All my clients have one thing in common: they are human. They aren’t necessarily in need of new ideas, better time management, or even a well-designed plan, as much as they need presence, partnership, and purpose.
Before I go into how to coach around these three areas, let me provide a brief overview of why I think these elements draw out humanity. For this, we need to look no further than the creation of humans.
God Creates Humans
In Genesis 1:27-31, God creates men and women, and this creation is very good. There is high value (higher than the rest of creation) in human beings. They are created to be eternal, while all other aspects of creation will wear away. Humans are regularly in God’s presence, and in the presence of each other. Open and vulnerable, they don’t question the worth of themselves or each other.
In Genesis 2:18-25, God looks at Adam, who is alone in the Garden, and declares this is not good. Adam needs a partner, and not just any partner – one suitable for him. A quick look through the animal kingdom reveals that Adam needs someone as valuable as himself, yet quite different from himself. So, God puts Adam to sleep and resolves the problem by making a perfect partner for him.
In Gen 2:15, God assigns Adam and Eve to care for the garden. What exactly was their task? Was it to scatter seed or bring in the harvest? We don’t exactly know, but we do know that it wasn’t just busy work. It was a seasonal work that created cyclical sustenance for the couple as well as sustainability for all of God’s creation. It was important work.
Coaches Coach Humans
When I ask my client what they want to work on today, I often hear the issue has all three layers – presence, partnership, and purpose. Presence is the core, wrapped in partnership, and expressed in purpose. My favorite early questions lend themselves to exploring the layers. What makes this important to you today? How do others see this issue? How do you want this to look different down the road?
Let’s take a common topic – time management.
The client feels overwhelmed by the amount of work and think if I only had better time management, I could get more done. Like an onion, we must peel back the layers starting with the outmost one. The client does not feel like they are getting the appropriate result from their effort. Their purpose is lacking.
The client does not feel like those around her are helping the situation. Either there is a feeling that others should have no responsibility for the task, or the others are not helping in a way that feels like help. Their partnership is lacking.
The client begins to wonder if they are the right person for this task. Or perhaps they wonder if they are surrounded by the right people. This is an issue of presence. The client doesn’t feel like their presence in the situation is strong enough or supported enough. Their presence is lacking.
Coaching a Client’s Presence – Presence is directly related to value. If my presence is recognized as a contribution, then that feeling of presence confirms my value. When others don’t notice my presence or my presence seems to be an obstacle to others, then my value is found lacking.
Communicating value to others is at the core of what it means to be Christian. In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus declares the greatest commandment in two parts – love God with all of who you are and love others in the same way. Love communicates value. There are three ways a coach can help a client know their value. First, we can help them experience the presence of God. Second, we can let them experience our own loving presence. And third, the most difficult, we can help them to see their value amongst their peers.
A person who knows their value will have more energy to contribute to their work and will be more likely to speak into the team’s overall purpose. Our client is at their best when they are aware of their own personal value. Sometimes a shift is required to get the client into their best position to feel their own value. Sometimes this feeling of value is delayed. But as the coach, we have to keep a gauge of our client’s self-worth.
Coaching a Client’s Partnerships – Let me take a moment to clarify my use of the word partnership. I believe every human relationship should be a partnership. This means that in any given moment of human interaction, people are working together to achieve a task. The length of the partnership can be anywhere from a few moments of interaction at a cash register, to a business partnership among colleagues, to a marriage partnership for life.
Our clients often don’t see their assigned tasks as part of any partnership. Instead, they associate their ability to complete the task by themselves with their personal worth. God has developed me from someone who would rather work alone into someone who considers the partnerships required for the task as important as the task itself.
Many client issues revolve around the client not seeking any help on their tasks or around the client seeing those around them as obstacles to their task. Partnerships require presence and communication. The client may need coaching on reaching out to others and on how and when to communicate with others. I find that these are both directly related to how much self-worth the client is feeling. To contribute to the team with encouragement and concerns requires one to feel like a valued part of the team itself. This development is the work of a coach.
Coaching a Client’s Purpose – Without purpose, many people don’t feel personal value nor are willing to make the effort to partner. I remember when my father’s physical abilities began to falter. At first, he partnered with another man who gave strength to the renovating projects my dad was hired to do. Continuing with purpose helped him to feel value and to reach out for partnership.
As his abilities began to fail, he began to wonder what value he brought. It was difficult for him to feel without purpose. He had to change his understanding of his purpose. He became an encourager and a source of knowledge. His purpose moved from achiever to mentor.
Purpose can also revolve around the concept of whether the purpose connects internally or externally. Let me give you another example. As I write this blog post, my immediate goal is to finish it. I’m supposed to write two every month. My internal goal is to just get the post written. If that remains my purpose, the task will always seem difficult and irritating. Instead, I must be sure to seek the external purpose: that you the reader benefit from this work.
A coach needs to help the client connect the work to the fruit.
The issues I’ve described are all human. Often the client may think they just need an idea, better time management, or better people to work with, but the client needs help to be a healthier human. The client leaks energy as they hide concern about their personal worth. They lose momentum as they are unwilling to communicate their needs with others. They lose traction as they find themselves heading toward internal goals to keep busy, rather than racking up wins for the recipients of the organization’s purpose.
As the coach, we don’t want to discard the client’s chosen topic, but we do want to look at the topic through the lens of what it means to be human.