Don’t Coach, But Use Coaching Skills
I don’t know Fran LaMattina, but I have been coming across her name over the last year. Fran was a very successful coach to the business world and later began using those coaching skills in the church. When Gary Collins asked her if coaching could benefit everyone her response was, “You can’t coach people who don’t want to be coached.” Another person told Garry, only about 20% of people can be coached.
I would add that you should be careful about coaching people without the right things being in place. Coaching has great value. There’s no doubt that it works. But not every situation calls for coaching and not everyone should be coached. If there isn’t a formal coaching agreement between a coach and another person, then coaching skills might be in play, but true coaching isn’t happening. Coaching without agreement might even come across as pushy or in some situations manipulation.
Ask for Permission
One way to formalize coaching without necessarily signing a contract is to ask permission. Either the coach can ask or the person can ask, but permission is like an open door.
I often have people share their goals with me. They don’t even know they are doing it, but I hear them say things: “I want to be a better father. I want to help my wife more. I want to be better at spending time with God. I would really like to pay off my debt.” Every situation is different and discernment is necessary, but a great way to see if the door opens is to ask for permission to help them with that goal. If you have passport into their life then you can ask, “Would you like some coaching around that goal?” That’s a coaching question for coaches to ask. If you’re not a coach, but rather a mentor, accountability partner, peer, friend, or family member then feel free to change the question a little.
A mentor (or fill in the blank) might use coaching skills and ask, “How important is that goal to you right now?” Other questions that could follow are, “How long have you been thinking about this? What ideas do you have for achieving that? What would that mean to you? How would that impact the people around you?” In the coaching world we use the phrase “dancing in the moment” to describe the interaction that happens in a conversation. For conversations to truly flow, there has to be a very natural “in the moment” feel to them. Ask questions that fit the context of the conversation.
Even if coaching isn’t happening coaching skills are valuable. Being present in the moment, great questions, creating awareness, and active listening holds great value for family dinners, everyday work environments, small groups through your church family, and countless other places. You can use coaching skills to bless others.
Put Relationship First
Most of us are pretty good at seeing other people’s problems. We can even see positive steps forward. And There’s something in us that wants to tell people what to do. I am realizing that this is like walking on ice assuming that it is thick enough to handle our weight.
“Assumicide” is dangerous. Jesus asked the questions, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matt. 7:3-4) Jesus’s questions reveal a general truth in life; We are all better at seeing other people’s problems and their solutions. If only they would listen, hear our superior understanding, and do exactly what we suggest, right?
In the coaching world, there is a phrase that I love. I have no idea who came up with it, but it is genius. It’s the phrase, “Coach the person, not the problem.” People’s lives are invariably way more complex than we can see. Yet it’s so easy to see other people’s problems and think we can have the answers. A coach approach has the person in mind. They know their lives. They know the angles, incidentals, and complexity. They are often unconsciously or consciously aware of barriers. When coaching the person we help them to look at all the angles, each potential barrier, and the particulars that we would never be able to see on our own. It doesn’t matter if you are formal coach. You can use coaching skills to put the relationship first. Using coaching skills means that you would remain unattached to path a person takes to move forward. You are concerned about their success. When a person presents a problem to overcome (or goal resistance), it OK to ask for permission to to ask some clarifying questions. For example, “How are you (person focus) doing right now? What’s working? What’s not? What does success look like to you?”
One way to coach the person, not the problem is to avoid giving solutions. Solution questions often begin with the words “have you thought about.” It takes practice to focus on the person. In doubt, it’s better to empathize with people than to try to fix them or the problem. And Both of you will likely feel better. Tony Stolzfus’s words are helpful. “Coaching is a methodology and not an end in itself…it helps to have a good working definition of coaching. One line I often use is, ‘Coaching is a discipline of helping people grow without telling them what to do.’”
Leading with Grace and Skill
I am a pastor, teacher, mentor, accountability partner, missions leader, boss, friend, father, and husband. Becoming a professional coach is my newest role in life. And I am still learning what it looks like to coach well. I use coaching skills in most of the roles I have in life, but I am not always coaching. Coaching skills have been a huge blessing to me. Some of the benefits of having coaching skills are below and I believe transferable to others even if they are not coaching professionally.
- I listen more and more deeply.
- I ask a lot more questions.
- I am less attached to how I think people should do things. I am more interested in what works for them.
- I am more engaged as a father and husband (most of the time). I ask more questions and listen more carefully.
- I am a lot less opinionated.
- I am more focussed when people share their desires, dreams, and goals. I am excited for them and can genuinely ask them what forward progress looks like.
I don’t know exactly what this looks like for everyone else, but I am seeing great value in people having a good definition of what coaching is and having some basic coaching skills.
Would you like to learn more about adding a coach approach to your leadership skills?
Consider attending The Coaching Workshop for Christian Leaders. Coaching skills will increase your effectiveness as a leader regardless of whether you work in the marketplace or in ministry. People who take this workshop see significant advancements in their impact, while seeing their stress and busy-ness go down.
Based on the book, The COACH Model for Christian Leaders, this workshop is made for those who are experienced as well as those who are not-so-experienced in coaching skills.
Character comes from life; skills and methodologies come from training. Methodologies transform people only to the degree that they are a channel for transformed life. Coaching is a methodology and not an end in itself. We need a much better understanding of what coaching can contribute to the ministry of the church and to the effectiveness of church leaders.
— Tony Stoltzfus in the book by Gary Collins, Christian Coaching