The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is doing many really terrific things to support the reboot of the denomination's coaching ministry. At present it offers free continuing education hours for those who have at least Level 1 training in the ELCA's current model of certification. Hosted by CoachNet Global, these free Zoom calls give participants opportunities to review coaching as a technology and art, and to see its application in specialty modes related to congregational needs. We have had conversations now on Stewardship, Discipleship, and most recently Congregational Redevelopment.
We began the Redevelopment conversation with a recognition that redevelopment work is a very unique and vulnerbale space. Beyond this, not everyone should coach this kind of space. Jonathan Reitz, CEO of CoachNet Global shared that he typically doesn't. As a movement starter himself, the redevelopment space is not one he relishes.
This gave us all a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our own unique contributions to coaching. We SHOULD be in some types of situations, and we should probably learn to stear clear of others. Knowing what to do with whom and when is an artifact of solid self-knowledge and wisdom born of experience.
Specialty coaching takes us into the difficult space of the "resident expert." The trainers amongst us work VERY hard to deconstruct the myth of the expert in ELCA Launch and ongoing training with new coaches. There are at least two reasons for this:
Related to this, Pastor Scott Suskovic quoted Jonathan Reitz back to all of us with, "...if you don't share your thoughts you are denying the client half of the Spirit's work in that conversation."
So we were given a rubric for sharing.
It's ok to offer insights and information. But there are FOUR provisos:
ELCA Coach Trainer
Coach Coordinator, Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
In the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, the confluence of our relatively new coaching movement and the New Connections Campaign for the support of congregational growth, community engagement, and leadership support, was a very happy accident. The coaching movement here was already underway as New Connections was being concieved, but our leadership in the Synod Office, quickly saw how coaching could support the efforts of New Connections.
So we began to cast a vision that MetroDC Coaches and our larger coaching network could support our pastors, congregational leaders, and councils in their efforts to better and more focused leadership, mission, and growth. At present 40 + of our local leaders are engaged in coaching relationships. This is of course tremendous. At present just two congregational councils have taken us up on this offer. So there's room to grow on that particular front.
The last week of February 2019, lay leaders, deacons, and pastors, gathered at Camp Calumet in Freedom, New Hampshire, to be trained in the art and technology of coaching. In the New England Synod, they already have a movement of congregational revitalization in motion. It's called Forward Leadership (https://www.nelutherans.org/resources/forwardleadership). But in this context, they are growing a community of coaches because of the insight that to extend the power of the Forward Leadership learning journey for congregational leaders and congregations, they need the support and intentional investment of a cadre of coaches. It was an excellent training in the northeast, in a beautiful venue, with even more excellent leaders. The Spirit is definitely up to something in the New England Synod!
Personally, I'm very excited because it looks like in more and more synods across the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, coaching is taking root as a tool to support our synods, leaders, and congregations as they seek to do the mission of Jesus in a culture that is pretty much post-everything.
This is how I've come to define it...
In coach training, we work hard at inviting new coaches to work on their own definitions. There are cognitive reasons for this: working the problem of the definition encourages thought and reflection. Words are powerful, and they don't just describe reality. They become reality.
When I teach a new section of ELCA Launch, it always excites me early on to hear the definitions new coaches produce. The key to what's exciting me is the joy I feel over someone imbibing a way of being that's fundamentally transformational. I don't know if those I'm helping to learn coaching will become super coaches themselves, or simply subconsciously pack away the concepts and use them informally. In either case, I know that their presence with others will be changed, their questions better, and their outcomes more profound.
MY power words are: ALLIANCE. and INTENTIONAL PRESENCE. and POWERFUL QUESTIONS. and NEW AWARENESS. and TRANSFORMATION. and CHANGE.
What is your definition of coaching?
What are your power words?
In coaching circles it's called the "coaching agreement."
I call it the "coach's drill."
Every coaching conversation should have one. It's where we live into one piece of the uniqueness of coaching - the client always sets the agenda.
In broad brush strokes, the drill goes from broad to specific. Its moves look like this:
1. Broad Topic
2. Core Issue
3.Specific Desired Outcome
In a conversation, it might look something like this:
COACH: What would you like to work on today?
CLIENT: I'm struggling with a staff person.
COACH: What's at the core of that struggle?
CLIENT: The quality of his work is really poor.
COACH: What would it look like for you if this struggle were resolved?
CLIENT: Well, I guess either the quality of his work would get much better, or I'd figure out how to move him on.
The drill comes out early in the conversation. If you were trained in CoachNet's CHAIN model, it probably shows up in the "hearing" portion of the conversation. This is because you can't work on something without knowing where you want to wind up. It's counter intuitive, but before you can explore where your client is, you need to know where your client wants to go. Then exploration of current realities and what will be necessary to bridge the gap from the current reality to the desired reality become possible. But without the drill, without the clarity of outcomes, you can't set up the tension or current necessary to produce effective transformation.
So when you coach, make sure you get out the drill. And then sit back and watch and be amazed at the kind of holes you can create through your client's challenge!
If you are in love with coaching, it is because you are in love with people. You probably have a natural "Barnabas" in you...a "Son of Encouragement." So it's easy to want to come to the aid of the person sitting in front of you especially when their esteem is low, when they feel cut off from their own sense of personal power, when they can't discern their own worth.
In these situations, being who you are, how you are, it's easy to just tell them; to tell them how unique and gifted they are, to tell them they don't have to be less than others in the room, to show them how they matter.
In coaching we are taught about DIRECT COMMUNICATION, those spaces in a coaching relationship where we share what we are seeing in the situation and with the client, making observations and inferences and sometimes asking powerful questions around those.
But there is an opportunity in coaching that's even more powerful than telling, especially when you are working overtime to help your client's perceptions around themselves shift. The opportunity is one of facilitating your client's own "saying" of the truth of who they are.
Hearing that I am worthy of respect, and saying that out loud myself, are two different things. One will bring about transformation faster and with more significance. And if you are Barnabas, then this will matter to you a lot.
Because that person sitting across from you - that person matters to you, and what they think about themselves matters to you even more.
Get THEM to say it. And then ask them to explore it. And watch the transformation unfold before your eyes.
My commitment isn't to coaching. I love coaching, and love what it does for people. But my commitment comes from the posture it takes with people and what it does TO people. There is no other relational posture like it. Counseling isn't like it, consulting isn't like it, mentoring isn't like it, community organizing isn't like it. It stands alone.
This isn't important unless your goal is the transformation of people's lives. That isn't to say that human transformation can't occur in those other relational constructs. It IS to say that the path to transformation is shorter in coaching. That's because it works with how human brains, human commitment, and human effort are actually engaged.
Here's what I mean:
1. The client does the choosing. Human beings are more engaged and committed when they are in the driver's seat. Transformation cannot come from disengagement.
2. The client does the exploring. It's her journey. It's her life. It's her ministry. It's her concern. It's her challenge. The topography she's working on is in front of her and no one else. Because of this, it is uniquely RELEVANT to her.
3. The client does the realizing. The uniqueness of coaching is that it facilitates someone else's shift - the transformation of awareness. Only your client can have that shift. Your job as the coach is to leverage presence and the best, cleanest questions you can to facilitate that shift.
4. The client says it. As behaviorist Steven Sisler asserts, the human brain is more committed to what it says than what it thinks. Saying something engages commitment in a way that thinking never will.
5. The client acts on it. Perhaps most unique of all, in the coaching relationship, when there is a shift of perception/awareness/insight, the client can be asked: what is different for you now? What will you do with this? What will you do differently in this next week because of this? The insight of coaching engenders action, new behaviors, and because of this the transformation of life.
I'm not committed to coaching. I'm committed to human transformation. As a leader in the body of Christ, I've been called to catalyze kingdom in Christian community. And the Kingdom is all about people...people who are stepping in new ways into the unique narrative of the resurrecting God.
I'm a coach because I'm committed to transformation in light of the gospel. And nothing else gets it done quite like coaching.
What are you committed to?
Towards human transformation,