How do you respond to being challenged? What is your heart’s desire toward challenge for you and for your clients? These are extremely important questions for a coach to ponder and process as we learn, grow and encourage our clients to do the same. As I reflect back on my life, I remember situations or circumstances which I found challenging, and then there were the people who challenged me. The people Gary Collins writes, challenge to “reach further, think bigger, be flexible, and embrace change.” (Christian Coaching, 2002, p.38). The common denominator for all these people is they knew me, many of them loved me, but all of them cared for me. We used to tell our interns and new representatives at my former financial services company, “we challenge because we care,” and the statement was true and said with good intention. This is another important consideration – the intention behind which someone challenges us, and that in which we challenge our clients.
“Throughout the Gospels we see Jesus challenging people’s priorities and in the process radically transforming their lives.” (Rediscover Jesus, Kelly, 2019) I would say this is some pretty powerful intention! Radically transforming their lives? Isn’t this what we want for our clients? We as coaches need to remember this and think bigger ourselves about the power and the opportunity we have every time we create a coaching space for our clients. Do we go into our sessions with that kind of intention? This is why we need to keep our eyes set on Jesus, on the Scripture, on His teachings and the way he interacted with the people around Him. One of my favorite characters in the Bible is the the woman at The Well in John, chapter 4. At a time when Jesus was challenging the teachings of the Pharisees, he challenged the culture by even speaking to a Samaritan person. By asking her for a drink and then to go and bring her husband back, he challenged her to look deep within herself to bring about true change and transformation. At the end of the exchange Jesus exclaims, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the field! They are ripe for harvest.”(John 4:35b, NIV)Because of her, many Samaritans believed in Jesus. This is a great reminder for us the fields are ripe for harvest as we point people to Jesus through our coaching.
One of the most powerful visual analogies I can think of to help further illustrate Challenge and Stretching comes from the wonderful movie “Facing the Giants.” (Sherwood Pictures, 2006) Coach Grant Taylor tries everything he can to lead his players to improve and get better without any change until he himself spends time in the Word and re-connecting to God. Afterwards, in what is arguably the turning point in the movie, Coach Taylor challenges one of his best players, Brock Kelley, to do an exercise at practice called “the Deathcrawl,” where the player crawls on his hands and knees a certain distance with another player on his back. However, this time Coach Taylor has Brock promise he will give his very best, no matter what. Once he agrees, he then asks Brock to do it blindfolded. “Why,” Brock asks? “Because I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you could go further,” Coach Taylor responds.
My coach, Todd Olsen, recently asked me why this scene has been so impactful to me, since he’s heard me talk about it on multiple occasions. I told him it’s because I feel like every time I watch it, I’m reminded that I’m just like Brock, and I allow myself to imagine Coach Taylor as God.
Brock keeps asking Coach early in the exercise how far he’s gotten. How often do I think about how many clients I have, how much money I’m making, or a myriad of other ways I “keep score” on a daily basis? Coach Taylor re-emphasizes every time, “just give me your very best.”
“It’s all heart from here! You keep going Brock! You promised me your best!”
One of the most beautiful aspects of this picture is Coach Taylor is right there beside Brock, the entire way down the field. As the hands and feet of Jesus, it is our responsibility to be right there next to our clients as well, letting them know “we are in this together.” While we rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to do the transforming work itself, we have three key responsibilities. First, to be Advocate and Champion for our client. Hold their dreams, their goals and their vision out in front of them and ask them to give their very best. Second, ask powerful questions. “By asking powerful questions, coaches challenge clients to explore innovative possibilities.” (Collins, p. 107). Third, provide accountability. We have all heard this before, but because of our relationship, we may be the difference between someone following through and moving forward or just staying stuck in a place where they have always been.
A powerful question my coach and I arrived at together is this – How does a coach challenge without breaking the spirit? Being a coach myself for less than two years, I don’t feel like I can fully answer that – perhaps I will never be able to. However, I do know that if I start from a place of love and the intention to help facilitate transformation for my client, I’m starting in the right place.
If you don’t have a coach, get a coach. Rediscover how you respond to challenge, and what is your heart’s desire at it relates to this life changing opportunity.
Collins, Gary R, PhD. (2002) Christian Coaching. NavPress/Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Kelly, Matthew (2019) Rediscover Jesus. Blue Sparrow Books
Facing The Giants (2006) Sherwood Pictures