To give others a different perspective on coaching-I like to bring out a little acronym called WAIT–it stands for “Why Am I Talking?”. WAIT is all about letting others take control when they need to. Surprisingly to some, coaching is not about continual advice-giving. Rather, it has more to do with helping someone else achieve self-discovery—and holding them accountable to performing what they commit to. So, amazingly, the first rule of coaching is that we need to be more about listening than talking. Internally we do our best to hold our tongues. (Why am I talking, anyway? I should be listening!) In fact, there are two sub-strategies for achieving WAIT.
What’s empathy got to do with it?
The first sub-strategy is to listen empathetically. That means we listen to gather information, but it also means we truly attempt to get inside the thinking of the other. Stephen Covey, in his landmark book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that we must “diagnose before we prescribe.” He uses the analogy of going to an optometrist to have poor eyesight corrected. What if rather than making a careful diagnosis to determine the prescription needed, the optometrist handed you his glasses and told you to wear them? That would constitute major malpractice. You wouldn’t have been cared for and you couldn’t see any better—maybe even worse—than before.
A good coach listens empathetically. So, try not to over-tell your stories. Try not to engage in “autobiographical listening.” (Can you think of a time when your back hurt, and everyone around you started to tell their backache stories? How fun was that?!) A good coach curbs telling his or her stories in order to listen to others and help them come up with helpful strategies.
Good questions: the 75%.
The second sub-strategy is to ask good questions. When coaching, try to have at least 75% of what comes out of your mouth come in the form of a question. Much of your best teaching will come in the form of questions. Think of how many times Jesus taught with questions. Then think of the good questions you’ve been asked.
Questions not only keep you from talking too much, they also help the other toward greater self-discovery. That’s the whole idea!
***Coaches: what strategies work for you?
Church Planter: have you had a good or bad coaching experience? What made it so?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.***
(Read Part 2 of this series here.)