If you have relaxed your habit of listening to the Spirit of God as you intercede for and interact with your coaching clients, you are likely noticing sluggish progress toward goals and objectives. Being in tune with the Spirit aligns your heart with God’s and accelerates the mission exponentially. Leaning into and practicing discernment is a powerful coaching tool.
For Christian coaching purposes, we define discernment as “Listening, processing, and responding to the Holy Spirit as you make coaching decisions.”
Many leaders excel in the technical skills of coaching, but not all coaches excel in discernment. If we are unable to listen to God’s voice and submit to his leading, we will ultimately not be effective coaches. We need God’s guidance to discern when and how to address an issue, or sometimes whether to address it at all. As coaches, abiding in Christ means seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit at each stage of the coaching process, recognizing our dependence on him as we discern the needs of those we are coaching.
Many coaching decisions, both large and small, are made in-the-moment as issues and opportunities arise during a coaching session. The best coaches have their ears attuned to the Holy Spirit, following his lead as they coach.
Spirit led coaching
Listening to the direction of the Holy Spirit involves giving up trying to steer things according to our own ideas or agendas. Opening with a question such as, “Where do you want to start today?” can help coaches place the agenda of the session in the hands of the person being coached.
Continuing the session with questions such as, “What do you sense God is doing in this situation?” keeps the agenda there. When you approach coaching this way, you are less likely to miss what God is doing in a person’s life because you don’t assume you already know.
Discernment increases what’s possible
Have you ever had that sense that the Spirit is nudging you to say something but you realize it involves risk, discomfort, or may come off as presumptuous, so you’re hesitant to say it? This often happens when we least expect it. But if it truly is a message the Lord wants you to communicate, it will have the desired impact.
Recently, I was observing someone coaching a client—a church leader and businessman—in order to provide the coach with feedback. What I observed between the coach and client was a sweet synergy, partly because the two had a long history, but also because the coach was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and was able to encourage and support the client as he clarified his core values and mission for life.
The coach did something very important after the client shared his thinking behind each value: he simply affirmed the work of God in his life. The timing and manner in which the coach gave his affirmations was life-giving to the leader. As an observer of the situation, it was evident to me that these affirmations were more than just encouraging words; his words were empowered by the Holy Spirit.
3 strategies to grow in discernment
- Practice listening for the tugging of the Holy Spirit as you are coaching. When you get a hunch, sometimes you’ll want to ask the client about it.
- Don’t phrase it as, “God told me to tell you this,” but more like, “This might sound off the wall, but….Anything going on there?” Another helpful question is, “I’m wondering….How does that resonate with you?” This type of question gives the client the opportunity to respond freely and honestly. After all, you might be wrong.
- Challenge: Try following through on what you are hearing from the Holy Spirit. Speak what you discern and see what happens.
- Consider finding a person with expertise in spiritual direction and ask them to guide you through the Ignatian Exercises to help you become more attuned to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Explore spiritual rhythms and the daily offices
- Visit with a friend from the liturgical world. Ask them to share their journey that led them to engage in these practices, the challenges they face, and the fruit they experience.
- Read Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.
- Visit a monastery for a personal retreat. If possible, join the community for prayer throughout the day and night to experience the rhythms of life in a cloistered environment.
Growing in the area of discernment is both a process and a practice; the more you practice listening for the Spirit’s voice and responding to it, even if you’re off at times, the more attuned to His voice you will become. And the more attuned to the Spirit you are, the better off your clients will be.
Christian Coaching Excellence
Discernment is one of 55 behavioral expressions critical to Christian coaching. If you are determined to offer the very best as a coach, we highly recommend Christian Coaching Excellence. In it, you will find detailed explanations of the 9 Christian coaching competencies and each behavioral expression as well as rating norms to help you determine how well you perform in them, proven ways to grow in each, coaching tips, and more.
360° Christian Coach Assessment
If you want an accurate picture of your competence as a coach, there is no substitute for the 360° Christian Coach Assessment. This online tool is the only assessment for Christian coaches that is backed by thorough qualitative research. It clearly and accurately identifies your coaching strengths and areas for improvement. Learn more HERE.