My Coaching Experience

Coaching as a system of methods and techniques aimed at the development of certain skills and abilities can be found nearly in all spheres of today’s life. Coaching has become especially popular in business as the means to become a successful team player and leader. In fact, coaching is closely connected to leadership. A coach is a leader for a coachee and he/she shares his/her experience with the latter. In case of coaching ministers, a coach transfers his/her leadership skills to a coachee. It is necessary to pay attention to the importance of leadership in the society. The phenomenon of leadership has existed in the world for ages. Since the establishment of the society, there have been people, who were leaders, and had power over the community members. These people made all the important decisions and led others to the achievement of common goals. Even though not every leader was successful, the tendency of choosing a person responsible for social life in a certain group was obvious. The history of the humanity shows that people need to be guided. No community can exist without being led by a person or a group of people. Leaders can be different, but the place of a leader is never vacant. With years it has become natural that a group of people, united by a common goal, should have a leader. No one can imagine a company without a director, a party without a political leader or a ministry without a pastor.

However, it is necessary to go to the roots of the concept of coaching and analyze its core meaning. Answers to the questions about the role of a coach in the life of a coachee, the significance of the coach’s words and behavior, his/her support of the coachee can provide better understanding of the process of coaching. “You can think of the coaching process as a journey, one in which you are caught up in the process as you move toward a specific, targeted destination. The coach’s goal is to help you find direction and enjoy the ride” (Creswell 2006, 14)

Coaching is always related to the formation of particular skills and achievement of a certain goal. Unlike mentoring, which focuses on the relationship between a coach and a coachee and is oriented at the personal development of the learner, coaching has a particular task and eventually deals with the performance of the coachee. Therefore, during pastor training it is necessary to choose the coaching approach as becoming a pastor always means becoming a leader (Gangel 2006).

Moreover, the coaching approach was chosen by the author as the best means to discover the potential of a person. Jane Creswell in her book Christ-Centered Coaching: 7 Benefits for Ministry Leaders says that “In consulting and mentoring, the expertise lies in the consultant or the mentor and is transferred to the person. In coaching, on the other hand, the expertise lies within you, the person being coached” (Creswell 2006, 15). Mentoring deals with overall development. Becoming a pastor is a meaningful and responsible task. It demands from a person, who wants to become a pastor, the potential to be a leader. The aim of a coach is to see the potential and to develop the skills necessary to encourage people and to lead the way.

A pastor is always a leader because he is the one who people address when they have questions and problems. He is the person who can help, affiliate the pain of the soul, and give answers to significant life questions. In order to coach a leader, it is necessary to be a leader. The process of becoming a coach is often hard and long, mainly because before teaching other people, a coach should undergo the process of his/her own establishment as a self-confident person, who is able to take the responsibility to transfer his/her experience to others.

It is sometimes difficult for pastors to feel the ability to coach. It seems to them that they need special training, education or skills to start coaching others. Joel Comiskey in the book You Can Coach describes the process of creation of a coaching network: “The coaching network is different in that those who are coached desire to coach others one day …Through the coaching networks, we have been able to see ordinary people become coaches. Pastors who have never been trained to coach are now effective coaches. They learn to coach by coaching” (Comiskey 2011, 88-89). The main idea is that coaching should become a movement when people transfer their knowledge and experience to others and thus coach them.

An interesting speculation appears in the book written by Chad Hall and Linda Miller (2007) Coaching for Christian Leaders: A Practical Guide. The issues of the approach to leadership are being discussed and the qualities of a leader are analyzed. Coaching presupposes certain personal characteristics, like flexibility and motivation. Moreover, it bases on such kind of leadership as when a leader should balance between the active involvement of a coachee into the learning process and the personal powerful presence. However, the important conclusion is that “in its purest form, coaching is a relationship that accentuates the client’s own self-leadership” (82). This is the core of the coaching in ministry as the art of every pastor, who becomes a coach, is to evoke the leader in the coachee. The coach should not impose a particular vision or behavior pattern because a learning pastor might not gain self-confidence. In any critical situation he would feel lost without his coach’s instructions. The talent of the coach should be in the creation of special conditions in order to shape the qualities of a leader. The coach should give correct answers but should ask the questions which might lead the coachee to his or her own discoveries and insights. The coach should guide the establishment of a coachee as a leader, ready to help other people and in future to coach other pastors.

In this context, it is worth going into details of the types of leadership as coaching is also a kind of leadership. There are transformational and transactional leaderships, both of which can be used while coaching. However, one of them is more productive in coaching than the other. The main principle of the transformational approach is to encourage a coachee to achieve the goal and to make him believe that he can do it. Leaders with transformational approach do not behave as dictators. They lead their followers by their own example. They treat people as their companions, and help not only achieve the shared goal, but achieve their own personal goals (Northouse 2012). Thus, they transform the followers and help them become more self-confident and feel more comfortable within a group. For example, when a coachee faces some problems, feels incapable of fulfilling a task, thinking that it is a waste of time, the coachee might feel psychological pressure and guilt all the time. The coach might have a talk to him and persuade him to be committed to his mission, to accept the challenge and to overcome the difficulties.

If a coach uses the transactional approach, in other words, just gives direct orders, he/she will not be successful. Transactional leadership can be applied in big societies where there are a lot of people, and the task of managers is only to give the task and to check its fulfillment. While coaching a minister, who will work with a particular audience, such a direction risks to ruin the atmosphere between the coach and his follower. It is impossible to base successful coaching process on the transactional approach. It is necessary to bring-up successful and self-confident, critically thinking learners.

The transactional leadership presupposes that a leader is a charismatic person with a set of traits that make him/her a successful leader, as only a person with an outstanding character can change people and be followed by other members. The traits and characteristics of an effective coach should include high level commitment to a group, good performance, cooperativeness, high energy, achievement orientation and self-confidence. The coach should be an example for the learners, a person who they would listen to in a critical situation.

Certainly a coaching pastor should have a wealth of experience. Then he could be an example to a coachee, he could cite instances from his own life. An experienced practicing pastor can teach a lot of useful lessons to the coachee or use certain critical situations in order for the coachee to find the solution himself.

Another particular quality of a coaching pastor should be the excellent mastery of the Bible as it is the main source of wisdom and knowledge. It is what a pastor relies upon in his preaching and coaching. Citing the Word, the coaching pastor shows that his ideas and reflections are unsubstantiated. Reading the necessary abstracts in the Bible, shown by a coach, a coachee might come to a conclusion that his coach wants him to. In the minister coaching the Word becomes the basis of everything and a coaching pastor only shows a learner the path to the knowledge. For a coach it is necessary to remember that the example of the behavior is Jesus Christ and not the coach himself. It is important always to refer to the Bible and to the deeds of Christ and his disciples as to the examples of behavior.

In the process of coaching the author of the paper faced both successes and failures. While coaching a person, who wanted to preach the Word, it was interesting to learn that this person differed from others. He was often accepted by society as a person with no ordinary mind-set. Having brought-up by his mother and a step-father, he did not get an image of a happy family, though he thinks of his step-father as of a person who did a lot for him. However, he was married three times and is still looking for an ideal woman. He was even enrolled in the navy at the age of 32. His short life story can show that joining the ministry was an issue for him and at the same time it was a pure insight. He didn’t make this decision reasonably. According to his own words, he was called to the ministry and it was only the third time that he heard the call.

Coaching a person with such a life story and mentality can be a challenge for a pastor. However, there were certain successful achievements.

Talking to a coachee, it might be useful to resort to simple examples as in the discussion of the good coach qualities of Superman and Batman. These characters seem too common to open something new for learning. However, an unusual approach to their personality and lifestyle might make a big impression. Discussing who was a better coach, it was possible to express the coach’s point of view and emphasize that a good leader should always be with the public as Batman was. The use of such bright examples showed that the coachee was interested and vivid impressions made his understanding better.

Another successful point was the talk about the qualities of a leader in the light of the Bible’s preaching. It might be even the most efficient discussion of the author as of a coach because it was not a simple sharing of thoughts as earlier but it was a well-reasoned explanation based on the citations from the Word. The coach explained the meaning of being a leader as it is seen in the Bible. It was obvious that this discussion was very important and thought-provoking for the coachee as he was left with a bunch of ideas to be analyzed. What the coach wanted him to understand in the first place was that being a leader means being responsible for the people one leads and one can do it only having God in one’s heart and first of all seeing God in others.

Many discussions between the coach and the coachee were mainly sharing of ideas about coaching, leadership and difference between coaching and mentoring. The benefit was that after each conversation both participants had a lot to think about and to use in their daily life. Both the coach and the coachee backed all their ideas by examples from the Bible. The conversations about a good and a bad coach and their qualities, the role of a leader and of a mentor, the qualities of a pastor as of a leader were all based on the Word. Thus, it gave the opportunity for the coach to focus the attention of the coachee on the importance of the Word as the source of all answers.

Since coaching is always an interaction between people and despite the fact that unlike mentoring, a coach and a learner do not have to be very close, the coaching process enriches both participants a lot. The background information about the coachee helps to understand his train of thoughts. The coachee might suggest a new perspective of an idea as it was with the thought that Moses was a bad coach. Such opinions can be shocking for the coach but they might have a new light on the problem and provoke new thoughts in the coach.

The important conclusion is that coaching is a two-way process as it may change the personality of a coachee and enrich the experience of a coach. The issues raised during the coaching process led to certain inner changes in the coachee. His self-establishment of a leader has acquired the basis to be grounded on, like Jesus and the apostles. Thus, his self-confidence as of a leader increased. Moreover, he had to review his own relations with other people, taking into account that a pastor should first of all see God in people and treat them as the part of God. The words of the coach about the qualities of a good leader, such as love for everybody, unselfishness, good discipline, showed the coachee that being a leader is a responsible and hard work but whatever is done should be done to glorify God and the Gospel. Such conversations led to the personal changes in the coachee. He became more thoughtful and self-analyzing as well as more self-confident as he knew already from where to get knowledge.

For the coach these conversations were also very useful as, first of all, he could experience the role of a coach and having analyzed the talks afterwards, could be able to make conclusions on achievements and failures. As every relationship enriches people, the coach drew some useful experience from the coaching, including new perspectives and approaches, which can be used in his everyday practice and life. Constant self-analysis helped to estimate the leader’s qualities in oneself and to see the directions for further development, personally and professionally.

Certainly the coaching process cannot go smoothly as coaching always involves two people, who have their own characters, life experiences, points of view etc. It takes time for these people to know each other better and to get used to each other. While mentoring presupposes a long-term relationship, coaching usually embraces a short period of time, within which a coach has to estimate the potential of a learner, his needs and possibilities. Meanwhile the coachee has to get used to the manner of coaching and to the coach’s personality too (Flaherty 2010).

During the coaching period of the author of the paper, there were certain things that could have been done better. First of all, there were many conversations over the phone. Since the coaching deals with sharing one’s experience and teaching certain lessons to a coachee, it would be more useful to meet the coachee and to talk in person. Face-to-face contacts are usually more memorable and effective than speaking without seeing one another. During the phone talks the coach noticed that the coachee sometimes was distracted or did not pay enough attention to the topic of the talk. It is noticeable that phone talks are often perceived as less significant than meetings in person.

Another difficulty in the coaching process was occasional misunderstanding between the coach and the coachee. Here it is important to take into account not only the difference in the lives and characters of the coach and the coachee but also the peculiarity of the coachee’s up-bringing and consequently his vision of the world. The coachee’s opinions, which sometimes were the discoveries for the coach and could somehow open new perspectives for him, were withal the ground for failure to fully understand the message of the coach. There were times when the coach’s attempts to communicate certain thoughts were not successful or the lesson was misunderstood.

One of the reasons was the lack of flexibility on the part of the coach. There were situations when the coach expected one and only answer as it seemed to him the only correct. However, the communication showed that the coachee expressed brand new ideas, which were not expected by the coach. Neither they were the best, nor the only possible. However, they had the right to be expressed and the coach, preparing to the conversation, should have foreseen them.

As far as the best coaching technique is not telling what to do but showing the way to necessary result by asking questions and listening to a coachee’s ideas, it is always necessary for a coach to try to foresee different possible ways of the development of a conversation and maneuvering between the upcoming ideas to lead the coachee to the necessary outcome.