June 2009


I come from a long line of hardworking German immigrants with a little splash of Irish independence thrown into the mix for good measure, so it was really no surprise while on vacation in an unfamiliar town that I refused to stop and ask for directions when I couldn’t find a particular restaurant.  My friend who was riding shot-gun said, “There’s a great place to get some help” and sadly watched out the window as I drove right past.  Several miles and about twenty minutes later, my hungry daughter who was in the back seat and knows me well decided to take matters into her own hands and texted her Daddy to get the right directions.  A little miffed, I said, “I knew that’s where it was!”  And we turned around and drove right there.  I admit it now–I needed some help.  But we’d probably still be driving if I hadn’t had some friends to help me get on the right track.

I arrived at coaching in a similar way.  It was becoming pretty obvious to those who love me that I was feeling terribly frustrated by a lack of direction.  I felt like the cow pond out in the middle of our pasture—green, stagnant, and more than a little stinky!  Lots was going into me, but not much was coming out.  But, I could handle it myself, thank you very much.  What did I need with some New Age, Oprah-esque experience called coaching?  Thankfully, a friend showed me that coaching wasn’t what I thought, and after more than a little bit of grief (for my poor coach as well as myself), I began to experience the flow of genuine movement as I rediscovered my long forgotten interest in writing.  Whew!  And what a huge relief it was.

A couple of years later, I am seeing that familiar resistance to asking for help in others.  Acquaintances casually ask me, “So … what is this coaching stuff all about?”  Or mention a “friend” of theirs who they think might benefit from coaching.  I do my best to explain the process.  That it is driven by the person being coached.  That it is nonjudgmental.  That it is a safe place.  But it’s a tough sell for some folks.  Here are some of the issues I see as standing in their way:

  • A fear of being too transparent
  • A belief that asking for help shows weakness
  • An unclear understanding of what coaching is
  • A presumption that a Christian who has enough faith can handle it all on his own

The list could probably go on and on.  And I am new to the role of coach.  (Don’t be shocked. But, yes, I admit that I could use some help here.)  What are the oppositions to coaching that you have had to help your potential clients overcome?  How have you dealt with some of the items I have listed or others that I have failed to list?  As a fledgling coach, what can you tell me that will help me to help others see that it’s not a weakness to ask for help?  To borrow from a familiar hymn, how can I help others see that it’s okay to “Come just as you are”—even if that is as a stagnant, stinky, manure-filled (but very stubborn) cow pond?  Help!


Time for a little more fun here on the Coach Approach! Here’s how it works: I post a photo, you post a caption that is funny/witty/poignant, etc. and I pick the winner. As an added challenge, the caption you submit should have something to do with Coaching. If your caption is chosen as the best, then you win the satisfaction of being famous for a day here at The Coach Approach! This time around we may also offer a book from one of our Coach Approach Authors!

Here’s the photo:


I have always loved our family dinners. When our girls were younger, we had dinner together almost every night.  I hope that our dinners created positive memories for our daughters as we imprinted our values, attitude and beliefs during dinner conversations, and as each of us shared what was going on in our lives.

family dinner photoWhen I joined The Ken Blanchard Companies in 2000, I remember talking with Scott Blanchard one day.

He shared his perspective on family dinners. He said that leaders have a tremendous impact on dinner conversations because the way that they lead influences the stories their people tell at the dinner table. People with leaders who are encouraging and positive tend to have encouraging and positive dinner conversations. People who work for negative or punitive leaders share very different stories at the table. This makes me wonder what kind of dinner conversations I’m inspiring….

Lord, help me to be open to Your voice so that the stories people share about my role in their lives leave a positive social imprint.

fishermanFeedback gives us markers on how we’re doing in life and work.  It’s a portrait of our past.  Feedback, “the breakfast of champions,” is a fact of life in business, sports, and other performance-based professions. 

Coaches use feedback too—directly and regularly.  Identifying past patterns of success or failure allows us to glean lessons from the past for the future.  But, feedback alone doesn’t guarantee better futures.  Adding a new dimension, Marshall Goldsmith, the well-known business consultant, advocates adding feedforward to feedback.   

Feedforward expands opportunities by looking ahead, exploring and enhancing options.  Coaches use feedback to pave the way for feedforward.   Like fly fishermen, coaches use a back cast to prepare for a fore cast.

Feedforward makes the future the primary timeframe.  Feedback reflects how we have lived our pasts, those parts of our lives we can’t redo.  But, what we discovered yesterday and decided today can shape tomorrow’s directions. Feedforward spotlights how we can live our futures differently. 

Feedforward uses momentum from positive lessons.   No matter what those of us who offer feedback intend, those who receive feedback often experience it negatively and resist it.  Turn learnings toward positive directions.  Feedforward harvests the positive outcomes of feedback for forward movement in our lives.

Feedforward spotlights tomorrow’s possibilities and opportunities.  Without care, feedback can feel judgmental, accusing, or shaming.  Few of us enjoy being described as sinners or losers.  Feedforward transforms emotional messages into motivated first steps toward progress.

Feedforward provides partners and peers to walk with us into the future.  Critics intend to break us down first and maybe to change us later.  In contrast, thought partners enrich us as we grow into the best we can be.  Feedforward provides companionship  for the journey.

Feedforward makes life goals personal.  Feedback may carry “or else” instructions for us from others. It’s sometimes imposed, offered without either our permission or with good timing.  Feedforward launches  personal motivations.  Feedforward builds on our intentions—owned by us, gladly accepted, and voluntarily pursued.

The coaching guideline here is simple.  Use some feedback coupled with lots of feedforward.  It’s the smoothest road toward our best tomorrows.