Whereas a teacher influences with some set agenda, a coach generally facilitates growth driven by the agenda of the leader. The former fits more in a training posture, and the latter fits more in a developing posture. Both are important but distinct.
When we think of Jesus as a coach, we look for when and how He exercised the core coaching practices of listening deeply and asking powerful questions. Many times He is responding to others and sometimes He is utilizing the power of questions to guide the thinking of others. In the description on Amazon of the book, Jesus is the Question, by Martin Copenhaver, we read:
Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner. In the Gospels, Jesus asks many more questions than He answers. To be specific, Jesus asks 307 questions. He is asked 183 of which he only answers three. Asking questions was central to Jesus’ life and teachings.
Coaching is effective because it causes self-reflection and articulation of what comes from within. Open-ended questions require complex thought processes that hopefully elicit deeper beliefs and values. When a leader is able to draw out (Proverbs 20:5) of a person what is influencing his or her thinking and behavior, then dialogue can flow to address strengths and weaknesses. It is at this point that development can result in new ways of leading.
For instance, when the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus and said, “Command that in your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right and one on your left,” (Matthew 20:20-21) Jesus asked the disciples if they knew what was involved. The dialogue that pursued brought them initially to a place of greater understanding, and years later to a very personal understanding. (Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9) Here Jesus responded by coaching for development.
In another instance, when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” some options were stated. But in the end the choice that was potentially transformational was confessed, “You are the Christ.” (Matthew 16:13-16) Partial development took place. Immediately Peter challenged Jesus about His death in such a way that indicated his incomplete understanding. By the time Peter preached a sermon in Acts 2, we see that his understanding was far greater by stating that Jesus’ death was part of God’s predetermined plan. (Acts 2:23) Jesus took initiative to coach Peter to develop an understanding of His person and work.
When coaching is valued and implemented, people grow from the inside out; adjusting their convictions, values, and driving beliefs into their being and doing that reflects Christlikeness. Coaching is a powerful skill to come alongside other disciple making competencies.
To assess your bent for coaching leaders, consider these questions:
- How committed are you to grow in your ability to listen and ask good questions?
- How often do people say that you listen well or ask good questions?
- How aware are you of your tendency to tell solutions over guiding others to discover their best options?
- How willing are you to invest the time so others can learn by ongoing practice with reflection and then re-engage with more dialogue?
- How much do you value the benefit of coaching evidenced by engaging a coach to help yourself?
Next blog: Jesus Developed Leaders by Modeling