#276: What To Do When It’s Not Working (For You and Your Clients)

what to do when it's not working

It’s so frustrating to feel that our efforts are falling flat! Clients experience this when they don’t see results – and so do health coaches. In this episode we’ll explore the best way to handle the situation, and turn perceived “failure” into success. Learn more powerful coaching techniques in our upcoming, LIVE training – HealthCoachPower.com/powerful

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What To Do When It’s Not Working (For You & Your Clients)

Frustration shows up in our health coach businesses in a myriad of ways:

Clients can face challenges and feel stuck, like they’re never going to reach their health goals.

And as a coach there can be frustration around business growth – or lack thereof.

So what do we do?

The power of gentle curiosity

In coaching, the energy we bring to challenges is crucial. The question “Why isn’t it working?!?!” is often mired in blame, shame, and negative self-talk.

But the same 4 words can be reframed into a more gentle curiosity that sounds like, “Hmmm. I wonder…why isn’t it working?”

This shift opens up possibilities for solutions.

Help your client assess

When a client isn’t making progress they might feel angry and even blame their health coach. Help your client shift out of blame and get curious about why, perhaps, they aren’t seeing progress. 

What are some possible reasons? What might be standing in their way, even if it’s just 1% of the problem?

From this new perspective, possible action steps will emerge. Encourage your client to experiment! Starting with the easiest change can lead to success, building momentum for further positive changes. 

Look at your business objectively

As with clients and their health goals, reaching our business goals is a personal pursuit. It’s normal for emotions to get in the way of seeing opportunities and overcoming challenges.

Consider your frustrations in growing your client base. And with a curious spirit, consider what might be going wrong.

  • Are there marketing avenues you haven’t tried yet?
  • Is your mailing list not reaching enough potential clients?
  • Are you targeting an audience that doesn’t have the resources to hire a coach, no matter how much they might want to?

These would all be possibilities to consider, and take action to solve.

You have a choice

Whenever feelings of frustration emerge, remember you have a choice. Instead of spiraling into self-doubt, use gentle curiosity to guide your next steps. This is a powerful coaching tactic to share with your clients and practice yourself! We’ll be exploring more ways to handle tricky coaching situations in our free training this January 2024 – register here to Become a Powerful Coach & Get Results For Your Clients.

Full transcript:

Hello there, health coaches, thank you so much for tuning in today. Live from my house where we have a snow day and my boys are running around like crazy people, so hopefully they won't be too loud in the background. Today we are talking about what to do when it's not working, and this is kind of a preview for our brand new live training happening later this month. It's called Become a Powerful Coach and Get Results For Your Clients. I hope you can join us for this because first of all, it's completely free and if you haven't already, go sign up at healthcoachpower.com/powerful. One thing that we're going to talk about more in depth during that training is what to do when clients aren't seeing results, and we'll tackle a bunch of other scenarios and challenges that come up with coaching too, so you know exactly how to handle them.

So go sign up now for free. It's at health coach power.com/powerful. And if you are here with us, live over in the Facebook group, say hello in the chat. Feel free to ask questions as we go along. I have my eyes on the comments over there, so when we think about things just aren't working, I have so many examples from my own 13 years in private practice as a health coach, different times when it's just not working. My clients have felt that way, bringing their frustration two hour sessions like they're not losing weight, they're not seeing any change in their symptoms, even though they feel like they're doing all the right things, it can be demoralizing. And then in my business, I was thinking if I had a nickel for every time that I thought I had a really great idea and then it wasn't work out the way I thought.

The entire year that I spent heavily marketing myself to young moms, I earned their trust. I created an amazing community. I had their attention. And yet when I offered even the low of low priced programs, nobody bought anything and I was pulling my hair out, not literally, but almost pulling my hair out. I felt so, so frustrated. So if you're here live, tell us in the chat what you've been feeling frustrated about what is not working in your world or what's not working for one of your clients. Now, it's not super useful to put a lot of energy or emphasis on the negatives. This is not like a complaining session. I just want to briefly hear about what's not working. I want you to name it and then we're going to circle back to those answers in just a little bit with a tool to help.

So if you're not here live by the way, and you're listening to this via podcast or on YouTube or whatever later, do the same thing in your mind or just jot down on a piece of paper what's the situation, what does not seem to be working. Got it. Now before we dive in, this episode is brought to you by Practice Better. It's the practice management software that I love and recommend for health coaches because it is built for exactly our kind of business practice, better handles everything from billing, scheduling forms, online programs, so much more. They even have this new AI note taker so you don't have to write up client notes anymore. So of all the admin tasks in your practice are dragging you down, go sign up for a free trial and save 30% off your first three months when you use this link healthcoachpower.com/pb that stands for Practice Better now. Katie is back with us today. Thank you so much for being here again, Katie, it's nice to see you as always.

Of course. So nice to see Michelle. Thanks for having me.

Well, I knew you had to be here with us because I've been in this game for a very long time. You've been a health coach for a very long time, and you guys, Katie is one of the very best coaches I have ever known, and sometimes I think Katie, all your clients must be doing just fabulously, like no problems because you're really, really good at this. I'm sure they have amazing results all the time, and yet I know the reality of the business. Can you think of a client who wasn't getting results, who was feeling frustrated, and maybe just describe that situation to us?

Sure. I mean, definitely had clients who were not getting what they thought they wanted when they came into coaching, the one that stands out at me stands out at me because when she brought it up, she was so angry and she came on the session and we had some great sessions and she just got onto Zoom and she was like, we're going to talk about this this week. And I was like, okay, yeah, okay, that's what we do. We talk. And she wanted to lose some weight and she wasn't, wasn't losing weight. So she was very, but all of a sudden very angry. And I meet with my clients weekly and we spend about 30 minutes and she spent at least 15 of those 30 minutes yelling at me at the top of her lungs about not losing the weight that she wanted to lose. So...



That's scary. That's just scared everybody. Can you imagine showing up for a client session and the client not only is not having results, but now they are mad and they are mad at you? Ouch. Okay. So there's lots of ways to work with a client who's feeling angry, who's feeling stuck. We are going to be talking a lot about that in our become a powerful coach training coming up. But the most important thing to notice is the energy that we bring to whatever challenge we're experiencing. So this client was bringing the energy of blame, right? I'm sure under that shame herself and a whole lot of anger. So no matter how the challenges presenting itself, there is a single question that we can ask that's either going to lead us down a path of pity and self shame and blame, or that leads us towards success. And we hear it all the time. This is a question we hear. The words are, why isn't it working? Simple four words, why isn't it working? Now, most often we hear it mired in frustration and that shame, and it sounds, those four words sound like this, why isn't it working?

So Katie, if your client asked herself or asked out loud you or whoever, why isn't it working? What are some possible answers to the question? When it's asked like that, what do you think her brain would tell her?

Well, like you said, she's definitely thinking blame fault, shame. I'm doing things wrong. Even though her words are saying I'm doing everything right in the back of her head, there's this nagging little piece saying maybe I'm not doing everything and I'm afraid of that. So I'm going to be really forceful in saying that I'm doing everything. But yes, it really gets caught a lot around the blame and the shame.

Totally. And even if she wasn't angry at you and she was only angry at herself, or literally think of any scenario when the world where someone is feeling frustrated like this, they're going to start thinking things like, I don't have enough willpower. I'm never going to succeed. Maybe I just have bad luck. Or have you ever had a client say, I just have bad genes, nothing I can do bad genes. I am a true victim. And maybe there's even thoughts of I don't deserve success. I don't deserve this. I for some reason believe I'm going to be miserable forever. And this is the same thing that can happen when you're thinking about your business. I see here with us, Nancy said she's frustrating about not getting clients yet. Ellen says the same thing, right? There's this so much frustration when we go through, we get our certification and we do all the things we are supposed to do so that we can be a working health coach.

And yet, where are the clients? It was the same for me back when I was trying to, I was mentioning market, my health coaching services to young moms. It was like, why isn't this working? This should be working by now. And I figured nobody wants health coaching. This is a stupid career choice. That's the things that your brain starts to say, or I never should have left my corporate job. This is useless. Or there's too much competition. I'm never going to be able to get ahead or I suck. I am never going to make it as a health coach. All right, so breathe through all of that. I know we all have this barrage of those types of thoughts. When we're feeling frustrated, my recommendation is that we ask the same question, same four words, but we change the way that we ask the question. So for everybody who's here live, think about, and even if you're not here live and you're watching later, think about the thing that isn't working right now for you, for your client. And I want you to ask the same four words, but ask it like this.

I wonder why isn't it working? Why isn't it working? And you just want to get curious. It's like a very gentle curiosity where we notice the problem eyes wide open, but then we don't throw ourselves into a pit of despair. We just look for more information. I wonder if I put on my thinking cap, what are some possible reasons? Why isn't it working? And using our rational brain, we can think about all the very real possibilities for maybe why this thing isn't working. So Katie, if your client used some of this gentle curiosity in her situation, what do you think she might have come up with?

I think she might've remembered the alcohol that she wasn't adding into her daily food tally. So maybe some of that. She might have remembered that she was so stressed about this and her work was stressful, that she was not sleeping very well. That when she was eating, she was putting a lot of salt on her food. So she was very inflamed. So there were things that she actually was doing, not because she's a horrible person, but because didn't really occur to her at the time that this might be something that she could change. These were things she had some success previously, and those were not things that she had changed. So in her head, they weren't things that she had to change. So coming up, not with blame, but with opportunities to make changes and talking through it, thinking through it, the realization that we really are an experiment and whenever we try to move forward and make change, we're not going to know, boom, right off the bat what the perfect change is. We're going to have to try some things, see how they work. So if she was asking it with curiosity, she might say, oh yeah, I haven't tried this. Or When I go to the gym, I just do cardio. I haven't lifted any weights. And the last time I lost weight, I was doing a lot of weightlifting. So once you can get out of that blame mindset or that poor me mindset or that really frustrated place where we're not moving forward, I think you come up with actionable steps that you can use to move forward.

Exactly. And maybe it was none of those things were the answer, the total answer. Maybe it was 1% the salt and it was like 2% the alcohol, right? When you're doing this type of gentle curiosity and brainstorming, I think it's important to literally you are just brainstorming. You do not have to find the final perfect all in one solution. You're just like, maybe it's this. It's partially that. And I find it's even helpful to say to myself or to somebody else, what if it was just 1% attributed to this thing? It's just 1%. You can give it that. You could say it might be 1% attributed to the fact that I haven't lifted any weights. So that's a possibility. So open up these possibilities and I want to encourage you to do that for yourselves Now with whatever it is you're feeling frustrated with, what are some real possibilities?

And I had to do that in my own health coaching business. I had to ask myself, why isn't it working selling health coaching programs to young moms? Can you guys think of any real possible reasons? Maybe it occurred to me, it just dawned on me, and I don't know why it didn't dawn on me sooner, and it doesn't matter. But it dawned on me that this group of moms is really busy with their young kids. They have little ones. They are still changing diapers. They are still breastfeeding in many cases. Lots of them are getting pregnant again. Maybe they don't have the bandwidth to prioritize their own health, whatever the health issue was that they were worried about. So maybe for them it's like not now. Right? Now I'm in it. If you have kids, there's just those years where you're just in it. It is a stage of life that is not about you.

It is about your little teeny tiny kids. And if that wasn't true for all of the moms, it was certainly true for many of them. So what else? I thought, well, a lot of these young moms, in many cases they're not working or at least they're not working. And if they are working full-time, they're getting 90% of their salary to daycare. So I'm trying to get a mom who is already spread too thin with her time and now also financially to commit to health coaching. That's a big ask. And finally, if I were perfectly honest, a lot of these moms didn't seem to think that their health problems mattered were really that big of a problem. They just thought, yeah, I'm tired. Well, I'm supposed to be tired. I have little kids. And to a degree, that's true. And they thought they're supposed to be dealing with picky eaters, and that may or may not be true, but it's just a time of life.

And that's what they chalked it up to. They knew it was unpleasant, but also totally expected, and therefore not something that they were super motivated to solve. It wasn't like a big problem. And if you're in any of my HPU courses, you've probably heard me talk about we need to solve a big problem for people or else they're just going to go, I can live with it. I can accept my lot in life. And for these moms, it was true, at least for this period of time in their life. So that was the information I needed. I understood that I wasn't the problem. I wasn't so terrible as a coach. I wasn't going to be a failure forever. I just needed to be more strategic about choosing a target market. I needed a crowd who at least had a little bit of time and a little bit of extra money.

It seemed so obvious, right? It seem obvious for a year, not until I did some gentle curious questioning. By the way, you guys, if you need help marketing, selling your programs like I did back in the day, the wait list is now open for 2020 fours fast track semester. You can add your name to the no obligation wait list for best possible pricing and bonuses at healthcoachpower.com/waitlist. Okay? So think back to whatever that situation is that's feeling frustrating right now. How can we apply the same sort of logic, what might be standing in your way if you're here live with me and you are brave, put just a thought in the chat. What might be even 1% causing the problem that you are struggling with? What are some possibilities you can imagine for why this thing that you want isn't working right now? Even just 1%.
Write that reason down. And again, there's probably multiple reasons. So you just want to brainstorm here. We're not attached to it. We're not feeling ashamed about it. We're just like information, data. And then based on that new information, the next step is to think, well, what choices do I have? If these are all the possibilities that I can imagine, what choices do we have? Where can I go next? So Katie, if your client were to think about maybe the alcohol she was drinking, maybe what she was doing at the gym, what might be some of the steps that she could take next?

I think she would just have to decide what her next step was. She could look at all the options. Some people like to choose the hardest option. They feel like they're doing a lot of work. I usually encourage people to look for the easiest option so that they can feel successful. And I think that's the real next goal when someone is frustrated to get them looking at it curiously, and then to get them to take a step where they're going to feel super successful.

I love that. So I think the inclination would be like, okay, I thought of 10 things that I could be doing differently. I'm going to change all of them right now. Like big major overhaul. This is just human nature. And then what happens a week later, oh, I failed. I wasn't able to do all of those things. And so rather than which is the one that could move the needle the most and is the hardest, you're saying why not start with the one that is actually the easiest? And then it's like, okay, I did that and either it worked. I'm starting to see the success I'm after or didn't seem to make a huge difference, and now maybe I can rule that out or I can kind of set it on the back burner, but I gave it its due.

Yes. And they've started moving in that direction of trying different things. And it wasn't that hard if you said to someone, I want you to go to the gym five days a week. I want you to do an hour strength training every single day. Wow, that's a lot. So either they don't do it and they feel like they failed or they do it and they're so sore that they're in tears. But if you say, how about you just put the salt shaker away, if that's something that they've identified, not that hard. Not even like they're doing anything. So they're taking something away. They're getting rid of that motion for some of their food, and that's easy. And you're right, it either moves the needle or they've gotten some momentum in that direction of change and taking a risk and taking a chance at what's going to come next.

I mean, it feels like the scientific method to me, we're going to try this variable and then we'll try this variable and we're just going to collect data. And that way you can be a bit emotionally removed from it, which I always find is so helpful, especially, well, certainly for clients. I mean, there's a lot of emotions that get tied up in them finding success, but for anyone thinking, oh gosh, my business isn't going the way I want it to, there can be such an emotional tie to that when you step back and you're like, I'm going to take these steps and I will evaluate to see how they did. I'm going to look at the numbers. That can be really, really, really helpful. Morgan wrote here a cause could be that I'm not putting myself out there in real life, she said with an emoji where she's kind of peeking through her hands like a little bit. Oh, I just admitted that. Yeah, that's a great one, Morgan, because so many health coaches are showing up on Instagram every day. You might be doing lots of things online. But yeah, I wonder what it would be like if I showed up in person. If I met someone eyeball to eyeball with no screen in between. Haven't done that.

That's great. That might not be the whole answer, but that could certainly be a big piece of the pie. So write that down. That's a possibility. Nancy wrote, not enough subscribers. Okay, not enough subscribers. I mean, there's not enough people on my mailing list. That's a very real possibility. It makes it difficult to market yourself widely when you have a limited number of people on your mailing list, great. Because a problem that can be solved if it's just like, because I'm terrible and I'm the worst ever, that's really hard to solve. But you can definitely get names onto a mailing list. So I love that. In my health coaching business, I took what I had now learned about young moms, and I said, huh, this is going to be so painful. I have just invested a year of my life and my business and hours upon hours into this group, but I see now why it's probably not working.

And I decided to shift and put my efforts toward corporate women instead, those who were living a more financially comfortable life, they were older. They often did not have kids, certainly not little kids, because these were the women who, if I really thought about it, these were the women who throughout my career had hired me at the drop of a hat. They had fewer restrictions on their resources of time and energy. They often had bigger problems. They were slightly older, they had more health issues that were coming to a head. They had a big career on the line, and they wanted solutions. They were not willing to wait it out. So when you're frustrated, I know how you feel and we know how our clients feel. We all have had that feeling. And if you take nothing away from today's episode, know you have a choice.
You can spiral into self-doubt and shame and start pointing fingers and blaming everyone around you. Or you can use some gentle curiosity to guide you where you want to go, or at least take the next step in a smart direction to gathering more information. This is a reframe that is a very powerful coaching skill. I hope you'll use it with your clients. I hope you will use it with yourself. And if you'd like to learn more super useful coaching techniques and get big results, join us for our free, Become a Powerful Coach Training this January. Katie and I will be there serving it up. You can join us for free at helpcoachpower.com/powerful. This episode is sponsored by That Clean Life. Help your clients get unstuck with endless healthy recipe ideas for any type of diet, and show them how to easily meal plan for themselves all while staying within your scope of practice for a limited time. You can save 20% off your first four months when you join at healthcoachpower.com/tcl. That stands for That Clean Life. It is an excellent, excellent service. I have used it many times. You are going to love it, and we'll see you next time everyone. Thanks for being here, Katie. Thanks, Michelle. Take care. Bye-Bye.