Coaching Relationships and Relational Depth

coaching relationshipsWe all have relationships. We all have friends. So when leaders are first introduced to coaching relationships, they look at the relational element and think, “Hey, I already know how to do that—no big deal!” Unfortunately, the statistics belie that view.

Sixty percent of U.S. pastors don’t feel they have anyone in their life that they can talk to honestly about their job. Another study found that seventy percent do not have a close friend, confidant or mentor. Three quarters of all pastors spend less than one evening a month engaging in purely social interaction with other couples (i.e. not “ministering” to them). Ninety percent said the hardest thing about ministry is dealing with uncooperative people. We’re not as good at relationships as we think we are.

Developing Coaching Relationships

Coaching relationships are extraordinary, influential, life-changing partnerships. Think of an influential person in your life: someone who really believed in you in an extraordinary way and made a big difference in your development. Maybe it was a teacher who took a special interest in you, a business leader who sponsored you, or a ministry leader who reached out and mentored you.

I’m thinking of an art teacher I had in second grade. She used to take several of us kids out on painting expeditions on Saturday mornings. I can still remember one of the paintings I did looking off the balcony of her 12th floor apartment. One of the reasons I’m good at art (I spent 15 years in the design profession) is that she believed in me. Do you have someone in mind that did that for you? That’s a good image of the impact of a coaching relationship.

A coaching relationship is an extra-ordinary relationship. It’s an investment in leadership coachinganother person that allows them to honestly say, “It made so much difference having someone who believed in me.” It’s more than being able to relate: it’s relating in a way that empowers and energizes and challenges everyone you meet. Learning to consistently develop these great relationships is the first step toward becoming a coach.

Tony Stoltzfus is an author, leadership coach and master coach trainer. Additional information on the role of questions in the coaching relationship can be found in Tony’s book, Leadership Coaching. You can check out Tony’s encounter coaching school at