Although we shrink from talking about pastors as CEOs, a recent survey of over 200 CEOs has some implications for pastoral leaders.
The 2013 Executive Coaching Survey poll was conducted by Stanford University and The Miles Group. The study inquired about the kind of leadership advice that CEOs and their top executives are–and aren’t–receiving, and the skills that are being targeted for improvement. The emphasis, of course, was on identifying the need for and encouraging executive coaching.
According to the survey, “Top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve [are] sharing leadership/delegation, conflict management, team building, and mentoring. [At the] bottom of the list: motivational skills, compassion/empathy, and persuasion skills.” CEOs steer away from coaching around the “soft people skills” because they either are uncomfortable with those skills or feel that they don’t have the capacity to develop them. The report does go on to say, however, “When combined with the ‘harder’ skills, improving a CEO’s ability to motivate and inspire can really make a difference in his or her overall effectiveness.”
Although this was a survey of business leaders, we should consider what we can learn from this about the commonalities and differences of coaching ministers. Those who coach pastors realize that most ministerial leaders are usually competent in the relational skills. Their ability to motivate, empathize with, and persuade people often led them to Christian ministry.
My experience, however, is that most pastors could use coaching around maximizing both “hard people skills” and “soft people skills” in their settings. Challenges in a particular setting may require a minister to revisit how he or she relates to people in the congregation. Those relational skills that drew him or her into ministry may need to be revisited, encouraged, or refocused for a particular setting. A coach can help with that process.
The concerns that I find myself coaching ministers around most often are time management, team building and staff development, leadership, mentoring and supervision, and spiritual development. These topics usually require a mixture of “hard” and “soft” people skills, learning how to balance the two.
The bottom line is that leaders realize that they need an objective, knowledgeable coach to help them to become more effective. The challenge for the CEOs surveyed is to ask for that support. Two-thirds say they need it but don't ask for it. For one reason or another, they pull back from seeking coaching.
The same is certainly true of the majority of pastors. Ministers often resist seeking personal assistance—whether it be counseling, mentoring, or coaching—because they fear being seen by their parishioners as inadequate in some way.
Both types of leaders often miss the opportunity to be more effective because they do not seek coaching. Isn’t it time for a change?