It happens so casually. One moment I’m talking to my husband, Brian and the next moment I hear, “Honey, if you could imagine the best possible outcome to this situation, what would it be?”
Wait a minute, where did my husband go? He was sitting here just a second ago, and now my coach is here in his place!?
Now before you think I’m throwing blame on Brian’s split personality, let me point out that this happens just as easily and unexpectedly when I’m talking with our kids. My daughter recently called to express her frustration with mounting assignments, group projects, and tests in her Master’s program. Before I could help myself, I asked, “What steps can you take to make sure this doesn’t happen next semester?” Goodbye, Mom – hello, Coach!
When we embrace the coaching mindset, this is bound to happen. It seeps into every relationship we have. It shapes our conversations without us giving it a second thought, so we do have to be a bit careful. But how can we intentionally apply coaching to the family setting? Let me share with you some of the strategies we use to make coaching work for our family.
Anyone in the Family Can Be a Coach
Our kids were 11, 13 and 17 years old when we started teaching coaching basics. We tied the teaching to our family devotion time where we focused on the questions “What is God saying to you?” and “What are you going to do about it?” In order to help each other answer these tough questions, we needed a skill set. But we also needed to keep it simple. Here are our basics:
Questioning – Ask good questions that require more than one word to answer. Stop asking yes/no questions.
Listening – Learn to allow others to process out loud without interruption. Value what others are saying.
Goal setting – Help each other come up with one reasonable, achievable goal. Don’t allow “I don’t know” to be the final answer. We should all be working towards a goal.
Accountability – Set up others to succeed. Help them find ways to be accountable to their goal.
Like I said, we kept it basic. But with repetition and practice, we found that every member of the family began to adopt a coaching mindset. We saw signs of thoughtful questions trickling into casual conversation outside of our devotion time. And more importantly, we all began to see the value of being coached by the other members of the family.
Recognize When to Coach and When Not to Coach
Here’s a truth we’ve discovered in our family: Just because you CAN coach, doesn’t mean you SHOULD coach. The person being coached has to WANT to be coached. You can coach all you want, but if your client isn’t ready and willing, the conversation will not produce all the fantastic fruit that it has the potential for!
I’ll be honest, I don’t always want to be coached. Sometimes I really just want my husband’s ear. I’m allowed to say to him, “I don’t want to be coached on this; I just want to know your opinion (or just let me vent!).” And, as simple as that, my husband returns, and we move forward.
There are cues for starting a coaching conversation, too. My daughter seeks out coaching in her own way. I listen carefully for how she approaches a conversation with me. She has never said, “Mom, I want you to coach me on this.” Instead, she’ll start with, “I want you to help me think this through.” This is my cue. She doesn’t want me to lay out some grand plan to solve her problem and she isn’t asking for my opinion; instead, she wants me to ask the tough questions, to help her hear what she is really thinking, and to draw out of her the next steps she wants to take. We approach the conversation with a readiness to think and to process. We search together for a clear set of next steps and outcomes. We invest a solid amount of time on this one topic.
The bottom line: the person being coached holds the reins and the coach respects it.
Have Faith in One Another
Coaching my own kid can be tricky. As their parent I really, I mean really, want to tell them what I think the right decision or path is for them. I have had to learn to keep my opinion out of our coaching conversations. I work hard to model for my kids what it means to trust someone to make a decision. Don’t hear me incorrectly here. As Mom, I have opinions and share them freely, but as Coach, I need to set those aside and help my child draw their own conclusions as they figure out the path before them.
The benefits are astounding. My kids (now 16, 18 and 22 years old) are making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives, and they know they can do it! They also know that Brian and I are there to help them navigate the sometimes tricky terrain they encounter. We’ve built trust over these last years as we’ve coached each other. Our kids have faith in us as their coaches; they seek out the coaching conversations that help move them in a positive direction.
We also trust one another to ask tough questions that have no ulterior motive. When they are coaching me, they have my best interest in mind. I’ve seen the kids work hard to help me think about my next steps. There is a desire to help each member of the family rise up to be the best person they can be, and we all benefit from it.
All in the Family
I am so thankful we coach in our family. By training the whole family in the basics of coaching, we have produced a culture that includes support, encouragement and belief in each other. We’ve certainly made mistakes along the way, and sometimes we just aren’t ready to be coached. But as our family moved through several stressful transitions in the last few years, I saw firsthand how coaching played an important role in getting us through together.
Since a coach’s role is defined by their belief in the great potential of their client and by their passion to help draw it out, what better place to use these skills than with your family? Who in your family could use some support and encouragement? It’s time to introduce them to coaching.