The moment Dr. Karin Nordin ended the Zoom call, she knew she had made a critical mistake.
It was her first coaching session with a brand new client and everything felt a little weird from the start.
The client (let’s call her Dierdre) was emotional. Tears were shed within minutes.
And when Dr. Offering advice to Nordin, Dierdre quickly refused.
Then Nordin, a gentle person and seasoned professional, did something extraordinary:
She got angry.
Instead of applying her coaching expertise, she scolded Deirdre, questioned her excuses, and tried to force her to change.
The more persistent Nordin became, the more obstinate Deirdre naturally became.
When she closed her laptop, Dr. Nordin without a doubt … that the client wasn’t coming back.
What do you do if you screw it up?
It turned out that Dr. Nordin’s experience.
Nordin is a PN-certified coach, curriculum advisor to Precision Nutrition, and holds a PhD in health communications.
She also sees herself as a professional at making mistakes. Well, not just making mistakes, but growing out of them.
Her academic and professional expertise lies in the so-called growth mentality, which sees mistakes and failures as a springboard for improvement.
(And yes, the term “growth mindset” is almost a cliché these days, but it’s a real research-based psychological discipline that we can all benefit from.)
This is how Dr. Nordin recovered from her mistake – and how you can do the same.
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Step 1. When you feel compelled to fix the problem at the moment… Wait.
Do you know that almost disgusting feeling when you screw it up?
Dr. Nordin. After her conversation with Dierdre: “I felt vomited and gross for a while. I always thought, ‘I handled it so badly, that’s the worst’. “
While her natural impulse was to try to correct her mistake, she decided to wait a full 24 hours before taking action.
“We want to be able to react neutrally, or as neutrally as possible,” she explains. “And that can take a while.”
In other words, the classic “sleep on it” advice still applies. This can, of course, take some discipline (especially if you tend to fix things right away.)
“I knew that I would think about it in bed at night,” says Nordin, “but with a little distance I could react much better to the situation.”
Take away: Your inclination might be to try to get things right right away. But do not hurry. You’ll likely respond from a calmer, more rational headspace the next day.
Step 2. Exercise radical responsibility.
A big part of coaching is helping clients realize the autonomy and control they have over their decisions and actions.
This is empowering: customers are beginning to realize that they have what it takes to change their habits and achieve their goals.
The same principle applies to coaches. Especially after we screwed up.
“I find it very useful to take a ‘radical responsibility’ perspective,” says Nordin.
“Whatever the situation, I say to myself: let’s pretend for a moment It’s 100 percent my fault. On this basis I then ask myself: What can I do about it? “
Depending on your mistake, the answer may be obvious.
For example, if you’ve given a customer information that turned out to be incorrect, easy admit the mistake and give them the right details.
But even if the mistake was more terrifying, Nordin says getting recognition is still a good way to go.
In Dierdre’s case, Nordin waited 24 hours – and then wrote an email that read something like this:
I know our conversation got very heated and I apologize for that. What you do in your life is 100 percent your choice – not mine.
I fully understand that you do not want to continue with the coaching and I have refunded your deposit.
Thanks for your time. I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors.
Take away: Resist the temptation to blame the customer, deny, justify, or brush the rug under the carpet. Take responsibility for your actions and do your best to correct the wrong. This approach is not only more professional, but also empowering.
Step 3. Look for growth opportunities.
If you’ve done the right thing on behalf of the customer, think about what you can learn from experience.
“My mistake taught me a lot about my coaching practice and how I can market myself as a behavior change coach,” says Nordin.
Your greatest insight?
That she hadn’t correctly told Dierdre what to expect in her coaching session. “I think she was expecting someone who just listens to her and helps her solve her emotional problems, while my coaching is more about changing habits.”
And yes, Customer resistance is a normal part of the change. But if Nordin had given Dierdre a better idea of what their behavioral coaching typically involves, they might have avoided the conflict.
“It wasn’t Deirdre’s fault. A lot of people don’t know what behavior change coaching is all about, ”adds Nordin. “I have to do my job better and help people understand what to expect when they work with me.”
Take away: Don’t beat yourself up for your mistake. Instead, focus on how you can use it as a learning experience. Try to come up with at least one thing that you will improve upon or do differently next time.
Step 4. Get curious about yourself.
In addition to professional growth, mistakes can be an opportunity to understand ourselves better.
Sure, sometimes mistakes are just mistakes – caused by inexperience or lack of knowledge. But they often point to areas where we can dig deeper.
“This is especially the case when it becomes a pattern,” says Nordin. “For example, if you keep feeling angry or tense, you may be projecting your problems onto the customer.”
After the situation with Dierdre, Dr. Nordin: “Why did I get so angry about it?”
Ultimately, she decided that her emotional outburst had been triggered by some personal issues that she had neglected.
Since she is the growth minded person, she decided to explore with a therapist.
Take away: Do an honest self-reflection. Sure, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. (That’s a quote from Sigmund Freud, in case you’ve never seen it before.)
On the other hand, some mistakes (especially repeated ones) can serve as a wake-up call or even a personal breakthrough.
Yes, mistakes can suck in the moment. But if you approach them with curiosity, openness, and a dose of compassion, they can make you a better coach – and a happier person.
If you are or would like to become a trainer …
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes – in ways that are tailored to their unique bodies, preferences, and circumstances – is both an art and a science.
If you want to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification.
Thank You For Reading!