Have you ever found yourself desperately trying to create meaning for your client?  You are: trying too hard to get some momentum when there is no clear focus, stuck knee-deep in a client’s dissonance or all you can hear is your internal alarm sounding in your ears. You are becoming exhausted! Holding strong to those foundational coaching skills & competencies is paramount in the craft of health coaching. Take a moment to reflect on; what is the most challenging thing for you about staying on the clients agenda?

1. No Focus: 

This often leads to a dissatisfied client who might say, “That was great, but I still feel stuck…”

To separate that ‘just having a conversation with a friend’ feeling from a health coaching conversation, there are a few key processes that need to happen.

  • Clarity for both parties on the intended end result of the conversation
  • Ensuring you have filtered down to meaningful outcomes together to guide the conversation and prevent wander
  • That the result of the conversation can be measured against the intended outcome

The client may forget the original intentions of the session and simply get lost in exploration. When you notice this, it is your job as a coach to reorientate the direction of coaching. The focus may change with exploration (and it does!) and that’s ok, check-in and agree on the new focus. The way we stay with the client’s agenda is to help the client to craft their desired outcome/s for each coaching session. The depth of inquiry into the client’s agenda shows the level of the coach’s curiosity,  listening abilities & confidence.  

Tip: When finding the focus for the session, listen for the verb and then get shared meaning on the verb: 

Client: ‘I want to manage my stress’

Coach: ‘when you say manage my stress, what do you mean by manage?’

Client: ‘I what to explore my exercise options’

Coach: ‘What does explore options look like to you?

This orientates you towards coaching the person and how they perceive the situation not the topic.

Remember to set the foundations of your session with the PREKURE coaching mantra. It serves to establish professional practice and create a trusted and safe space for the client. Clear expectations are discussed and the desired focus/ goal of the session should be mutually agreed upon by the client and coach. 

Start of the session:

  • Welcome
  • Cover ethical guidelines and confidentiality
  • Reinforce the agreed length of the session
  • Ask: “Is there anything you would like to do before we start?”
  • Establish the goal for the session using the verbal coaching agreement

End of the session:

  • Next step: What (will you do)? / When (will you do it)?
  • Support (What support do you need?)
  • How would you like to be held accountable?
  • Wrap up x2: What do you take away from this session? / What else?

2. Slowing Down (to Go Fast):

Cut through the noise in the session and slow things down. Use silence, summarising, bottom lining & articulate what’s going on. 

Get insanely curious about what makes their goal important. Time taken here will pay off in real shifts later on.

Take the time to Attach the focus for the session to the larger goals in the coaching agreement (discovery session(s). It’s often tempting to push forward with an exciting topic. Remember to slow down and find out what your client really wants.

3. The ‘I don’t know’ agenda:

When a client presents and is unsure where to start, be curious about what your client is experiencing at that moment? They may feel like they have begun a guessing game they cannot win. They don’t know the rules. Perhaps the client doesn’t know what topics are acceptable, or truly what health coaching is. This is where a good explanation of health coaching and designing clear expectations together in the discovery session is paramount.

Also ask: How ready are they for change? Be curious, be empathetic and use your intuition to check in. How motivated do you feel to… 

4. Techniques to catch yourself and be with the client:

Practice checking-in with the client on where you are in terms of the focus/ goal at least twice throughout the session, especially if you’re a new coach. It sets good habits.  

Practice checking-in with yourself during the session (reflection in action). Notice if you’re present for the client in front you or stuck in your own head. Let go and actively listen. 

Immediacy: Sharing your here and now experience with the client. Even if you see another area that desperately needs exploring, you can simply point that out and give the client the option to examine what’s more significant to them at that moment (ask permission).

Detach yourself from the client’s outcomes and meet them where they are at.

5. Giving advice:

Allow your client to drive the agenda and take ownership of their journey. Trust them for they are whole, resourceful & creative. Your goal as a coach is their self efficacy in reaching their own health goals long term. Introduce snippets of science with their permission and check-in that this information fits with their goals, be curious about what it adds to their journey.

Learning the dance of health coaching and to be truly in flow with your client takes consistent reflection & practice. It is the skill of global listening. Celebrate your wins, celebrate your failures; they are learning opportunities. Ultimately, staying on the clients agenda for real health gains is the prize.

— Sonya English  | ICF Qualified Coach, PREKURE Lead Health Coach & Registered Nurse


Need help building your health, nutrition or mental health coaching business?

Join the PREKURE Network and access resources and tools to build and develop your business, including 1:1 Business Coaching sessions with a PREKURE Business Coach