Ep. 5 – Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, PhD: The Difference Between a ‘Good Coach’ and ‘Great Coach’

You know more than they do. In fact, you’re the ‘smartest person in the room’ when it comes to your subject matter. So why are your clients struggling to succeed in working with you? Closing THE GAP lies in developing your professional coaching skills. In this interview with Precision Nutrition’s Director of Curriculum, Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon, you’ll learn more about the secrets and step-by-step systems PN has learned to deliver transformative change, to millions of coaches and clients around the world.

In this episode you’ll learn more about:

1. The journey Precision Nutrition and Krista went through from telling people about nutrition to walking with them throughout the process together

2. The difference between a “good coach” and “great coach” and how to navigate the journey

3. The story behind Precision Nutrition client-centered 6 steps coaching model

4. What client-centered coaching is and how putting the client’s agenda at the center of what you do is essential for great coaching.

5. The biggest challenges that coaches have when executing the 6-step coaching model.  

6. Understanding that great coaches are selling something truly valuable to another human being that involves support, accountability, being understood, and helping develop an action plan. 

7. How coaches can become better by taking things slow and investing more time in listening to fully understand every client’s situation

8. What it takes to be a good coach (and a “less sucky coach” one), and the idea that a good coach should hits all the skills and competencies of coaching.

9. How Precision Nutrition’s certification program helps coaches understand not only the science aspects of nutrition and also the skill of coaching to transform lives

10. And much more


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Podcast Transcript

Sean Greeley: Okay, welcome to Seeker of Success podcast. Excited to be here today with Krista Scott Dixon. Krista is… she’s called the intellectual power house. I think that’s a very well deserved title. She’s a PhD from Toronto. She’s got over 20 years experience in education, program design, curriculum, course work, coaching, counseling and really, she’s the one of the head architects behind PN’s level one, level two certification for the past 10 plus years. She has directly through her work transformed, not only thousands and thousands of coaches, but millions of people’s lives through the work she’s done in creating processes and structure that lead change. So, I’m super excited to have Krista here today. She’s a wealth of knowledge around coaching and around leading transformational change and Krista, thank you for being here today.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Oh, my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Sean Greeley: Awesome. So we’ve got a packed show, packed questions. We’re going to struggle to get through everything we can, but I’ve got a lot to get into today that’s going to be really valuable for everybody out there listening. And the first is really talking about some major lessons learned at PN from, gosh, when you guys began in 2008 to now, you’ve had a tremendous journey. And I know in some show prep we talked about early on, you thought your work was around teaching nutrition and quickly you realized that, that didn’t matter. It didn’t matter what people know, it matters what they do. And really, your work became about leading coaching and teaching how to coach. And the lessons you’ve learned, not just applied to nutrition coaching, but really to leading anyone through change, and we’ve got some great lessons and content to share. I’d love for you to just tell us about your journey through that process, because I know it’s been a big one.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, and I think even calling it teaching about nutrition, and I think even that is a little bit too generous because in retrospect, if I look back, we were kind of telling people about nutrition. And I think in a way, I don’t want to say it was deserved, but I think many of us felt like we had earned the credentials or the legitimacy or the knowledge to be able to tell people about nutrition, so even though -.

Sean Greeley: And why shouldn’t you? You have a PhD, you’ve spent a long time in school-.

Krista Scott-Dixon: We had like-

Sean Greeley: You know what you’re talking about, right? Come on.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Totally. Exactly. And we had our D’s, we had PhDs. We had people who really put in the reps, so to speak, and been in the labs and done the work. And so we felt like, yeah, we’re coming from a place of authority, and you should trust us, and you should listen to us. And so I felt like that’s not wrong, but that’s not exactly how human beings work, right? There needs to be an ongoing process of relationship building and other things that happen beforehand.
So, yeah, when we first started off, 2007/2008 was when I came on. We conceptualized our job as we’re going to tell you some stuff. And we might have put it into a nicely understandable format. Things that are actionable and stuff like that. But primarily it’s a top-down information delivery. You come to us with a goal, we’ll tell you how to get to that goal. We’ll give you some tools. We’ll help you progress and awesome. Then we’ll be done, right? And over time we started getting a little frustrated sometimes because people wouldn’t take our advice, or they would question it or “why am I doing this?”, “why should I take fish oil?”, “why should I do this?”.
And our initial response was defensive, how come you don’t believe us? You know we’re the experts. And we came to appreciate that, although we had started off really well with a habit based paradigm with really helping people put things into action in their daily lives. We hadn’t really considered the component of human motivation and what actually moves people through a change process. And one big component of that, which is certainly relative to coaching and business, is relationships.
We started thinking about how do we build relationships more effectively and how do we walk with people in the process of change rather than push them from behind. There’s a great term in solution focus therapy called leading from behind. And the image that they used is… you know when you’re guiding someone across the street, the proverbial little ole lady or whatever, the little kid right. You take their elbow and you guide them but you’re walking beside them and you’re guiding them a little but mostly their going on their own esteem. And I think that’s much more of a metaphor for how we do things now in 2019. Its much more about exploration, experimentation, try this, gather data, notice what works, start to build your action plan from the evidence that you gather from your own experience in your own life. So, in the end, I’m not telling you what to do, you emerge with an action plan for yourself. So that’s sort of like the big picture of how, the trajectory that we’ve been on over the last several years.

Sean Greeley: Awesome, tell me how you kind of define what coaching means today? How do you guys define coaching?

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, one of our shorthands for it is, it’s like a tour guide for a place where you already live. I don’t know if you ever had this experience, a friend comes into town, and you think, oh gosh, how do I entertain them? And you think, oh, I’ll try that new restaurant or I’ll go and see that tourist attraction that I haven’t ever really seen, even though I’ve been living here for 20 years. And it’s like you go, and you look at the place with fresh eyes. Its like that, you’ve already been living in this space or this place you call your body, or your life or whatever. But someone, somehow, helps you look at with fresh eyes or a fresh perspective or just a different angle on way of doing things.

Sean Greeley: Yeah, awesome, I love that metaphor. I know you talk a lot about showing up mentally physically emotionally and really giving process and all that’s part of that, right. Its all inclusive really of that journey.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, exactly, And we really like to have a multidimensional conception of what health involves, right. Because I think if you’ve ever gone… many of us have gone through a process of getting in amazing physical shape or competing at a very high level of physical performance but experiencing problems with our mental health, with our emotions, with our relationships, with what’s around us, maybe we dropped other activities to focus on this, maybe we were doing it without a sense of meaning or purpose. So on some other dimension of life, we’ve become out of balance. And going forward, we started to realize that’s not the kind of person we want to create as a coaching outcome.
We don’t want to get someone an 8 pack abs but have them hate their life. So we really started thinking about how can we start helping people thrive in all these dimensions and also, how do the dimensions reinforce each other, right. So a lot of people will think, if I get into shape, then I will be happy. But usually it works the other way around. Right. Happiness facilitates the behaviors that get you into better shape or self worth facilitates the behaviors that get… so we noticed that when we were improving one dimension another dimension would improve. Okay, listen, maybe we could build a high performance client out of these other dimensions without just focusing on one thing.

Sean Greeley: I love that. And there’s os much to be said for that with all the areas that create long term success and happiness and fulfillment, right. We got to have balance in all those areas. Talk about the… you have actually a chapter in your textbook that talks about good coaching versus great coaching and the difference between the two. And it’s pretty significant but id love for you to explain that a bit for everybody.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, I think, I mean… and before you get to get a coaching, you have to be a good coach, actually you have to be a less sucky coach. And to be totally honest, one of our goals writing the textbook was lets see if we can help people suck less. Because when you’re a beginner, you don’t have the reps, you don’t have the years, you don’t have all the experiences, you cannot be a masterful coach. So we can give you a model and a template and something to shoot for but you’re not going to be a great coach when you first start. You’re not even going to be a good coach when you first start. In a sense, I’m not even sure if I’m a good coach yet. I feel like there has to be more reps to put in. So, a good coach I think is one who hits all the skills and competencies of coaching.
So, people skills, communicating, listening, reading nonverbal cues, helping people feel seen and heard and validated and recognized. Problem solving skills, understanding what is the problem to be solved and how are we going to get to the outcome the person wants. Troubleshooting and that kind of stuff. Working with the human condition. Troubleshooting ambivalence, resistance, blocks, obstacles, challenge. Having a certain mindset, having a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset, like, oh, this is how things are. Being able to illicit action.
The big difference for me between a counselor and a coach, although there’s less overlap with the Venn Diagram circles, a coach is trying to get a person to take action. SO ultimately, the end game of coaching is taking action. There can be exploration but everything is in the service of action. And then I think… so these are sort of the baselines skills for good coaching, there’s planning, developing some kind of strategic plan or template for an athlete, understanding progression, were starting here, we’re going to go step by step, segmentation, keeping it simple, lots of stuff around that.
I think a great coach is someone who understands or expects this can be not just good but transformative. So, if I’m a coach working with an athlete, a good coach is like, lets get that athlete to win a game, or their competition season. A great coach is like, how can I transform this athlete like a human being, so that success is inevitable, not just in this competition season but for the rest of their life. So I think a great coach plays a much bigger game and a much longer game.

Sean Greeley: Yeah, I love that. Everybody here wants to aspire to not just be good, but to be great. That’s why their tuned in, that’s why their listening. Their on that journey. And I’m so glad you said, I feel like I’m still learning. And I think if you’ve stopped learning, you’ve stopped growing when it comes to leading change and helping people grow. There’s always more, more layers of mastery right. So, so many good things to be said there. Now, talk about… you guys have a term, and it really components of client centered coaching. And I know that’s really powerful and central to the work that you just described. Talking about the whole person and looking at everything involved. How do you define client centered coaching and takes us through that a little bit further.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, so, I think this is one of those concepts that’s easy to understand but really hard to do in a substantive way. So client centered coaching is simply putting the client’s agenda at the center of what you do. So that means, their goals, their priorities, their values, theirs motivations, not the coaches. Now lets say you’re team coach, sometimes if you’re coaching team athletics, it’s hard to see how client centered coaching can play in because you have a team agenda right. You’re team wants to win, so how do I get client centered. Its not like what Bob wants or what Suzan wants or whoever. But client centered coaching about knowing every client, understanding every client, like what’s in their head, what’s in their life, what makes them tick, what drives them, so it’s really about placing the client or the athlete at the center of the universe, in terms of understanding them and really wanting to work with them.
And I think, when this becomes difficult is when there is conflict between what I want and what you want as the client. So, let’s say for an example… lets say I have a client who smokes, right. So they come to me, maybe they want to get into better shape, and they smoke. Now as the coach, of course I think they shouldn’t smoke, right. It’s a pretty standard health behavior. I think that you shouldn’t smoke. But what if the client says to me, right now I’m not going to stop smoking. What do I do with that right. A coach centered coach would be like, no, you have to stop smoking, I’m not going to work with you if you don’t, blah, blah, blah, right.
A client centered coach would say, okay, cool. You tell me what you want to work on. Maybe down the road we’ll talk about the smoking thing, I don’t know. You never have to change if you don’t want to. But, lets look at what you are prepared to change, what you are prepared to work on or adjust or do or play with, that’s the difference. And I might even do some work to understand why is smoking so important to you. What is it about smoking that’s so significant in your life, what your story that led to that point and that reticence to give it up, that the difference.

Sean Greeley: Well, I think everybody has faced some example of that in coaching relationships and it’s great to be reminded of that we don’t have to apply pressure, we can just really shifts the way we engage.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Well and that’s really, really hard. I think this is very, it’s important to emphasize, this takes an incredible amount of emotional self regulation and self discipline. So, it is completely normal to struggle with this or to find yourself pushing your client and thinking uh, right. Or to be like, yeah I know client center coaching is great but come on, this guy needs to stop smoking for God’s sake, right. It’s a practice… I don’t want to say a spiritual practice, that over inflates it but it is a kind of interpersonal internal practice that you have to work on and it’s quite difficult sometimes.

Sean Greeley: Yeah, I’ve definitely been there many times as a coach in the work that I do. So, it’s so important and so critical for success yet it is hard. Especially when you see behaviors that are directly leading to significant problems. How do you shift and how do you engage that differently. Again, that’s what makes a good coach versus a great coach, right. We’re on this journey to get better. So, we continue to get great challenges, that allow us to grow in our ability to be effective in leading those conversations and helping people through. Well, lets talk a little about the process of coaching at PN, you got a six step process really you define for coaching and the work of coaching. Take us through that, what are the six steps and do they work?

Krista Scott-Dixon: Okay, well, the first thing I would say is that there’s actually something that happens before the first step, which is almost like a welcome orientation piece. In your mind as a coach or practitioner, walk yourself through the process as a client, what happens if you walk through the front doors of the gym, for example. If that’s where you practice or what happens when people come to see you or when you log on to talk to them online or whatever. So, in that very first moment of contact, what experience is that person having? You want to kind of set the stage a little bit with a bit of a welcome and an orientation, whether that’s a first meeting or subsequent meetings, set the emotional tone. Hey, it’s great to see you, I’m so and so, right. If it’s a first meeting, here’s what were going to talk about today, here’s to how this works, do you have questions, there’s kind of like a setting of the stage.

Sean Greeley: Yes.

Krista Scott-Dixon: That happens. That’s sort of the pre-.

Sean Greeley: Pre framing.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Pre framing, yeah, exactly, step zero right. So then step one is some kind of assessment, so if it’s a new client, you’re probably doing some kind of initial assessment, if it’s an ongoing client, maybe you’re monitoring progress. But in some way you’re collecting information and data. And it can be informal, how’s it going, how did last week go. It can be very unstructured or it can be more structured, lets work through an assessment form, lets go through a checklist, lets get on the scale or test your bench press or whatever.
So that’s step one, step two is really trying to understand this data that you’re collecting in a context. So, okay, I just gathered a bunch of data and information, what does it mean? What’s my client’s story, who are they as a person? What are they experiencing right now? So, we move from just knowing stuff to really trying to understand it, to put all the pieces together into a coherent picture in a puzzle about who they are as people. And then, based on that, we strategize and plan together. So this is when we get the whiteboard or the post it notes or whatever and we say okay, based on what I know of you and the data that we’ve gathered, this is what I’m feeling for like a possible series of next steps.
Okay, so that’s step three. Then you have to pick one because you can’t do them all. So step four is choosing one next action to do or one next skill to practice or one next domain to focus on and agreeing together that you’re going to try this or the client is going to try this. Step five is kind of like step one really because you’re gathering more data and so it’s a progress check. What did you try, and what happened? What results did you get? What was the outcome of that particular action that you took. And then you sort of feedback into the circle again right.
So step six is, you make a judgment call, should we go this direction, should we keep going, are we doing well, should we keep on this path, should we change course, do we need to troubleshoot, so you judge, you access… I’m sorry not access, you evaluate. You evaluate and make a judgment call and kind of feedback into that cycle, so you’re always sort of looping through this process of like assessment, understanding, strategizing, choosing, narrowing the options, testing, monitoring and then deciding what to do next. So it’s just this ongoing feedback loop at different levels of depth or concreteness, that’s all there is to it.

Sean Greeley: I love that. So, it’s a very simple process, it also articulates really how you pull everything together, what do you see is some of the biggest challenges that coaches have in executing it?

Krista Scott-Dixon: That’s a great question and I have an immediate answer, which is, they rush too quickly to tell the client what to do. So they rush too quickly to advise, give helpful suggestions, it’s always very well meaning. People want to help so they rush too quickly to give that help before hanging back and say, let me assess the situation, get a read on it, learn more, ask questions, be curious. I think people rush much, much too quickly to direct the action and even when we’re choosing an action with our client together, this is a collaboration. It’s not me telling you what to do, unless the client says, dude, I have no idea what so ever, what to do, please help me out, Just tell me what to do. Sometimes that is a thing. Sometimes you can say, okay, listen, based on what we got here, I’m going to suggest this. So, there’re times for suggesting but in general it’s a collaboration.
So you look at the data and the stories and everything with your client together and say, okay, listen, here’s what I’m seeing, I’m kind of feeling this as a direction, I don’t know, what are your thoughts, what are you ready, willing and able to do? Does this seem like a good direction? I was feeling this one, you may have other thoughts. You work together to win down that next action or direction that you’re going to take. So, to kind of circle back to your question I think, jumping in too soon to tell, advise, if you’re coaching right, you’re almost never giving a direct instruction, unless it’s like a form cue, head up, that sort of thing but in terms of action planning, ideally we want the client to generate their own ideas in someways.
I mean, we might give them a little boost but we want them to take ownership of what their going to do. Because, that’s what’s going to drive them to take action. If I’m telling you what to do, unless you’re a massive people pleaser, you’re probably not going to do it. And you’re not going to do it consistently or you’ll only do it as long as I’m watching you.
We want to generate actions that clients will do even when no one is looking. Its like if you find a wallet on the street and it has ID and it has money and it’s clearly some nice person’s wallet they’ve lost. If no one sees you pick up that wallet, what do you do? What kind of person are you? Hopefully most of us would want to give the wallet back to the person that owned it, right. So we want to get our client’s to that place where they’re willing to return the wallet even though no one sees them do it. So their doing the actions they need to do without us pushing, telling, lecturing, directing, any of that stuff. Does that make sense?

Sean Greeley: It does, and I think it’s an area I’d love to spend a little more time on. Because I think this is such big mindset shift for coaches. Because so many times a client has just signed up, they’re raring to go, just tell me what to do, tell me what to do and the coach feels like, well my value isn’t telling them what to do and that’s… now I got to tell them what to do and I got to write a program, I give them a prescription, I got to layout the protocol and get them doing it because their ready to go and now it’s my job to deliver. And as you said, we rush, we rush because we don’t want a be the one dragging our client behind, they’re hungry and driven and showing up.
No one is hotter than when they first signed up to start a new program. And we think that, okay, we got to match their pace of enthusiasm and we got to go right to it but often times slowing people down is the much more Important job to create this mindset around how we’re going to work through this over a longer period. Not about what were going to do just this week, it’s really about how we’re going to work together to create transformative change over a longer cycle. But I-.

Krista Scott-Dixon: And, there’s a coach friend of mine who puts sled pushes into most of his clients programs especially in the beginning. Sled pushes or sled pulls, if they can do them. Because that is something that makes you feel like you worked really hard. You get done a sled push and you’re like, yes, I did that. You feel like a bad ass right. Now that might be like five minutes of time in your program, you can do a bunch of rehabs stuff around that but when you finish with a sled push, that’s what you remember. And you walk away thinking like, yeah, I’m working towards my goals.
And so, on the one hand, yes we do one to slow them down and kind of get them going in a more systematic way. But we also need to have little things in our back pockets, that will give them the feeling of keeping that momentum, without harming themselves. Because most people can safely sled push or pull. So they’ll feel like that had a great workout, but they don’t need to have the athletic competence or the fitness level necessarily to execute more complex and difficult movements.
So we need something like that in our coaching back pocket. One of the ones for me is eating slowly without distractions. And so if I have a hot shot client come to me like, I really want to lose weight right away, I’ll be like, “listen, I got a secret for you. It’s going to sound easy but I dare you to try it for a week and comeback”. Eat slowly, no distractions. That’s the game. Their like, “ah, sounds crazy”. I’m like, “ try me, text me on the first day, let me know how it goes”. And that becomes the sled pushing because their like, wow, this is really hard but they also noticed results from it. So, it’s good to have little coaching tricks in your back pocket that give people the feeling of doing something right away. Whether it’s a little make work project or whether it something more substantial. We have our little tricks and tactics too.

Sean Greeley: I love it. Yeah, that’s such a great one. And I can remember, I remember that one, especially for someone who’s business owners and coaches that are busy coaching, working on their business, managing a lot of pieces, even just for us to remember that all the time to slow down, chew your food, don’t be doing other things while you’re eating is just so important to be reminded of. So, it’s such a great habit.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Especially when you frame it as a challenge. It becomes one of those magic tricks where it’s like try to do this simple thing and you can’t, you’re like, oh my god that’s… it’s like the Chinese finger trap, right. Where you’re trying to get your fingers out you’re like, oh my god, that’s amazing. It gives them that sense of wonder as well I think, which is kind of fun.

Sean Greeley: Awesome. So, an area that you and I have spent some time speaking about. At PN, you guys are committed to leading change and the work you do through coaches being the vehicle to lead change and through the skills of coaching education and obviously nutrition habits. At NPE, it’s really similar, where here to lead change, we know that we got to help coaches and business owners grow in their skillsets, acumen, strategies, systems, tools, to be more effective in leading their business and leading all the aspects that support that in our methodology. Especially with early stage coaches, you and I have talked a lot about how people think that actually the skills of running your business are completely different from the skills of actually coaching clients. And they are different skillsets, right. But they are also more aligned than their not.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sean Greeley: But a lot of people just have a lot, their very comfortable studying education and talking about changing habits but when you go to… lets talk to someone you don’t know yet or Let’s talk about how we lead a commitment to your program to someones goals in your program. These different skills that are required to be effective in new client acquisition and other aspects of really leadership, it’s all leadership in many ways. People just freeze up and they really their uncomfortable in those domains. So, I’d love for you to speak that a bit.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Well yeah, lets go back to our six step coaching process. Assessment and data gathering, that can be having a weekly check in on the numbers of your business or running some kind of analytics, the most basic analytics… how much money is coming in, how much moneys going out. Any kind of assessment in data gathering can be half an hour every week where you sit down and look at your numbers. Understanding and building the story, whether that’s for you, what is this business, what is this businesses values, what is the mission I’m on. And it doesn’t even have to be a big mission but it’s more like, what am I here to do and what am I not here to do. If you have a fat loss client coming in, they’re not here to be muscle gain client. So a lot of coaching is about winnowing down what is it you like to do, what is it you don’t want to do. Business is the same, values, motivations, ambivalence, resistance, what are the block, what are the obstacles, understanding the story of your business.
Then, kind of mapping out, again, getting those post it notes out, thinking of all the things you possibly could be doing and then picking out one to try. You know what, this week, lets try focusing on this. Test something, see how it goes. Assessing, how did it work? This week I tried strategy X, it actually worked pretty well, I think I’m going to keep doing It. So it’s exactly the same process and then in terms of things like sales and marketing, I think people have this idea that sales means being sleazy or slimy or creepy or lying to people. But sales is just building a relationship and figuring out how to give people something that is of value to them that they genuinely want. The good thing about coaching is, you’re not selling crap, you’re not selling a garbage product. And if you are, work on your coaching skills first. But once you get your coaching to the point where it’s adequate, understand that you’re selling something that is truly valuable to another human being. Support, accountability, being understood, helping develop an action plan. All of these things are really, really valuable.
Being listened to, if you could just master you’re listening skills, think about how many people in an average day really get listened to. Someone to sit across the table from them and be like, “that’s really interesting, tell me more, I’m genuinely absorbing this”. That never happens to people. So simply building your listening skills, never mind your telling skills, is a valuable commodity in and of itself. So, all of that stuff is what sales is. You have a valuable thing, you think that someone could truly use it and you want to talk to them about that. You want to build a relationship with them.
That’s all that sales is and marketing is just telling the story of that. When you frame it like that, it sounds way different. Hopefully you believe in your own product, if you don’t, eh, maybe consider another line of work. But, hopefully… I mean, you don’t have to be 100% confident, I think most coaches are not 100% confident. I think that’s a good thing, I think it keeps us humble, it keeps up modest, it keeps us a little sharp. But on some level, you have to believe in what you do and believe in your ability to create a helping relationship with another human being that needs it. That’s what you’re doing as a coach. Gosh, I feel like selling that to someone.

Sean Greeley: Yeah, I know we talked about as well in some of our prep, we talked about where do people show up when they first sign up? No one signs up for coaching because everything’s going great in their life. They show up when there in some type of crisis or challenge and that often times just listening to them is one of the most important things they need to start to support them on their journey. So, I’d love for you to talk to that a bit further.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, for sure. And again, I comeback to that piece of… in the 21st century, which is full of information and talking and opinions, listening is an incredible rare and valuable commodity. So, and listening or witnessing being with someone in a difficult moment, it’s extremely powerful. I mean listening without fixing. Listening without reassuring, without fixing, without any of that stuff. Just listening is an incredibly scarce resource and valuable commodity. And so what does that look like? Okay, what does it look like, someone comes to me, first of all, I show with my entire body that there the most important thing in the room with me right now. I’m not like, Oh, yeah tell me more about your stuff, I’m not looking at my phone, I’m not staring off into space, I’m not looking over their shoulder for the next interesting person coming in. Its like, you and me, are here together and there’s nothing more important than you right now. Just us being present together. Then, I allow silence.
Because sometimes, when we listen, we’re just waiting for the other person to shut up, so we can jump in with what we think. So, allow a bit of silence to unfold, someone stops talking, just wait a beat before you jump in because often when you wait, they’ll say more. So you can like, if you’re nervous, take a drink of water or stroke your chin thoughtfully. Stroke your imaginary beard and be like uh-huh. But kind of slow the pace down and really try to absorb what their telling you. And then offer it back to them. Test your understanding, “so it sounds like what you’re saying is, blah, blah, blah, did I get that right? Am I hearing you right? Is there more to that story”?
So you’re doing like this dance of receiving, assimilating and given it back to them. And you kind of do this back and forth dance, until they feel like, “yes, you got it, you got me”. There’s like a click that happens but in terms of concrete ways to practice this, one of the things we suggest is try to listen to someone for a full minute without interrupting. See if you can do it, it’s actually remarkably challenging. If they stop talking… wait. See if you can make it the full minute. It’s a really strong exercise but that’s what we mean when we talk about listening.

Sean Greeley: I love that. So, I know we’re on a bit of a tight schedule in our time here today. Talk about just some of the biggest things of why someone should sign up for PN level one and what can they expect to learn, how is this going to benefit their career. I mean I think we covered a host of those things in this session today, but I really believe in the work you guys are doing, I want people to really have a sense of how much they can benefit and gain in their career from going through this certification that you guys offer.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, I’m glad you ask that question because I think a lot of people wonder why should I take this. And I think that’s a fair question because there’s lots of other certifications out there. It seems like there’s more coming out all the time. Sometimes people might even wonder, “ah gee, should I go back to graduate school, what do I do”. And so I think that’s a really fair question. And what I would say is the certification is a fit for someone that is looking for a more systematic way to coach nutrition in an evidence based fashion. So, there’s this kind of two halves to the whole, there’s the information, the technical information, the science of nutrition and biochemistry and physiology and all that stuff. But a lot of people find that they learn that, maybe in undergrad. We actually have people who are PhD’s, pharmacology, biochemistry, biomechanics, whatever, taking our cert. Because they’ve learned all this stuff, but they haven’t learned the human art or the system of coaching. Conversely, we have people who really want to coach, they really want to serve other people and help other people, and their very well meaning but their not skilled in the practices of coaching or the systems of coaching or the methods of coaching. So their getting frustrated and also they feel like, “ah, I’m not technical enough, I don know enough about the science”.
So, generally people start from one or two of these positions and feel like, “I’m missing the other half”. Another thing that happens is that people may have a really good technical background but struggle to communicate it. SO I can tell you maybe 47 steps in this process of cell signaling but I can’t sit across the table from a 70 year old diabetic, who’s just been told by their doctor to whatever, right. And have a coaching conversation, there’s a real gap between the higher level stuff and what do I do with an actual person. So I think that’s really where our certification has evolved over the years, to take those halves, the evidence, the research, the technical aspects of nutrition science, and the human stuff, the art and the systems of coaching and kind of put them together. In a way that is accessible and interesting and relevant. Again, what do I do with this client, “it’s Tuesday, it’s 2:00, this person is coming in, oh my gosh, what do I do”.
Because I think so many educational programs don’t address that and I come as an academic. People find that theirs so little applicability, “oh gosh, I learn all this awesome stuff but what do I do”. So we’ve tried to make it readable, accessible, interesting and systematic. So, you’ll go through and right away, will say, try this, try this, try this. Its very experiential, it’s very almost like an apprenticeship. So chapter two is like, try this, go out today and try this, try this. So by the time you get to the end of the textbook, you’ve tried a bunch of things, whether on yourself or someone who’s willing to be a guinea pig or your actual clients if you have them, so you emerge on the other end having already practiced so many of the things that you’re going to be giving to the clients in the future. And I think that’s a huge difference, it’s not just passively ingesting the material, you’re engaging with it.
There’s case studies now, drawn from our actual client isles, their real people in those case studies. It has much more of applied, experiential, dimension to it. We’ve done a bunch of fun, new little videos, which I think our really cute. What am I missing… Oh, we have a ton of assessment forms and worksheets. So there’s like… the textbook is over 600 pages, which we’ve divided into little booklets, so you don’t have to carry the whole big thing. But then there’s about 200 pages of worksheets, forms, conversation starters, do you want to assess someones sleep habits? Great, we have a form for you. Do you want to talk about motivational interviewing? Start a conversation, great, we have a form for you. So we have… This is the educator in me, I created all these resources. Does your client need a handy PN plate guide? Cool, photocopy and give this to them. So it’s kind of like almost this one stop shop.

Sean Greeley: Yeah.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Everything you’re going to need to know to be a nutrition coach, boom.

Sean Greeley: Coaches toolbox.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Coaches toolbox, and you’ll enjoy it while you do it. Its not dry, we tried to make the writing interesting, the visuals interesting, it’s beautiful, it’s beautifully designed. Its just an awesome thing that’s going to get you where you want to go in your professional development. And it’s open to anyone, whether you’re a hobbyist, someone who just wants to learn, you’re just starting out, you’re more experienced, you’re advanced, your someone who wants to change careers. It’s open for everyone. Its very democratic.

Sean Greeley: It is, and I’ll just add my endorsement. I get to work with lot of brands and a lot of companies around the world of fitness and I’ve known John for a long time and some other team at PN for many, many years. And to see the continued progression that PN is on year over year is amazing. I mean, I don’t think there’s more of a world class organization or company or education or curriculum out there in the fitness industry worldwide than the work you guys are doing at PN.
So, if you’re in the fitness industry and you want to be better at what you do, go learn from some of the best or the best there are. And I think you guys continue to push the envelope on that so encourage everyone to check it out. Precisionnutrition.com, you can find the upcoming level one cert one… we’ll have some links in the show notes for everybody as well. And just get a brief preview, what’s the difference between level one, level two? For those who might’ve done level one sometime ago, I know you continue to evolve it each year and you’ve added level two, which is only a few years ago now that you actually launch level two, so there’s a lot to that.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Yeah, level two is much more like a graduate seminar. And you check in every single day, so it’s much more like our PN coaching program, where people do lessons and habits, practices, every single day for a year. It’s the same thing but for a coach. So again, as a coach, there are certain practices and skills that we all need to work on like listening, like assessment. But we don’t always practice those things because we’re like, “ ah, I already know how to listen”. Well, do you? So it’s very practice based programs that focuses on some technical aspects of coaching like higher level topics in nutritional science, like food intolerances or hormones whatever. But it also take you through specific skill building for coaching. So it’s a much more intensive professional development seminar kind of experience. You get a coach, you have assignments, so you’re producing…, so you’re not just writing exam, you’re producing work based on real clients, again, always, we have plenty. We have lots. And then you’re getting feedback and guidance from one of our top coaches who is assigned to you as your coach.
So there’s kind of direct mentorship happening on a daily cadence of learning, so… it’s funny because people finish it at the end of the year and their like, “oh my gosh, I’m actually a better person, I’m a better parent, I’m not just a better coach, because these skills are so transferable”, right. I’m a better parent, I’m a better partner, I’m a better colleague, so that’s really the difference, so level one is much more like, I would say an undergraduate course or like an early masters level course, whereas, level two is much more of a higher graduate level or intense professional development course. So, they go together really nicely.

Sean Greeley: They go together. And once you have one, you’re going to want the next one.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Of course.

Sean Greeley: Check it out. All right, awesome. Well thank you so much, any final words of wisdom, tips you’d share for young coaches and established coaches out there today?

Krista Scott-Dixon: I guess I would say to be compassionate and curious with yourself and understand that mastery takes time and there’s a lot of reps. And just because you’re a nice person and mean well and want to help doesn’t make you a great coach and that’s okay. I still feel like everyday I’m learning and maybe when I’m 100, I don’t know if I’m going to feel like a good coach then either but coaching mastery takes time and deliberate practice and lots of reps. So if you’re starting out or changing careers, even if you’re advanced and you feel like your struggling, understand that you can get better. No matter what, but it probably takes a lot longer than you think and that’s okay. It’s a life long vocation if you want it to be.

Sean Greeley: Love that, awesome, all right, well great words of wisdom. Thank you Krista, we hope to have you back again sometime. I absolutely encourage everybody to go meet Krista, learn more about what they got to offer at PN, precisionnutrition.com. And thanks for being here today.

Krista Scott-Dixon: Thank you so much.

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