Musings


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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“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.

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.

“Local news, weather, sports…. then Leno!  

All the entertainment food groups!”

I heard that voice-over last night at the end of a television show I was watching. It made me wonder, what are the most important coaching food groups? Or, should we go with the new-fangled, “Food Pyramid”? 

bourdain

Tony Bourdain travels the world in search of cool food and the cultural influences that make them possible. What can you think of to add to the standard coaching fare that may be a bit unconventional, extra spicy or even . . . an acquired taste?

magic

I experienced a new awareness this week. It was a huge surprise and I thought I’d bring it up here to see if anyone else has experienced something similar. After a terrific coaching appointment this morning, I drove away super excited, inspired and fulfilled. I like feeling that way and it is the spice of my coaching life. I quickly contrasted that with various other coaching conversations that seem to tax my coaching abilities to the limit. This client and I were so in sync that I exerted very little effort and felt the greatest freedom to create a “playground” for us both to ask “what if”. We played well together and it was the perfect representation of the kind of coaching partnerships I’d love to experience all of the time.

Reality check.

I guess in coaching, like in all of life, mountaintop experiences are notable because they are so infrequent—and we appreciate them all the more because of that. But my new awareness is not that great coaching moments can sometimes be rare. My awareness came as I took a closer look at my precious client. What she brought to the table of herself was a gift—to both of us. Her willingness to be vulnerable, to sound silly, to think out loud without editing her words, to hope like a little girl in the body of a grown woman, made ALL the difference. As I drove back to my office I thought, “THAT is what ‘coachable’ looks like.” Frankly it’s a relief to realize that while sometimes it is my need for improvement, insight, humility or experience that is called for, other times, a coachable client is simply . . . magic!

Coachability. I like it. I want more clients who possess it. And I want to learn all I can to encourage and inspire it in those I work with.

So I’ll ask you two questions:

1. How responsible are we as coaches to foster coachability in our clients?

2. What can we do to educate them, encourage them, coach them toward coachability?

Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

The sports world (and much of the rest of the media) has been abuzz lately after baseball great Alexander Rodriguez revealed that he had knowingly used steroids earlier this decade.  Of course he didn’t just own up to using performance enhancing drugs in plain terms.  There was a lot of PR spin, most notably his oft-repeated phrase of having been “young and stupid” at the time.

Blaming his drug use on being young and stupid (he was in his mid to late 20’s at the time) has irked many commentators.  They see it as a way of taking the blame without really taking the blame. He wasn’t young and stupid, he was greedy and competitive – there is a big difference.

All this sports media buzz has me thinking about the power of words – specifically the power of words in revealing perspective.  The words we use for describing/explaining tell a lot about how we see the world and how our perspective might be askew.

As coaches, we listen closely to the words our clients use because those words reveal a lot.  And we can offer those words back to our clients as a way of helping them see more clearly how they see things.   With this greater clarity, they can choose to keep their perspective or shift it to something more useful.

A recent client was telling me about a major initiative  he was leading.  I asked him where things stood with the initiative.  He responded with, “Everybody is ready to go.”  I asked him what he meant by “everybody.”  That word (everybody) spoke deeply to him.  He said, “I don’t know why I used that word.  Maybe I wish everybody was ready to go, but that’s not true.  I’ve been acting as if it’s true, but it’s not so.”

After some reflection, he chose a new perspective, one that was more accurate and one that gave him a better sense of what was required of him.  He said, “Really, all systems are go – we have all the parts in place, but we still have to get some key folks on board.  And the reality is that some folks are not on board and will never be.  We cannot wait for them and I need to realize that.”

With a clarified perspective, this client now knew his course of action.  He needed to have some conversations with the key players who still were not ready.  He also needed to brace himself for some opposition.

A Chinese proverb says that the beginning of wisdom is to call something by its right name.  I couldn’t agree more.

What are you doing these days to help your clients gain clearer and more accurate perspective?

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Lord, I need a dream worth giving my life to.

I need a life worth waking up to each morning.

I need a mission bigger than me.

I want to believe for not only me, but also for this world.

 

Amen.

(A Prayer by Erwin McManus)


I love the bigness of this prayer. To help someone paint a vast mural for their life and then help them get there is the stuff of this coach’s dreams. This is how I think about my own life – I’m a “big picture’ kind of person. But often my clients don’t aspire to this level. The issues they bring to the conversation seem mundane and small as I view them through my “BHAG” filter (big hairy audacious goal). I want them to want more. I’m locked and loaded for a coaching exchange that promises to catapult them to the stratosphere, and beyond. But to my dismay, that’s not what they are looking for. They want some smaller and, in my estimation, less significant outcome.

But who am I to determine that those small things aren’t able to clear the way to a new dream or make their life more worth waking up to each day? Zechariah 4:10 warns me not to “despise the day of small things” because the small things are forerunners of more significant things –missions that are bigger than me, bigger than my client. 

The road is paved with small things that will make or break us – those tolerations and obstacles that drain our hope, piling on stress and exasperation, but ultimately proving our mettle. It seems that all those “small things” just might serve a grand and divine purpose that I’m going to miss as I prematurely herd my poor clients toward bigger (but not better) goals.  What’s worse is, my client will miss it too.

I will be reminding myself of the Zechariah passage before my next coaching session – because the small stuff counts.


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