11 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Coaching

Is coaching a good investment?

I've been using coaches for more than a decade. My first coach was a personal trainer who helped me recover from a torn hamstring. He tortured me once a week, and I loved every minute of it. Working with him accelerated my results and we developed a great relationship.

Since then I have worked with more than a half-dozen coaches to help me in various areas of my personal and professional development. It's one of the reasons that I started Griddiron - to help church leaders like you enjoy the same benefits that I have received from investing in coaching.

But just because coaching has been a great investment for me doesn't make it a great investment for you. A great coaching relationship involves a skilled coach and a client who is willing to get the most out of coaching. Coaching skills is another post for a different day. Let's talk about 11 ways that you can get the most out of coaching.

Oh, and if you stick around until the end of the post, I have an idea about how you can put this into practice today.

1. Connect Relationally

Good coaches help you focus on goals. Great coaches take the time to understand your goals as part of your story. A coach that takes the entire first session to get to know you is not wasting your time. Resist the urge just to jump in when your coach asks how you are doing. Knowing each other - and trusting each other - is critical to success. 

2. Be Honest

Different clients have different needs. One consistent struggle I see in church leaders is an exaggeration about life. Church leaders hide behind theology, persuaded that belief in a God who is good and sovereign should catapult us over the murky moat of our failures and frustrations. Church leaders suffer from PTSD, the results of trusting one too many people in their church only to have confidences betrayed. 

Resist the urge to fudge numbers and filter feelings. Your coach can't read your mind, and they're not there to see the gap between reality and your rhetoric. Make a commitment to the truth, no matter how brutal and ugly it is.

3. Be Curious

If you had all the answers, you wouldn't need a coach. Explore questions that your coach raises. Kick the tires on new ideas. 

4. Focus On Struggles

I'm a big proponent of playing to your strengths. I'm not sure you should spend a lot of time in coaching emphasizing your weaknesses. Focus instead on the pain points that exist in your areas of greatest strength.

One example would be a preacher who has great biblical content but struggles to craft applications that have depth and nuance. Doesn't it make total sense to work with your coach on developing great applications?

5. Ask For Help

Part of being honest and curious is a willingness to ask for help. A consistently great answer to the question, 'What do you want to work on today?' sounds a lot like 'I need your help with...'. Asking for help clarifies what matters most to you and guarantees that time is not wasted as you piddle around with insignificant issues. 

6. Prioritize Action Steps

At the end of every session, clarify what you are going to do next with your coach. This is classic SMART goal setting. You should set expectations that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. What are you going to do between now and your next session?

7. Think Smaller Steps

Resist the urge to do too much too fast. I don't know if it's an attempt to prove how much they can take on or if they feel they need to justify the investment, but I would say that 50% of the action steps proposed by my clients are too big. They're still achievable but require so much time and energy that what gets created feels rushed. Set goals that motivate you. If a goal overwhelms you, break it down into smaller parts. 

8. Don't Get Caught Between Clouds and Dirt

I love the imagery of clouds and dirt as an illustration of strategy and execution. One reason I believe every church leader needs a coach is because it's human nature to live somewhere in between. So action steps are articulated but not acted upon. A relationship is established, but sessions are infrequently scheduled. I said this to a new client last week, 'Coaching defines the work and prioritizes doing the work.'

9. Take One More Step

Action steps establish realistic expectations. Accelerate results by consistently showing up at coaching sessions having done more than what is expected. Don't do it to impress your coach; do it to push yourself beyond the limits of what you think you can do.

10. Be Patient

Nothing happens overnight. The challenges and opportunities in front of you should not be met with haste. Expect unexpected obstacles and setbacks. Stay persistent. Trust the process. Be willing to pivot and change direction if you get stuck. Do everything in your power to move ahead but don't blow up or walk out if things don't go your way at first. 

11. Don't Wait Until The Last Minute

Don't start work on an action step the day before your next coaching session. Take 15-30 minutes after each coaching session to schedule when you will do the work. By focusing on what matters most, you should find the urgency you need to make this a priority. 

Do The Next Right Thing

If you are already working with a coach, choose one of these elements and put it into motion. Small changes often lead to significant improvement.

And if you don't have a coach and want to work together next year, I have a group coaching program that launches in January. The goal is simple - let's work together to accelerate results in your life and leadership.

You can read more about the program here. NOTE: the deadline for applications is Wednesday, November 25, 2015, so apply today!

If you want to work together and are reading this after the deadline, email me (matt@griddiron.com) and let's see what I have available. 

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