Our job as a Personal Trainer is to facilitate change in our clients. Note, that I said facilitate change, not tell them to change. There is a big difference between the two.
Trainers that “tell” their clients what to do will fail them. Trainers who expertly enrol their clients into their own change process will get results.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to get a client enrolled and invested in their own change process is to ask POWERFUL COACHING questions.
In this Mind Your Fitness Business episode we jam how to ask better questions, how to establish greater rapport and why becoming a master of questions will make you stand out from all the rest.
Here is a list of 11 coaching questions that we both use personally in our day to day businesses. While they may look funny or feel weird rolling off your tongue initially, with practice, you will get comfortable with them.
Learning to speak ‘coach’ and not drill sergeant is just a matter of learning a new style of communication.
1. Can you tell me more?
2. Can you walk me through what you are feeling/struggling with/like to do … ?
3. What’s standing in your way? (Why do you think you haven’t reached your goal?)
4. What does success look like to you? How do you know when you’ve achieved it?
5. What have you done to try and solve this issue/problem?
6. What do you need most right now?
7. What do you want to change?
8. Why do you want to change?
9. What type of support do you need?
10. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being highest) how committed are you to achieving your goal?
11. What would it take to make it a 10?
Nardia: Hello? Hello? Good morning or afternoon, wherever you are in the world. Let me just get these settings under control and then we can kick off. So just waiting for Mimsy to come on in. Okay. Let’s see Mim, where are you? Okay, cool. That is all good. Okay. So let’s bring Mim in. Add to the show. It says it is adding you, let’s see Mim if this is going to work. So I can see that my computer is thinking about adding you. Oh Mim?
Nardia: Got you. I feel like we need to flip you.
Miriam: How’s that.
Miriam: Is that better?
Nardia: Yeah heaps better. We’ve got it working finally, we got that old Facebook.
Miriam: Good morning everyone.
Nardia: Okay. I’m just going to very quickly tell everyone that we had gone live on this page. So give me a second Mim and I will just post this up.
Nardia: I feel like there might be a little bit of delay between here and there. One second.
Nardia: Oh my gosh, I can’t type this morning. How have you been Mim?
Miriam: Yeah I’m good.
Nardia: Just add you in, looks like a nice day ahead.
Miriam: How are you feeling more importantly?
Nardia: I am exhausted but equal parts, accelerated. I can’t talk, I tell you what I’ve lost all my words.
Miriam: Exhilarated, accelerated, excited, any of them.
Nardia: Okay. I’ll just sent a message out to my normal Facebook page, so hopefully let everyone know that we are on this channel. So Mim, let’s just kick off yeah.
Miriam: Yeah, yeah let’s do it. I suppose if I start off then. Welcome to our Mind Your Fitness Business Show and I’m Miriam and this is not a Nadia Norman. Where are you talking to us from today, Nadia?
Nardia: I’m actually just getting stuck to the back of my chair is what’s happening right now. Okay there we go.
Miriam: This is about dealing with real-life challenges.
Nardia: This is real life challenges, because when you’re travelling, I hate using the cleaning so I hand wash all my clothes, so all my clothes are hanging out to the back of my chair. I am in Taipei, Taiwan today, at the moment. At this very moment in time.
Miriam: Taipei Taiwan. Wow. Wow. Well I think this is probably a good place to kick off for everyone because you’ve been travelling for a week, you’ve been talking to us from Bangkok last week and it’s something that I think will probably come up is all around what’s happening in PTs, what have you observed even in your past week, the big picture for the fitness industry as PTs are getting more and more into coaching and if we really delve deeper with the right question to get the most, not most from our clients, but to be able to give the most, to be able to add the most value to our clients as well. So we’re noticing a shift and you’ve been at the forefront of that in the Australian fitness industry. Any sort of insights or observations from your week talking mindset, culture, training, how people are thinking, what they’re talking about?
Nardia: Yeah, it was interesting. So I mean obviously the culture differences in Asia, even between say Thailand to Singapore to I’m assuming here, there are some significant cultural differences that you need to take into consideration. However, for the most part, the majority of the challenges and struggles that most PTs have are actually common worldwide and especially when we’re talking about dealing with the female client, they are the same. And the challenges that most personal trainers are having are how do I coach my client effectively to sustainable change, how do I get results with my clients in a way that’s healthy and you know, it’s also about them, the trainers having to understand the shift that it’s not all about being the best technician as a personal trainer, but also being the best change behaviour specialists so to speak. You can hear my words, I’m like thinking really hard to get my words out right now, but that’s kind of what stood out for me the most. I think this is really good for you because this is where your jam is, you know, you are the official coaching expert. One thing I noticed that they struggled with a little bit was the concept of asking open-ended exploratory questions.
Miriam: Okay, and so is that going beyond not just saying, well, what and how, but actually how to ask those open questions relevant and how to dive deeper?
Nardia: 100 percent. So I think maybe would you be able to speak to that a little bit? Can I just give you an example, and that might make things easier. I always talk about how there is a big difference between a professional telling somebody what to do and a professional having the skillset to be able to enrol a client in their change process. Can you speak to those two things specifically please?
Miriam: Yeah. Well I’ll give it a crack. And it’s interesting because I see this across, not just from years in the fitness industry but working with corporate clients, people wanting career coaching. This seems to be almost universal, so if you look at say with a fitness client and they’re talking about a particular condition or something that’s been going on, we were taught a long time ago to say, okay, well if you ask, okay, well so what does that, what’s coming up for you then? Or when did that happen? Or how long has that been going on for? And they’re really good questions to ask, but sometimes I think people can be very structured. Okay, well if they say this then I’ve got to ask that. But what I notice is that when you’re really present to what someone’s talking about and what they’re saying, you can actually start to dive down deeper for them and say well can you walk me through how that’s actually affecting you. Yeah. And this is probably a good technical one for people that are often a bit introverted and that could be a cultural thing that to be gender or whatever, if you’ll noticing someone takes a while to really volunteer information. When you give someone a kinaesthetic instruction to say, can you walk me through. It’s almost like saying I’m side beside you, walking you through as a partner, and this can be the same whether I’m talking to clients who are dealing with multi-million dollar deals or whether you’re talking to a one on one fitness client saying I’m beside you as an expert, as a partner in this relationship. So what we’re thinking is, how can I enrol you in that change process? But if you start by walk me through how this might show up for you and then that can actually start them thinking, Oh, you’re beside me not in front of me saying this is what you should do.
So I found even just a little technique like that can make a difference.
Nardia: Can I just interrupt you for one second because that point right there actually was some of the biggest aha’s the trainers had over the courses of our meeting was when they made the realization that their job is to stand beside their client and be the guide to change not to be the hero of the client’s journey.
Nardia: Big Difference.
Miriam: That’s a good one. Wow.
Nardia: And when they all went, oh my God, our job is to be a guide, it was just like, oh, okay, this is so much better. And I think the personal trainer of the future will be that guide, they’ll be the holistic coach, not necessarily, hey, do more exercises, stop eating that, need you to do this.
Miriam: Yeah, Wow. And you know what I think that was the one most powerful question that I’ve adopted over the past few years of coaching and consulting and working with clients. So I mean that’s pretty much all I had to offer there, because your questions are going to be different with every single client so I can’t sit there and say ask this ask that. But I think when you position yourself and as we know from going to the digital marketer conference, so for anyone who’s thinking about how do I market myself, how do I prospect new clients? How do I even start that conversation as a coach or a PT, having it just coupled like an arsenal of great questions up your sleeve, brainstorm them with different people because they’re going to be different. You might have your own list of 20, 30 questions that have come up a lot. I’ll have my own and when you put those together, you go, great. I’ve got 60 different questions, which I can tailor the language for in each situation, but when you position yourself saying, I’m beside you in this journey, I can’t remember the last time I told a client what they should be doing, having then, well if this feels like something that’s right for you and this keeps coming up for you, then maybe there’s an action you should take in line with what you’re feeling. That’s probably the only step in and tell advice that I worked with clients on. It’s such a minefield.
Nardia: So just to confirm that question, powerful coaching question would be, can you walk me through what’s happening now, what this feels like for you, the struggles that you have, insert whatever that situation? Okay. I want to write this into the comments section.
Miriam: Yeah. And specifically walk versus talk, as that will help people open up if they are less comfortable volunteering personal information at first.
Nardia: Okay. I love that. That’s such a great question. Okay, so can you please talk me, walk me through, sorry, not talk. Can you please walk me through what you’re feeling what you’re struggling with right now, what you think might be the best approach for you in your own health and fitness?
Nardia: Please talk me through why you’re struggling to change this behaviour or all that kind of stuff. Yes?
Miriam: Yep. Yeah, that’s right. So it’s a great, we call it sometimes a frame, of actually just setting it up and then it just makes it easier and then if you’re in a physical situation with a client as well, then they might actually act out what they’re talking about where they place their hands and you’ll start to notice people can really step into that kinaesthetic what they’re feeling as well as actually talking through the same time.
Nardia: Okay. Amazing. So I’m just writing this all down into the comment section so that we’ve got something to look at. Okay. Let’s talk about tell versus ask, because a lot of these symptoms that the trainers were having and throwing back at me when I’m saying change the way you ask your questions is, but my clients need to be told what to do. And my response to that is, nobody likes to be told what to do. There are certain circumstances where, yes, but for the most part, if I’m told what to do, what am I going to do? The complete opposite, I rebel. If I’m asked to have some input into my change, then I’m more likely to do it. What are your thoughts on that?
Miriam: Yeah, I actually think you can look at it in two ways. It depends how deep the relationship is. So if you’re early on in the relationship, so for example, if I run a workshop, so for anyone that might be looking at doing sort of group training or they’re running workshops as coaches or whatever the situation is, there’s certain things that I wouldn’t say in the first few hours of a workshop because it’s about building trust, opening their mind, so they actually start to work it out for themselves. So then they open and curious and they are starting to go, Oh yeah, I’ve been doing that. You know, and it’s probably the same with a PT client, the more questions you ask that actually helps them come along for the ride and enrol them in that journey as well. So if you’re further down into the relationship along in the workshop or in the training course, whatever it is you might be doing, you can probably use those cues further on down the piece because they’re already open to it and that’s where you’re like, we already had a chat about this and you realize blah blah, blah. Do you think it’s time that you should, could, might be able to. Come on, let’s go. It’s a different set of tell scenario.
Nardia: Yes, yes. And the key
Miriam: Because it’s based on openness and trust.
Nardia: Yeah so, the trust word and relationship. So I was here along with Dominic dos Remedios and Andrew Chadwick and Tony [Inaudible 00:14:26] and we all had our different expertise areas that we were coaching these trainers on. And even though Tony’s was extremely technical, we all keep saying the same things, which is, the ability to do anything or to make anything happen with our clients, depends on the level of trust and rapport that we have with them. In other words.
Miriam: Yeah, totally.
Nardia: The depth of the relationship that we have is almost one of the predictors of success.
Miriam: Yeah. I think that some of the best trainers that I’ve worked with, you know, I’ve trained with you, I’ve trained with another trainer, Danielle, and the level of trust in the past, there are times when you can say to your clients, no, you need to step up. You need to be able to do this. This is your time to be able to raise the bar. And that’s so powerful to a client. Clients might think they need to be told what to do. They like, oh I just like turning up to a class or a session because they don’t have be, I don’t have to be told what to, I can be told what to do. That’s really different to actually how do I want to achieve a behaviour change and results and whether you’re talking PT, whether tour talking health, whether you’re talking corporate, executive coaching. Yeah, when people work it out for themselves and they really sign up for that, oh my goodness, the change is just so much more expansive.
Nardia: Yeah. So what would you, what would you say to, this is one argument that I then always get from some trainers who will say, our job and our scope of practice is to deliver the exercise, and that’s it. I would love to know why you think, from a nonpersonal trainer who’s looking in at this, what is the shortfall of having that mindset as a trainer?
Miriam: Well I think the first thing that comes to mind even thinking about technology is that you’ll be replaced if you don’t, if you just stick within the box and you don’t offer something different and you don’t extend yourself, take on those coaching techniques. It’s the macro and the micro of it is quite funny right, you’re trying to open a client to the results that they could achieve and develop that relationship, but how you’re looking at your own self and how you might need to grow as a trainer. So you can definitely do that and you can play inside the box, but A, you won’t stand out and B something will happen with technology sooner or later where you’ll be replaced and I think we’re already seeing that trend out there as well so how about you work on, you look at what’s the mindset of the potential, what could I possibly be as a trainer and coach and I think it is more than just being a trainer these days. You’ve got to be a marketer, you’ve got to be a coach. You’ve got to be on top of your figures, you’ve got to have a business framework, there’s all of that. So what is it that you could deliver to your client, but where does that actually start within you.
Nardia: Do you know what you’ve just said something that really struck with me. I have never even looked at the answer of that question from the position of, what’s the word, relevancy. When you just said, Hey, if you aren’t ready to go down that path, the chances are you are going to be replaced because you are so right. The number one trend in our industry is technology. Everyone is looking for personal trainers on their Fitbit, on their Apps, and this is coming thick and fast in our industry. So I love how you see it. If you’re not creating these amazing depth of relationships, you are replaceable, just like that. Mind blowing, love it.
Miriam: Mind circumstantial, it’s taken to the next level.
Nardia: It is. But I think that something, if you’re a trainer and you’re watching this really, really let that point sink in and look at what’s the long-term consequences if you are unwilling to expand your skillset and mindset?
Miriam: Yeah. It’s going mediocre, even I think in other industries, if you ask five more questions, five more really deep, meaningful, relevant questions than your competitor, then the other person will train on the floor then the other person they are chatting to on Facebook or website to try and get some help, if you ask five more really kick ass amazing questions than the other person, than the other website you’ll get that client hooked in, you’ll get them thinking and they will be like, wow, I’ve never thought about that. Oh my goodness. No one’s ever asked me that before. It doesn’t actually take much to go beyond standard, go beyond mediocre, and that will also boost your business because people will refer you without even really knowing why they totally got me. They really understood the way that I am and they understand my needs.
Nardia: I love it, they got me. If anyone ever says to you through a message or at a verbally tally [Inaudible 00:19:45] how you got me or hey, it feels like when you say or talk about this, you’re in my head, that means, you know, you understand their needs, their wants, their problems, their pains and it means you’re with them, going back to what we talked about at the start and that’s the non-tangible stuff that really does shift your business from being just a fitness person to being the professional change maker.
Miriam: Oh absolutely. And now I’m thinking even a little example of something that I had a personal learning in the past week. I’ve got a really great friend who, he’s a great coach, a natural coach probably better than he even knows that he is, and I was going to do a workshop, do some training in an area, and something about it held me back. I was a bit like, oh, I don’t know if I’ve got the time or the money or whatever it was, I was making excuses. And deep down I was actually knowing that this was going to take me a level beyond where my current comfort zone is. And I always think I’m pretty good at pushing my comfort zone. Anyway. I decided not to go ahead with that experience. And he said, wow, okay, well that’s interesting. Were you afraid of stepping up. What was it about you that actually sabotaged yourself from doing something that was actually really meaningful for you, and is there any possible way that you’re holding yourself back from further learning by not doing this? Now another person might have said, oh, well, you know, you can always do it another time, or Oh, well I know, flights are expensive, but you know, we would add a commentary and sympathize with the person’s decision instead of taking the opportunity to ask a question and dig a little bit deeper, and I went, oh, you got me? Yep. Yep. So this can happen in everyday life.
Nardia: So if we put that into the context of say, a very typical personal trainer, client situation, let’s kind of role play, let’s go with something like when the trainer is asking the client to perhaps give up some sweets or to stop eating bad, unhelpful foods and trying to shift them into better foods. Can we kind of just plonk that situation into exactly that scenario? What would be a great question for a trainer to ask, instead of saying, why aren’t you eating this? I’ve told you not to eat that.
Miriam: Yeah, I think you can look at it in a couple of ways. To use the example before. Could you, walk me through your decision making process and that language will suit some clients who might be very analytical and logical. So what was your decision making process and they might be like, oh, you know, okay, and then I did this, but you could even use that same question and you would be saying, okay, well what part of you resisted, or what part of you felt uncomfortable about doing something that would actually benefit you? So is there anything within you that felt uncomfortable about doing that?
Nardia: Oh my God, I love that because even though we’re talking about stop eating doughnuts for example and I want you to replace that with a healthy meal, getting aside that and saying, Hey, what part of you is resistant to the idea of eating some healthy food even though you know deep down it’s going to be helpful to you and your goals. And when people start to kind of dig in and reflect on their behaviours and they’ve changed their decision-making processes, then we as trainers are armed with more information that can help us get better results for them.
Miriam: That questioning, even if you think about that in a role play, that question could end up being answered by, oh well, you know, I was just really tired and I felt like a pick me up. Okay, but then you need to start digging deeper. So it’s not just the surface level answer that might come back to you. Someone else might say if they are being really honest and say, the part of me that thinks they don’t actually deserve to have the body that I love, that makes me feel good. So that would be gold if someone said that straight away. But in reality it might need 3 or 4 question prompts.
Nardia: We have to dig down to get to that level. But even if they can’t give an answer straight away, the question prompts the thinking or the reflection.
Miriam: Yeah, that’s right. Versus well I thought we had a discussion about what you’re going to eat and not eat, and you said you wanted to be this in four weeks time. Like what were you doing? How does that feel? Not So Nice. It depends on how they are motivated I suppose if they’re motivated by stick then that’s a different conversation, but ultimately long-lasting change, better questions.
Nardia: And look here’s the thing, like in 20 minutes we’re doing a little snippet and intro into coaching world, and this is not something you can do overnight. This requires so much more. But I think as we start to wrap it up, the key things to take home here, as Mim mentioned and I’m so in love with what she said here. If you aren’t prepared to become more holistic or to become the coach, or take on the role as the coach versus the trainer, you are at risk of becoming irrelevant. You are at risk of becoming replaced with technology because that’s certainly the truth. The second thing here is learn how to, create an arsenal of powerful coaching questions, and the one that Mim shared with us, which I’m in love with also is the question, can you please walk me through X, insert whatever you want in there, because that’s going to be enough to help establish that curiosity and that reflection from the clients and that’s going to help with your behaviour change. And then the last thing you said, which feeds into point number one is relationships and trust are key. You know, we’re personal trainers, we’re not called fitness trainers, although some are, but we go by the name personal trainer i.e. we have a personal relationship with the people that we’re working with. And I think to leave this conversation, we all as personal trainers need to realise it is a privilege to be invited into somebody’s world, to help them to change. We can’t be the hero.
Our job is to guide them and we should take that, we have a responsibility to our clients to give them the best journey for them. You like that?
Miriam: Yeah totally, love it, love it. It’s the same in any industry.
Nardia: It is.
Miriam: The new way of thinking and it makes so much sense and it’s easier. Oh my goodness. So much easier.
Nardia: So much easier. Alright everyone.
Miriam: Amazing words of wisdom.
Nardia: Thank you so much for tuning in again. We’re going to get much better at getting the technology side under control and it’s going to be easier when I get back to Sydney, ah that’s Australia I should say, but we will be here next week. If you’re watching the replay, please leave a comment and let us know if there’s anything that you’d like us to chat about. Otherwise, thank you so much for tuning in.
Miriam: Bye y’all.
Nardia: Okay. See you next time. Bye. Bye.
Nardia is an Australian Institute of Fitness ‘Legend’, Fitness Network Personal Trainer of the year 2014, course creator, international presenter and part time comedian (in her lounge room).
She loves helping women in fitness create stronger businesses so they can have more money, flexibility and impact.
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