A master trainer has a wide assortment of tools such as exercises, equipment applications and techniques, at his or her disposal. The master trainer uses these tools effectively to positively change the lives—not just the bodies—of clients. And the master trainer knows exactly when to use (and not use) each one.
The following are the 10 Master Tools used in professional coaching, that when applied to the realm of Personal Training / Personal Coaching, can help you provide powerful guidance and direction for your clients.
1. POWERFUL QUESTIONS
Powerful questions are thought provoking and open a door for clients to look into their hearts or minds to discover what dreams and talents have been ignored, hidden or locked away.
Powerful questions cause people to pause, reflect and even make unusual internal shifts regarding their life perspectives or beliefs about themselves, others or their circumstances. These questions entice clients down an exploratory path of “what’s possible” that they may want to create, discover or pursue in their lives.
Most Powerful Questions will start with “How”, “When”, “Who” or “What”. (Note that “Why” questions tend to raise defenses and rationalizations.
We frequently see clients get “stuck”. Powerful Questions can be a tool to get them unstuck. Let’s see how these questions can help a client move from stuck to “in action”:
- WHEN did you notice that you started feeling stuck?
- WHAT from your past does this remind you of?
- WHAT 3 actions could you take this week that would allow you to move forward?
- WHAT do you get out of remaining stuck?
- WHO could you call upon the next time you start getting stuck?
- HOW can you guard against being/staying stuck?
Silence is a powerful tool for the master trainer. The skill or discipline of remaining silent (especially after asking a powerful question) allows a person the opportunity to reflectively respond and often make powerful insights. The reason that the insights are more powerful? Because the awareness is made and “owned” by the individual – not given as an opinion from an outside source. (We don’t argue with our own data.)
All too often, we are not fully “heard” by others because they are practicing or thinking their response to our conversation. A coach that is silent gives a client a genuine gift of intentional and deep listening-- something they may not receive anywhere else.
Curiosity is a great way to get to the source of what’s happening without coming across as judgmental or confrontive. Curious questions come across as light and non-threatening.
For example: “Becky, I’m curious about something you just said. Could you tell me more about that?” (Suppose she just said she didn’t work out consistently because she felt guilty taking time for herself after she traveled last week.)
Stories capture our hearts and our minds. Think of how well you remember a principle, idea or concept based upon a story. The moral is the message wrapped in the shape of a story and presented as a gift. Stories provide enough distance between a personal situation and personal application to make it more comfortable to digest. Stories help others gain clarity at a heart level. When a changed heart connects with a knowledgeable head, deep and lasting change occurs.
Two concepts powerfully impact the ability to make lasting changes in our lives: personal responsibility and trusting our instincts. I often share a poignant story from when I was14 years old. My parents sent me to a psychologist because I “had a problem.” The psychologist agreed, although her expert opinion and advice was not what they (or I) expected. She said, “Yes, Kate has a problem…it’s you.” My parents truly were the problem. I learned quite young about taking personal responsibility for my life and the importance of trusting my instincts.
Specific examples also help you to clarify a point in a way that feels safe to the client. Examples, as well as stories and analogies, allow a concept or point be learned at a deeper level. The best examples are those that are not so narrow the client can’t see a potential personal application. (CAUTION: Don’t make them up – clients know when you’re trying to pawn off a fake example to give them a message!)
Personal trainers use this tool all of the time. You could, for instance, provide a traveling client with specific examples of how another client managed to continue his exercise program while on the road.
As a coach, a specific example may be sharing how another client put together a proposal to go to a flex time schedule that supported their corporation’s objectives while also serving their personal needs.
5. BEING DIRECTIVE AND SUPPORTIVE
Coaching is primarily supportive, but an important role we also can play is in being directive. The challenge is finding the proper balance. As a personal trainer, you are the expert and director. As a coach, you are first a supporter and secondly a director.
Clients tend to want us to feed them their directives about when to do what without asking why. To make clearer, proactive and educated decisions, clients need to have the ability to think for themselves. Being supportive (or facilitating a self-discovery of answers) is like teaching someone how to fish rather than being directive and handing them their trout.
Requests are great “shaker-uppers.” This tool is best used when a client is stuck or lacks the self-confidence to step into something he/she would really like to do. When making a request, the client always has the authority to adjust or alter the request.
A request needs to be for a very specific action and have a time frame for completion.
For example, request your client to leave his credit card at home the next time he goes to the mall, and just carry the amount of cash or check he is planning to spend. Or, if you’ve been working with a client who talks a lot about feeling guilty and selfish, request that she “look those words up in a dictionary and thesaurus and decide whether you are actually using the accurate word for your behavior or attitude If, in this case, “guilt “is not the most accurate or appropriate term, the second part of the request is to have the client find and start using that ‘better’ word.
Every client you ever work with will have the capacity to be more of himself or herself and be capable of experiencing more life or more challenges. That’s one of the main reasons they hire a coach. Coaches have a unique opportunity to challenge you to do something you fear you cannot do or have been unable or unwilling to change.
An example of a challenge: “I challenge you to call 20 people this week and interview them, asking how they stick to and maintain their exercise commitment. (The client may then agree and or alter the request – maybe it’s 15 people.)
8. ANALOGIES AND SIMILES
As a picture can be worth a thousand words, an analogy or simile can be like turning on a light in a dark room: what were indistinct shadows become clear and tangible.
Say a client is having a difficult time getting into action around planning and executing a sales strategy for their territory. You know the client likes to garden. An analogy that may be effective for this client: think of the sales cycle like planting a garden. In the spring you have to plant seeds after you’ve cleared the land and found the best place to grow your plants. Qualifying the prospect throughout the summer, you water, clear weeds and talk to the plants to encourage them (i.e., benefit discussions, handling objectives, developing a relationship). In the fall you harvest what you sow (the sale is closed). The winter looks like a dead selling time but it’s part of a process of learning, refreshing and renewing for the next summer.
An analogy like this may serve to clarify the objectives and motivate the client into positive action.
9. TRUTH TELLING
Truth telling is actually a tool for empowering clients. Sharing observations that a client may be unaware of or avoiding can be called “sharing a hard truth.” Sharing hard truths is part of the responsibility of any professional coach, just as giving accurate training information is the responsibility of a professional trainer.
A hard truth allows the client to honestly evaluate choices and direction based on insightful information.
For personal training clients, a hard truth might be: While you know exercise is a good thing for you and you like the idea of being fit, you’re not ready to commit at a heart level and that is going to sabotage any efforts to make lasting changes. You need to admit you’d like exercise to be higher on your priority list, but it’s not. (This may also be a good place to ask a Powerful Question, such as, “What do you need to be more honest about here as it relates to your commitment and exercise?” or “What are you willing to give up to commit to more exercise?”)
Discovery helps clients “discover” more options and can occur using any or all of the Master Tools. Discovery is a lot like brainstorming. As a tool, it opens up the options available for someone to solve a problem or tackle a toleration. (Keep in mind that when clients come up with the insight or ideas, they “own it” and are more likely to remember it.)
Tackling a toleration involves taking care of something large or small that bothers, irritates or annoys you: from cleaning out a cluttered kitchen drawer, a buried desk or a dirty garage.
A simple toleration a client may need to tackle is shoes that hurt or are uncomfortable. Buying new shoes can solve that problem, but a client may need you to help them discover; how they can afford them, what questions they need to ask to get the right pair, the best place to shop or how to find the time to go buy them.
Another coaching example; the goal of the client was to clean her apartment and home office. After some discovery time she determined an option: to clean it in sections. It was too overwhelming to tackle all at once. After some Powerful Questions, she became more aware of some of her own self-imposed barriers and through discovery, she came up with some very creative, proactive ways to solve the problem of something she had been unhappily tolerating.
You probably use some of these skills already with your clients and could share more examples. I hope, however, you’ve discovered a few you haven’t been using. Try each of them at various points in your training sessions. Recognize when you’re intentionally coaching vs. being the personal training expert. The combination of skills and experience will make your partnership with any client a huge success.