What Clients Want and Aren’t Telling You

Click here if you would rather listen to this article.

When I first started coaching over 14 years ago, I was taught to “let the client lead the agenda.”

The problem with this approach is it put me in a reactive position as their coach (meaning, I followed their lead, responding to what they decided to coach on), rather than a proactive position, where I could coach my client and really help them accelerate their progress.

Plus, the problem I discovered with this old style approach is that it opened the door to hearing, “I’m not sure what I want to coach on today” which resulted in higher client drop out rates.

To make it worse, I felt I was hiding out, not speaking my truth and holding back from giving my clients what they needed to thrive and excel.

Finally, one day, I had enough so I threw out the rule book and created my own method of coaching.

Here is what I did: First, I started introducing content in many of their coaching calls. Next, I began weaving in training (complete with handouts, worksheets and checklists) so they felt excited to be learning something new. Then, I began consciously putting them on a step-by-step path with assignments that I KNEW would work for them.

Their reaction? My clients LOVED it, and my business took off!

If you’re a coach trained in the “old school” method, or you’re new to coaching and you haven’t quite found your footing yet, this new paradigm of blending content with coaching is very exciting.

The key is for you to know how much content to include in your coaching sessions, and even more importantly, WHAT content your clients are most likely to pay you to deliver. Here are 3 easy steps to help get you started.

Step #1 Be Ready To Include Content In Your Coaching Calls

While the philosophy that the client leads the agenda may have worked years ago, in today’s economy, clients expect YOU as their coach to share knowledge that will help them quickly accelerate their results.

Here’s how: Plan on delivering a small portion of content in most of your coaching calls. One exercise or checklist is plenty per session. This way, you still have time in your coaching session to coach your client on how the content applies directly to them.

Time-saving Tip: This is your opportunity to pull out and re-purpose your checklists, templates, scripts or how-to lists. You likely have a ton of content just lying around that you can re-purpose in this way.

To spark your creativity, ask yourself,

"What will save my clients time and make it easier for them to get into action?"

Step #2 How Do You Know If Your Content Is “Marketable”?

Marketable simply means content that, when included in your coaching or consulting programs, adds value to your clients’ experience.

So how do you know it’s the right content? Start by noticing what your clients are struggling with or keep asking you for help with. You don’t need to solve all of their problems – just offering content that solves even one teeny tiny problem will be hugely valuable.

For example: Let’s say many of your clients struggle with overfull calendars. Marketable content would include offering a tips list on prioritizing, a simple system for scheduling their time, or a handout you coach them through on setting boundaries. Each of these ideas can be easily woven into your coaching sessions.

Step #3 Don’t Waste Time Reinventing What Is At Your Fingertips

If you don’t have your content pulled together into a marketable package then consider getting trained in someone else’s system (like in one of our certified coach training programs for example). Just be sure what you’re getting trained in is a complete system that includes templates, forms, exercises and checklists you can include in your sessions because you’ll need this to be successful.

Remember that people don’t hire coaches, they invest in getting a specific problem solved and achieving results.

From this moment on, if you let go of trying to sell coaching, and instead focus on offering marketable content you’ll benefit from a massive increase in coaching clients AND in your revenue. Enjoy!



  1. EXCELLENT perspective & input, thank you Kendall! Luv this. :-)

  2. Thanks, Kendall. You continue to inspire me especially after seeing you at LEAP! My new motto is WWKD? What Would Kendall DO!

  3. I very much agree with this.
    I’m being taught the old school way of coaching which is to let the client set the agenda and ask questions instead of giving answers. Giving answers is deserving of a tail whoopin’ in this school of thought.
    Well, when I was doing it their way nobody was having fun and nobody was reaching their goals. When I started doing it MY way – in which I openly shared the knowledge and resources I’ve picked up along the way as well as sometimes taking the lead in coaching – my clients and I started having FUN and getting things DONE! 😀

  4. Love this article…One of the reasons i left “coaching” and became a consultant is because of the ICF philosophy. I was lucky to train with Thomas Leonard before he passed on and he was way ahead of this philosophy, advocating what you bring forth in your article.

    Again, love it that you are bringing this up and opening the discussion.

  5. It would never occur to me to do it any other way! But then I coach/consult in marketing, and come from an IT background where it was my duty to lead people and give them solutions. It’s insane to expect people to figure out their own solutions when you know what it is based on your knowledge and experience.

    But thank you for validating that I don’t need to train as a coach. I didn’t think I needed to really, but had vague pangs of “maybe I should do that”, but no – I’m a mentor and leader, not someone who’s going to allow my clients to flounder around wondering what to do next.

    Cheers love! 😉

  6. Coming from management consulting it was hard for me to understand the concept of coaching as supporting clients in finding their own solutions. This works,if the client can figure out the right solution. No matter how many powerful questions you may ask, the client may just not have the answers. They want their coach to be able to answer questions, not just ask them.

  7. Thank you Kendall
    I agree with you and I do it already for some time what you said above, despite what old coaching model says I combine coaching and mentoring, and my clients got great results because

  8. Mon Sun C says:

    Hello Kendall, thank you for this post. I found it very ingsightful and empowering at the same time. It is true even in my own circle of friends where I can feel them wanting someone to give them answers or more guidance or more feedback/information.

  9. Your article is insightful and true. I’m coming from being a teacher and then a psychotherapist and now coaching. So leading clients and students is natural and easy for me. I really enjoy your perspective. Thanks so much! Helaine

  10. So much wisdom, as well as common sense. I hear so many people either delivering just fluff with no content, or trying to tell too much in a single call. Your advice is quite sane and practical. I know from the many, many hands I’ve read with various indicators of leadership, that too many people (especially women) hide their leadership capabilities and end up feeling unseen and undervalued, when they must step up and connect with their own value before they can lead others to theirs.
    Thanks for topic! Kate

  11. As a psychologist, I have been trained to form impressions from what my clients are telling me, and at the same time, each session gives space for the client to discuss the “details” of the issue. What I’ve noticed is that each client seems to have underlying themes – places where they’re “stuck,” patterns they’re repeating – that would continue without insight.

    So I wind up being their objective eyes, or the “noticer,” and in this way there’s a give-and-take in which I operate both as the “expert” (boss) while simultaneously being “led” by what they are sharing… Through the client receiving insight and awareness into their actions and reactions, they are empowered to change and grow…

    Thank you for the post, Kendall! So nice to be able to verbalize the process.

  12. Thanks Kendall, this is very helpful. It’s the model I follow mainly because I feel that clients come to me for help with problems they don’t understand and don’t know how to solve. So asking them to lead is a little counterproductive. I’m glad that you are opening others to this option and allowing coaches to follow their best judgment.
    And LEAP was amazing, I learned so much, thank you.

  13. What you shared in your article is what most coaching schools do not teach. They tell you if you are a great coach, you will get clients… not so much. If you are a great marketer and an average coach, you will do better than a great coach and so-so marketer.
    My company trains Christian coaches and we know from experience that unless our students get a good amount of strategic marketing training, their coaching skills may never become fully utilized. Thanks for a great article.

  14. Totally insightful, Kendall! As a long-time advocate & lawyer (and law professor), I’ve trained myself to be a good listener, but I am a natural teacher and love to collaborate. In the context of negotiation, mediation or an adversary hearing, I actually think of my role in preparing my clients to better present themselves persuasively so they can prvoe their position and reach their goals as “coaching” them. You’re right: delivering marketable content makes a lot of sense in coaching as well as in representing, consulting and mentoring!

  15. Thank you, Kendall, for giving me the permission to not ‘coach’ people the traditional way. I, too, have found a mix of mentoring/consulting, and teaching, with a dose of coaching, gets much better and faster results for my clients.

  16. Thank you Kendall, your a breath of fresh air.
    I am a coach in training and have a desire to share with people who are hungry for a helping hand. You are someone really great to follow and learn from.

  17. Yep .. you hit the nail on the head. Nothing worse than a coach who sits there and asks only questions … when the client has a specific need and you have specific expertise. Give assignments and debrief on the far side. Challenge your clients to stretch and give up on their long held beliefs by acting “as if” …

    If they knew the answers … they wouldn’t hire us in the first place … bring on the content … (yee haa)

    My two cents,

    Dike Drummond MD

  18. Excellent message and a trend that I’ve seen with my own clients. I’m not a coach, I help coaches with the implementation side of things.

    But more and more clients are looking to me to take the lead and tell them what to do or what I need from them. Its fascinating and has taken some time to get used but I’ve learned that the client relationships where I have done this have been the most successful.

  19. I just recently realized that I was resisting coaching because what I truly desire is to teach, coach and be a consultant. It never occurred to me that I could do all three. I’ve spent years trying to “figure it out”. You have been a wonderful model of how those three can work out beautifully for me and my client. “)


  20. Hi Kendall…. and everyone above!

    It sounds awfully like you have ‘discovered’ the magic of behavioural psychology. Forget rats in cages and salivating dogs, this broad school of applied psychology does what it says on the tin – change behaviour. Instead of people trying to think their way into a new way of being, they are taught to be or act their way into a new way of thinking.

    As Robin says, it is essentially a teaching model, which allows you to act as consultant whilst coaching new behaviours and thereby ways of thinking.

    Yep – I’m a behavioural psychologist by background and professional training and extremely proud of it!

    • Hi linda, I’m interested in knowing more about behavioural psychology i’m not sure if you have some time to chat.
      Let me know.

  21. Great article Kendall. I agree that directive coaching works and whilst I too belong to the Thomas Leonard style of coaching I have also experienced the opposite side of the coin where a coach will just “sprout forth” with ideas and tips that aren’t well thought out or even relevant to the current issue and lack of training is glaringly obvious.

    As a coach and having been coached many times I like to be asked provocative questions to help me see a situation from another angle and have often come up with my own ‘answer’ in a similar way that I have heard you coach during Q and A.

    I believe coaching like any other mastery is best learned and then tweaked or discarded for what works best in the presenting situation. If we can step away from our egos and be there for the client our intuition usually leads us in the right direction.

  22. I love step number 2! Never before have I been so clear about what I need to do and this article only just shows me I am on the right path. What has been missing is the marketable content. However, I am seeking help with this as I can no longer stay in my own head. Exciting times!

  23. Maryann Ehmann says:

    Thank you!! I was never formally trained as a coach, but was a teacher and lawyer… Both very directive professions. So interjecting teaching and advising has been for me impossible to avoid. I had heard about the “let the client lead” approach and wondered how anything got done! I have 100 percent success, but still wondered if I might be doing it wrong! This article is very settling! Your article also points out my need to create more efficient systems. Again, thank you!

  24. As a client I’ve gotten frustrated with coaches who would keep asking, “What do YOU think?” It’s even more frustrating to work with business coaches who don’t have a plan, program or agenda. As a copywriter, I lead my clients in surprisingly new directions for their business: that’s the fun part!

  25. The statement “Remember that people don’t hire coaches, they invest in getting a specific problem solved” rings true with my corporate clients. It’s the main struggle I see other coaches having in getting clients to see the ROI in their services. We’re not “selling” coaching. We’re partnering with clients to create results. When you can directly map those results to dollars – like I show my clients – they don’t hesitate to hire you and pay you what you’re worth.

  26. I love this perspective, Kendall! While I’m a designer/web Goddess and not a coach per se, I still do a bit of coaching to help my clients figure out what they need for their online presence and how to use it going forward. I can definitely apply some of this to what I’m doing! :)

  27. Hi Kendall, I very much appreciate this article, thank you. One of the reasons I stopped coaching people 1:1 was because I came to believe I wasn’t a very good coach, despite having great natural coaching skills. This was for 2 reasons – partly because using the traditional model, people didn’t seem to achieve the outcomes they desired & partly because I found myself teaching & mentoring in the sessions too, which I thought was ‘wrong’, based on schools of thought at the time.

    This helps me to see that what I was intuitively doing is actually more effective & can be very powerful, when balanced with expansive questions. So it gives me more confidence to work with people 1:1 again in a coaching environment, though this time with more of a framework of what the outcomes are of the coaching program, as opposed to ongoing client-guided sessions that don’t seem to go anywhere much.

    Just what I needed to hear at this time, as I’m transitioning in my business. Thanks so much Kendall!
    Sharon Crawford

  28. Jeannie Spiro says:

    Thank you! I think many coaches are afraid to step into the role of mentoring and coaching at the same time. Since embracing this approach to coaching I’ve seen tremendous results with my clients. I love teaching but I think you’re even more effective when you listen intuitively.


  29. This is wonderful Kendall,
    I was coaching a client, just last week, on just this thing. They were so glad, because following the “Coaching Model” set by ICF, was just not working for them, any more than it worked for me.
    There really does not make sense to have others struggle, and reinvent the wheel, when you may have the simple answer they need.
    I am so grateful you refused to “stay in the box”, and are so willing to help others find their inner Goddess power, and break out!
    Warm Hugs and Simplify and Prosper,
    Karen Stultz

  30. So refreshing to hear Kendall. We dont have to stick rigidly to them but clients love programmes. I agree that following the client’s lead does not work very well, and while it is important to have a co-creative collaboration with your client, accreditation with ICF demanded that I drop years of knowledge and experience as a psychologist which seemed insane, especially as clients are drawn to me for the very reason that I have a psychology background. By the way, if you listen to MCC coaches giving demos, it is not true that they keep their ideas to themselves. Their clients’ breakthroughs sometimes come after great questions, but often only after the coach has offered a new perspective or idea. Anyway, I went into coaching to use my creative mind and not hide it away. So thank you for having the courage to take a lead on this.

  31. Kendall, THANK YOU for sharing this! My clients are having amazing breakthroughs because I am delivering my intuition, my experience and reflecting back to them what I see. I love partnering with them and giving them new thoughts to work with every week. I love bringing my wisdom to the table instead of them leading the process. I am leading it. That is why they come to me. Thank you for confirming the approach I use. Many blessings to you!

  32. I was a bossy girl too. Good thing I learned to use my powers for good! Thanks for another truth no one talks about.

  33. I love this! I also was trained to “be invisible” and let the client lead the agenda. As a Business coach, that did not fly! People needed to know what to do. Yes, powerful coaching questions are great and invaluable, but knowing what the sequence is, and what the specific steps are, and how to take them into the fast lane…that is the real deal. Kendall is right on, as usual! And how great is it to speak truth to people and tell them what they are not able to see? that is the real gold.

  34. As always top-notch tips from Kendall! She confirms to me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing as a coach… being a leader.

    You are appreciated!


  35. Jerry Stumpf - The Romance Educator says:

    Very informative. It is so easy to want to become what a person needs instead of generating a skill set for improving their situation. You offer encouraging tips with a bit of pizzazz!

    Thank you for helping folks become all they were designed to become.

  36. Jerry Stumpf - The Romance Educator says:

    I also want to add, your story (bio) reminds me of a very special lady I knew who worked three jobs, raising her two boys all while getting her degree because the system would not let her teach the “special Ed” children in her cafeteria. I honor her memory as she too was a role model for me – my mom.

    She went on to get her masters at the young age of 64 so she would have a better pension!

    Is is wonderful to see your contributions to others!

  37. Kendall, I always learn from you and today I did more than that! I felt so validated and empowered by your message I wanted to say thank you! The “old school” message weighed heavily on my coaching conscience but aligning to it weighed heavily on my coaching excellence and connection spirit. Thank you for encouraging me to think about balance, authenticity and remembering that helping the client means sharing spirit in a lot of ways! Really – thank you!

  38. Kendall, Thank you for this. I have been offering content as part of my coaching programs and have been keenly aware that I am not ONLY asking questions. I feel my clients receive so much more in this framework. I KNOW they do. I was a business consultant and so I am careful to not be in too much of an advisory capacity, but I really need to offer content in the coaching arena. It satisfies my need to give something tangible to the client and my desire to create (yes, nurturer and alchemist). Thanks for the thumbs up on the approach!!!

  39. Hi Kendall, along with everyone else, I offer my thanks for this article. I’ve been a Marriage and Family Therapist for 16 years, and moved over into coaching about 2 years ago because I couldn’t stand sitting there with a head and heart full of possibilities that might really help my psychotherapy clients… and feeling that THEY needed to take the lead, and that I should let them explore, and “gently guide” them while not really solving their problems….. Since I didn’t know the old coaching model of letting the client lead (so much like my experience of psychotherapy), I was thrilled to finally open my mouth and join the clients dialogue in the name of helping my coaching clients solve the problems they came to me with. YAY! And BTW the content we’re getting from MBM is such a gift – it’s beginning to weave its way into most of my clients’ programs. Thank you thank you thank you!!

  40. Kendall – I really appreciate your clear, concise guidance as always. Your recommendation of re-purposing content is always a great reminder.



  41. What a relief to hear one of the most popular and successful coaches in the industry say that that traditional model of coaching doesn’t have to be the norm! I too, thought I wasn’t really a very good coach because it seemed like teaching my clients how to shorten their learning curve was what they needed. So instead of trying to hint at the answers that were staring them in the face, I would give them my insights. It’s good to know that intuitive coaching is here to stay and I love that you call it “marketable content.” It changes the whole perspective and I’m grateful that I’m not doing anything wrong—and that I really am a “good” coach. Thank-you so much for this new awareness, Kendall.

Share Your Comments