A couple of days ago, I was on a conference call with a group of coaches. As part of our introduction, we were invited to share what we love about being a coach.
One coach replied how she loved watching the light bulb go off in her clients as they gain new insights and learning.
Another coach replied how he loved helping clients get unstuck and achieve their goals.
The next coach shared how she loved empowering clients to embrace their strengths and gain confidence in their skills.
I value all those experiences, but when it came my turn to share, I answered, “What I love about being a coach is what it does to me.”
I then briefly elaborated on my answer, but after that call, I kept thinking more about how being a coach has benefitted me.
A better listener
What I love about being a coach, among many things, is how it has helped me become a better listener…not just with my clients, but in all my relationships.
In the past, when I was in conversation with others, I’ve often listened more to my own inner dialogue than the words or the intent of my conversation partner.
For example, when a church member expressed a disagreement with my sermon, what I heard was not a desire from this member to share her understanding of a scripture passage. What I “heard” was my own internal voice telling me how that person was always so “critical.”
Being a coach has helped me to be still and to lower the volume of my internal chatter, so that I can be more fully present to God and to others. As a coach, I’m constantly reminded by the words of Psalm 46:10, when God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” In doing so, I’ve found that I connect with God with greater trust and intimacy, and that people connect with me with greater trust and intimacy.
In the past, I’ve often listened in order to evaluate or scrutinize arguments. That’s a consequence of my graduate school training. But I’ve discovered that people didn’t appreciate me treating every conversation as a dissertation defense!
Being a coach has helped me not to be so attached to my assumptions and my own agenda. The coaching skills of allowing my clients to vent or “clear” the situation without judgment or attachment have come in very handy in non-coaching situations.
When my wife comes home from a difficult day at work and just needs time to process outwardly and decompress, I’m more able to let her talk without stepping in to problem-solve. That has also kept me out of her doghouse!
In other situations, not jumping to conclusions has helped me to become more curious about people whose beliefs, actions, worldviews, religion, and life experiences are very different than mine.
While there is a place and a time for judgment and critique, I’m surprised that those times and places are often fewer than I think. Being a coach is releasing me of the burden of having to judge and diagnose others, and leaving ultimate judgment to God.
Less advice, more questions
When I was a pastor, I found some church members wanted me to tell them what to think and believe. Some wanted me to give them advice about how to solve their problems. And I was more than happy to oblige. However, I discovered that many who asked for my advice ignored my sage answers! I also discovered that I became more invested in solving their problems than they were themselves!
A big benefit of being a coach is the training that helped to unhook me from thinking that I’m responsible for being the “answer man” and for fixing other people’s problems. I became a better pastor by being less “helpful” in answering or solving my parishioners’ problems and more humble by asking good questions that stimulated their thinking and their problem solving skills.
As a pastor, I believe this coach-approach to be more aligned with the doctrine of “the priesthood of all believers.” Furthermore, being a coach is saving me from my “savior complex.” I’m trying to live more fully in the truth that “There’s only one Savior, and I’m not He!”
Seeing the strengths in others
Lastly, the most important benefit I’ve gained as a coach is a growing capacity to focus on strength instead of weakness in everyone that I meet.
This benefit has become increasingly important in my current work with faith leaders in Charlottesville to address racial injustice and inequity.
Our society often labels a whole race of people as dangerous, lazy, unmotivated, and inferior to other groups of people. That mindset focuses on their supposed weaknesses instead of strengths, and assumes disability instead of ability.
According to Professor Ibram X. Kendi, in order to truly address racial injustice and inequity, one must believe that the races are equal. One must also address the roots of inequity in power and policies instead of blaming people groups who are suffering as inferior and broken.
Being a coach has helped me to see each individual and people group as filled with enough insight, strength, resources, and resiliency to face their challenges and to reach their goals.
In other words, being a coach has helped me see each individual as a person beautifully and wonderfully created in the image of God.
Being a coach reminds me that while we all need a Savior, I am not the savior.
Being a coach reminds me to let God be the ultimate judge, so that I can be fully present and connect with others with greater trust and intimacy.
These are the benefits of being a coach that I cherish . . . even when I’m not coaching a client.
Michael Cheuk, Ph.D., ACC has the privilege of working with inspirational individuals, leaders, entrepreneurs and organizations as a coach and a consultant at michaelkcheuk.com.