As I have learned more about coaching, I have wished that I had acquired sound coaching skills when I was a denominational person. In the role of a denominational worker, I interacted with many clergy and lay leaders on a personal basis. They felt they could talk freely with me because I was not part of their local environment or supervisory structure.
Certainly, there were times when I listened and asked good questions, but most of the time I felt that I needed to be a problem-solver and provide a solution for the person with whom I was interacting. When I could not generate a good solution, I often came away from those conversations feeling that I had failed that person.
One of the important things I have learned as a coach is that the person being coached is the real expert on their challenge. They know themselves, their abilities, and their situation better than anyone else. Most people have never really attempted to tap into the personal and corporate resources readily available to them. When they learn how to do this, the most productive path forward becomes very clear.
These days I am thinking more about how to encourage the leaders with whom I work to practice coaching skills with individuals, groups, and teams. As they do this, they multiply their ministries, bring new people alongside to accomplish the task, and encourage others to discover and use their gifts.
If we are going to develop leaders who are also coaches, there are three basic skills that they need to practice.
First, a coaching leader needs to ask powerful questions. Powerful questions are based not only on good inquiries, but good listening. A person may ask good questions but fail to listen to the responses.
A good listener hears not only what the other person is saying but for the meaning behind their words as well. This leads to even better questions and deeper insights!
Second, the coaching leader seeks clarity not only for himself or herself but for the person with whom they are working. How will either party know what needs to be addressed if there is no clear picture of the need? Sometimes a person comes to the conversation with the apparent concern but then the real concern must be identified. For example, the leader’s difficulty in working with a colleague may not be that the other person lacks motivation but that they don’t really know what is expected of them. Clarity accelerates the change process. This requires a freedom to explore possibilities.
Third, the coaching leader helps to create accountability. This does not mean that the leader becomes an authority figure. Most of the people we work with today don’t think much of positional authority anyway. The leader may be available for the other person to check in on the achievement of milestones, but the person being coached becomes most effective when they learn self-accountability and how to make use of their natural accountability structures. For example, self-accountability structures might be using a checklist or programming a reminder into a cell phone. Natural accountability structures might be based on promises or commitments made with a co-worker, a spouse, or friend.
I challenge coaches to consider how they can not only coach their clients who are leaders but help them to instill a coach approach into their own leadership. This can be a fulfilling and empowering experience for all involved.