Being a coach is not a matter of age or expertise. The basic skill needed to be a good coach is relationship. A trusting relationship is essential for the coaching conversation, and the relative age of the participants is not important. The second skill, the ability to ask good questions, is one that any person can learn.
I thought recently of a conversation I had some 30 years ago with a student while I was a campus minister. Del was a sharp pre-med student. He was on our Baptist Student Union council and came in weekly for a planning time with the campus minister (me). We had developed a good rapport, but I thought I was still in control of the conversation. Then one day, Del asked me, “How’s your spiritual life?” I was a little surprised initially. After all, I was the older (by at least 15 years) and wiser (I thought!) leader. But I stopped for a minute, reflected, and realized it was not a bad question. This initiated a good dialogue about my own Christian walk. Del’s question was an appropriate question at the right time in the right place.
One thing I realized from this incident was that one doesn’t have to be in a supervisory or formal coaching role to ask good questions that hold another person accountable. And I needed to be held accountable.
As I think back now, I realize that some of the best questions that I have heard over the years have some from people who knew nothing about my work and many who were much younger than me. Of course, I have heard a lot of pointless questions, too! Just asking a question is the not the key; it is asking the right question.
Either Del had a good coach along the way or he had an intuitive skill for asking good questions. When asked in the context of a trusted relationship, good coaching questions open doors for reflection and action.