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Coaching the Model Client

I greet my client for an evening session, in this instance it’s a movement session, but very quickly I can sense and see that all is not well…

“I’m absolutely shattered, I tell you what, the last thing I need is a tiring session tonigh

t.” his bag hitting the floor with a sort of angry resignation.

Now if you’ve been a trainer or a coach for any appreciable length of time, these situations aren’t uncommon and can, if you’re not “on your game,” catch you unawares and be disconcerting, at worst, triggering perhaps a defensive or unwelcoming response from you.

I chose to immediately frame the session by saying “we’ll find the right balance tonight, you’ll leave feeling better, tell me more if you’d like.”  We have a history of sit-down coaching sessions regarding his resilience and performance at work, so this was agreed to and he began.

As he spoke, I listened, aiming to create in my own mind a solid working landscape of what he was talking about.  After some time it became apparent to me that he was very focussed on facts and events about what sounded like an incredibly difficult schedule and situation.  The more detail he went into, the more our heads felt like they were going to explode!  I saw and felt him live out, literally, the embodiment of his stress.

Very often we can get so subsumed and overwhelmed by our clients’ stories that we, like them, lose perspective and objectivity.  Detail can bombard our senses and quickly we can feel like we have to provide an answer or a solution.  In these instances models can provide a creative and helpful “frame” by which we can start to interpret what is occurring.

In “The Case for Coaching” (Jarvis, Lane, Fillery-Travis, 2006, p. 13) there is some strong empirical evidence that coaching can deliver “tangible benefits to both individuals and organisations” and is “an effective way to promote learning in organisations.”  Over 75% of managers and practitioners stated coaching to be an “effective to very effective” interaction.  (CIPD Chartered Institute for Learning Development.  Survey. 2005)

The effectiveness of our, or indeed any coaching, of course, comes down to the coach and as an evidence-based approach to coaching grows, we can see when, where, why and how coaching becomes necessary and powerful to help craft change, and indeed where it is harmful or unwarranted.

So, my client spoke and a model that I like to use sprang to mind.  This is an organic process that I have learnt to trust and the model that came to my aid was this one, called “Domains of Competence.”  This model is from the work of Habermas and is found and described in the excellent book “Coaching:  Evoking Excellence in Others.  (Flaherty, 2005, p. 84)

 “Domains of Competence” (Flaherty, p.84)

Ken Wilber takes this model and expands on it in “Integral Life Practice” (Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008, p.28) an excellent resource for any trainer bridging the ‘exercise’ to ‘personal’ gap with their clients.

If we look at the three levels here, it becomes apparent where my client was focussed in his account of his situation.  He was reporting entirely from the “it” domain – facts and events weighed heavily on his mind, waking him at night, creating stress responses with each bombardment of potential worse-case scenarios.  It became evident that he was largely unsupported in the “we” domain and due to his existential aloneness, not therefore, engaging with the “I” domain, or how to “self-manage.”

Using the model in this way allowed me to do two things.  The first was offer some support, bridge the “we” domain and start, via listening and being present with him, to offer a “container” or a space to share experience.  The second key point is; as he relaxes, I help him become aware of the change in his state and the physiological differences as he becomes more embodied and grounded, thus highlighting the “I” domain for him.  This became a key practice for him, namely to “notice” when he became very identified with facts and events, forgetting literally, his breathing and his physicality.

In “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” (Second Edition, Peltier, 2010, p.165) there is an excellent section on “The Existential Stance” the first core concept given is “individuality and context.”  This points out that; “things are fixed” yet “there is no fixed person.”  My client was stuck in undeniable “things”, a very tough period in a very tough climate, yet due to a lesser engagement with “we” and “I” domains he had lost two vital resources, namely self and other support.  Bringing the concepts to light through a discreet use of a model gave his situation and him some needed context and reference points to work with and create new perspectives.  He felt able to really relate to the concept of “self management” particularly and I, as his coach, was now able to share this frame with him and provide “self management tools,” namely body awareness techniques and reframing ideas.

To summarise the take-away message from this article I’ll refer to “The Skilled Helper” (Sixth Edition, Egan, 1998, inside cover)

Egan outlines a brilliant model with three distinct phases to it, which I feel can be applied very simply or with sufficient training, very extensively.  I’ll refer to the first stage here because it’s simple and can be a “meta-model” for the application of other models.


The Skilled Helper Model

Stage One:

“Current Scenario”

This is a really beautiful and simple flow chart.  Listen to the story, intently, with all your senses.  Get a “feel” for where your client is metaphorically and literally with their story.  Start to internally ask yourself  “what am I hearing?” and also “what is missing in this story?”  “What is it that we are not seeing clearly enough or at all?”  In this instance my “Domains of Competence” model allowed us to see where the focus was too dominant and therefore see what unused and underdeveloped resources where in fact available, granting us “leverage.”  Two further stages go into how to create plans for action in this process.

Alfred Korzybski, the “father of semantics” remarked famously “the map is not the territory,” and he was right.  Models aren’t our reality they simply give us a filter through which we may understand our experience.  If we hold them lightly and let them inform our situation they can be immensely powerful.  I know I’m far happier with a map heading into a city centre than without one!



Jarvis, Lane, Fillery-Travis, 2006, p. 13. “The Case for Coaching” The Chartered Institute of Personal Development

Flaherty, 2005, p. 84. “Coaching:  Evoking Excellence in Others.”  Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann

Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008, p.28. “Integral Life Practice” Integral Books, Shambala Productions

Peltier, 2010, p.165) “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” Second Edition, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Sixth Edition, Egan, 1998, inside cover. “The Skilled Helper” Sixth Edition, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company


Things to look out for when hiring a Personal Trainer

Personal Trainersno prescription cialis

g> can be a great aid when it comes to getting in shape. However, this is only the case some of the time. Currently in the UK today there are thousands of Personal Trainers around with varying degrees of knowledge, skills and quality of service. Some Personal Trainers out there are outstanding at their jobs while others aren’t worth their salt and should be working in a different industry. We find this varying degree of quality in most gyms, health clubs and other exercise environments across the world and to the naked eye or the gym newbie there is very little to distinguish the difference between a world class PT and someone who is nothing short of rubbish! This is the reason why I’ve decided to help you – the general public – out when deciding who’s a great PT to hire and who’s just dire!

Here are a few things you need to watch out for when choosing a PT to train with – it’s not all about what’s on the advertisement board. So here are some pointers to find the right trainer for you:

1. Go to a busy Personal Trainer: Look for the PT’s who are interacting with everyone in the gym and are always doing something productive and constantly training people. This can be a little bit deceptive when a trainer is first building business as they may be quiet on that front and this doesn’t make them a bad trainer. However, if a trainer has been at a club for a good few months or years and they seem to be slacking off on the gym desk or just stand around like a wet lemon then they probably have too much time on their hands and are less likely to be on top of their game!

2. Check their Qualifications: The most qualified Personal Trainer in the club isn’t necessarily the best trainer for you. It’s quite likely that the notice board in your gym is full of Personal Trainers advertising their numerous qualifications, most of which you’ve likely never heard of and don’t understand. Take the time to ask around or do your research into certain qualifications – find out if their qualifications are from reputable sources, and whether they are suitable for your own goals. For example, a PT with only Strength and Conditioning qualifications (i.e. lifting big bars and weights) might not be appropriate for someone who wants to improve their posture or lose weight.

3. Presentation: Presentation is everything – the posture a person assumes, the words they use and the body language they demonstrate are all very important aspects of a good professional. Look for someone who looks the part and is well-dressed and tidy as these people are the ones who care enough about their jobs to take the time to present themselves well. Plus, if you surround yourself with people who you want to be like, different traits of their personality and mannerisms will rub off on you – as Jim Rohn said, we are the combination of the 5 people we spend the most time around, and for some people their trainer is in that top 5.

4. Punctuality and Professionalism: A good Personal Trainer will be professional at all times and will turn up on time. They will deliver your programs, send you emails and follow through everything they say to you promptly and with minimal fuss. This shows that this trainer cares about you and your results and is willing to go the extra mile for you outside of your sessions.

5. Find a trainer that is engaged and engaging when they train you: by this I mean they will be eye level with you when they can be during an exercise, they are motivating and supportive, willing to do partner exercises and join in the session when they can. The best PT’s will get involved with their clients in terms of using touch correction and hands-on techniques – whether it’s to assist a movement or a stretch at the end of a session. A good PT London will make records of what weights you lift, your distance times and maybe even go as far as videoing your techniques to ensure you are performing safely and optimally. They will also always recap what you are doing at the end of a session to find out what you enjoyed and what you didn’t – remember this is about what YOU want and not what your trainer wants, so if your trainer isn’t asking how you felt about each session, they’re not doing the best job.

6. Desire to improve: Some trainers will be quite happy to be laxey dazey and content with what they learned 10 years ago. These trainers will give you stagnant sessions and their knowledge runs the risk of being outdated. The fitness industry is constantly adapting and evolving and what we know today is likely to be rubbished tomorrow. The best trainers will show desire to improve and learn and will be asking for feedback from you and their peers on a regular basis. These are the trainers that are going to get you results.

7. Fair Pricing: Some Personal Trainers are cheaper than others and sometimes this is down to affluence of the area and variations in quality of their knowledge base. Obviously, it goes without saying that you should go for a trainer that you can afford. However, I find that if you’re looking for a “good deal” or a massive discount on Personal Training, you’re probably going to get a lower quality session – a good Personal Trainer may appear expensive but it is what they bring to the hour that matters and what they can do for you away from your sessions. A well paid PT is more likely to look after you and support you when you need it, whereas a PT looking to make a quick buck isn’t going to care because they are already devaluing their product. That said, pricing doesn’t necessarily reflect a trainer’s ability – there are some great PTs out there who charge much less than some awful trainers!

Hopefully these points will help give you a better idea of what to look for when hiring a personal trainer. But do remember that any PT who is worth their salt will be willing to give you some time for free before you sign up with them – whether that’s through a taster session, a consultation or a brief chat to help you on the gym floor. Make the most of this time to ask questions and get answers but remember not to abuse it.

A great Personal Training in London product is built on the trust and relationship between a client and a trainer. Try not to take on the Personal Trainer that promises you the world as they will often fail to deliver, but instead seek out someone more assured, humble and honest about their goals, ethos and what they are about. Seek to come away from a trainer who tries to force the hard sell on you and pressures you into buying-in. A good PT will know their session went well and will give you the option to go away and think about it and most of the time you’ll come back anyway if they were good enough! After all that’s what taster sessions are for and if you don’t like what you get you have no obligation to buy into it.

Now you know what to look for in a trainer I hope you’ll make your decision with a wiser viewpoint.

Thanks for reading.