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Why is Coaching a Vital Leadership Skill?Although ministry coaching is a relatively young discipline (mainly growing popular over the last 20 years or so) the strong view is that coaching should be highly individual or coachee centered. In other words, coaching should be mainly about creating space for, supporting, and encouraging the person being coached and giving him or her the necessary reflection time to come up with their own answers and then take responsibility for the choices they make.

When we think about coaching at the most basic level, it mostly involves quietly asking well-crafted questions and then listening carefully to what is communicated in response. Although this is often quite difficult for most leaders to do, this process naturally creates an opportunity for an individual to learn from a particular experience and then apply that learning in very practical ways in the future. As a result, the simple act of gently asking questions and then closely listening and watching is a great skill for any leader to develop.

While a good coach learns to ask well-crafted questions in order to encourage new perspectives or ways of thinking (in a “pull-oriented” way), many leaders may see their role to be more “push-oriented” or directive. In other words, it is important for leaders to learn how to speak less and limit their input to just a few comments and questions when necessary. This may not come naturally at first but becomes more intuitive over time.

The following list offers a guide to determine when a given leader is not using a coaching-centered approach: • Conversations with people are very one-sided or “telling oriented”. • Individuals often delegate their problems upwards to the leader to solve. • People come to the leader for answers, and how to do something, rather than remembering what he or she said last time they asked the same question. • The leader ends up spending time on someone else’s area rather than his or her own. • The leader is reactive not proactive. • The leader has little or no chance to think or quietly reflect and is mainly a “fire-fighter”.

Conversely, if a leader is engaged in a more coaching style or approach they: • Explain to others what is to be achieved overall and then let individuals discuss how they will go about doing the task. • Don’t need to take ownership of all the problems people bring to them, but simply listen and ask questions. Advice and guidance is given after all other avenues are exhausted. • Tend to have many short, focused and question-oriented conversations with people. • Have no need or expectation to know the answer to everything. • Spend a lot of time listening to people rather than talking at them. • Tend to be proactive rather than reactive. • Seem to have plenty of time to think or quietly reflect and are therefore seen as someone who plans well and is proactive.

This whole second approach tends to build trust-based relationships and creates a climate in which the leader can learn considerably more, essentially because they listen at least twice as much as they speak.