If you have coached for any amount of time, you have had experience in coaching internal obstacles. A client hits internal obstacles when their inner beliefs, principles or healing issues get in the way of a dream. Unlike external obstacles, which are right out in the open, internal obstacles are hard to see in the coaching relationship. They show up first as subtle clues in the client’s behavior or responses. Usually a client can’t name their internal obstacles until they bump up against the blockages they produce. So the process starts with a block. Here are some common examples:
Inability to dream or unusual limitations on dreaming
“When you start to think about your dreams or having a better future here, what holds you back from imagining what could be?”
The person is stuck
“It seems like you’re stuck here. What do you think is holding you back?”
Irrational fears or beliefs that don’t fit known facts
“You mentioned earlier that you have lots of experience working with this age group, but it sounds like you are disqualifying yourself from speaking to them. Talk to me about that.”
Inability to face something
“We’ve started talking about challenging this person several times, and I notice that each time you quickly changed the subject. What do you think is leading to that response?”
Repeated playback of negative labels
“Several times now I’ve heard you use the phrase, ‘I’m not a leader.’ That doesn’t seem at all consistent with what I see in you. Where does that idea come from?”
A client will often notice internal obstacles because they cause them to do things that don’t make sense. For instance, “Why can’t she generate any dreams that aren’t ministry-related?” or “Why does he act like he’s unqualified when he so obviously is?” But remember when coaching internal obstacles with a client: people have a good reason for what they do. Emotions have a logic all their own. When a belief is damaging or self-sabotaging, it isn’t that the person said, “I think I’ll take on a self-defeating belief today!” Somehow that belief is useful or makes sense in that person’s world. It’s when, in a coaching relationship, you identify the reason for the belief that you’ll have the most success in changing it.
A pioneer in Christian leadership coaching, Tony Stoltzfus has trained thousands of coaches, founded several leadership- and coaching schools and created a wide range of leadership resources used around the world.