Techniques for Setting Expectations and Handling Difficult Conversations

We've noticed an anti-pattern where many coaches (more than half) struggled to communicate clearly when they had to share something that didn't seem like good news for the client.

In most cases of this anti-pattern, the coach was avoiding a topic or was refusing to give a clear answer. For example, coaches have to sleep sometime. So if a client asks you to check in with them at 3am your time, your answer should come easily and clearly:

“I can’t check in with you at that time because that is outside of my work hours."

But we saw many coaches give the wrong answer:

“I’ll try.”

You lose the faith and trust of your client as soon as your behavior deviates from the expectations you have set. Say what you’ll do, and do what you’ll say.

This probably seems really obvious to people—but it’s a problem endemic to coaches. Coaches join this business to help people. That makes saying that you can’t help (in this specific way) difficult.

Below we’ve broken out the most common situations that call for clear communication. Many of these involve setting expectations and boundaries. It’s your right to set your own work hours and services. It’s your client’s responsibility to exercise “The Law of Two Feet,” meaning that it's their responsibility to leave if a coach isn’t right for them.

Situation #1: Setting expectations in the initial conversations

Initial conversations are where you can establish the answers to the questions that all your clients have:

  • What time and what days will they hear from you?
  • What is your process?

Here’s an example of what that might look like; this could be part of your automated welcome message in If not, it should definitely be in your first conversations:

I am excited to work with you! First, I'd like to discuss what being a coach on means. I'm strictly an accountability coach. This means I will help you to:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Develop an action plan.
  • Determine how to measure success.
  • Focus and stay on track.
  • Track progress and set deadlines.

I'll offer you encouragement and support and work to keep you motivated and on track, but ultimately you are responsible for your success. I'm in touch every day and will be in the chat area at 11am EST Monday through Saturday. Sundays I'll answer questions only. Ready to start?

Situation 2: Handling time away and vacations

Coaches are allowed to take days off as long as this doesn’t become a chronic pattern. Your responsibility is simply to communicate this to your clients and make sure the client is prepared to take care of themselves while you’re away. That means letting them know a few days ahead of time when possible.

Here is an example message handling travel of less than threee days:

I'm traveling Saturday and Sunday, so you won't see any responses from me this weekend. Don't let that stop you from checking in or asking questions, though, and I'll respond on Monday.

If you need to go on an extended vacation (longer than 3 days) and won't be tending to your clients, there's a couple of things you should do:

  1. Set your profile to not accept new chat or phone clients. This won't affect the clients you have, but it will prevent new sign-ups while you're away. Then just turn it back on when you return.
  2. Communicate your coaching plans clearly to your clients. Are you going to check in with them occasionally or not at all?
  3. Pause coaching for clients. Here's how to do that:

Here's an example of a message that you can send to your clients:

Good morning! A bit of planning to share with you first: I'm going on vacation next week. I'll be leaving Sunday, March 31 and will be out until I return on Monday, April 8. I've paused your coaching so you won't be billed during this time, and it will move your billing period forward by the same number of days. You won't hear anything from me during that time, but please continue to check in and leave any notes or questions here in chat for me—I'll review them and get back to you when I return!

Situation 3: You want to stop coaching your client

There are three reasons you might want to cancel a client:

The client is asking for medical or therapeutic help

If your client is asking for medical or theraputic help, it's your responsibility to recognize that you and the format are not an appropriate solution.

Issues like depression and suicide are scary and need to be treated seriously. Go here for the response protocol in these situations and to find templates we've already created for you to use.

You don’t have chemistry with this client

In most cases where a coach wants to cancel a client over chemistry issues, the client is coming with unreasonable expectations.

In this case it is best to recommend them to support, where we can say more clearly whether any coach in our system would meet those expectations. This isn’t a moment to argue or win a point (for example if the client has been rude or unreasonable). Just be clear and repeat yourself if necessary.

Here's what you can say:

Hi —Thank you for sharing your expectations with me. I need to let you know that I’m not the right coach for you. . Here’s how to cancel coaching with me: After you’ve done that, the team can give you a recommendation for a coach that would be a better fit. Their email is:

You want to stop coaching altogether

Lastly, if you want to stop coaching altogether, please say something rather than just disappearing.

First of all, email us at so that we can make sure all of your clients get canceled. Then send a message like the following to your clients:

Hi —I need to let you know that there are some personal changes coming up for me, and I'm going to need to end our coaching engagement. I'd love for you to go ahead and choose another coach to work with. Here's all the information you need about how to switch coaches, and you'll get the first week with your new coach for free: It's been wonderful to work with you and see your progress; best of luck on your continued journey!