Over the last four posts we’ve unpacked what coaching is and isn’t, how to be a coach, and the skills required. Now, we turn our attention to the coaching conversations themselves. What do you actually do when you sit down with a leader? How does coaching happen? I’ve learned it requires preparation and a plan or pattern of questions to guide the conversation. The goal is to have intentional conversations that foster both belief and obedience, and that doesn’t happen by accident.

Pre-Work for the Coach

Spend time reviewing your past notes with this leader, praying, and getting into the coaching mindset, and refresh yourself on the required skills in coaching. Most importantly, pray for the leader, their family, their missional community. Ask God to reveal what is important. Look for patterns or issues in your notes that might need to be discussed.

Pre-Work for the Leader

The leader has to come ready, too. They have to come ready to ‘work’ and process with the coach. To do that, they need to put some thought into their time, too. Here are three broad sets of questions to help leaders prepare to be coached.

Where am I in life?

What is going on? What is God teaching me? What is your community teaching me?

Where is my community?

Where are we as people? What has God done through us? What are we wrestling with? Where do we have unity/disunity?

Where is my community headed?

Where is it that God is leading us? What does kingdom come in my community feel like? What are we called to? How is God stretching us? What season are we in as a community?

The Coaching Conversation

Here is the model our guide for a conversation that works from long-term thinking to small next-steps. This is the pattern I follow. The bold titles for each section are my go-to questions, the others are similar and follow-up questions if leaders get stuck or if I want to change it up on the leader. I’ve never had a conversation that went exactly like this. However, this roadmap is very helpful! You may find that this conversation model doesn’t work for you. Don’t worry there are others and I will share them in our next post.

Sprinkled through each of these big categories or questions are times where you would ask follow-up questions, offer observations, and give direct messages.

Connect&Pray

Pretty self-explanatory. Talk about each others’ kids, weekends, marriages, etc. Pray for one another as peers in the pilgrimage of discipleship.

Big Picture

Where are we headed in the long-term? What is your community becoming? This question helps the leader get their head out of the weeds or weekly crisis and think about the big picture. This alone is a blessing to leaders!

Small Picture

What do we need to talk about today? Thinking about this coaching meeting, where do you want to be at the end of this? What do you want us to accomplish today? What could we talk about? This time of the coaching conversation is about discovering what is important in the short-term: the one thing.

Narrowing the Conversation

What is next? As you reflect on where you are, and dream about where God is leading you, what is next? What obstacles do you face? What are some of the most pressing roadblocks your community is facing in moving where you feel God is leading? What opportunities do you have? This series of questions really brings the leader into processing what obedience to their calling looks like.

Gaining Clarity & Counting the Cost

What can be done about it? What is in your control? What is the cost? What are you willing to pay? Are these permanent obstacles, barriers, issues? These questions really help to unearth the commitment or desire a leader has to take a next step. It also helps them realize some issues are beyond their control.

Brainstorming

What are some potential next steps? What can be done? This is a great time to brainstorm and come up with ideas together.

Committing to Obedience

What will you do about it? When will you do it? These questions are about accountability. Even if their next step is to pray, ask: “When will you pray? How will you pray? Who could pray with you?” The goal is to make it concrete for their sake. If the next step is to wait&rest because it is out of my control ask, “How will you avoid trying to take control again? What has to happen to allow you to do that? What does resting look like?”

Resourcing

How can I help? This is when we get to offer our service, and help out! Many times this is answer is: “keep asking me about this.”

Pray&Part Ways

Pray as you leave for the commitments and next steps that have been planned. Also, part ways with clarity. I usually reflect back to the leader what they have decided to do, and what I am going to do. This parting of ways is important. The leader is usually rushing off to work or home after this conversation. A summary of what was talked about and what they are going to do is helpful. It is also a helpful moment for the coach to realize the leader is now re-engaging the world they inhabit.

Following a Coaching Conversation

Take notes about what was discussed, what the next step(s) were, anything they said that you want to add to your prayers for them. Pray for their community. Personally, I have to spend some time in prayer to give up trying to control the leader and community after I meet with them. I want to do the next steps and I want to lead that community my way, and I get stressed trying to control it from a distance after the coaching session. I’ve learned to pray afterwards as a discipline for my own good.

CONTINUE LEARNING

This is post 5 in a series on coaching and leading leaders. The goal is that leaders from a diversity of contexts will be able to start coaching with confidence and awareness. Continue reading or subscribe to the blog to be updated with each new installment.

Brad A. Watson serves as a pastor of Bread&Wine Communities in Portland, Oregon where he develops, coaches, and trains leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is passionate about helping people live lives that reflect their belief and hope in Jesus. He lives in southeast Portland with his wife and their three kids.