As coaches, we can choose to focus on becoming or on doing: on preparing people’s character for eternity or on making sure things are done right today. In practical terms, we can build people or we can solve problems. Coaching transformation seeks to build people. This approach is a far more powerful method of producing leaders, and yields long-term results (in this life alone) that are orders of magnitude greater than merely solving problems. Here’s an example of coaching transformation.
Not long ago I coached a woman who was trying to decide whether to buy a new home as an investment. The more we talked, the more it seemed that she’d done a fair amount of planning—she knew what she could afford and what kind of property she wanted. She had talked to a number of friends and advisors and had gotten their opinions. When I asked how she was going to make the decision, she replied that she planned to ask a brother she respected who was a realtor, and whatever he advised she’d go with.
That last statement made me curious! She’d mentioned several times that she had sought council, but she never shared her own opinion about what to do. So I inquired, “What would it take for you to feel confident enough to make this decision without asking anyone else’s opinion?”
After pondering a while, she answered, “I’d need to know that God had spoken to me.”
“So how would that look?” I challenged. “How do you know when God has spoken to you?”
That question opened up a deeper discussion hearing God’s voice. She admitted she didn’t have very much confidence in her ability to hear God, but she was hungry to learn.
So let’s look at this situation in terms of doing or becoming. Which would be the most life-changing outcome: for this woman to make the right decision about an investment property, or for her to learn to confidently hear God’s voice? If she makes the right decision, I’ve helped her today. But if she develops confidence in her ability to hear God, I’ve impacted every decision she will make for the rest of her life.
If you want to help your clients in the short-term, focus on solving problems. If you want to see them radically transformed for life, make sure you build people. Coaching transformation in people produces far-reaching change because it prioritizes who you are becoming over what you are doing. The question isn’t , “Are you succeeding?” or “Did you do the right thing?” but “What are you learning?” and “How is this changing you?” In most situations, as you build people, who they become is a much more significant outcome than what they do.
Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach and master coach trainer, and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on the role of questions in the coaching relationship can be found in Tony’s book, Leadership Coaching.