How to Turn All the Lights on in the House

Helping Others to See Their Path More Clearly

LightsI see better when the lights are on. That may sound obvious, but it becomes ever more important in the middle of the night when I have some urgency to get to another room. I would urge blind people to never own a dog or have children. Both like to leave their stuff on the path to necessary rooms.

People typically know the way forward. They may just feel like they are in walking forward in the dark. There may be obstacles on the path that weren’t there the night before. When a person is taking important steps in their lives, you may want to tell them what direction to go, but the best thing you can do is turn on every light in their house.

Decisions are best made when you can see the path, the surrounding terrain, obstacles blocking the way forward, and even better, the destination.

Turn On Every Light in the House

Our electric company likes to provide us a service by telling us where our house ranks in electrical usage compared to our neighbors. I am proud to say that we are always # 1! According to their records, we use more electricity than any other house on the block. I’m not sure why, but it might be because we tend to leave every light on in the house. You never know when you’ll be coming back fast to the bathroom and won’t want to take that extra second to flip on the light. (If you don’t understand sarcasm, you may think I’m a nut.)

If you’re helping a person think through a decision, instead of giving them your own map, start turning on some lights. Help them to consider how their own experience might give them a stronger perspective on the issue.

Be creative in your questions. It’s counter-intuitive, but the more broad your question, the more lights you can turn on. You tend to think for them to make a decision, you would want to put a spotlight on the issue. But instead, illuminate all the corners. See if there is a hidden treasure on a shelf that was being saved for just such an occasion. See if there is a ticking time bomb hidden in the closet. The brain remembers everything it encounters, but it doesn’t always make all the information instantly available to you. Help the person turn on all the lights in their brain.

Ask them to consider their earlier education. Ask them to consider what they want the future to look like. Ask them what failure has taught them about what not to do this time. Ask them what made them successful during another stressful time in the past.

A great question to ask is what they would tell a friend if the friend was making this decision. That takes a lot of the cloudiness away from the issue. It takes away the shame of possible failure and the over-eagerness of a high achiever.

With all the lights on, the path looks much different, maybe easier to walk, maybe much more difficult to walk.

Turn on the Outside Lights

I grew up 10 miles out of a city of 1,200 people. If someone drove by our house, it was the mailman, or they were really lost. Needless to say, at night, it got really dark. I’m sure at mom’s urging, dad put in a security pole light. It was basically a street light on a country farm. The light gave us a lot more confidence about avoiding coyotes or trespassers, which would come along now and then.

If you’re helping a person make a tough decision, expand their thinking beyond their own. Harness the power of the network of people they know (and even ones they don’t know) – family, co-workers, neighbors, writers, and heroes.

One of my favorite questions is to ask what their hero would do in this situation. Another is who could help? For goodness sake, there are billions of people on the planet. Somebody could help. Where could we find more information about the issue? Who else is struggling with this issue? What would your mother tell you to do in this situation?

Turning on the inside lights is like turning on their brain to all their past experience and knowledge. Turning on the outside lights is making sure they have considered all the people who could give them advice, insight, or even better help.

In many cases, this may be enough for most people. They were walking around in the dark, and now you have helped turn all kinds of lights on. But sometimes, the lights may show that the path forward looks impossible. Or perhaps the light showed that there are many paths, and no one path looks like the obvious choice.

Look up at the Stars

Back on the farm, when we really wanted to get a good look at the stars, we would shut the pole light off. I’ve never seen the Milky Way galaxy so bright as on the farm during a cloudless night with the pole light off. At first, you might think it was pitch black, but even on a moonless night, your eyes would adjust and the world would be illuminated by stars thick around the galaxy’s belt. These stars are an ancient light. Nothing travels faster than light, but these stars are so far away that in some cases, the light is thousands of years old before it brightens your surroundings.

To really see this kind of light, you have to be purposeful. You have to get away from all other lights. These stars then give you a whole other perspective on your life. These ancient lights were here millennia before you and will remain eons after. Your decisions look more manageable as turn on the lights of heaven.

Our daughter has a tough decision coming up. We were pleased that she sought God’s take on the issue. He told her pretty clearly, “I don’t care what you do.” At first, that sounds a little cold. But it wasn’t cold at all. He took the pressure off. The world’s safety doesn’t depend on her. It depends on Him. Now she could make a decision with a little less guilt and a lot more guile.

When you help others seek God’s view on their issue, they might find some larger connected purpose to their decision. Simply ask them, what is God saying to you about this? What does He want you to do about it? What is a story in the Bible that is similar to yours? Who is God asking you to be in this situation? What name has God given you for this task?

A Well Lit Decision

At the end, you haven’t told your friend anything from your experience. And now that you’ve turned on so many lights, you see for yourself that the little light you could have added is almost invisible compared to the many lights you were able to turn on for them.

Coaching is all about turning on the lights. When is a time that someone helped you turn on a light that changed your life?


How to Pick a Great Coaching Topic

If you do enough coaching, it becomes similar to eating out too much. “Where do you want to eat?” becomes a painful question to answer. In coaching, you can come to hate the question, “What do you want to talk about today?”


Some people don’t think deep enough. “I don’t know. Everything is pretty good.” Not to be a pessimist, but I doubt it. I doubt everything is good, and if everything would happen to be good, not everything is great. There is room for a topic to coach around.

Some people think too deep. “I am so busy that if there is a way to invest more time, I don’t want to know. Everything might fall apart if I jiggle it around too much.” If you are too busy to be coached, you are too busy not to be coached. Coaching the appropriate area can only help.

Some people are too guarded. “Everything is moving pretty well right now. No major problems.” Coaching is confidential for a reason. We aren’t looking for whiners but there is an appropriate place to share your inner concerns and find some ways to boost up your confidence.

I’ve written up 30+ questions that the client should ask herself before the session to help her find a coaching topic. These questions could be asked at the beginning of the session, but I designed the questions to be a broad assessment that would bubble a topic to the top of their consciousness before the session begins.

I have several new clients this year so I’m going to send them this list of questions to help them generate topics and give them an idea of what topics might be appropriate to coaching.

When I’m ready to coach them, I might ask, “What do you want to talk about today?” If they aren’t sure, I might ask, “What question stuck out to you in the list I sent?” I wouldn’t hold them to a topic generated from this list.

  1. What are a few things that you’d really like to talk through?
  2. What are the next few steps you need to take where you have little motivation to take action?
  3. Where is a place you want to go in your life or career but aren’t sure the steps to get there?
  4. What is a deadline that is set that would benefit from a well thought out plan?
  5. Where are you losing the most time right now that you’d like to get back?
  6. What are some frustrating obstacles in your life right now?
  7. Where do you want to be at the end of 1 year, 5 years, 10 years?
  8. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
  9. What is a relationship that you have that is suffering?
  10. What is a relationship that is causing you to suffer?
  11. What is your most/least productive time of day?
  12. How is your relationship with God?
  13. How would you rate your physical fitness? Spiritual fitness? Emotional fitness?
  14. What skills are you missing to move into a role you’d love to have?
  15. What strengths do you have that are underused?
  16. Where are you operating out of a weakness?
  17. How clear is your vision for the future?
  18. Do you have time off planned? Do you know how to get what you need out of those days?
  19. What kind of legacy would you like to leave?
  20. What one thing should you be doing for yourself that you have been neglecting?
  21. What in your life would benefit from some better organization?
  22. What is something in your life that has felt stuck?
  23. What does the perfect day look like for you? What needs to change in order to have that day every day?
  24. What is the next major financial decision you need to make?
  25. What do you want to do but just don’t have the confidence to do?
  26. What is God saying to you right now?
  27. What are you thinking about as you fall asleep?
  28. What is the first thing on your mind (outside of getting ready) when you wake up?
  29. What is one thing you wish a close friend knew?
  30. What would change if you overcome your greatest fear?
  31. What is a system in your life or work that needs created or reworked?
  32. Who is your hero and how could you become more like them?

The Art of BEING a Great Coach

Four Foundational Characteristics of BEING a Great Coach

Artistic, artist, art.

Artistic, artist, art.

There is a difference between being a coach and doing coaching, just as there is a difference between being a pastor and doing the job of pastoring. I just finished up teaching an online class called Building a Dynamic Coaching Relationship with excellent, deep thinking students. During our last class, we discussed “What do you need to BE a great coach?” Much of coach training centers around how to DO coaching. This is a great conversation.

Here are four foundational characteristics of BEING a great coach.

A Great Coach Is Curious

A great coach is curious about people, how they think, how they react, how they manage their feelings, and how they take action.

I got this trait from my mother. My favorite story about my mom happened when I was around 9 or 10 years old. We stopped at the grocery store. I stayed in the car because she said she would be real quick. I kept watch for her because I didn’t expect her to be long. People would walk in the store. People would walk out. People would walk in. People would walk out. Lots of people.

After 45 minutes, she came out. She had a small bag of groceries. I was a little irritated. What had taken so long? She said there was a line at the register. I burst out, “There was no line at the register. People went in. People came out. I had been paying attention!”

“OK, she admitted. I was talking to someone.” Who? I wondered. Who did she talk to for almost an hour? “I don’t know his name,” she admitted. “But he was really interesting!”

People are rarely held back by lack of a solution. People usually know what they need to do. They just can’t imagine themselves doing it. Something is holding them back. A curious coach wants to know what it is. A curious coach wonders if the client has been in this situation before. A curious coach wonders what the client’s hero would have done in this exact same situation. Heroes don’t hold back.

People are rarely propelled forward by draconian accountability. I would run faster for about 15 seconds when my high school basketball coach would yell at me. Accountability is best when the reward outshines the action. Don’t assume everybody wants rewarded the same. Studies have shown that money doesn’t create the most effort. A curious coach wonders what has driven the client in the past and what will propel them into the future.