When I teach coaching classes for Central Baptist Theological Seminary, I use texts that come at coaching from different perspectives. Some are by strictly secular writers, while others are oriented toward churches or the business community. Usually, the author or a text will have a particular model (often shown as a schematic) that depicts his or her approach to coaching.
In evaluating the books we used this semester, one student pointed out that a couple of the models seemed to focus on coaching as a process while another looked at coaching as a relationship. This raises an interesting question: “Is coaching a process or a relationship?”
From one perspective, there is a clearly delineated process in any coaching model. Although I often say that every coaching conversation has three parts—a beginning, a middle and end—most models propose a way forward for the coaching conversation with several parts or steps to be accomplished. Sometimes it will be necessary to drop back to an earlier point in the process for clarification or refocusing, but there is a clearly depicted process for forward movement. The coach is helping the client to move forward in order to achieve his or her goals.
On the other hand, a successful coaching experience must be built on a relationship. There must be mutual trust, a high level of respect, and a feeling that “we are in this together” for a coaching conversation to be productive. If that doesn’t happen, it is highly unlikely to be a positive experience. A good relationship must be established early in the coaching engagement and sustained over time.
Although some models may seem to emphasize one aspect over the other, I believe that coaching is both a process and a relationship. We might think of coaching as a process energized by a relationship or a relationship that drives a process, but both are essential parts of the coaching conversation. A skillful coach keeps the two in balance, knowing that both are needed.