In the last three posts we have discovered that coaching is essential to every great moment; the necessity for coaching at this particular moment in the life of the American church and the crucial role a coach plays in the life of a leader. In the next few paragraphs I'll give you a coaching tool that is simple and reproducible. The following are six coaching questions that will grow great leaders. If you can remember just six words you can begin to use it with your leaders starting today. I use it with the apprentice leader of my small group. I also use it when coaching church planters and network leaders. I will give you a word to remember; then a question that goes with that word and a brief explanation behind the genius of that question.
1) YOU - “How are you?”
Never forget that at the heart of effective coaching is a relational investment. It may sound cliché, but it’s still true: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I begin every coaching conversation by checking in and asking, “How are you doing?” Don’t let the simplicity of this underwhelm you. Notice over the next week how many meetings you are in where no one bothers to check in and ask how you’re really doing. So, when you coach, make sure you ask about their marriage, their kids, their physical well-being. All these things impact a leader. This question allows the coach to show that he cares first, before moving on to the tasks at hand.
2) CELEBRATING - “What are you celebrating?”
The next coaching question gives you a great opportunity to celebrate how God is at work in the life and ministry of the person you are coaching. Some churches have weird cultures where if you talk about where you are winning, it seems like you are bragging. This question gives the people you are leading permission to talk about wins and you can celebrate together. You get to catch them doing it right!
Asking this question also reinforces the values and vision of your church and/or ministry. We should celebrate what we value! If we value life-change, leadership development, reproducing groups, people being baptized – celebrate it! In addition to reinforcing values and vision, moving from “How are you?” to “What are you celebrating?” keeps the tone of the coaching meeting very relational and positive. It’s tempting to quickly focus on what’s not working or what is broken. This question keeps the conversation focused on where the leader is feeling successful.
3) CHALLENGES - “What challenges are you facing?”
The next coaching question is, “What challenges are you facing?” You might be thinking, “We finally got to something productive.” Yes, the previous questions are very relational, but remember that when it comes to coaching the relationship really is the task. This third question gives your leader an opportunity to talk openly about the things that aren’t going very well in his group, team or ministry. Obstacles and challenges need to be acknowledged and owned before they can be addressed and overcome. As a coach, part of your role is to ensure that you provide a safe, confidential, and empowering environment for your leaders to talk openly about these challenges.
4) DOING - “What are you doing about it?”
Once a leader has disclosed some areas where he or she may be experiencing some challenges with their life, group, or ministry it is tempting to quickly move into “fix-it” mode and try to solve the problem for him. No! Don’t do it! There are times when a leader will need your insight and wisdom. However, the best way you can serve a leader is to help them tap into the wisdom and insight God has already given them to deal with the situation they are facing. It is the coach’s role to draw those answers or solutions out of the leader. Asking the question, “What are you doing about it?” and then listening is what your leader needs most. Other questions like that: “What would you like to see happen?” “What would need to take place in order for change to occur?” “Who might be able to help overcome this challenge?” When the leader answers those questions it will empower him or her and increase the their confidence in their ability to address whatever challenge they needs to resolve. You are trying to develop leaders who can solve their own problems and meet challenges. You do not want to create a dependency on you.
5) HELP - “How can I help you?”
If you never get to the fifth question because the leader has already come up with an action plan, considers yourself an extremely effective coach. The goal is not to answer all of your leader’s questions or solve all her challenges. Remember - the goal is to help him or her discover the answers herself so that when you’re not around she will be able to deal with the challenges that come her way. But there are times when a coach needs to step in and offer whatever assistance is necessary to help a leader in need and so we ask, “How can I help you?” And once the leader you are coaching tells you how they can help, you need to come through for them.
6) PRAY - “How can I pray for you?”
The best way to wrap up a coaching conversation is to ask the leader how you can be praying for him or her. It is also a great opportunity for you, the coach to ask the leader to be praying for you. This is one way a coach can help the leader know that this relationship is mutually beneficial. After the leader has had a chance to express some areas where he or she is in need of prayer, take a few moments to pray for the leader and reassure them that you will be praying regularly. The most attentive and active coach can only occasionally be available to his leader. However, prayer can be the sustaining environment that provides continuity and the assurance that you are keeping the leader in your thoughts in between huddles and one-on-one meetings.
I'd love to get your feedback on this important topic. Have you tried these questions and did they work for you? What other questions do you effectively use in your coaching?