Coaching Insights


I have always had an interest in the first day of summer, aka, “The Summer Solstice.” You see, I was born on June 20th, the last day of spring and what turns out to be the second longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. I still recall being a kid and looking at my grandparents’ calendar from the hardware store, the one detailing the times for sunrise and sunset for each day.  The longer the days, the closer we got to my birthday.

I love summer because that’s when things grow.  Long summer days bring enough of the sun’s energy to earth to make crops flourish and turn water and nutrients into good food, green trees, and lush lawns. It’s the time of year of when the earth produces enough for the rest of the year.

What’s all this have to do with coaching?  Well, this is really just a chance for me to recount my love for summer, but I suppose there are also some things about summer that are analogous to the coaching relationship.  I don’t think coaches are “the sun,” but I do think coaches can serve an important role in the lives of folks who are experiencing a summertime season.  What I mean is that we all go through cycles of flourishing and floundering, and that as coaches we can be one of the ways God helps others flourish during times of growth and change.  Here are some other thoughts on how coaches serve during these summertime spells:

  • Light and Heat.  These are the signs of energy, and sometimes a clients needs one, or the other, or both.  Light is awareness and coaches facilitate the creation of new awareness for the client through our inquiry and our observations.  It is with new awareness that  perspectives shift, possibilities pop up, and new actions emerge.  Heat is challenge.  As coaches, it is oftentimes our role to challenge a client to push forward and reach beyond what she thought possible.  Challenge is a positive stretch forward, upward, and beyond so that what was out of reach becomes the new normal.
  • Work to be Done.  I don’t know who started the myth of lazy summer days, but I do know from growing up in a farming community that summer = work (and lots of it!).  When a client emerges from a winter season and is energized by a fresh vision, excited by a new project, or stimulated by a new relationship, it’s a sign that there is work to be done.  I know some clients who get so giddy about the initial wave of growth (the seedling stage) that they fail to cultivate the new growth so that it can bear fruit later on.  As coaches, it’s out role to consistently push for action because actions produce results.  I think one of the best things we can do for a client is to give him space to dream about what could be, time to marvel at the new realities emerging around him, and to then ask, “Now, what actions are required of you?”
  • Take a Break. The flip side of work is taking a break.  Smart farmers, gardeners and other summer seasonal workers know that working in the early and late parts of the day (while taking a siesta during the hottest and most dangerous part of the day) is smart and efficient.  Each summer day is long and so is the season itself, so it’s important to pace oneself.  Sometimes a client is so enthusiastic about a new endeavor that he loses sense of his own capacity and works too hard for too long.  Coaches often need to remind clients of the need for pacing and the value of breaks so the client doesn’t burn out, stroke out, or pass out.  We need to ask questions of the client about how he knows a break is needed, what a break needs to look like for him, and when he’ll know it’s time to get back to work.

Enough about serving our coaching clients, so what about you?  What’s growing in your garden this summer?  What new thing is emerging and needs your attention?  Are you now in a season of growth and change, or are you still staring at the calendar longing for those long summer days?  What do you need most during this season in your life?  Where could you find it and who could help you?

Blessings on you this summer!

Chad Hall, PCC, is a seasoned coach and big fan of summer.  He’s also Director of Coaching for Western Seminary, a Principal with Coach Approach Ministries, and a Partner with iNTERNAL iMPACT.

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The Joy of the Journey…

 When it comes to traveling I always have two tensions with which to deal. There is the tension of enjoying traveling, meeting new people, and going new places and then there is the tension of enjoying staying home and enjoying the comfort of the familiar.

 Through coaching and being coached, I have discovered that these two tensions also exist as we try to find movement in our work and lives. I like to blaze new trails, do new things, and start things. I also like to sink back into the familiar at times and pull the safe comfortable things of life and work around me.

 At times these two tensions pull at me and cause what I am trying to accomplish to get out of focus or become foggy. I get stuck! Coaching has helped me and those I coach to find focus and clarity. It helps to balance the two tensions.

 I find real joy through the process of coaching. I call it the joy of the journey. It is exciting and refreshing to gain focus, watch the fog lift, and see the clear or clearer route of the journey begin to form as the coaching process does its work.

 The powerful questions that a coach asks help to bring this focus and movement. Question such as:  Where are you headed? How will you know when you get there? Who can help you get there? Who needs to take this journey with you? How can you prepare to take the journey? What are the road blocks to your journey? And more…

 The listening and encouraging skills of a coach make the journey even more pleasant. To be heard and genuinely encouraged allows the PBC to express openly and clears the way to a better view of the journey. This new clarity aids the PBC to take a more decided and focused journey.

 As the coach partners with the PBC, he or she makes observations and maybe even delivers a concise message or two that helps to create additional movement.  Sort of a virtual “bon voyage” party for the PBC.

 For the coach, the joy of the journey comes from the discoveries the PBC makes that reduce the tensions of either staying put or moving forward. For the PBC, the joy of the journey comes from the clarity, focus, and movement they can celebrate as they arrive at their destinations.

 The joy of the journey…how does that happen for you as you coach or as you are being coached? I would love to read your response.

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“You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give” (Exodus 25:2).

I read through The Daily Walk Bible every year.  Call me predictable, but I enjoy the continuity and even reread the notes I’ve made on previous passes.  It is funny to me how often I think the exact same thoughts and make a move to pencil them in only to find I’ve already written the words.  That’s why it was interesting that yesterday’s reading struck me anew.  No old underlinings.  No thoughts scratched in the margins.  Must not have been much to ponder, I thought.  It was after all only a description of God’s plans for the design of the tabernacle:  Exodus 25-27.  I’d probably never found much of interest in those chapters before.  But this time was different.

Right away it struck me.  God told Moses to have the Israelites bring an offering and only those whose hearts prompted them to were to give.  I wondered if I was one whose heart would have prompted me to give?  In fact, does it prompt me now?  And, if it does, what is it that I am to offer?  I underlined Exodus 25:2 and jotted these questions in my journal.  Good thoughts, I mused, and I read on.

Oh boy.  Now I remembered why I hadn’t paid close attention to these chapters before.  Forgive me, but pretty boring stuff.  It sure could have used some illustrations to keep me interested.  But in spite of myself, I started to pick up on something.  At the end of each section of His description, God said something like, “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 25:40).  Or “Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain” (Ex. 26:30).  Or “It is to be made just as you were shown on the mountain” (Ex. 27:8).  God had a plan, a pattern He wanted the Israelites to follow, and He was more than willing to show it to them.  Again, I underlined these thoughts and wrote in my journal:  Does God have a similarly specific pattern for my life?  Am I following the plan as He has laid it out?

It was something worth pondering.  In this example, God had laid out a pattern.  He even specified the materials, dimensions, and designs.  But then He gave the work to those whose hearts were willing to complete them.  I wonder were the embroiderers, metal workers, carpenters, and other artists allowed to work through their gifts with freedom of creativity and artistic expression?  Did their work feel restrictive or liberating?  Was God glad to receive their visions and innovations as long as they stayed within His specifications?

And finally I asked Him.  Lord, what is your plan for me?  With what materials do you want me to work?  What is my heart prompting me to give?  My answer, of course, is words.  Words to study.  Words to write.  Words to ask powerful questions through coaching.  Words to instruct and teach.  Words to encourage.  Yes.  For me, it’s all about words, and my pattern to follow is The Word.

Wow.  Amazing to find these treasures previously concealed but now shining like gems in what I thought was dull and only worth a skim.  And true to my conclusion, I want to pass them along to you.  What is God’s plan for you?  What materials has He given you to work with?  What is your heart prompting you to give back to Him as an offering?  The answers to these questions may not hit you right away, but I’m sure they’re waiting for you to discover when the time is right—if your heart is willing.

Face it, sometimes the coach does have an agenda.

When you are a manager or leader in an organization, striving to coach your direct reports is a great way to increase performance and impact morale.  AND the kind of coaching you do as a supervisor is different from the coaching done with paying clients.  After all, when you supervise you have a responsibility to the organization, to your team, to yourself, as well as to the employee you are coaching.

So how do you make the most of coaching within a supervisory role?  Here are three best practices I’ve picked up through the years:

1. Make a distinction between outcomes and process.  Outcomes are often non-negotiable (make X number of sales this month), while the process or approach for reaching the outcome can be different from employee to employee.  Coach process, and manage for outcomes.

2. Know the developmental stage of each employee.  New employees often need lots of direction as they learn the job, while experienced and growing employees have more room for benefiting from coaching, which aims to pull out their accumulated experience and expertise.  When it comes to coaching new employees, the coaching can focus more on factors for motivation and commitment, less on the knowing how to do the job.

3. Don’t be a lid.  Too many managers and leaders surround themselves with employees who are less capable than the manger, figuring that it’s best for the manager to be the most capable person on the team.  This practice severely retards the performance of employees, the team and the organization.  The coaching manager knows he adds value by bringing out superior performance among direct reports, not by outshining them.

What else have you found helpful in coaching those you supervise?

As I mentioned in my earlier article, I am relatively new to this side of coaching.  Although I have spent a couple of years as a PBC, the experiences of being the one to help guide the discussion are still new and sometimes perplexing to me.  One common and inevitable occurrence that I don’t feel fully prepared for is the ending of a coaching relationship.  Happily, none of my associations to date have ended on a negative note–although I’m sure that time will come.  But just the normal fulfillment of a contract has been surprisingly full of unexpected thoughts and emotions for me.

To begin with, I have formed a connection with the PBC.  Although I may have never laid eyes on the person’s face, I have been privy to some of their deepest thoughts.  We have talked for hours and hours, and I feel invested in their accomplishments.  We may have cried together.  We definitely have laughed.  We have pushed through times of indecision and discouragement.  And we have celebrated both small and gigantic successes.  A bond has formed, and I am sad to let it go.  What will happen to their plans?  Will they follow through on these last steps?  Will they call me again if they get stuck?  I feel like a mother hen sending out her chicks … and worrying about the foxes.

Even harder is the PBC who simply fades away.  He cancels appointments or just doesn’t show.  He may have made some great progress but then suddenly appears to lose interest.  Or it may be that the challenges seem too great or that he doesn’t want to do the work.  But, because he just disappears, I can never really know what happened.  Was it my fault or was he not ready to move?  The lack of closure frustrates and leaves me hanging.

And, finally, how do I evaluate the time I’ve spent?  Did I do all I could to be the best coach for this individual?  I’ve considered various ways to approach this topic:  email an evaluation form, ask during the last few minutes of our final conversation, or just let the experience speak for itself.  Mostly, I have used the second method counting on the PBC to be honest and guiding them to give me the good, bad and ugly truths from their perspectives. But I wonder if writing their responses would allow them more freedom to be open with me.

So … will you give me a hand?  How do you handle the resolution of your coaching relationships?  Do you experience some of the same emotions I’ve mentioned?  How do you deal with the PBC who just fades away?  Or the one who responds negatively to your approach as a coach?  And how do you get the appropriate amount of feedback to insure that you are doing your best work and growing as a coach?  My inquiring and inexperienced mind really wants to know.  And thanks in advance for sharing your experiences with me.

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This last Thursday evening was week 4 of a 9 week Women’s Leadership Coaching group that I am leading. Also this last week, the local mega-church held their annual Leadership Summit, complete with all the big names (even Bono for crying out loud – so big he only needs his first name!).

It got me to thinking about the difference between a “coaching” program for leaders and a typical leadership conference. As a leader, I find tons of value in both (and any other type of learning, training venue for leaders). My personal observation and experience is that while a coach approach may offer less “content”, it offers a focus on, well…. focus! A training/teaching venue can flood our mind and imagination with fantastic new and more current ideas and methodology (ever taken a drink of water from a fire hose?) – and all that exciting input puts new fuel in our tank to approach and embrace our leadership roles in more effective and influential ways. With a coach approach, the end goal is to narrow ideas, thoughts, and information in order to promote a few, or a single powerful action.

A coach approach venue is about focus.
A coach approach venue doesn’t deliver content, it delivers a question.
A coach approach venue results in new personal actions.

Another distinction between a leadership conference and a coach approach leadership event is. the former provides resources to the participant — and the latter discovers the resources that already exist within the participant.

What else do you see that a coach approach produces in participants? I’d love to hear even more ideas.

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