END OF PROGRAM COACHING
Ok, so one of your clients just finished a program. They’ve spent the past four to six weeks (whichever time frame you designate) working hard, and there’s been some good, as well as some bad. It’s time to look forward to the next program…what do you do now? How do you coach the person to productively move forward into their next program?
Let’s walk through the process used every day at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA.
First Thing’s First!
The first thing to consider is the perfect scenario—that the program goal is attached to a bigger, longer-term goal. Is there a block (four program) goal or a bigger year-long goal? If so, the first thing to consider is fitting the focus of the next program into the long-term plan while also evaluating where the client is currently.
But, the reality is, that perfect scenario isn’t always the case. In fact, it’s not typically the case. The goal should always be to develop a long-term aim to strive for. Continually setting our eyes on the horizon helps us to keep our feet plodding toward it. Part of that plodding, however, is getting better at setting goals…I know, broken record time again…and getting good at setting short-term goals will help us get good at setting long-term goals. So, if we can get people to focus in and articulate what they’d like to achieve over four to six weeks, that’s a great step on the way to long-term goal planning.
Let’s talk about it.
Here’s What Goes Down…
Alright, so, I’m going to walk you through exactly what happens when someone finishes a program at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA.
On the day that someone is going to finish their program, they walk into BSP NOVA and find their program on a clipboard and standing up against the window, rather than laying down on the windowsill. This gets them to pay attention to it and remind a coach that they need to have an end of program convo when they finish training for the day.
Then they train. That takes a little while. Usually an hour. If it takes more, we put a foot in their ass. Not literally. Figuratively. And it’s a gentle foot. More of a prod. Sometimes a foot though.
Ok, training is done. They plop their buttocks down and fill out the back of their program form. It looks like this:
We have them fill it out on their own, and do their own writing, for several reasons.
First, writing something out is like making a declaration—there’s more emotion tied to it and it’s also easier to remember and attach to. Second, we want people to write and think for themselves without our influence before having a discussion with them.
Then, once they’ve finished filling it out, they let us know when they’re ready, and we swoop in to chat them up on what they’ve written. And when I say chat them up, I mean ask them open-ended questions and reflect what they say so that they can get further clarification on what they’re trying to do.
What Just Happened?
We always start with the commentary about the program that they just finished. It helps with expectation management and sets the context for the rest of the discussion. This is also a great opportunity to learn about how someone generally felt about their past program—that pertains to every detail, from the exercises they performed to whether or not the feel as though they’ve progressed.
Getting the good, the bad, and the ugly out lets them push their own process forward and it helps us get better at our jobs. This is where we really have to tune into our curiosity—especially if there’s some bad and ugly written down.
When we read through this part, we ask questions about what they wrote. If they achieved their goals, and things went well, the question could go something like this.
“So, you feel like you nailed this one! That’s awesome. Why do you think things went so well?
And if they didn’t feel so good about things, we might ask a question like this.
“So, I noticed that you don’t feel like you achieved your goals and that you’re on a back slide. What do you think happened?”
Then we build on those questions in either direction. We listen. We have conversations like human beings. We learn. We need this part of the conversation so we know how to go forward. If there’s a problem, we have to talk about it so we can work together to fix it. If everything is going famously, we have to know what we can do to keep the momentum rolling.
Then we talk about moving forward.
Goals for the next phase?
Here’s the thing, sometimes people need to talk a bit more to get everything sorted out. Sometimes people are all set. We have to be ready for both scenarios. If someone needs to talk more to get it sorted out—you’ll know by seeing scarcely any pen put to paper—then we need to ask some questions to help them think through it. But if someone has clear, declarative goals written down, and the associated whys, we leave them be.
As we ask open-ended questions, we keep the program, and what the client wrote, between us so we can both look at it as we talk. We aren’t the keepers of the information, and we want the person to be able to reference what they wrote as they think. Also, as we ask questions, and get people to elaborate on what they meant or what they want, it’s best if they write out more of what they were thinking. They’ll need the program to do that.
Let’s say we asked a few questions about a potential new goal that someone wrote out. Our questions got the person thinking, and they gained clarity on what they were trying to do and how they wanted to say it. In that case, we ask them to write down what they said—for the same reasons that we had them write in the first place.
Once the client and the coach are in a good place with everything, they slap hands as they bid each other adieu. The next time the client arrives, they will have a fresh new program that’s entirely based on the conversation that they just had. That’s pretty cool.
Here’s what’s even cooler—what they said is summarized and placed at the top of their next program. Their goals are listed there for them to see every time they come in to train.
How will we know it’s working?
Expectation management–that shit is important. Also, like we talked about during the psychological foundation lessons, people need to see progress. They need to know that their struggles are being validated. Stating how they’ll know it’s working allows them to create that validation for themselves. It also gives us an opportunity to learn how they think we can best do our jobs to help them. There’s a chance it may be a little off kilter from reality, but at least answering this question gives us the chance to talk about it.
Having them state how they’ll know it’s working allows us to have a real conversation about expectations–especially within the context of timeframe. (More on that later.) It also helps us keep things in order. If someone says that they want to lose ten pounds, but they’ll know they’re program is working if they can deadlift ten more pounds, well, there’s a mismatch. Believe me, this happens. Now, we have the opportunity to have a conversation about it rather than letting confused expectations play themselves out catastrophically.
Our Main Job In All of This
Our role is facilitator. We are like a sounding board that a client uses to hear themselves as they craft their path forward—and we are also there to guide and advise along the way. To do that job, we use a few tools.
Tools for Clarification
Our clarification tools are open-ended questions and reflections. Most of the time, despite what we might what to believe, people do their best thinking as they are speaking. Thinking is a motor action, and the tongue carries out that action. Being able to talk to another person helps someone sort out what they are really thinking—or go deeper on what they are thinking. Open-ended questions, the ones that require more than a yes or no answer, allow people to talk and elaborate. And as we continue to ask questions based on their answers, people can think and elaborate more until they end up at a solid understanding of what they want to do and how they’re going to do it.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions:
Tell me more about that (not really a question, but it works).
Why do you think that is?
What else could we do?
Reflections help in a similar way. When we reflect something back to someone, we do our best to summarize what they said and repeat it back to them. This allows them to hear what they said so they can be a little more objective about themselves. It also shows them that you’re actively listening to them, which is not only good for rapport, it’s also good for keeping them engaged in the conversation.
Starting off reflections with a statement like “If I’m hearing you correctly” and finishing with, “does that sound about right?” gives the person a chance to comment and keep the conversation rolling.
Sometimes reflecting someone’s goal or “so that” statement back to them, without any lead in or finishing question, is enough to get them talking.
There’s a balance to strike between open-ended questions and reflections and there isn’t an absolutely right or best way to find that balance. Just be a human being, be curious about the person that you’re talking to, and stay in the conversation and good things will happen.
The biggest action tool we provide is the program. It is literally a structure for physical action. GABing is the second line of defense to help them take specific action. It takes the program and chunks it up into day-to-day wood chopping. Four to six weeks can pass quickly and without focus if we don’t have a tool to bring our eyes to the day we have at hand.
There are also those things the clients decide they’d like to do during the time that they aren’t with us at the gym. We help folks list them out and set up an accountability system so they can stay consistent. If you can work these into your coaching, do it. People are with us for short periods of time. If we can help them manage the other hours of the week, they have a better chance of succeeding.
What Can Happen in Four to Six Weeks?
This is important—what’s realistic for the course of a program. Often, our folks don’t really know, so we have to provide context. Many folks will undershoot what they can actually get done in a month or a little more. Keep this in mind as you have these conversations. If people need stretched a bit, don’t be afraid to help them get a little uncomfortable. Other folks will need some real talk on what can actually happen in that amount of time. We have to be willing to have that conversation, too.
Either way we have to put people in the best position to be successful. Whether we let them undershoot or patronize a ludicrous short-term goal, we aren’t doing the best that we can as coaches.
Frame your thoughts with this in mind.
End of Program Coaching Recap
- Remember that your role is facilitator
- Have a sheet for them to fill out
- Let them write
- Ask open-ended questions and reflect answers
- Let them write again
- Stretch those that need it, reign in those that need it