Suck Now, Be Better Later – 3 Ways to Improve Your Coaching

Have you ever struggled getting results or buy-in with clients, when the people you look up to make things seem effortless and easy?

What if I told you that those great results your heroes get only happened due to learning from several failures? Through struggling over the course of multiple repetitions and clients.

Yet, how can we embrace failure when our patients and clients expect results now? After all, people don’t work with you so you can learn. Or do they?

That’s where I reached out to my homegirl Lucy Hendricks. She is one of the best coaches in the industry, but didn’t get there overnight.

What I admire about her is she has created a system where trial and error is embraced. The best part? Her clients love it!

Enjoy learning from Lucy how you can embrace the suck in your life. Your clients will thank you for it.

Suck Now, Be Better Later – 3 Ways to Improve Your Coaching

If you struggle getting people to buy into “breathing”, you don’t have a buy-in problem, you have a results deficiency.

Building breathing buy-in is the #1 question I get online and at seminars. I get it. Breathwork is far from sexy, but the fact of the matter is people don’t struggle selling. The struggle lies within execution and results.

Coaches take a couple courses from breathwork experts, and leave with a false sense that it’s going to be easy. But in reality, it’s fucking hard.

You don’t take courses where after the presenter gets an attendee full hip mobility with 5 breaths, they give you a disclaimer:

“if you’re new to this: you’re going to suck. The skill that it takes to implement an assessment to guide your training and coach people through these fundamental movements requires a fuck-ton practice. You will go home and struggle.

In the beginning, your failures will outweigh your successes. This is why you have to practice on your friends, loved ones, staff, and most patient clients. Don’t practice on your skeptical clients who think breathing is weird, you’ll just turn them off due to your current lack of experience.

If you don’t practice and succeed, there’s no use figuring out which hip needs more extension when you don’t even know how to coach someone into hip extension.”

Coaching is a skill. Learning how to lift is a skill. Teaching a new concept is a skill.

We need to embrace the suck. That includes you AND your clients.

Here are some ways to create the safe to fail environment necessary to take your skills to the next level.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Failure is a necessary component of your growth as a coach or clinician. I can guarantee all the people you look up to online have failed A LOT. That repetition is needed to hone your skills. But few of these experts talk about all the unpaid hours that go behind building a skill most coaches dream of obtaining.

I want to be the best teacher in the industry. To reach this goal, I spend 10-15 hours a week practicing that skill. While some of these hours are paid, like when I teach at Lexington Healing Arts Academy or when I speak/help at seminars, many of them are not.

I can’t tell you how many unpaid hours I’ve devoted to teaching students, my business partner and employee, people who come to observe me, those on social media, my blog readers, email subscribers, or even my cats and dog. Each of these moments have one goal in mind: to be the best teacher I can.

I won’t stop until everyone says “No one can teach it like Lucy Hendricks can”

I’ve taken the same approach with coaching and assessing. I perform a ton of free assessments and training sessions. Over the course of a month it might cost me in the short term. But I consider these freebies an investment. These sessions are opportunities to fine tune new skills I am trying to build. I make a short-term sacrifice to develop abilities that will be worth 5x more than what I can earn RIGHT NOW! The more reps I get, the faster I reach mastery.

Some might see this as horrible business practice, but the same people who tell me to charge for my initial assessment are the same ones who struggle getting results.

Create a Safe-to-Fail Environment

I can only practice as much as I do because I’ve built a culture where the people surrounding me know I’m allowed to suck when I’m trying something new.

It’s not rare for me to teach a new concept to someone and just stop halfway and say “fuck, that was harder than I thought, let me think about it for a few days and try to teach it again because I messed that up”.

Moreover, I’ve also given the “wrong” move to a client on more than one occasion.

“Oh did I say you were a wide ISA? I meant to say you’re narrow. Can you come in next week for a free assessment so we can try again?”

We simply move on and all get better from my failures.

Being okay with failing along the path of learning is exactly what I want for my clients at Enhancing Life and my students at Lexington Healing Arts Academy. I want them to embrace the struggle, to be okay with failure.


Being comfortable with failure is a concept I have my students readily embrace. When I first introduce breathing concepts to students, I straight up tell them they’re not going to get it. They won’t understand it the first or fourth time around, and they can totally be okay with that.

I just want them to listen, be present, and take in the information without the expectation of thorough understanding. I set the expectation that it’s ok to suck, which prevents the fake head nods and confidence. Yeah, I know I lost you at “rib cage”.

Safe failure is built into the curriculum. My student get several opportunities to present, demo, talk in front of a camera, coach, and teach. All skills required to be a great coach.

Every time they’re deciding who is going to be put on the spot, I say “you might as well suck at it now…and be better at it later.”

I let them know I was once in their shoes, and failed miserably. Like the first time I spoke in front of people. I stood with my legs and arms crossed and my whole body shook as I talked.

Or when I had my first podcast and I had a panic attack, cried, and asked the hosts to let me start over.

Or the time a client yelled at me when I learned how to coach the RDL differently and she accused me of letting her do it wrong all those years.

Instead of getting discouraged and quitting, I saw those moments as opportunities to improve. As moments of growth. As times it was safe to fail. I want to create that environment for both my students AND clients.

Develop a Culture of Skill-Building

Mastery of any skill requires practice. This tenet is no different whether you are learning piano, implementing breathwork, or lifting with “correct form.”

When you reframe training as skillbuilding, you allow your client to be a beginner. Someone who can come in and completely suck.

There’s this notion that we don’t want to make clients feel bad about themselves. But in reality, our deconditioned, uncoordinated, and overstressed clients are horrible fucking movers.

While we never want to scare someone by making them think they’re dysfunctional or fragile, we should be okay with letting people know there’s work to be done. They must struggle if they want to master the skill you teach at your gym.

Look, this is going to be weird. You’re going to suck at it. It will take a few sessions to get it….yadda yadda yadda. Everyone struggles at first. All the cues and names of exercises are overwhelming but just give everything a few weeks to a month. You’ll get it.

When you set the expectation that it’s ok to fail as they build the skill, no one feels bad about screwing up. You can even joke about it and get other clients involved. Have your vets validate the newbies. One day, they to will have those weird cues become second nature.

The more effort and focus clients put in mastering the basics, the better movement foundation they’ll develop. Those clients that are super fun to program for because they can do anything and have no restriction? They only exist if they’ve got the basics down pat.

Sum Up

If you’re reading this and thinking: “Ahh yessss, I want all my clients get results.” You must:

  • Practice

You will only achieve excellence if you practice the shit out of your craft. If you mastering coaching, the results will speak for themselves. No one gives a shit how weird or crazy an exercise may seem if you help your clients reach their goals. Results guarantee buy-in.

  • Create a safe-to-fail environment

Success occurs through repeat trial and error. If you don’t error, you don’t learn. Create an environment where that failure is embraced. You either win or you learn.

  • Treat your work as skill-building

All skills require practice. Training and coaching are skills like anything else. Educate those around you that these skills must be practiced to get desired results. You can’t just work up a sweat hitting random piano keys and expect to produce Beethoven’s 5th.

But What if They Still Don’t Buy-in?

Remember, you don’t have to work with everyone. Fill your gym with people who love what you do, not those who suck your energy dry as you try selling them on your product. If your client wants pizza, they won’t buy your sushi no matter how good it is.

Unless you are selling ice cream. Everyone loves ice cream.

What strategies do you use to become a better coach? Comment below and let us know!

Learn More

Lucy Hendricks wears many hats throughout the day. Coach Hendricks is a gym owner, trainer, lead instructor at a accredited personal training school, licensed massage therapist, blogger, and speaker. Lucy is mostly known for her ability to coach someone through the basics and getting immediate results from a movement standpoint. She helps people who have been hindered by movement limitations get back to what they love whether it’s a competitive sport, general strength training, or living life without pain.

If you’d like to learn from Lucy, you can find her online and at her seminar: Fundamentally Sound.

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“The Trio” with Lucy Hendricks, Michelle Boland, and Michael Mullin

Enhancing Life

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All photos are fairly purchased by Adobe Stock and are the property of Lucy Hendricks.


3 comments

  1. Lucy, I loved this article so much (and your email about it this morning- I laughed so hard I spat out my coffee).

    I actually discovered your and Zac’s work while looking for help trying to figure out the PRI courses I’d taken. I’ve been guilty of horrible over-coaching, getting anatomy books out, freaking people out and driving them away. Worse is feeling like I should be getting it all easily right away myself!

    So, big thanks for the article, it meant a lot.

    See you guys both in NJ? Looking forward.

    best,

    Heather

    1. Appreciate having you as one of the fam, Heather. We are excited to meet you in NJ 🙂 Keep moving forward, we’ve all been there struggling. I still do today 🙂

      Z

  2. Great article, Lucy! Really appreciate your honesty and perspective shifting strategies.

    Sean

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