The Lift Accountability Coaching program is based around a simple coaching methodology that should work well with any coach’s own expertise. If you can give a client momentum toward their goal, then you will have many opportunities for quick coaching wins. Our entire app is based on that idea.
The Power of Momentum
Our momentum methodology draws from positive psychology, positive reinforcement, and mindset research.
If a person is sitting on their couch doing nothing, you need to reach deep into their psyche, either through coaching sessions or through in-depth writing, in order to spark a change.
But when a person is actively moving toward a goal, you are suddenly presented with thousands of opportunities to spark change. The person thinks of themselves differently, and with more confidence. You can actually measure what’s working in order to make informed refinements. You have constant opportunities for praise.
Your job as an accountability coach is to create that momentum in order to give yourself opportunities to reinforce stronger habits and a change in mindset.
Your relationship with a client starts when they hire you. Typically, they won’t know much more about you other than that you’re going to hold them accountable to their goal.
Accountability is one of the top things that clients think they need. In truth, we know they need more. But accountability is the hook so that you can start working on their goals together.
Because the client may not know much about you, you have to quickly share your methodology and philosophy, while getting them toward a valuable first step. This is where trust is built.
With in-person coaching, you often have an entire hour to get to know a person. That lets you give the person room to talk first. This absolutely doesn’t work in online coaching. When you’re silent, the client is left with doubt about the value of the service they signed up for.
Thankfully, the focus of momentum coaching is on building a single behavior change, not on deep assessment. You’ll work on the change that a person is hiring you for, and then have time to continuously re-assess the longer you work with that person.
Specifics: Before you start coaching on Lift, set a welcome email that lays out who you are, your background, your methodology, and what the client should expect from you.
Clients are coming to you for help on a single goal. Your job is to trust that that goal is meaningful and that all they need in this moment is help making regular progress.
That makes your assessment phase much easier.
1. Do they have a goal picked out? Sometimes people actually have multiple goals. In this case, tell them:
“I use a momentum based philosophy here, which means I want to see you making progress on one thing before moving on to others. May I suggest starting with <insert recommendation here>?”
2. Is the goal defined enough to make daily progress?
A lot of times, people are completely stuck because they’ve defined their goal as something that’s impossible to do regularly. For example, a person who’s struggling to finish their dissertation may say that they want to write for 8 hours a day, but they keep procrastinating because it’s too hard. You would say:
“I use a momentum based methodology here, which means I want to see regular, daily progress immediately. After that, we can work up to a bigger goal, like 8 hours of writing. For tomorrow, can we set your goal to be 15 minutes of uninterrupted writing? If that turns out to be easy, we’ll up the goal.”
3. Is their goal presented as an outcome, rather than a regular practice?
Sometimes people present desired outcomes, rather than daily goals. For example, “I want to have 10% body fat.”
It’s not your job to do deep assessment. In cases like this, ask them to reframe their goal in terms of a daily practice.
“I want to coach you on a daily practice that can get you to that goal. Can you pick a Lift goal, for example one of the diets, and then I’ll help hold you accountable to that goal?”
Prompt #1. Goal statement.
This is a nice tone-setting exercise at the very start of your engagement. Have the person actually define their goal down to all of the little details.
A lot of coaches call this pre-deciding (and it’s a lot of what the book, Thinking Fast and Slow, would call Slow thinking).
“I like to start each goal with a goal statement. The Lift goals are intentionally generic. But every person’s actual goal is very nuanced. A good statement will answer what, why, and how.
- What exactly will you do? How often? For how many days? How strictly?
- Why? What benefit will you get out of it? What’s the goal above the goal?
- How? How will you achieve this?
<Give example goal statement for this goal>
What would your goal statement be?”
Here’s a statement I wrote for Eating Pescetarian, which is my standard diet.
“I will eat pescetarian for every meal of every day, meaning vegetables, fruits, seafood, dairy, eggs and grains, making exceptions only for family holidays. I’m doing this in order to cut out my worst eating habits and to focus more on healthy, sustainable foods that help me maintain my weight and feel energetic. I’ll do this by pre-planning food orders through Instacard, by switching my lunch outings from burgers to sushi, by ordering vegetarian burritos when I eat Mexican.”
The above statement is very specific to me. I love my family, I eat out socially all the time, and I’m surrounded by great Mexican food. When you give an example goal statement, you’re inviting the person to consider the details, without actually prescribing an exact set of rules.
Prompt #2: Pacing
All momentum coaching has hiccups. Your clients are going to go through motivational high points and motivational low points. You want to get ahead of this by setting expectations around pacing. On day two, I give a message along these lines.
“Yesterday, gave you an exercise. I want to talk to you about pacing now. As I coach you, I’m going to give you a lot of encouragement and I’m going to give you more exercises.
I’m going to try to pace these exercises in a way that’s sustainable for you. But I also want you to know that if you miss a day, all of my advice is designed so that you can jump right back on the wagon. That’s the key to my momentum philosophy. I always want to make it easy for you to get going.
So, if you miss a day or don’t get to one of my exercises, just keep moving forward.
As we move forward, my method is to give you tips and strategies so that you can be more successful. Some of my most common strategies:
#1. Identify Triggers. What triggers you to make progress (and what triggers you not to make progress)?
#2. Build replacement and supporting habits. Your routine for achieving your goal is often made up of many habits. For bad habits, we prefer replacements over willpower. For good habits, we try to make life easier on ourselves by developing supporting habits.
#3. Design environment cues. Often, we can redesign our environment so that our goals are easier to achieve. You’re more likely to attend the gym across the street than the gym across town.
#4. Reflect on what’s working. Why are you succeeding? Inevitably, we all hit rough spots. Articulating what works for you lets you recreate that success when your situation changes, for example after a move, on vacation, or in a new job.
<insert your own strategies here>”
Clients all report that they want lots of contact from their coach. You should aim to make contact with each client at least once per day.
Early in the day, you can encourage the person. This is a great accountability tactic because it makes the goal top of mind and reminds the person that a real person is looking out for them. You’re going to want many things you can say, so that you don’t sound like a broken record. Here are five:
“Hope today is a successful day!”, “Good luck today!”, “Remember to run today.”, “Good morning! Good luck today and I’ll check in with you later.”, “Remember, momentum is good. That means any progress today is a win!”
Late in the day is time for teaching.
Your job is to help lock this goal in by making supporting habits and reflecting on systems that are working for the client. There’s also room for basic assessment. Is the person making progress toward their over all goal, i.e. is eating low carb lunches contributing to weight loss?
A good way to do this is to cycle through tips and exercises around your strategies. I’ve fleshed out two of our most common strategies below: triggers and replacement habits.
We think of trigger questions and exercises as being about identification. Replacement habits and environmental supports are often solutions to creating, improving, or removing triggers.
The first thing you want to do is introduce the concept of triggers.
“Most goals have two types of triggers. Positive triggers prompt you to make progress, like seeing your running shoes next to your bed. Negative triggers trip you up, like being offered free candy by your cab driver.
For positive triggers, you want to identify existing ones and strengthen them, and you want to create new ones so that your goal becomes easier to remember.
For negative triggers, you want to identify them and avoid them.”
Then there are a number of questions that elicit thinking about triggers:
- Was this hard or easy today? Why?
- How’d it go today? Easy or hard? Any challenges come up?
- On missed days: Can you remember the point where you decided not to do this? What triggered that?
- I’ve been thinking about triggers that might help for this goal. What do you think about? <List some potential triggers>
- If a client adopted a strategy: “How’d your <insert strategy> work out?”
Here’s the explanation we give for replacement habits.
“I mentioned replacement habits earlier and want to talk about them a little bit as a way to remove situations that trip yourself up. The idea is to decide on alternative behaviors and try to build those up as habits.
Often, those new habits don’t have the same baggage as the habit you’re trying to break. As a consequence, they’re relatively straight forward to build.
When you pick a replacement habit, you want to find something that prevents you from doing one of your bad habits.
One of the real skills of momentum coaching is being able to identify and suggest replacement habits. Here are a couple examples.
- Is the person snacking on sweets at work? Suggest filling a bottle of water at work and having them drink instead of going to the snack room.
- Is the person laying in bed after turning their alarm off? Suggest moving their alarm out of arms reach so that they have to get out of bed.
- Is the
Do you have tactics you’d like to share with us? We’d like to help all coaches with the following:
- Reframe large goals into small actionable steps (next actions in the language of GTD or Tiny Habits in the language of BJ Fogg).
- Refine and grow successful practices.
- Design environmental cues.
- Build supporting habits.
- Reflect on successes and failures.
- Design rewards.