I got a call from a coach last week, frustrated with his client. He loved his client, believed in him, and saw great potential in him yet he was frustrated because every time they met the client has never completed any of his action steps. He wasn’t even able to celebrate “small wins” as he’d not even little wins. He rang me frustrated and asking for advice
As our friend Dr. Keith Webb says; in coaching, the glass is always half full! If you haven’t read his book COACH yet, do yourself a favour and read it. It’s good. When people have a go at something, that’s good. If they only reached half their goals, that’s good. Even if they’ve done absolutely nothing, and they’re feeling worse than useless, if they have thought about their goals, that’s good. All positive movement needs to be recognised and affirmed. That’s because God is good. That’s because any move from confusion towards clarity is a reflection of God’s call on our lives.
I have had a number of clients now who have been slow starters. They were not quick out of the blocks. They did not move quickly to implement their action plans. They began, but then stopped. They reached half-way, then dropped the ball. They started, but then something else became more important. Only one of those clients stopped coaching with me, when he came to the clear recognition that he did not want to change – he couldn’t be bothered, he said. And that was game over. With the others I kept adopting “the glass is always half full” approach, and eventually there was a breakthrough and progress.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” says Genesis 1.1. There is much debate precisely how this verse is to be understood in the context of the first chapter of Genesis, but it is clear that this verse starts the process and the direction of all life. It’s a beginning, a start. Just as God’s mercies are new every morning, so too each coaching session is new. We start with the good. We work with the good. We move towards the good. And so does God – he works for the good of all those who have been called according to his purpose.
In the coaching space the other “beginning” verse is equally important. “In the beginning was the Word,” (John 1.1). This verse, though written so much later, actually precedes Genesis 1.1. It interprets it. It applies it. This “Word” that John speaks of is the fully divine word that appears in human flesh and speaks human language and engages with our own words. Coaching is always about words, just as both creation and new creation is about words.
Coaching, as a foundationally critical part of discipleship, enables us to work in partnership with this fully divine yet fully human Word in order to make new beginnings. I had a client who gained some great awareness into his own attitudes and behaviours. His analysis was insightful, yet it seemed that he chose not to implement what he said he would do. Normally there are a number of coaching techniques that might help here; on a scale of 1 to 10, how can we move this towards a 10 in the likelihood of your doing it? Or again – how important is this to you? Is it still important? Yet I felt that these and a few other techniques were not going to help.
We worked past the “I can’t be bothered” and “I guess I’m lazy” and similar words he used. I refused to accept or entertain those words. Those words don’t give life. They are not true. We explored motivation, self-image, a vision of a preferred future, support structures, accountability and more. It was like shifting a mountain, one shovel-full at a time. We continued to raise awareness, chipping away at something within him that seemed to block him from a focussed and God-energised sense of purpose.
One day the whole edifice of his self-limiting belief system collapsed entirely; it came crashing down. The simple question, “So who do you think you are?” evoked the response, “I have no idea.” And at that, he let go of something that had been holding him, and there was a new beginning.
How do you help your client complete their action steps?