The role of a leader includes many tasks, including vision-casting, planning, directing, building teams, communication, training, problem solving and coaching people.
The primary means of leadership development in the Bible is through mentoring and coaching. Think of Jethro and Moses, Moses and Joshua, Samuel and Saul then David, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus and his disciples, and Barnabas and Saul. The apostle Paul once wrote, “Jesus is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me (Colossians 1:28-29).” Our goal should be the same - to help the people on our team become fully mature in Christ – reaching their God-given potential. People rarely do that without input from others – friends, team members, teachers, mentors, and coaches.
John Whitmore, in his book Coaching for Performance, defines coaching as “unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” In their book TransforMissional Coaching, authors Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl define coaching in the Christian context as: “helping people develop their God-given potential so that they grow personally and make a valuable contribution to the kingdom of God.” Good coaches think in terms of a person’s future potential, not just their past or current performance.
In the excellent book, The Coaching Conversation, Brian Souza uses a fable story to reveal the four types of managers: the Nice-Guy Manager, the Do-it-all-Manager, the Micro-Manager, and the Coach. Through the narrative of the story, he suggests the following three steps:
- Change your approach - stop acting like a manager and start acting like a coach.
- Create an environment that is conducive to coaching.
- Transform the conversation into a weekly constructive coaching conversation.
He goes on to say:
- As a coach the more you give, the more you’ll get. The more you care, the more your team will contribute.
- Great coaches consistently get the most out of their people because they consistently put the most into their people.
- As a coach, the only way you can achieve your potential is to first help your team members achieve theirs.
- Coaching is not merely something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become.
- When all is said and done and we’ve completed this journey we call life, what will matter most is not what we have achieved, but rather who we have become.
The Coaching Process
Through the process of coaching, we are seeking to do two primary things:
- Raise awareness.
- Build responsibility.
Creating awareness is all about helping the individual see themselves (self-awareness) and their situation (what is happening around them) accurately. People can only deal with what they are aware of. Without awareness, no true change or progress can be made. John Whitmore says that “a coach is not a problem solver, a teacher, an advisor, an instructor or even an expert; he or she is a sounding board, a facilitator, a counsellor, an awareness raiser.”
Building responsibility is the next step. Until an individual accepts and takes responsibility for themselves and their situation, no change will occur. Telling someone to be responsible for something doesn't make them feel responsible for it. People have to choose to be responsible.
The Power of Questions
Good questions are the best tool for raising awareness and building responsibility because asking is more effective than telling. Bob Logan says, “Good coaching isn’t the art of giving good answers; it is the art of asking good questions.”
Questions are a powerful way to develop people. Even the Bible highlights the impact of questions. God himself often asked questions when in conversation with people (see Genesis 3:8-9). Jesus, although he had so much to say, often used questions when talking with people (see John 1:35-38). Precision questions go straight to the heart. Jesus used questions not because he needed an answer but in order to bring a person to a new level of understanding. Questions help build relationships, are a key to creativity and problem-solving, enhance education and learning, and are an aid to personal growth. After all, experience is not the best teacher; only reflection on experience turns experience into insight.
The GROW Model
John Whitmore has developed a simple but effective model (or mental map) for sequencing good questions. It is called The GROW model.
GOAL – “What do you want? What are you trying to achieve?”
REALITY – “What is happening? What action have you taken so far and what were the effects?”
OPTIONS – “What could you do? What are the alternatives?” Seek possibilities, not one solution.
WILL – “What will you do? When will you do it? What obstacles will there be? How can I help?”
This requires active listening (Proverbs 18:13. James 1:19) so as to gain clarity on the issues. The coaching cycle is ongoing and includes celebrating progress and ‘wins’ along the way. Encourage small steps towards a person’s goal.
Try using the GROW mental map in conversation with someone in your world today - a family member, a friend, a colleague or team member. Only use questions, listen attentively, and refrain from giving advice, just for a while. Notice the impact - on you and them.
Through effective coaching, we can develop the potential of the people who work around us, achieve our goals, and enjoy the journey together.