Distance Coaching

How is your Spring going?  Too fast?  Have you got way more to do than you can possibly get done before the end of the year?  I am guessing you are starting to think about setting up leaders for next year, preparing your students for their summer, your own summer assignment, raising support, etc., etc.  Maybe you have been meaning to get to the students on a campus somewhat removed from your main campus, but other things just keep you so busy.  Maybe you have leaders who are busy and it has been a challenge seeing them.  Distance coaching may be helpful.

But, distance coaching?!  The thought of using the phone for some is not very appealing.  That is for those guys in Orlando, you say.  It could be that the only way to connect with a leader is by phone coaching.  So what is involved in distance coaching.  Here are some…

Basics of Distance Coaching

1.  Prayer

  • Pray for those you coach.
  • Pray during your planning time for the one you are talking to and what you will cover.
  • Pray during the appointment about needs that come up.

2. Plan, PLAN, PLAN

  • “Winging it” is not an option.
  • Take notes of the conversation.
  • Review your notes of the last conversation as you plan for the next one.
  • Determine the focus or main topics you want to address.
  • Determine assignments and the criteria for success.
  • Consider the available resources that might be on-line or a part of their critical mass.
  • Identify prayer requests.
  • List what specific action points you need to take before you talk to them again.  (Questions to answer, resources to locate, materials to get to them, etc.)

3.  Ask Questions

  • How are they doing personally?
  • How are the things going that they asked prayer for last time?
  • How are they doing on key objectives, personal development plans or leadership development?
  • How are they doing on previous assignments?
  • How can you come along side of them to pray, encourage or develop them?
  • Remember that asking questions builds the relationship.

4.  Focus on the Conversation

  • Have your appointment in a place free from distractions.
  • Take notes of the conversation.  This is not a time for you to do email or surf the web.  They can tell if you are not focused on the conversation.
  • Share your own life when it is appropriate.
  • Stop to pray for needs.
  • Communicate confidence in them and trust in the Lord.
  • Help them think through ways to overcome obstacles.

5. Information Systems

  • Develop a file for each leader you coach.
  • Keep on file their campus plans, personal development plans and anything else that helps you keep a pulse on the relationship and their ministry.
  • Take notes of each conversation.  You may want to use the Journaling feature in Outlook.  But pen and paper works just fine for me.  
  • Make your information system work for you.  You want it to be easily retrievable.
  • The issue here is effectiveness in your coaching.

6.  Be Yourself and Be Honest

  • Express care without ulterior motives.
  • Be truthful about who you are.
  • Look for common ground and interests.
  • Invest time in getting to know them and their interests, motivations and desires.

Distance can be a barrier if you let it.  But it does not have to be.  Quite honestly, students are far more comfortable with technology in connecting with others than some of us are.  Text messaging, Facebook, MySpace, IM, email, cell phone are natural to students today.  Many students talk more openly through an electronic medium than they do face to face.  My wife and I lead the Marriage Preparation Class in our church.  This spring class started with 41 couples in it.  7 couples met on-line.  That is 1 out of 6 couples.  Gosh, if people are meeting and falling in love over the internet, can’t we coach someone over a distance who is seeking our experience and insight?

My team has no choice but to coach from a distance.  But, there may actually be times when it is better for you to use distance to help you develop your leaders.  Not just for you, but for the one you are coaching.  There is a truism, that when you step foot on campus, you become the leader.  If you are asking the student or volunteer to lead, your presence may actually hinder their being able to lead.  If you have given them direction, delegated to them a task that they are equipped to do, resourced them adequately and given them confidence by your encouragement, it is time to step back and let them lead. Who knows, you might be able to prayer walk another campus while your disciple is leading on theirs.

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