Transformational coaching is taking the long view in working with people. Companies that are managed to generate short-term profits ignore research, product development and employee training because they don’t contribute to the immediate bottom line. The downside of this approach is that it mortgages the company’s long-term growth.
Coaching offers similar choices. We can coach for short-term outcomes like getting today’s problem fixed or making the right decision. However, the more we focus on the short-term, the more likely we are to tell and give advice. If our belief system says that the point of the Christian life is to do things right, we have a very hard time letting go and letting others make choices, because they might fail. We become risk-adverse in terms of personal growth, and try to take responsibility for others in order to make sure things turn out right. This approach is like a business that prioritizes the short-term bottom line at the expense of the company’s future. Telling is not only an unfortunate habit: it springs out of a works-righteousness worldview that says that Christianity is about doing things right.
The other option is to take the long view. In transformational coaching, the long view means the important thing is growing the company—learning, taking risks, investing in the future. Short-term profits can often (though not always) be sacrificed for future potential. In other words, if our ultimate objective is leadership and character development, we can allow our clients to make choices and risk failure, because risk and responsibility are what produce long-term growth.
Believing that our most important task as coaches using transformational coaching is helping people grow to maturity–the long view–allows us to let go of responsibility for their lives. It becomes OK for people to fail, because failure is a catalyst for growth. We can take the risk of letting clients try things we aren’t sure will work, because it is more important for them to grow in their ability to take initiative than it is for them to make no mistakes. When we believe that who people are becoming is more important than what they are doing, we stop telling and start coaching naturally.
The catch phrase we use to express this value is, ministry flows out of being. What it means is, our contribution to the Kingdom comes from our being, not our doing. Who you are is what you have to give. If you want to change what a person does, change who they are.
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.