Georgia Shaffer, M.A.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Philippians 2:3-4 NIV 2011
“Georgia,” my client, Amy–who is a life coach, had written, “I’m hoping during our session tomorrow that you can help me with two difficult clients. I’m not sure how to handle them.”
I was reviewing the pre-session form I ask my clients to complete and return before each appointment. It helps me get an idea of what has happened in their lives since our last appointment. I include questions such as “What has been on my mind the most since my last session?” “What has been my biggest joy or victory, and how does it link to my stated goals?” and “What would I like to focus on during this session?”
My immediate reaction upon reading Amy’s request for help with two difficult clients was to pray, “Lord, help me be brilliant. Help me not to look stupid but to find a solution.” I cringed. “Okay, Lord, give me wisdom.”
A few days earlier I had listened to an interview with Christian counselor and author Larry Crabb. At one point he said to the interviewer, “I am always trying to pay attention to where my heart is. Am I trying to bless my client or impress him or her?”
As a coach, I’m all too aware that unless I pay attention, my natural tendency is to want to impress my clients or to solve their problems for them. Neither of which is my role as a coach. For me, it’s important to pray before my coaching sessions and also during our time together, asking God to guide me by his Holy Spirit.
Before Amy’s particular session when she asked for help with her two difficult clients, I strongly felt God leading me to listen and then pray with her. So after she described each client, I suggested we pray. I knew that was not what she wanted, but I was obedient to what I believed God was prompting me to do.
“You know what?” Amy said when I finished. “As you were praying, I just realized a key comment my one client made in our initial session. I had totally forgotten about it, but now everything is falling into place. I have a much better understanding about what is going on with her.”
Sure enough, a few days later, Amy emailed me to say that her client had experienced a major breakthrough. As a coach, Amy was thrilled to be part of God’s powerful miracle in this person’s life. And I was in awe of God’s ability to use Amy and me in the lives of those we coach.
At our next session, Amy and I discussed this particular client. I admitted to her that my initial response was to come up with some brilliant solution.
“It’s interesting you should say that,” she said, “because I wanted you to fix it for me. I wanted you to say, ‘Well, this is what I would do’; but you didn’t. Instead, you said, ‘Let’s pray and ask God for discernment,’ which I had not wanted to do. I wanted you to tell me what to do!”
We both laughed.
“However,” Amy continued, “it was what was best for me. Your suggestion that we stop and pray really stood out to me as a much more caring thing to do. While we were praying, I remembered something pivotal that really helped that particular situation and reaffirmed the value of taking everything to God in prayer.”
This experience is a good example of the Apostle Paul’s wisdom in Philippians 2:3-4, which is very applicable in our coaching practices. To paraphrase Paul, do nothing out of the desire to impress, but keep your heart centered on the goal of honoring the Lord.
Coaching the Coach Tip:
You, too, might have times when you struggle to “please” a client. When someone is paying for your services, you don’t want to disappoint him or her. Even if you have only one dissatisfied client, you understand how quickly negative comments about your coaching practice can spread by word of mouth and over the internet.
There is no doubt that during that appointment with Amy, I felt like I had copped out. I was aware that her perception was something like, “I’m paying you to listen and then you only say, ‘Let’s pray’!” For me, it was humbling to do what I did. It required that I take a real risk. But having the courage to obey God opened the door for him to clearly show Amy what she needed to see.
As a Christian coach, make sure you are spending time communicating with God on a regular basis. Like Eli taught Samuel (1 Samuel 3:9 NIV), we want always to be saying, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”
My quiet time in the early morning helps me to cultivate the habit of listening and checking my heart. Taking a minute or two before each session to pray enables me to recheck my motives and ask God to show me if my real desire is to honor myself or honor him.
Be aware. Recognize your tendency at times may be to appear insightful and skilled as a coach. There are going to be situations when you and your client will struggle with a problem or a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. I’m not saying, as a coach, you never make a suggestion to your client. But, if your heart’s desire is to help your clients, then be willing routinely to ask yourself something similar to what Larry Crabb often asks himself. Would you say you are trying to impress or bless your clients?
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.