and what you want to coach. This installment will help you identify the skills you specifically want to cover in your coaching sessions (i.e., your coaching lesson plan) and when and where you want to coach.
Identifying what you want to cover in your coaching sessions, and in what general order, will make your job as a coach focused and manageable. Although genuine “coaching” is about the client’s agenda and needs, a good coach will always have an overall plan for progressing from one session to the next. Until I clearly identified the skills and topics that my coaching clients needed to grasp in order to be able to reach their business and personal goals, I was “winging it” from session to session. To deter- mine what I wanted to teach my coaching clients, I combined essential concepts I had learned in my coach training with skills I intuitively knew people needed to manage their lives. Over a couple of weeks I invested some time in putting my ideas and thoughts on paper and narrowing down my coaching lesson plan. Keeping in mind that my target clientele was “women interested in serious improvement in at least one of three areas: physical fitness, work/life balance and managing their own business,” I developed “9 Skills to Master to Live Well,” a lesson plan I still use today (see the sidebar on page 15). This coaching lesson plan encompasses all the skills I believe my coaching clients need to know to live successfully and physically well in life and business.
Some clients whom I coach already grasp and practice some of these skills, so no extra teaching is needed in those areas. I am also not wedded to the order. My goal is to reach and teach clients at their point of need, presenting concepts and life skills they can learn and apply in any situation for the rest of their lives. As I work with clients, I progress through this skills list with them, focusing more time on the skills they do not possess and less time on skills they have already mastered. For example, many business coaching clients who hire me to help them organize and grow their personal training or coaching businesses are in dire need of guidance on living within their current income. As a result, we may first work on “controlling spending and debt,” to take the pressure off their immediate stress so that they can move forward.
To begin developing a coaching lesson plan to use with your clients, let’s assume you want to focus your coaching practice on helping clients lose weight. Use the following questions as a guide to determine which skills your coaching lesson plan might include:
- What do you see as the biggest obstacles to weight loss?
- What skills do overweight people lack?
- What do people need to learn first to begin the weight loss process?
- What steps would be logical and empowering to follow?
- What life skills need to be learned?
- What permanent life changes must be made?
- What behavioral changes need to be learned?
If I were coaching weight loss, one of the first lessons I would cover is the simple math of weight loss—1 pound of weight equals 3,500 calories. So, to lose 1 pound of weight in 1 week, my coaching client would need to come up with a deficit of 500 calories per day (3,500 ÷ 7) through a combination of cutting calories and burning calories through exercise. Together, we would outline a weekly formula.
I might consider the following lesson plan:
1. Understand the math of weight loss.
2. Follow a weekly cardio program.
3. Learn basic nutrition guidelines.
4. Follow a strength training program.
5. Identify your needs.
Your coaching plan should also include where the coaching sessions will take place. Most coaches I know provide coaching services by phone. However, you may determine that face-to-face wellness coaching works best for your clients. To date, all of my coaching sessions have been conducted by phone. I can coach individuals all across the United States, and I have found that individuals open up readily and are possibly even more transparent by phone than in person. Meeting by phone erases the discomfort of discussing tough issues eye to eye. Coaching clients by phone is working wonderfully for both me and my clients. Consider the following questions to help you decide where you will coach:
- Do I want to coach groups, individuals or both? (Face-to-face group coaching is an excellent way to reach many people at once.)
- Do I want to be limited to a certain geographical area?
- Do I want to cover long-distance charges for out-of-town clients?
- What works best for me in my current situation? (For example, do I have the quiet and privacy I need for coaching at my home? At my office?)
- Do I know how I coach best, in person or by phone?
- What would be most convenient for me? For my clients?
Deciding when you will coach clients is just as important as determining where. Initially, I began my coaching practice by squeezing in a few sessions between personal training appointments. However, I discovered that mentally it was difficult to shift back and forth between coaching by phone and conducting personal training sessions. As a result, I outlined a work schedule that was much more fluid for me, and I still use it: some days, I offer only personal training sessions; other days, I either coach in the morning and train clients in the afternoon or train clients in the morning and coach in the afternoon.
Spend some time deciding on the best schedule for your coaching sessions—the actual days and times you want to coach. Bear in mind the client group you want to coach. Are they 9–5 working women, stay-at-home moms or traveling professionals? Once you have determined where and when you will offer coaching, begin marketing the specific slots you have available.
Coaching is still a broad area that individuals, as well as many certified coaches, find challenging to describe, grasp and progress. By narrowing your field and identifying exactly how you plan to be a great coach, you can visualize and outline your unique coaching lesson plan. What do your clients need? (ask them); how can they get from the dream to the goal? (show them); and what is the most rational way to get them there? (support them). The late radio broadcaster Earl Nightingale said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” Be fundamentally sound; coach with a plan.