One of the first guys that ever mentored me also coached me. Throughout our relationship there were times of mentoring and there were times of coaching. Part of our time together included him teaching me what the difference between mentoring and coaching is. In this post I will explain what coaching is.
“From time to time we will all need outside assistance getting from
where we are to where we want or need to be.”
Andy Stanley, The Principle of the Path
I. THE IMPACT OF COACHING
In the fall of 2007 I led an effort to feed families in need in our community with a program called, A Day of Hope (which I also wrote a book about). We partnered with the local church I was attending, Enclave Community Church as a way to better serve the need so our community. At that time, I had about three years of experience in founding and leading A Day of Hope, but I felt there was something was missing. A great, close friend had told me that he believed I could increase the amount of people we were serving through A Day of Hope if I was able to develop myself as a better leader.
At that point in time, I had briefly met and spoke with a man named Steve Elliott who was serving at the church to help develop leaders. We had said hello to each other a few times, but had not engaged in conversation very deeply. I knew about Steve because of his role at church, and he knew me because of the work I had done with A Day of Hope in partnership with Enclave Community Church.
Over the next several months I began to get to know Steve a little bit more through casual conversations around church. Then, Steve, our senior pastor at Enclave, and my self happened to all be sitting around a table starting to share our goals for the future. Steve and Pastor Brian both shared their goals for the future and what they would like to do to serve and help others, and when it came my turn I mustered the courage to share my vision for what I felt God had put on my heart to do in the future.
For the next couple minutes I shared with Steve and Brian how I wanted to serve and help leaders. Part of that process was working on myself as a leader to improve my leadership skills, then to pass on those leadership skills to others to help them learn and grow to serve more people. Little did I know that courage to share my vision and goals was a defining moment as a young leader and was a way God was leading me to a discipling relationship.
I cannot remember if it was that same day, or at a later date, but Steve Elliott offered to coach me in leadership skills to help me improve myself as a leader to serve other leaders. I graciously accepted his offer, and was very honored that he would offer to coach me!
Steve and I decided to meet once a month at Starbucks at 6 AM to talk about leadership and have him coach me. I would arrive a little before 6 AM, get him and I a cup of coffee (our drink is tall Pike, no room), sit down with my pad of paper and pen, and he would coach me on leadership. Since that first 6 AM meeting at Starbucks, Steve and I have met every month for over three years now.
II. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MENTORING AND COACHING
A. Defining the Terms
According to the definition that Steve has taught me, there is a difference between mentoring and coaching.
- Mentoring: is where the mentor pours into me what he knows.
- Coaching: is where the coach draws out of me what is already inside of me.
Most of my time with Steve has been focused on coaching, drawing out of me what is already inside. He has helped to pull out what is on the inside by discerning my strengths as a leader and helping me to develop them the best I can.
B. Motivation for Learning
A key assumption that coaching requires is that the person being coached has a strong motivation to grow and develop. Like me, I’m sure you have attended lots of leadership and church conferences. Many of these are filled with what I call “fluff.” Fluff is that stuff they do to engage you, entertain you, and motivate you to learn while at the conference. This might be great music, an inspiring story told by the opening speaker, or some other crazy act they might do.
C. Drawing Out Skills and Tools
But, coaching assumes that you already have this strong desire within you to grow as a leader. Coaching’s job is to draw out of you the skills and tools that you need to lead people. Because you already have the desire to lead, you need someone who can show you how to do it and coaching you to finding your own way of leading people.
In my experience, I had tremendous desire to serve families through A Day of Hope, but I did not have the skills necessary to make it happen. I had the “want” but did not have the “how.” And that’s what Steve provided me through coaching: the how to lead people.
III. THE 5 ELEMENTS OF COACHING
From my personal experience, I believe there are five elements of being coached. Since this is my personal experience, your list might be different, but this is my list of what has been key parts of being successfully coached by Steve Elliott.
If I could summarize one word to symbolize what Steve coaching me has meant, it would be the word “belief.” Steve’s belief in me as a leader has been the most impactful thing to me more than anything else. Steve has believed in me more than anyone else has before, and that’s probably one of the reasons that he has had a greater impact on me than anyone else. That belief is transferred into my own life, and as he has expressed that belief to me month after month, year after year in our coaching time, it has become part of me.
There are six things that has caused Steve’s belief in me to be so impactful:
- He expressed that belief to me directly.
- He expressed that belief to other people who knew me, and they told me about it.
- There was no personal gain for him expressing his belief in me
- He is 65 years old with many people and life experience, so he knows how to recognize good talent.
- He is a great leader who also teaches other leaders to be great.
- He develops tests and behavioral interviews to evaluate potential leaders and church planters.
Thinking about the impact Steve’s belief has had in me as a young leader reminds me of when I was being taught by a golf instructor by the name of Chris Bitticks. Mr. Bitticks and I are still friends today, but when I was a teenager he had a great impact on my life as a golfer and a young man. Bitticks believed in me and always knew that I had wha tit took to reach my goals. Bitticks expressed his belief in me with actions instead of words. He always gave me his time to instruct me on the golf course, eat meals with me, and talk over the phone when I was away playing in golf tournaments. Bitticks always knew that I worked hard on my golf game, and he responded with his belief in my golf game by always giving his time to help me.
Experiencing coaching from someone who greatly believes in your gives you a tremendous amount of confidence because you know someone has your back. No matter what you do or say, you always know that you have an experienced person who believes in you and what you are doing, even when other people do not.
When meeting with steve I have been fortunate to ask him many questions. Asking Steve questions and having him answer them has probably been the majority of the time we spend together. I often come to Steve with questions about what I experienced, what I have had to go through, what I don’t understand, and what I do not know how to do.
Because Steve has 40 years of ministry experience, he has many answers to those questions. He is able to dig deep into his rich life of ministry experience and leadership experience to provide coaching to assist me. Answers to those questions has helped to provide specific coaching to me in areas that I need help. It allows us to go deep into issues that I can improve and draw out of me the skills that I need to be an effective leader who can serve others. Those answers take me further, to new places as a leader.
Often when Steve would be answering my questions he would take the topic deeper into areas that I had not thought about before. Or he would provide coaching on the problem I asked a question about, then tell me what to expect next once I solved the problem. Often these were scenarios and topics I had not thought of before.
If Steve saw an area that he thought I needed coaching in, he would add value to me and teach me in that area, even if I didn’t ask a question. He would look at the areas of my leadership and offer advice and hold me accountable to what I had said I would do.
Being coached by Steve Elliott has also given me specific skills. As I referenced earlier, sometimes leadership conferences are filled with the “fluff” to motivate you to want to learn and grow as a leader instead of them providing you with training for new skills. For me, I have always had the strong desire to lead and serve people, but only thing holding me back where specific leadership skills to help me lead effectively. I had a strong motivation to lead people, but my skill set did not match up with my motivation.
When Steve and I meet, we both know that I have a strong desire to lead, and that allows us to go further, faster. Because we start with the skills that I need to go from there. This has helped me tremendously to improve my skills by maximizing my time with Steve. Skills such as how to run a meeting effectively, how to prepare to deliver a talk, or how to deal with difficult people. I have had the desire to lead people and serve people, and these were skills I needed to have to effectively lead others. And Steve provided the training for that.
One of the great benefits of having a large age (at least for me) difference between Steve and I is that I mature greatly while spending time with him. Who we spend time with today determines who we will become tomorrow. That has become very evident to me after spending a significant amount of time with Steve.
As a result of spending time being coached by a man with 40 years of ministry experience, I now look at the world different. Steve is able to tell me about how the church ran in the sixties and seventies, which brings perspective to me and my life.
Becoming more mature through coaching also allows me to move faster and quicker through life. One example is that he has taught me to have a list of core values that help guide my life. These core values clarify who I am as a man, and allow me to make important decisions with ease and confidence knowing that I am making a decision based on a view of who I am and who I want to be.
A benefit of meeting with Steve one-to-one has been that he is able to see me at my worst as a leader. Steve knew about my struggles as a young leader. He knew about volunteers that stopped volunteering with me because of my lack of good leadership. He has been me react emotionally to people and treat them unkindly when I should have been more professional and patient. And when I ay he knew it, he read actual emails that were being sent between unhappy volunteers and myself.
Leaders need someone who they can be totally open and honest with to share our hearts and our feelings with. This is where good coaching takes place. It goes deep into you as a leader and examines you and improves who you are at your core by getting rid of the bad that’s in there, and draws out the good that is in there.
A good coach is someone who allows us to peel back that outer protective covering so that he can see what’s in there. Once the coach sees what is in there, he then is able to coach us based on the weaknesses we have and build on our strengths.
A young leader desperately needs a coach who can offer this to him. There were many times where I needed Steve to be an objective person who I could talk to about issues that were inappropriate to talk with my volunteers at A Day of Hope.
Through all this transparency and peeling back the outer layering of a leader, is that a coach will still be right there to encourage and coach the young leader. No mater what I have been through and told Steve about, he has always affirmed his belief in me and told me that he knows I will be able to pull off what I needed to do.
IV. AS A RESULT OF BEING COACHED
A. I’ve Done More Than I Thought I Could
As a result of being coached by Steve Elliott I have done much more than I ever thought I could.
I have done great things that I never would have done by myself. For two more years I lead A Day of Hope while being coached by Steve. During those two years we experienced explosive growth in the amount of people we were successful to feed. I wish I could take more of the credit for the growth we experienced, but to be honest, much of it was because of the coaching Steve was giving to me.
B. I’ve Been Reminded of What I Know
Steve has reminded me of the things I know, and helped me to take them further. He has also helped to draw out of me the good qualities and strengths that laid dormant within me. But as a good coach does, he drew them out of me.
After being coached by a great leader, a great man, and a great Christ follower, I know have:
- More patience with people to allow them to catch up to my vision and goals
- More openness to new ideas and suggestions of others when those ideas and suggestions don’t agree with mine.
- More security in myself as a leader and am confident in my ability to lead.
- More comfort in approaching conflict because I know it is a necessary part of leadership.
- More understanding of what my strengths are and how I use them for the benefit of leading others.
C. I’ve Become a Christian
Not only has Steve helped to develop leadership qualities and skills into my life, he also played a crucial role in me making a decision to become a follower of Jesus in November of 2009. Earlier I did not share that Steve had offered to mentor and coach someone (me) who was not even a Christian. I had yet to make that decision in my heart to follow Jesus. In spite of that decision I had not made (which he knew about) he continued to coach me every month. As we would meet he would drop in some Bible teaching to me and we would talk about the Bible and Jesus. So when that opportunity presented itself on a Wednesday evening at a friend’s home to accept Jesus into my heart, I took it. And Steve played a crucial role in helping me become ready to make that decision.
D. The Impact Going Forward
This article has included what the impact of coaching has had on my life so far. I have shared with you what I have done and experienced as a result of being coached by my dear friend, Steve Elliott. I have shared with you the impact coaching has had on my life so far. However, my story is not over. The impact that Steve has had on my life will continue to affect me for the rest of my life. The affects of coaching has been good so far, now I get to see the rewards and what happens in my life for the following years and decades. I am only 25 years old, and I am excited to enjoy many more learns of life and coaching. My story, is just beginning.
People come into your life for a reason, a seasons or a lifetime.
When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support,
To aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Question: How has coaching made a positive difference in your life?