Know Yourself, Know Your Client
You come to coaching with certain biases and values that will attract certain leaders and drive others away. Your level of effectiveness in coaching others will be determined by your “willingness” and “ability” to adapt to certain behavioral styles. For this reason, it’s essential to have some understanding of your client, and even more important to know yourself!
Working with any one individual will reveal similarities and differences in background, approach, vision, values, and outlook. Your experience is different from anyone else’s. Your training and exposure to different approaches to coaching are unique. But when do you know when to draw the line and suggest that prospectve clients seek a different coach?
Finding Your Ideal Coaching Client
This leads to a number of hot button topics to consider when you are looking to build your coaching practice. The more aware you are of these, the better able you will be to ”vet” prospective clients. Through trial and error you will discover your ideal client – the type of people you are best suited to coach. For example, a coach with experience in leading large churches is likely better suited to work with pastors in similar situations, whereas a coach who spent more time in smaller congregations would better understand their needs.
10 Things to Consider as You Identify Your Ideal Client
Here are some of the top hot button topics to consider when vetting a prospective client:
1. Philosophy of Ministry
A leader of 100 people, and a leader if 2,000 people are going to have very different needs and goals. Or a church plant vs. a revitalization project. It’s important to know if you have preferences, experiences, or specialized knowledge with various church sizes, models of ministry, or principles that are at work in all churches.
2. Personalities at Play
All leaders bring strengths and weaknesses that will either compliment your personality resulting in synergy, or in a way that repels, and over time, irritates. Know your strengths and weaknesses so that you can assess whether or not this is a good fit. Imagine a vertical and horizontal line coming together to form a 90-degree angle: the vertical representing “Willingness” and the horizontal “Ability” – the combination of these two traits will determine your effectiveness to work with your most challenging prospective clients.
3. Ministry Goals
Every leader will have goals for their ministry. They may be stated goals such as: focus on growing numbers, church health, discipleship, community service, worship, etc. Or unstated goals like improving the image and relationships of the church within the community they serve. Know what your client’s priorities are and be aware of your own so that you can determine if this is a good match.
4. Theological alignment
Denominational affiliation is an obvious place to begin. For example, it might be difficult to coach a pentecostal pastor if you have a liturgical orientation, with little or no knowledge of pentecostal practices. This may or may not be an issue for you but one to pay attention to especially if you are just launching out in your coaching ministry so that you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. At the other end of the continuum is an independent, autonomous congregation. This poses another set of issues that you will need to navigate and vet to determine if this is a good match.
5. Management structure
Some leaders manage their staff in a more relational one-on-one style, whereas other leaders may have to streamline their management style, outsource problems to other staff and focus on the bigger picture. Every leader will have different ways of handling their staff and the church’s needs, so again, how flexible are you with your management style? If you are comfortable with the more relational approach vs. the more directive style then seek out that type of leader.
6. Culture and Community
What is the culture of the church? Of the surrounding area? Is there tension within the staff and/or congregation? Is there tension between the church and the surrounding community? Are they close-knit and established, or just getting to know each other? These questions will inform your comfort level of working with certain cultural dynamics inside and outside the church.
7. Political and sociological alignment
Some of the most contentious topics in ministry are political and sociological in nature. Women in Ministry, LGBTQ rights, racial injustices, republican vs. democrat – to name a few. Knowing where you land on these issues will help you better vet who you are comfortable coaching. Remain curious, what might initially seem as a “non-starter” could actually be a learning opportunity for you to grow and expand your appreciation, knowledge-base, and experience.
8. Organization Life Cycle
Orient yourself to the “S-Curve” from the study of organizational life. Imagine a vertical and horizontal line coming together to form a 90-degree angle: the vertical representing “Growth” and the horizontal “Time”. The “S-Curve” consists of three phases: Infancy, Expansion, Maturity. As a church approaches the last stage they can pre-empt the inevitable plateau and decline if they are mindful and able to reinvent themselves. This is a real challenge as 80% of the churches in America are plateaued or in decline. You must be aware of the church’s phase of development and if you are the best to work with them. Or is there someone else that is better suited.
9. Congregational vibe
A vibe is a feeling that you get, or a feeling that is shared in a room. Do you resonate with a vibe that is more urban or suburban, rural or metropolitan, multicultural or homogeneous? Like it or not you have certain biases and prejudices that influence your behavior. Be honest with yourself and know who you gravitate towards and what context make you uncomfortable. If you are from an urban background it might be challenging to connect with a rural congregation, and the opposite is true.
10. Fee Structure
Do your market research, test your rate, assess if this is the fee your services can charge. If your fees are too high, you will not sustain your practice and if too low, you run the risk of working harder than you need burn-out in a short amount of time. Find the sweet spot and stick with that unless something dramatically changes, like a windfall of work that you can’t service. This will allow you to increase your fee incrementally over time until you find the threshold of what you can charge.
Questions to focus your connecting & networking efforts:
- What are the values that drive my coaching?
- What type of person is fun for me to work with?
- What areas of specialization are my superpowers?
- What type of people drain me?
- What is the “win” for me in coaching my ideal client?
To learn more about leveling up your coaching practice and consider one of our cohorts this fall:
You want to maximize your impact. The most effective coaches are those who have experienced excellent coaching and coach-mentoring. The Christian Coaching Essentials Cohort is designed to equip you with all you need to know to start coaching. Bob and Gary walk you and your peers through foundational principles and get you practicing right away. Learn more HERE.
You’ve got the basics down and have been coaching for a while. You are seeing some traction in your coaching ministry but feel like if your skills were more honed, you could be more effective. It’s time to intentionally move towards coaching excellence. The Coaching Excellence Track combines assessment with one-on-one mentoring and group webinars. Learn more HERE.