The COACH Model for Christian Leaders: Powerful Leadership Skills to Solve Problems, Reach Goals, and Develop Others By Keith Webb
I had a disease. Like many, I suffered from an acute case of “know-it-all-ism” (with the telltale symptom of trying to solve everyone’s problems).
My heart was right…or at least partially right. When offering solutions to other’s problems I truly wanted to help. I loved sharing knowledge that had benefited me. However, I also enjoyed being the person with answers. There was definitely some pride behind my “know-it-all-ism”.
Whenever people shared problems, I immediately offered a solution. But as the years dragged on I noticed something (quick learner that I am), a very small number of people actually followed my advice. Or, someone would “discover” a solution that I had suggested years ago with no recollection of my advice.
Part of my role as Regional Director is helping others find solutions. Having come to grips with the fact that telling people what to do was an epic fail, I searched for a better way. Reading books on active listening was a step in the right direction. However, I still struggled to help others make forward progress. I didn’t know how to transition people from feeling understood to helping them set action steps.
Reading “The COACH Model” was like finding a decoder ring (you remember the ones from cereal boxes…). It organized the chaos. Each communication tool has a function (listening, sharing, etc.), but questions are the key. Questions, the right questions, enabled me to help others without being manipulative, controlling, arrogant… or just downright annoying. No one likes being told what to do. So, how do you help people find solutions without telling them what to do? Coaching.
WHAT IS COACHING?
“The COACH Model” defines coaching as “listening to others, asking questions to deepen thinking, allowing others to find their own solutions, and doing it all in a way that makes people feel empowered and responsible enough to take action.”
My goal is to help others discover solutions, not being the answer guru. Just as a parent’s goal is to empower their children to live independently, coaching seeks to empower others.
HOW DO QUESTIONS WORK? The author, Keith Webb, says that “the power of coaching is in the Process. A coach empowers others by helping them to self-discover, gain clarity and awareness, as well as by drawing Content from them. A good coach helps draw out what the Holy Spirit has put in.”
However, switching from giving solutions to asking questions takes more than a change in behavior. It takes a change of heart. Keith confessed that “I didn’t trust the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit alone, to correct any problems in the African church. I incorrectly thought that my help or the help of other Christians was needed. This is surely the height of ministry arrogance.”
I can identify.
As simple as this next quote is, it changed my life. “You don’t have to have answers for other people, you simply assist them in thinking about their situation and allow the Holy Spirit to work through your questions and their answers.” This was both freeing and humbling. Freeing because I no longer needed to give answers to everyone’s problems. Humbling because I didn’t have all the answers. Rather than giving answers, I join others on a quest to find answers.
Even after asking questions, I must restrain my desire to swoop in with my solution. It is hard to withhold advice. Sharing advice is like sharing a hidden treasure. I treasure it because it contains a solution to my problem. I wanted it so much that I searched and found it. But the same knowledge that changed my life is worthless to someone who has not searched. To help others I must engage them in finding solutions. I need to ask where they can find solutions. People learn best by discovery. As Keith says, “we own what we discover.” We treasure the truth we find for ourselves.
HOW DO QUESTIONS LEAD TO ACTIONS?
Helping people transition from discussing their problem to discovering a solution can be tricky. Previously, I asked: “Have you ever thought about _____”. After reading this book I realized this is called a “closed question”. It is really just another way to share my solution, but disguised as a question.
Rather than use “closed” (or “my-idea”) questions, using “open questions” doesn’t pressure people to try my idea. Some examples of open questions are: “What are some of your ideas?” or “In what ways could you help the situation?” Open questions give people the opportunity to discover their own ideas.
Sometimes, people want our suggestions. But wait until they ask. Even when they do ask, first let them come up with their own ideas. Then, after sharing our idea, we can reengage them in the process by asking: “Does that bring any other ideas to mind?”
One of my favorite quotes was: “Ideas are like small children. Other people’s are nice, but we always like our own the best.” How true. Once people have a clear idea of where they want to be, helping people come up with their own action steps comes next. As Keith says, “Without action steps, discoveries and insights are just good ideas”.
I can honestly say that I was terrible at helping people create action steps. We would have a great conversation, but they didn’t gain clear direction of their next steps. Some questions for setting action steps are: “What actions would you like to do to move forward?” or “What options do you have?”.
Many times the problem is complex, so the first attempt at creating action steps yields something no less terrifying than a 3-headed monster. It paralyzes people with fear. If their first idea of action step is something like: “Go back to school to finish my degree”; that may be a great goal, but it is a bad action step. Help them come up with what they need to do in the next 2-4 weeks. If returning to school is their goal, maybe their action step is completing the college application. If eating healthier is their goal (a huge and nebulous goal), an action step could be cutting out sugar for the next month. Action steps should be “SMART”: “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely”.
By setting SMART action steps, people are encouraged to take the next step. Without them, a task can deflate people. With them, a task can empower people. I remember finishing a coaching conversation and having someone say: “I feel like I finally have a plan of what I need to do!” Want to know the best part? They completed what they said they wanted to do.
WHO COULD BENEFIT FROM THE COACH MODEL?
Ministry leaders, missionaries, pastors, parents, friends, married couples, (no, it is not manipulative), singles, most breathing members of the human race.
As missionaries, our goal is to empower local believers to do the work of ministry. We want to see self-sustaining, culturally appropriate ministies that outlive us for generations. If we only tell people what to do, it doesn't allow them to createively think of solutions. Coaching gives this opportunity. By not always giving a solution, we lessen dependancy and "equip the saints for the work of ministry" (Eph. 4:12).
For leaders, coaching skills are also invaluable for leading Millennials. By using a more relational approach, coaching gives Millennials an opportunity to feel heard and to discover why things need done. Instead of simply telling them what to do, coaching invites them into the process.
“The COACH Model” is more than a method for life or ministry coaching. It will transform how you interact with others on a daily basis (even if you have no desire to become a certified life coach). How? By using the parts that apply to your situation.
The author calls this “coaching in the moment”. He goes on to say that “everyday conversations are a natural way to use coaching skills. People are constantly looking for help with their problems or goals, and will talk about them in casual conversations. You can engage them in an “undercover” coaching conversation to help them reflect and possibly create some action steps.”
As a personal example, I use coaching with our teens. I don’t ask “What outcome would you like from our conversation today?” That would be too formal. However, if they are facing a problem, I ask: “What would you like to see happen in this situation?”. After they share, I ask, “What else do you think you could do to help this?”. We work together to find a solution and they don’t feel manipulated or demoralized. Because they help find the solution, they also own it.
After finishing this book, I thought to myself: “I wish I had read this 10 years ago. My eagerness to help others by offering advice probably hurt more than it helped. Thank you Lord for showing me a better way to help others!”
My prayer is that you too will find a better way. To grow in this area, take the next step: check out the resources below.
Serving together, Kyle
We would love to hear your input! Please share your thoughts on coaching or how it has benefited you or your ministry in the comments below.
5. Mastery Course: If after reading the book you are committed to becoming certified as a life coach, the 2 week Mastery Course is the fast track to finish the Coaching Workshop and the modules. Logging the 100 coaching hours is completed afterwards.