Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 (NASB)

Asking Versus Telling

The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Coach    

Asking vs. Telling

    One of the most difficult changes new coaches must make is learning to ask questions instead of giving advice. As they struggle to adapt to this new principle, the following kinds of questions invariably come out:

    “Would it help if you’d keep track of how much time you are spending on that project?”    
    “Could you just come right out and say something to her about the problem?”
    “Do you think you should talk to your pastor about that?”

As an exercise, cross out the first several words of each question, like this:

    “Would it help if you’d keep track of how much time you are spending on that project.”    
    “Could you just come right out and say something to her about the problem.”
    “Do you think you should talk to your pastor about that.”

    Oops! What we thought were good coaching queries actually turn out to be statements. The coaches are trying valiantly to ask questions, but what ends up coming out are pieces of advice with question marks stuck on the end. These are what I call solution-oriented questions: advice-giving masquerading as coaching. The only question is just, ‘Will you do what I am suggesting?”
    This kind of question is a result of working on coaching as a skill instead of a change of heart. While we’re working diligently at the technique of asking, the change is only skin-deep: scratch the surface of the technique and you find, unchanged, the same underlying advice-giving paradigm we’ve has always used.
    Solution-oriented questions are a great illustration of what it looks like to try to change what you do without changing who you are. Jesus was discussing this age-old problem when he stated, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Mt 12:34) In other words, what you do and say comes out of your being. What you say won’t change until you change. According to Jesus, to fundamentally change the way you operate, you have to change at the “being” level (values, identity, paradigms, and worldview) and not just at the doing level (skills and techniques).
    The change that must take place to stop giving advice is to take a biblical view of the other individual. God has given that person a stewardship: their own life. Each person has the God-given authority, the choice, to live life under the Jesus’ lordship or on his or her own. But with that authority, God has also given us a capability: with Christ, we have the ability to live the life God has given us, to fulfill our destiny, to hear his voice, to make great decisions. Being a coach is about seeing and believing in that capacity in other people.
    If you approach leadership coaching as a set of tools and techniques to add on to your existing ministry paradigm, you will be a failure as a coach. Leadership coaching is a new discipline, with an underlying philosophy and process that is probably far different than what you are used to. Becoming a great coach is a major remodeling project that will alter your values, the way you look at people, and the conversational habits of a lifetime. Becoming a transformational coach starts with transforming yourself.