by Bill Tenny-Brittian

Many church leaders give coaching a try. They’ve read and heard about the new wave of leadership development through effective coaching and so they decide to implement it in their context. Sadly, when all is said and done, most coaching programs sputter to a standstill and coach and coachees end up disillusioned and no more developed than they were when they began. Despite all the good intentions, the vast majority of coach-starts fail because the leader-coaches make one or more of the three deadly coaching blunders.

1. Lack of Understanding. There’s a nasty rumor going around that suggests church leaders don’t have time for regular coaching appointments. Whenever I hear that excuse I know it’s because the value of coaching hasn’t been either explained or experienced. Effective leaders know that if they receive valuable support, encouragement, and training, that their own effectiveness and productivity is multiplied exponentially. The problem is, too often church coaching sessions are nothing like a real coaching session.

A coaching session is not a devotional time of Bible study and prayer.

A coaching session is not a training event.

A coaching session is not a counseling session.

A coaching session is an hour or so of checking in, checking on progress made on the previous session’s outcomes, and then lots and lots of questions … with the most oft’ asked question being “…and what else?” (“…and what else?” is asked whenever a coachee offers a solution to reaching a goal – for more information on coaching, keep your eyes open for the upcoming “Mentoring and Coaching Leaders” Summit in 2008).

2. Inconsistency. Many, if not most, church coaching programs start off with a whiz-bang. There are banners and flags and posters and promises. The first session or two may be successful or they may be contrived, but round between sessions three to six, enthusiasm wanes a bit. The leader/coach suggests moving from weekly to monthly sessions; they need to cancel a coaching appointment for some reason; or they’re not quite as prepared as they were the time before. Pretty soon it becomes apparent that this coaching stuff may not be as important as it was touted to be. In most cases, before the year is out if someone asks about coaching, the response is, “Yeah, we tried that.”

If the leader/coach isn’t 100 percent sold on coaching and if they haven’t set aside real time for both coaching appointments and preparation, the program is going to be little more than “something we tried once.” Be reasonable with yourselves and with your coachees. If you’re going to meet weekly, then make sure you have the wherewithal to pull that off. In my experience, it takes at least an hour of preparation time for every hour of coaching I do. If you don’t have time to be a coach, don’t start.

3. Lack of Preparation. This is by far the most pervasive deadly blunder I come across when I work with coaches. Even those who tell me how committed they are to the coaching model often show up at their coaching appointments with little or no preparation. In my experience, coaches who approach their appointments with the attitude “We’ll just talk about what comes up,” seldom see long-term progress with their coachees and, in fact, seldom continue coaching for long. When I train coaches, I repeatedly emphasize advanced preparation for every coaching appointment.

To get ready for a coaching appointment, you will need to:

(1) Pray for the coachee and the upcoming appointment;

(2) Review your last appointment’s notes;

(3) List the accepted goals from the previous appointment (accomplishments they committed to effect);

(4) Develop initial coaching questions for each of the five Coaching Steps:

Personal Growth (How’s it going spiritually, relationally, professionally, emotionally, etc.?)

            Goals (What are their goals?)

            Reality (What is the current reality?)

            Options (What options do they have?)

            What Will You Do? (Self evident!);

(5) Never forget to set a moment to schedule the next appointment.

If you avoid the three deadly coaching blunders you’ll find your coached leaders growing and accomplishing great stuff!

For personal one-on-one coaching, click here.