Coaching is a Relationship with a Purpose

Here is a simple way to describe coaching to someone:
Coaching is a relationship with a purpose.

Tom Nebel and Gary Rohrmayer describe the coaching relationship like this…

“What does the coaching relationship look like? It is relationship-intensive, filled with listening, caring, celebrating, and consistent encouraging. It is strategically challenging, asking good questions, thinking through critical issues, providing resources and ideas to go to the next level.”
(Church Planting Landmines, p 36)

Coaching is a relationship. In fact, without relationship there cannot be any helpful coaching conversations.

Yet, coaching is more than a relationship. It’s a relationship with a purpose.
My friend and colleague Bob Logan points our two dangers that coaches need to avoid:

  1. Focusing so much on what the coachee is supposed to be doing that you neglect the relationship.
  2. Focusing so much on relating and the relationship that you neglect what God is calling the coachee to do.

Coaching is a Relationship
Several years ago I began working with a new coach. She was confident and eager to be helpful — but she jumped right over the relationship part of coaching. I was surprised how this impacted me personally. I hardly knew her and I needed to know that I could trust her before I was ready to move forward.

I actually stopped the coaching conversation and called a “time out.” I asked her to pause and go back and tell me more of her story and how she began coaching. I wanted to know just a little more about her from a relational standpoint before we focused on the task at hand.

This experience serves as a good reminder to me when I start new coaching relationships. I take the time to share my story and how I began coaching and even why I coach. I share about my wife and kids and things that I enjoy in life. Then I ask them a lot of questions to learn their story. This is an important part of coaching.

One of the extra benefits of many of my coaching relationships over the past nearly ten years of coaching is how many of my “clients” are now my friends. In fact, my very first coach that was assigned to me when I planted a church in 1990 is still one of my close friends.

As you coach, don’t neglect the relationship. Always take time to connect personally before jumping on to the agenda for each appointment.

Coaching is a Relationship with a Purpose
Be certain to focus on the coachee’s agenda for each conversation. When I first started coaching, I used to think that I could just guess what the coachee wanted to focus on. Many times we’d near the end of the coaching conversation and I’d hear these dreaded words: “Now Dave, what I really want to talk to you about is ___________________.” And we’d be out of time to address the real issue.

Somehow I had mistakenly believed that good coaches just know the outcome for a coaching appointment without having to ask. That’s just dumb. I’m not that smart. So now I do the one thing that I know will assure my client gets to focus on what is most important to them – I ask the coachee to determine the outcome for the session. It’s that simple. I don’t have to guess any more.

And the exciting benefit of taking the time to ask and work with the client to determine the coaching agenda for each and every conversation is that I always know that we are working together to focus on what’s really important to them. No more guesswork.

To attain the intended outcome of coaching – you have to work with the client to determine the goal from the outset of the coaching relationship. Take the time in the first coaching appointment to set three-four big goals for your coaching to address. This helps to frame the purpose.

I often ask questions like these:
“What would be important for us to talk about today?”
“What result would you like to take away from our coaching conversation?”
“How will you know that we used our coaching conversation in a way that is valuable to you?”
As you coach, keep the purpose of the conversation in mind. You can even check-in before the end of the call and find out how the client feels about the progress being made toward the goal.

Coaching is a Relationship with a Purpose

Today’s Missional Challenge

As you coach disciples and leaders, don’t neglect focusing on the relationship AND don’t neglect focusing on the coaching purpose.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
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