Coaching Techniques

Five Strategies to Effectively Motivate Your Coaching Clients

Delve into the nuances of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and explore various strategies to inspire personal growth and achievement in your clients.

How to Motivate Your Coaching Clients: Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation and Strategies

Within the world of coaching, one of your primary roles as a coach is to motivate your clients towards personal growth and achievement. Coaching is focused on positive reinforcement, asking powerful questions and digging deep to help your clients discover personal meaning to attach to when it comes to the goals that they set for themselves.

We will share strategies for motivating your coaching clients, and the secret to doing it effectively lies in understanding the two basic types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

What is Intrinsic Motivation in Coaching?

Intrinsic motivation comes from within – it’s internal. It's the drive that pushes people to pursue activities for their own sake, for the sheer joy or fulfillment they bring. Think of a musician who plays purely for the love of music, or a writer driven by their passion for telling a great story. These people are motivated by their internal desires and search for personal gratification.

Personal Fulfillment: Intrinsic motivation is closely linked to personal goals and values.

Internal Locus of Control: People with high intrinsic motivation often feel in control of their destiny and believe in their ability to influence outcomes.

Resilience: They are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges, maintaining focus on their goals.

As a life coach, tapping into intrinsic motivation involves understanding what makes your client tick, and what they care about – their hopes, goals and dreams. This process begins with deep, exploratory conversations to uncover what genuinely drives them. Then, helping clients set meaningful and personal goals that resonate with these core values. 

When change is motivated from within, it builds a foundation for lasting change and personal growth.

What is Extrinsic Motivation in Coaching?

Extrinsic motivation is driven by external factors. These can include rewards, recognition, or even avoiding negative consequences. For example, a student studying hard to earn a scholarship or an employee working overtime for a bonus are driven by extrinsic factors.

External Rewards: Extrinsic motivation is often tied to tangible rewards or recognition from others.

Potential for Disappointment: While effective in achieving certain goals, extrinsic motivation may not necessarily lead to lasting personal fulfillment.

Shifting Focus: As a coach, when appropriate you can help clients reframe extrinsic motivation into more self-determined forms.

To a certain extent, you can leverage external rewards and recognition to help drive client behavior and goal achievement. 

For clients who are motivated by external validation or tangible results such as career advancement, financial gains, or social recognition – it can be useful to reference these desires and reframe them with powerful questions, coupling them with a client’s internal motivators and values.

Example: Let’s say your client has a goal: “I want to make six figures in my business this year.”

While that is a great goal on the surface, in order to make that a reality, you can ask deeper questions to tie this to their personal values. What does making six figures represent to them? What is intrinsically valuable about that number? Once they have explored it from an internal values perspective, they may find that their goal shifts or changes to better reflect their values.

Pro tip: Providing regular, constructive feedback and celebrating successes are essential for maintaining momentum in clients who thrive on external motivation.

Action Causes Motivation, Not the Other Way Around

The Five Steps to Motivate Your Coaching Clients

A combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation will often work best in cementing your client’s desire to achieve their goal. Let’s go through five steps to helping them get to where they want to be.

1. Establish Clear and Attainable Goals

Understanding what your client truly wants to achieve is the first step. Work with them to set clear, specific, and realistic goals. This process not only provides a roadmap for your sessions but also gives the client a concrete sense of direction and purpose.

Tip: Use a specific framework or goal setting theory to guide goal-setting, such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).

Additional Resource:
Using Goal Setting Theory to Create Resolutions that Last

2. Cultivate a Strong, Trusting Relationship

Trust is the foundation of any coaching relationship (and an important International Coaching Federation core competency!). A client must feel comfortable and safe to share their thoughts and feelings openly. To build trust, maintain confidentiality with your client, be fully present without distractions, recall important facts and show that you care through your words and actions to build trust. This process will take time, and is the accumulation of showing up for your client again and again.

Establishing trust will lead to more honest and productive sessions, because trust is the foundation for offering reflections about patterns or behaviors you as a coach are observing that are keeping your client from reaching their goals. 

Tip: Practice active listening, show empathy, and maintain confidentiality to build a strong rapport with your clients.

3. Celebrate the Wins

Acknowledging and celebrating small victories can significantly boost your client's motivation. Positive reinforcement encourages clients to continue making progress and reinforces the value of their efforts. This is also a powerful method for helping clients build the skill of self efficacy, which is a crucial element for goal attainment. 

Tip: Offer genuine praise and recognition for the client's achievements, no matter how small. Every goal is broken down into smaller steps, and progress may be too!

4. Encourage Self-Reflection

The strongest and most effective motivation often comes from within. Encourage your clients to engage in self-reflection to uncover their intrinsic motivations and personal values, and reframe external motivators to reflect internal values. This self-discovery can be a powerful motivator.

Tip: Use reflective questions and exercises to help clients explore their thoughts and feelings.

More Resources:
How to Apply the Japanese Art of Self-Reflection in Coaching
Build Self-Awareness: Ten Self-Reflection Exercises and Self-Assessment Tools

5. Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Helping clients to develop a growth mindset – the belief that their abilities, skills and insight can be developed with effort – is vital. This mindset encourages long term resilience and a positive attitude towards challenges and failures, essential within the coaching engagement!

Tip: Teach your clients to view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, rather than as obstacles.

Additional Resource:

Coaching Mastery: Embracing and Redefining What “Failure” Means

As a coach, your ability to motivate clients is a key part of their success and a strong indicator of your effectiveness. By incorporating these strategies into your coaching practice, you can create a positive and inspiring environment that gives your client the foundation to thrive. Remember, each client is unique, and so your approach to motivating them will be too!

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