Top 4 Misconceptions Coaches Have About Setting Action Steps

Your parting words of encouragement to your clients should ones that resonate deeply and keep them motivated in the days to come. As a coach, finding those words should be relatively easy, but for some clients, and in some instances, can prove challenging.

It’s in our nature to maintain a learned pattern and for action steps, that might mean trying to follow the recommended format instead of following your gut instinct and doing what is best for your client.

When setting action steps, first identify what brought them to that specific appointment. Any recent bright spots? Did they nail a previously set action step? Did they encounter an unforeseen obstacle and need a strategy to overcome it?

Once the theme is established, how can you avoid action step misconceptions?

1.  I must always be the one setting them

Some of the best action steps are the ones that the client sets themselves. Definitely set the ones you feel are best to get your client on track for the upcoming week(s), but also turn the table and ask THEM what THEY would like to focus on. Their answer might surprise you and guide further ongoing coaching appointments! It also empowers your clients and helps them feel as though they have a say in their journey. Their engagement will be higher, and they may be more accountable as they were one creating that mini goal.

2.      I must set a month timeline for completion

As we all know, a lot can happen in four weeks and that timeline might not require or even be appropriate for a certain action step. Your client might require additional in-person accountability, which would shorten the time frame, or maybe, you understand what motivates them and break a larger action step into smaller pieces that you can monitor more frequently.

3.      I must set new action steps each time and can never repeat one

Just because you set an action step in the past doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. Often, an action step worth noting is one that might have to be addressed in the near future because it applies to a realistic obstacle in your client’s life. Also, action steps can apply at different times of the year and so repeating them would be a necessity (e.g. handling holiday potlucks over the winter or handy traveling advice during summer months).

4.      I must give them three every time

Let’s face it, you were expecting three misconceptions in this love letter – but we gave you four! Three is a common number and is comforting to people when providing direction. But what if the three-step ­­rule doesn’t apply to your client this month? If they get overwhelmed easily, it might be in their best interests to limit their action steps to the one or two most important.

Try changing up how you structure your action steps this month. Remember to focus more on what would serve your client best and less on adhering to a template.


Lindsay M McDonald
Senior Mentor
Healthy Steps Nutrition