Lesson #9 – Coach Development

Lesson #9 – Coach Development

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the:

  • Spiritual: Discern the will of the Father, helping those you coach to do the same
  • Relational: Value the other person
  • Personal: Embrace your unique contribution
  • Interpersonal: You can’t want something for someone else more than they want it for themselves
  • Inspirational: Help people tap into their creativity
  • Intellectual: Challenge for clarity
  • Analytical: Analyze to Energize
  • Practical: Travel the high road high road to Confidentiality

This week I shift focus to your development as a coach.

Lesson #9 – Coach Development

Most leaders I know have committed themselves to their personal development. Committed yes! But moving from commitment to action is a bridge that is challenging for leaders to cross.

Let me unpack this a bit.

It is one thing to attend a conference. It is another to take an idea from the conference and implement. For instance, have you ever attended an event and listened to amazing experts on a topic? Felt inspired to take action “as soon as you return” to your office. But when that inspiration is confronted with reality – reality will challenge, frustrate and many times beat the inspiration out of you until it becomes a faint memory.

That “conference high” has dissipated until it has become a mere sputter. The question lingers in the back of your mind – “Why?”.

  • Why can’t you push through the invisible wall?
  • What is missing for you to take action?
  • How can you harness the energy to break-through?

Making space in your life for your coach development is like this. Over the last 30 years this has been an ongoing challenge that I have taken seriously. I have committed to certain events and practices that have served me well. Here are a couple that I would recommend:

This is not an exhaustive list, but each has contributed to my development with good information. The challenge is what do you do with that good information? Let me suggest one idea. Beginning in October, InFocus is launching the InFocus Collective.

  • The first Collective is for leaders, catalyzing church multiplication in a region. We are coming alongside leaders who want to increase the health and capacity for multiplying leaders, groups and churches to the next level. You can receive more information by clicking here.
  • The second Collective is for disciple-makers, catalyzing disciple-making movements. We are coming alongside leaders who want to increase the health and capacity for disciples making disciples. You can receive more information by clicking here.

Just one very simple, but practical way for you to take the information you have learned from various events, books and webinars to a more practical place.

Back to the topic of coach development. If you don’t take responsibility for your development – who will?

Here are five reflections on how to determine where you need to focus in your personal development:

  • What action have I taken in the last 30-90 days for my coach development?
  • What plan am I following in the next 30-90 days for my coach development?
  • What steps would I like to take in the next 30-90 days in my coach development?
  • What are the repercussions, if I don’t take these steps in the next 30-90 days for my coach development?
  • What good intentions have I gleaned from events, books and webinars in the last 30-90 days will I move to a practical place?

Finally, your development as a missional coach will determine your fruitfulness long-term.

  • I appreciate the following quote:

            “If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of.” Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

When it comes to coach development, if you do not take responsibility – who will?

Celebrating 30 years of coaching missional leaders: Lesson #8 – Coaching Etiquette

Celebrating 30 years of coaching missional leaders: Lesson #8 – Coaching Etiquette

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the:

  • Spiritual: Discern the will of the Father, helping those you coach to do the same
  • Relational: Value the other person
  • Personal: Embrace your unique contribution
  • Interpersonal: You can’t want something for someone else more than they want it for themselves
  • Inspirational: Help people tap into their creativity
  • Intellectual: Challenge for clarity
  • Analytical: Analyze to Energize

This week I shift focus to the pragmatic aspects of coaching.

Lesson #8 – Coaching Etiquette

This lesson can be learned the hard way. Like the seven proceeding lessons, experience is the best teacher. The notion of etiquette makes me nervous because you might interpret that the author, me, is an expert on the topic. Far from it. However, I have observed when certain things build rapport vs. detract from the coach relationship.

Boundaries are vital when coaching leaders. A principle in coaching is “confidentiality”. But what happens when the issue moves into the grey zone – from important information, to a “secret”, for instance. When you have been given information, that would be helpful for others to know. What do you do?

Honestly, this can be a challenging dilemma.

When certain agreements have been made up front, what do you do with information that could, and perhaps should, be shared with others?

One simple, but sometimes overlooked step is – ask permission! Asking permission to share the information from the person you are coaching. I have wrestled with this on ocasion and have forgotten the direct approach works best.

Let me take this up a level.

When you are asked to coach multiple members of the same team, including the team leader, what is the best scenario if confidentiality is an issue for you? One suggestion: bring another leader in to coach the other members of the team so that you are not the “information broker” of the entire team.

This assumes you do not have supervisory responsibilities. If you are a supervisor who is using a coach approach then there are certain obligations you have as an employee to the organization you serve. This is an exception. But if you are external to the organization, like coaching a church planter or regional leader; the “multiple coach” scenario applies.

In the big scheme of things, confidentiality is challenging to keep all the time, in every situation. Stakes are high. Coaching etiquette touches on many topics, but confidentiality is certainly high on that list.

Here are five reflections on how to determine if information should remain confidential:

  1. Will keeping the information confidential make it uncomfortable for you?
  2. Will this information do harm to other people? This might cause personal harm or mission drift.
  3. What could the repercussions be if you don’t share the information?
  4. What could the repercussions be if you do share the information without permission?
  5. How will this affect your coaching relationship if you keep this information confidential?

Finally, take this lesson seriously. Relational trust is incredibly complex but can be destroyed in a moment. I like Warren Buffet’s quote on a related issue – integrity: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

When it comes to coaching etiquette – you will seldom be criticized to taking the conservative approach to preserve the integrity of the relationship.

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #4 – You can’t want something for someone else, more than they want it themselves

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #4 – You can’t want something for someone else, more than they want it themselves

I began coaching in 1988 – 30 years ago.

The term coaching was introduced in the early 1980’s in the business arena and re-invented in the ministry world – especially in church planting circles during the late 1980’s. Coaching has evolved from a new idea to a best practice in most ministry networks where leaders are developed, congregations are becoming healthy, and new churches are planted. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches and pioneer disciplemaking movements.

Lessons I’ve gleaned:

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the spiritual (Discern the will of the Father and help those you coach, do the same), relational (Value the other person) and personal (Embrace your unique contribution) foundations of coaching. This week I shift the focus to the interpersonal foundation of the leader or team you coach.

Lesson #4 – You can’t want something for someone else, more than they want it themselves

I love attending The Global Leadership Summit hosted by The Willowcreek Association every August. It is THE gathering of leadership experts from the business (secular) and ministry (sacred) arenas. In fact, in 2008 I invited my son Joel (who was 12 at the time) and my daughter Zoe (at about the same age) a few years later, to share the experience with me. This has become our highlight of the year – bar none. I would encourage you to attend this event with your team next year.

This year we heard Angela Duckworth speak on the topic of “grit” from her research and book entitled “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance”. She is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of Character Lab, a nonprofit whose mission is to advance the practice of character development. I am taking the idea of grit and relating it to the “commitment level” of a leader.

Duckworth defines “grit” as sustained passion and perseverance for long-term goals. She further explained that passion and perseverance stood out in her research based on responses to the following:

Perseverance:

  • I am a hard worker
  • I finish what I start

Passion:

  • My interests change from year to year
  • It is difficult for me to stay focused on projects more than a couple of months

The good news is that “grit”, according to Duckworth, can be developed.

How does this apply to coaching?

I’ve discovered that when a person has true grit, it is an extremely different experience vs. a person lacking this quality. When the commitment level is commensurate to the task at hand, then the person has the “grit” to succeed. Duckworth said it like this: Skill x Effort = Achievement.  Let me illustrate, with my wife’s experience as a health coach.

When Gina coaches an individual on their journey to health, she asks the person to define their “why” with a question: “Why do you want to lose weight and gain health?” The answers are varied and normally require further reflection to clarify, for instance: “I want to lose weight to be able to touch my toes” – might be the initial response. Upon further reflection, that person may realize the deeper motivation is to be able to play with their grand-children and not be sidelined prematurely. The more Gina helps people unpack their “why” the more they can tap into their intrinsic motivation. The challenge for the health coach (Gina), is managing her expectations.

Let’s circle back around and bring this into a ministry context. Imagine a leader you have coached. The lead pastor/planter/team leader is challenged to change direction at a critical juncture in the development of the church they lead and ask for coaching. It is imperative that you assess their commitment level. This will determine if they are willing and able to make the shift.

A common shift that I have coached leaders through is the place disciplemaking groups play in their church, e.g. will they be a church with small groups or “of” small groups. Many will say “yes” to the latter but do not fully understand the cost organizationally, and to their leadership. The more established the church, the more challenging this shift.

Here is the reason I am explaining this concept of “grit” as it relates to coaching. Once you identify the motivation or “why” a person wants to influence a change along with their level of commitment, you as their coach must not want it more than them. Plain and simple. Once you establish their motivation + commitment, the best way to serve them is to meet them where they are.

If you cross that invisible line and reveal that you actually want “it” more than they do, you have entered the “struggle to be you” zone of coaching. The s2bU zone is when you have lost objectivity and put yourself in the seat of the leader you are coaching. In effect, you are coaching yourself – don’t do this! It is not helpful to the person, it is embarrassing for you, and is the quickest way to unravel a coaching relationship. I know; I have crossed this line before, and these risks are real.

Here is a checklist to keep you from entering the S2bU zone:

Regarding your client:

  1. What does this person want to achieve?
  2. Do they understand what it requires?
  3. How do you assess their commitment level?

Regarding you:

  1. What adjustments do you need to make to adapt to their commitment level?
  2. Do you want this more than them?

Next week I will share another insight that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciplemaking movements.

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Celebrating 30 years coaching missional leaders: Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution


I began coaching in 1988.  I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches & pioneer disciple-making movements.  I’ve learned many lessons from coaching some of the most amazingly gifted, truly faithful & hard-working leaders serving in the Lord’s Church today.

Lessons that I’ve gleaned:

So far, I’ve focused on the importance of the spiritual foundation (Lesson #1: Discern the will of the Father and helping those you coach, do the same) the relational foundation (Lesson #2: Value the other person) of coaching. This week, I focus on the personal foundation.

Lesson #3 – Embrace your unique contribution

Each of us has a unique contribution God has designed us to make. This is not a pre-destination issue – it is a design issue. Based on your unique design, what is your contribution?

When I first began coaching I was 28 years-old, recently graduated from seminary and single. One of many mentors the Lord used in my life modeled the kind of ministry I sensed God calling me, so I asked him if I could carry his bags to assist him on any upcoming projects. Over the next few years I immersed myself in learning all I could on church growth, leadership development, church planting & multiplication. This led me to pursue my doctorate through Fuller Seminary where I received my DMin at the age of 32.

During those early years I was developing the skills of a coach, trainer and consultant with the singular focus of starting healthy churches that reproduce. The more I refined my unique contribution the more I sensed God’s pleasure. It was, and remains, an ongoing process of stretching myself by taking measured risks, reflecting on the experience and assessing the fruitfulness of the work.

This three-step process of action – reflection – evaluation has served me well. Of course it is never as clear as it may appear in writing, but, the process does work itself out if you are committed to discovering your unique contribution. To help you through that process here is a list of 9 questions to help you refine your Unique Contribution so that you can more faithfully steward the gifts the Lord has given you.

Unique Contributions Reflection Questions:

Self Examination:

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. What abilities have I demonstrated that produce fruitful results?
  3. What spiritual gifts fuel these skills & abilities?

Feedback from others:

  1. What positive feedback do people share with me?
  2. What skills do people consistently affirm in me?
  3. What impact do these skills have on other people?

Spiritual Litmus Test

  1. How do I measure effectiveness?
  2. What activities leave me energized?
  3. When do I sense God’s pleasure most?

Next week I will share another lesson that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciplemaking movements.

Leadership Tip #3 – be open to feedback

Leadership Tip #3 – be open to feedback

I rely on trusted and reliable feedback in my coaching, training & consulting.

One practice I’ve found helpful is to administer a brief survey at the conclusion of my coaching relationships, for instance.  Based on that input I gain a sense of where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

Not surprisingly, executives (including pastors, church planters & missionaries) also value feedback.  I read an article written by David F. Larcker, Stephen Miles, Brian Tayan, Michelle E. Gutman – published by The Miles Group and Stanford University. August 2013 (used with permission) that highlighted this point.  The 2013 Executive Coaching Survey suggests:

Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback.

Feedback can be helpful.  But it is really up to the individual what she/he does with it.  If the data confirms the evidence then leaders will respond accordingly.  In contrast, if that leader does not resonate with the feedback, then it is wise to reject it.

Let me give a quick example what I mean.  I am coaching a young, competent leader.  When we reviewed the feedback from a 360 degree assessment on his leadership effectiveness (see the Leadership menu) there were gaps between himself, his supervisor and his colleagues.  Further, the gaps were not in a favorable direction.  In other words, his self-perception was consistently higher, in several areas (I like it when it is the other way)!  In response, this young leader took a curious approach.  Curious what the variance in scores represented.  And a proactive posture to address those variances in practical ways.  Instead of making excuses, he determined to take action.

Remaining open to feedback is not always easy – but is an important trait of effective leaders.

Coaching Tip – Adjustments to make when coaching Traditionals, Boomers, Gen Xers & Millenials

Coaching Tip – Adjustments to make when coaching Traditionals, Boomers, Gen Xers & Millenials

Coaching a 40-something leader I discovered a significant difference when coaching his Gen X counterpart.  My mature friend was focused on achieving his goals; however, he was not as concerned about his work-life balance in comparison to his younger counterpart.  That insight informed ways I could engage each.

Further, while the goal they were both pursuing was similar, the path they took was very different.  Both were eager to establish a new church or ministry.

With the more seasoned leader I asked more task-oriented, “what” kind of questions:

  • What is your goal?
  • What is in your way?
  • What can you do to expand?

And more relational, “who” kind of questions with the younger planter:

  • Who will it reach?
  • Who could it miss?
  • Who else can you include?

These are broad generalizations, yet subtle differences reveal different approaches to can engage different people from different generations.

For further insight in generational differences, see the following 1-page resources under Generational Differences:

  • Generational Characteristics
  • Generational Core Values
  • Generational Leadership Style Preferences
  • Generational Motivation Preferences
  • Generational Team Preferences
  • Generational Communication Preferences