I feel like we all need a guide, a moral compass, a mission statement in anything that we are passionate about. Or heck, just for life in general. Having such a mission not only keeps us productive and effective, but also guides us in decision making processes.
One of the first things we did when we founded Team 3DMJ was to create a mission statement.
The four of us sat around the kitchen table at Eric Helms’ house when he lived in Sacramento, California way back in 2009 and we created our mission.
“Life is filled with triumphs and failures. We are not defined by these events, but rather the choices we make when faced with them. Natural bodybuilding is about choice. It is not our place to judge the choices of others, but we celebrate the choice natural athletes make on a daily basis.
We believe the only requirement to take part in natural bodybuilding is the dedication, desire, and discipline to do so. In this sport there is no vast fortune to be won, nor any great fame to be awarded. The journey to the stage can be a transformative experience and it is the journey rather than the destination where the true rewards are won. Through honor, integrity, blood, sweat, and tears, this transformation can be beneficial in all aspects of life. The physique is not the end goal, but rather a testament to the years of dedication, desire and discipline required to reach one’s potential.”
The current version of our mission statement has been tweaked slightly over the years, but this version is, for the most part, intact from the original we created over a decade ago.
In what is probably long overdue, I would like to share a similar guide that I feel could benefit all coaches regardless of their area of expertise.
These are my 3 keys to not only a healthy coach client relationship, but more importantly, the achievement of your client’s goals.
1. Know your client’s goals and be on the same page with them.
This is the first thing I address as soon as I speak to a client for the first time.
We have every client enter both short term goals (8 to 12 weeks) and a long-term vision in the application process to Team 3DMJ. I then take that info and begin the interview by asking questions.
Goals can be multi-faceted, so this conversation may take a while to really make sure we’re on the same page. Ultimately though, what you are after as a coach is learning what is the main goal over the short term and how does that fit into the long-term vision. In other words, what do we want to accomplish now and how will that move us toward the long-term vision? It is also important to make sure that both of these aims are underpinned by reasonable expectations.
Sometimes it is not easy to hear, but as the expert in the field you are coaching, you want to address what is reasonable right from the beginning. Never simply discourage the client by saying that their goals are impossible, but help them understand where you’re coming from as an experienced coach so they can better clarify and envision what is attainable. In fact, re-iterate that the plan you and the client are developing is with the intent to get them to that long-term vision they are after.
Even with all that planning up front, it’s important they also know that the actual outcome may be a different version of that goal and it may take more/different/longer work to achieve said outcome. Get buy-in and input from the client to make an enjoyable yet flexible plan for the best adherence possible.
As we state in our mission, the end goal is not achievable without years of dedication to the journey, and a big part of that is making the journey an enriching part of life.
Also, goals change. For all clients, no matter how dedicated they are to their craft, expect their targets to shift at some point.
Perhaps as they learn and grow, they discover a similar but subtly different version of their goal. A new plan may be needed. Or, a goal may simply require work that the client was not expecting in order to accomplish it, and this awareness changes the value proposition. Be okay with all this; after all, it is their goal.
Your job is to get them to those goals, or if you do not have that skill set, refer them to someone who can.
These course corrections may take the form of a short-term goal that is a small detour on the way to the long-term goal, or a complete overhaul of the long-term goal.
Given the likelihood that goals change and morph over time, this is even more reason to keep the lines of communication open and always work to be on the same page with your client about their goals as well as the plan to get them there.
2. Care about your client’s goals and acknowledge what moves them toward or away from them.
It should go without saying that the coach must care about the client’s goals and try to put themselves in the client’s shoes.
All coaches have themselves had goals and strong attachments to achieving them. So, whether or not you believe the client’s goal is achievable, good or bad for the client, what you think their goals should be, or ultimately what the goal and the plan eventually looks like per number 1 above, at least a bit of emotional attachment on your part to the client and their goals is important.
You might think you need to be unbiased, and objective (and you do), but you are also human. You need motivation and commitment to your clients to be effective, and you also need to be supportive. Without that attachment, your client will only get a halfhearted attempt of your coaching.
Whether it comes through during time spent communicating, setting up spreadsheets, outlining instructions, or even the mental creativity or necessary time researching strategies, half-heartedness will show through, and to the detriment of your client.
Essentially, you don’t want to look up and find yourself only going through the motions.
If this happens, and it’s okay if it does (we all have rough days or melancholy periods of life), look inward to your own goals as a reminder of how your clients feel about theirs. I always keep close to my heart how connected I am to my goals and what I would endure to achieve them and that helps me have empathy for the goals of those I am coaching. Doing so gives me the drive to go the extra mile for them.
Acknowledgement is a big part of showing care. Thus, acknowledging both good and bad executions of a plan to reach a goal is an important part of the coaching process.
When your clients make big strides toward their goals or accomplish important parts of the plan, it is important to acknowledge that and congratulate them appropriately. Doing so will give them pride in their work that they might not recognize on their own.
Likewise, poor execution should be acknowledged as well. But remember, this isn’t for punitive purposes (that’s not your role, again, they aren’t your goals).
I like to lovingly make mention of poor execution or steps away from the goal. At such times offer help for how you can facilitate better execution of the plan or ask questions on what barriers exist, and how to rectify them (per number 1, this might be an indication that the goal should change).
Importantly, steps away from a goal will always happen, and many times, it’s due to nothing more than life. It is important to not dwell on or make a big deal of these steps away, which again, are quite normal. I like to simply acknowledge such instances and invite the client with questions to consider why they occurred and remind them I’m here to help and leave it at that.
Focusing on accomplishments while simply mentioning the back sliding is an easy way to focus on the positives and turn stumbling blocks into steppingstones.
3. Provide clear and frequent guidance on how to move toward their goals.
This is my focus when I create coaching response videos to clients. Ask anyone who has worked with me, I tend to beat a dead horse when outlining guidance or what I like to call “homework.” This might be my insecurity, but I like to make sure the client knows exactly what I’m advising they do in the coming weeks or months.
I have numerous places to enter copious notes, instructions, future predictions, and possibilities on client spreadsheets to help us both stay on the same page and I provide multiple ways to facilitate communication around what needs to be done.
This is one of the reasons Team3DMJ created the biweekly coaching program for clients (by invite only, following an initial consult) instead of just having Skype-based programming. We formed it because off-season or gen-pop Skype clients would fall away from long term plans when pitfalls arose and without more continual interaction, they did not always feel confident about how best to get back to the plan. Or, they would start second guessing the plan when things did not happen as we predicted.
With more frequent communication with the coach, guidance or adjustments can be provided to aid the client in staying on track, moving toward their goals. The offseason/general population coaching program has been an overwhelming success both for athletes and us as coaches. More athletes accomplish their goals and can stay on track long after the goal has been met, directing their established habits toward new goals.
We as coaches experience that fatherly pride when we watch our clients, grow, succeed, and confidently tackle new challenges. We also get to fine tune our processes and above-mentioned philosophies, and we gain invaluable experience in the process, all to become better at what we do.
So, with that you have my three guiding principles as a coach that I use to keep being better.
If you are a coach in any capacity, I hope that this has aided you to become better as well.