Keeping Focus in Coaching

It’s possible to drift in coaching relationships. They can become a pleasant catch up, but be relatively ineffective in helping another grow personally, spiritually, and vocationally. Indeed, they can become frustrating sessions, where old issues are re-hashed with little evidence of increasing maturity or responsibility in the coachee.

One of the most important steps in keeping coaching relationships effective is contracting well. Expectations need to be crystal clear, with key goals / growth areas identified at the outset.

Some of the expectations that should be built in to a powerful coaching agreement/contract include:

* preparation for sessions. The coachee should agree to bring an issue to every session.
* commitment to action steps. The coachee is clear s/he desires to grow, and commits to implementing any actions arising from each session.
* regular meetings. If meetings are only very occasional or are made on an ad-hoc basis, the coachee may feel little pressure to implement action steps.
* an agreed review date. Review how the coaching is working for both parties after a certain number of sessions. (Then ask: "What can I learn as a coach to help me support you better? Is my coaching helpful to you? Should we continue?")
* an end date. Coaching that continues forever is prone to becoming a friendly conversation. It is better to contract for a certain number of sessions, then review whether the coachee wants to re-contract around a new set of agreed goals.

Having a potential coachee fill out a survey prior to a first coaching session can be helpful in forming specific growth goals. Or your first coaching session can be focused on series goals.* Ask your coachee to identify ambitious goals they would like to work on over a longer period of time. (Fitness, family relationships, spiritual life, education, career goals, new initiatives in ministry – it could be anything!) Then clarify the goals they would most like to focus on in coaching.

If expectations are set out clearly, and if ambitious goals are established for the coaching relationship, you have set the relationship up well to ensure the coachee keeps focused.

It’s hard work being this intentional. Sometimes it’s appropriate to have a less formal mentoring relationship. But contracting like this, and referring to the coaching agreement throughout the relationship, does the heavy lifting in keeping the focus on personal growth.

Coaching is less about helping people feel better (though that may often occur) and more about helping people become all that God is calling them to be, and step into all that God is calling them to do. In short, it can be a very effective tool of discipleship.

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be a coach desires a noble task.” That’s my very rough translation of I Timothy 3:1. I think it’s true though! What a privilege it is to partner with others in this way!

So how might you become more focused in your coaching?

And can you share something that has helped you keep focus in coaching?

I’d love to hear from you!

*big goals that require a series of steps to achieve.

A P.S. for discussion - the most focused coaching relationship I've ever had involved major financial penalties if action steps weren't completed! What do you think of THAT approach?


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