The 9 Essential Competencies of a Christian Coach
Abiding in Christ
Effective coaching begins and ends with a strong spiritual foundation. So much of coaching relies on the ability of a coach to abide in Christ. That single quality can either make or break a coach, and it becomes an Achilles’ heel for many. Too often a spiritual foundation is assumed and treated as a given. We often rush ahead to learning coaching skills only to have all our efforts come to nothing. We may excel in all the technical skills of coaching, but if we are unable to listen to God’s voice and submit to his leading, we will not ultimately be effective. Abiding in Christ means seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit at each stage of the coaching process and recognizing our dependence on him as we focus on discerning the needs of those we are coaching.
Jesus said, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Coaches need to be people who are willing to engage in personal reflection— understanding their strengths, their weaknesses, the ways they can keep growing. Self-assessment means knowing oneself well and continually pursuing self-development and increased competency. Effective coaching comes out of that kind of experience, hard work, and continual, honest self-assessing. The best coaches actively seek out feedback from others and open their eyes to their own blind spots.
We’ve all heard about the value and importance of good communication skills. That’s especially important for coaching, since coaching is based on dialogue. Communicating means facilitating the process of discovering God’s agenda by effective listening, questioning, and giving feedback. Listening skills help people process their own thoughts and ideas more fully. Asking good questions opens up whole new categories for thinking. Giving feedback is helpful only after all of the person’s own options have been explored. These three skills form the core of communicating. The good news is that these skills can be learned— we can all develop them to the point of proficiency. The best coaches learn to summarize without interpreting, ask open-ended questions, and avoid the temptation to be solution-oriented.
Establishing takes place at the beginning of a coaching relationship and involves building rapport, setting direction, and clarifying expectations. Typically, that includes clarification of the role of the coach, responsibilities of the person being coached, logistics, the frequency and length of meetings, payment, and tentative plans regarding how and when the relationship will be concluded. Three other critical skills in establishing are building trust and rapport, accurately identifying what the client is trying to accomplish, and coming to a mutual agreement on how the coach and client will be working together.
Supporting means maintaining the health and development of the coaching relationship as it progresses. Coaches can do that by providing encouragement, challenges, accountability, provision for needs, and focus in a clear direction. Coaches who support well work to find a balance between the relational and strategic sides of coaching. They are careful not to get so focused on the task that they lose sight of the leader’s personal development— they see the whole person and help develop their lives as well as their ministries. As a relational competency, the focus of supporting is on helping people personally rather than with planning issues. Supporting means encouraging people as they take on new challenges. Coaches need to recognize that when people are trying to take action, it’s difficult. They need someone to affirm their efforts and encourage them along the way.
Concluding means bringing closure to the coaching relationship or recontracting for another round. As the last of the relational essential competencies, concluding flows directly out of establishing and supporting. In fact, a close link exists between establishing and concluding: those coaches who don’t establish well most often don’t conclude well either. The correlation between the two skills is found in the coaching agreement. If coaches don’t define clearly where the coaching relationship is going at the outset, they lack the tools to close well later. Solid establishing anticipates how and when the relationship is going to be concluded so both the coach and the person being coached have some idea of what the final steps will be. To conclude well, the single most important thing for coaches to remember is to make a point of it. This may sound simple, but intentionality in bringing closure makes a big difference. Excellent coaches anticipate closure and make it significant and celebratory for the person they’re coaching.
Remember that coaching is a relationship with a purpose. A problem or goal is now on the table, needs a good analysis, then requires action steps and monitoring. Diagnosing begins that process by assessing problems or situations through effectively pinpointing needs, gathering data, analyzing data, and evaluating possible action plans. The key to effective diagnosing is having a clear picture of the situation or problem before moving into any kind of planning. Until people have a firm handle on all the contributing factors, it’s dangerous to move forward with plans. Without putting the necessary time and energy into diagnosis, the planning process will get sidetracked and derailed. One of the most helpful things coaches can do in diagnosing is ask good questions to help clients probe deeper into the root issues.
A vision without a plan is only a dream. Planning means coming up with the next steps that can bridge the vision into reality. When someone has a goal they often have a lot of different ideas about how to get there, but without another person to help them unpack and categorize those ideas, it can all remain blurry and confused. Most people need assistance to get a clear, pragmatic plan put together. A good plan has enough clarity to stand alone— when it’s presented, others can understand it with little additional explanation. A good plan should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and have a Timeframe. If a plan breaks down on any one of those points, it will break down altogether. Coaches should guide people in making sure a plan meets these standards, but they must be sure the person being coached is the one who is developing the plan. People will not have ownership over something that has been externally imposed, not matter how good it may be. A coach’s role is simply to ask good questions to make sure all the bases have been covered.
The strategic competency of monitoring comes into play after the diagnosis and planning have been done and people begin implementing their plans. A lot of coaching breaks down at this point because of the assumption that the process is done once a workable plan has been put into place. No matter how sound a plan may be, it can easily break down without the accountability and celebration that monitoring brings. Monitoring creates a space for evaluating, celebrating progress, and making adjustments along the way. Many coaches consider monitoring to be passive: if the person being coached needs anything, they’ll let me know. Passive monitoring has been responsible for many good plans sitting on the shelf and never being implemented.
9 Essential Competencies and 55 Behavioral Expressions
Reading through the above essential competencies likely has you doing some self-assessment. That’s a good start! The 360° Christian Coach Assessment breaks the 9 essential competencies down further into 55 behavioral expressions enabling you to pinpoint your exact strengths and areas for development. Additionally, the 360° online assessment confirms your self-assessment by giving you the added benefit of perspective from your supervisor or mentor, peers, and even a client or two! Learn more about the 360° Christian Coach Assessment HERE.
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The best way to raise your coaching effectiveness is a combination of assessment, one-on-one coach mentoring, and input from your peers. The Coaching Excellence Track offers you this winning combination to develop a personal development plan with the best next steps to becoming a better coach. The Spring Session starts soon! Learn more HERE. Photo by Mikhail Nilov from Pexels Cover Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels