Are You Hiring a Coach to Blame, or to Change?

This was spurred by a conversation with my friend Aaron over at The Austin Caveman the other day.

As a coach, I shouldn’t be telling you this.  Other personal trainers, nutrition coaches, business coaches, life coaches, whatever-the-hell-else coaches that somehow find clients will be really mad about this article.

Then again, I’d argue they might not be very good at their job if this is the kind of client they like to attract.

But there is a very specific type of coaching client who is doomed to fail, and I’d wager that the majority of coaching clients fall into this category.

Which means I’m targeting the majority of both mine, and others’, clients.

If you hire a coach under the following circumstance, you’re 99.99% certain to fail.  Let’s leave a small gap there, in case someone has a [rare] success story from it.

I’m talking about the case of the “just stay on my ass so I do it” client.

The “I need you to push me so I get this done” junkie.

The “I work really well if someone’s constantly reminding me” zombie.

You realize that makes you a zombie, right?

First: figure out your priorities.

Someone once pointed out to me that everyone says they want the following things:

  • Love / a successful romantic relationship
  • Wealth
  • A beautiful body
  • Lots of friends
  • Fame (or “to be known,” whatever that may mean to the person)
  • Good health + a long life

But where each person spends their time is where they experience success in each of these areas.

So the guy putting in 90-hour work weeks will reap the financial benefits, but it might be at the cost of his physical health.

The person who sticks to their gym, nutrition, and sleep routine to a T will look amazing but may shirk her social obligations to do so.

And so forth.

Of course, it’s possible to work for a well-rounded life that involves some of each of these things.  But in most cases, people will prioritize some of this list over other parts of it. So, they ultimately have a skewed success in some areas with failure in others.

We can all agree we want these things, but the way we spend our time identifies where our priorities truly lie. 

Your coach isn’t your decision making brain.

Once a person pinpoints the areas they’re not prioritizing, they usually look for ways to work on them more.

Far too often, though, I see coaches play this game with their clients.  I’m in the training/nutrition world, so we’re going to look at it in that context.

When someone approaches me to help them change their eating habits or become more active, I’m excited.  YES!  They’re finally working toward making a change.

And there’s plenty of validity to hiring a coach when you want to make a change. They’re experts in their field who are genuinely excited and want to help you. 

They will program better workouts than you can, they’ll help make sure you’re doing them right, and they’ll know how to progress things so you keep improving.

They take that planning and safety worry from you while encouraging your growth along the way.

They are NOT, however, there to make you do anything.

Let me state that even clearer:

Your coach is not the person in charge of making any decisions for you, nor are they responsible for the actions you take on a daily basis.

If the goal is to improve yourself and work on things that are weak, the only way those things will improve is if you break out of the zombie mode and start doing.

Check yourself: why are you hiring a coach for that?  

Many people enter into a coach/client relationship with a misunderstanding of what the coach’s job is.

They think “coach tells me to do something, so I do it.”

It’s not their fault, either – we’ve basically been trained to be this way since birth.

Teacher tells me to do something, so I do it.

Doctor tells me to take this pill, so I must need it.

Boss tells me to finish this project, so my job must depend on it.

And while it’s good to take your coach’s advice, don’t skew it into a relationship more dependent than that.

The coach-client relationship is NOT one in which you get to shift all the responsibility from yourself to the coach for your success.

It’s the whole horse-to-water scenario: you can have the best coach in the world, but if the client doesn’t put the theory into practice, nothing will come of it.

For many, they are hiring a coach because they “want” that thing they don’t currently have, but they aren’t willing to actually make it a priority.

They believe they can hire a coach and by hiring a coach, suddenly their behavior will change because their coach will “make” them change it.

This becomes an easy scapegoat: “My coach forgot to text me to work out today, so that means I don’t need to do it.  I hired them to stay on me about this stuff, after all!”

That mindset isn’t going to help anyone, least of all the client.  They’ll remind themselves that it’s the coaches “job” to stay on them, and when the coach inevitably “doesn’t push hard enough,” the client will be left feeling like the coach isn’t good at their job.

It was never the coach’s job to make you do anything.  It was simply their job to guide you and give you the information you need to ultimately make changes in yourself.

This client uses the coach as a person to blame for their failure to work on true change, so that client will likely bounce from coach to coach and feel gipped every. Single. Time.

If your priorities aren’t showing in your actions, change your actions.

Habit change is hard.  But habit formation is also an innate human system we can learn to hack.

The true job of a coach is to help a ready & willing client change their habits so they become better at whatever they’re trying to improve on.

They are there to guide and encourage through the low points, not command and decide for you all the time.

The change you’re looking for comes from taking their advice and implementing it – and holding yourself accountable to do so.

The blame game just hurts you both, so before you hire a coach, ask yourself: am I hiring them because I think they’ll get me to change, or because I need some guidance on my own transformational journey?