Coaching Values, Agendas and Influence

coaching valuesIs it possible to be in a position of influence and yet operate neutrally, not allowing our coaching values, to influence others?More specifically, as Christian coaches, the question would go something like this: “If we coach people toward heaven, isn’t that our agenda? Aren’t we just putting our own values on the client?”

That’s an excellent question, and it deserves a solid answer. The place to start is to think about what we already would and wouldn’t coach. For instance, would you coach someone to pursue career failure? To break the law? Toward becoming poorer, or sicker or more frightened?

Probably not. If prospective client said, “I want to find a co-dependent romantic relationship where I get used—I’m just not comfortable in mutual relationships,” I don’t think we’d accept that as a goal! We would use our coaching values to influence, first exploring why being used is attractive to this person, and move the conversation toward emotional health instead. I for one could not say, “Yes! Co-dependence is an excellent goal—let’s go for it!”

Clients rarely come with such blatantly unhealthy goals, so we don’t often bump into situations we won’t coach. But the fact that we wouldn’t see some things as appropriate coaching goals meanswe already have a value system we coach toward–and influence our clients toward. It’s one that says that accomplishment, health, freedom and fulfillment are good; and self-destructive behaviors, neediness, failure and wasted potential are undesirable.

life-coaching-handbookThis coaching values system that we effortlessly coach in–and influence others in–without even realizing it is the American cultural ethos. We coach people toward life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with no values clash because we share those cultural values. But if the client moves outside that value system, we question the agenda and feel perfectly justified in doing so. We are so at home in our culture that we don’t even notice how it pervades the coaching process.

Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on this topic can be found in Tony’s book, The Christian Life Coaching Handbook.