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12 Common Mistakes New Health Coaches Make And How to Avoid Them Inspiring Health Coaches to Inspire

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 12 Common Mistakes New Health Coaches Make And How to Avoid Them

As a long-time Health Coach and Coach Mentor, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of coaching many coaches. A helpful coaching technique is role-playing, and that’s when I hear coaches struggle with the same issues over and over again. Being aware and practicing how to avoid them will improve your client’s experience, help them succeed, and make you a better, more effective coach.

Many new coaches make the “rookie” mistakes below. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them:

Don’t be attached to the outcome. It’s not your job to fix your client and solve all of their problems (in an hour ; ). So take a deep breath and let that go! Having all the answers does not establish your credibility, demonstrate your “value” or justify your fee. You are not the expert of your client’s life, they are! You can’t possibly know everything about the situation that they are facing or understand all of their options the way they do. It’s their life and they know more about it and themselves than you could possibly know (even in six months). So your job is not to solve but to LISTEN. To help create awareness for your client, so they can tap into their inner wisdom. You’re not there to fix everything, but rather, to support, encourage and guide them. See “It’s Not About the Nail”

Replace any judgment with compassion and curiosity. Sometimes it’s hard for new coaches to hear their clients discuss unhealthy or negative choices. But whether you think something is good or bad, right or wrong, it’s not your place to judge, approve or disapprove. Instead, be curious. Approach the conversation as a detective or news reporter – although one with compassion and care. Seek to understand — who, what, when, where, why? After you and your client dig deeper together, you can move onto “how” to change or resolve.

Don’t jump into solving — listen for “Neon Words.” When seeking to understand your client’s situation, pay attention to words that jump out at you … words that indicate this is just the “tip of the iceberg.”  There’s more there! I call these “Neon Words.” If you skip over the Neon Words and move onto solving, you might miss the most important part of your client’s story. While a cacao date-nut recipe might be a great swap for her M&Ms, jumping to that “solution” might cause you to miss the struggle or the emotions behind the M&Ms. Dig deeper. Ask more questions. For example:

Q: “What did you mean when you said (Neon Word(s)______?
Q: “Can you tell me more about that?”
Q: “What did you want the “M&Ms” to do for you?
Q: “What triggers your craving?

Don’t put words in your client’s mouth. This is often challenging for new (and veteran) coaches! Instead, reflect back using their words. Don’t make assumptions drawing from your own experience. Example: “Did that make you feel guilty?” If they didn’t use that word, you don’t want to introduce it. If you want to know how something made them feel, ask them how it made them feel.

Relate but don’t “hijack.” It’s okay to relate to your client’s situations and challenges, but be careful not to hijack the story. It’s not about you. It’s not your turn. It’s all about them.

Don’t give bad empathy. Example: “Okay, I get it.” That’s not empathy. And this is not about you “getting it.” Example: “Aw, I’m sure it’s all going to work out.” Actually, you’re not sure how things will turn out, and it’s not your place to be sure. Empathy looks more like this: “That must have been so difficult.” “I’m so sorry that happened.” “That sounds very upsetting.”

Ask or suggest, don’t tell. After LISTENING – gathering the who, what, when, where, and why — you can move into working TOGETHER to find solutions. But remember: ask, don’t tell. Examples: “Would you like it to be different? How would you like it to be different? If you could rewind that situation/day, what would you do differently? How do you envision that? What would that look like? Feel like? Would you consider ____? How would you feel about ______?”

Get out of theory and get into the specifics of their reality. To get to the specifics of your client’s reality, I use two great tools. The Food Diary and the HABIT LOOP

The Food Diary is a crucial tool in supporting client accountability and awareness. Their entries provide clues and          pieces of their unique puzzle that can significantly help you guide them toward their goals.

The Habit Loop worksheet is based on the New York Times best seller, The Power
of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. The Habit Loop will help your clients create awareness around their unhealthy habits and guide them into new, healthier routines.Awareness is the first step to creating lasting change. The Crave Coaching Essentials interactive worksheets will help you successfully structure your sessions and stay on track, so that your clients gain a higher level of self-awareness and achieve many “aha” moments!

Don’t choose the subject. When the client presents a list of their concerns and challenges, don’t pick the one that you feel is most important or is most concerning or interesting to you. Ask which one they would like to focus on and then LISTEN. (And use these coaching tips and tools!)

Don’t change the subject. Example of changing the subject: “So what else?” Changing the subject could cause you to miss important clues, symptoms, emotions, and more. There’s more “there” there; stay with your client where she/he is, and dig deeper.

Don’t forget to praise the progress. Help your clients appreciate and celebrate their accomplishments from session to session. What went well? What positive steps have they taken? These are worthy of encouragement and congratulations, no matter how small. Progress motivates more progress. Small steps lead to big changes.

Be your authentic self and remember to BREATHE! If you feel you are meant to do this work and this is your purpose and passion — relax, breathe and trust the process. You are a vessel through which the universe works it’s magic. Practice these tips, then don’t overthink it. Tap into your intuition and be your authentic self.

Want to sharpen your coaching skills and role-play with me? Email me at and let’s take your coaching to the next level. How do you feel about that? ; )

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