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Listening to Christian Leaders – by Anita Stadler, PhD

Jan 30th, 2011 | By | Category: Business Coaching

Leaders often appreciate having time set aside for coaching because it is the only place they can safely think out loud.  Our role as a coach includes listening at multiple levels.

What is a coach listening for?  Coaching involves paying close attention to multiple sources of information coming from the client.  You are listening for illogical thinking, listening for energy and alignment, listening between the words, and listening to the Holy Spirit.

Listening for illogical thinking.  Clients have often made presumptions about how two things are related which may not be true.  Often, an early experience that left a strong impression has resulted in assumptions that are no longer accurate (if they ever actually were).  The lack of logic in their thinking is invisible to them because it is a “given” in their mind.  They believe that’s how the world works.  As you listen to a client and notice something that doesn’t make sense to you, use your curiosity to gently probe until you see the client’s picture of the logic flow.  Ask questions to verify that your understanding of their picture is accurate.  Sometimes, just providing the space for the client to say it out loud is enough to reveal its illogical nature.  If not, use an illogical metaphor with parallel logic to the client’s logic and see what happens.  Realize that letting go of a deeply held assumption can require almost a re-definition of self, something that can benefit from the caring ear of a coach.

Listening for energy and alignment.  As you listen to a client, listen for changes in speed, pitch, and tone of voice that can indicate passion or interest in a topic.  Point out what you notice.  Let the client recognize it personally and articulate what it means.  Don’t presume that you know its meaning.  When the client has acknowledged it, take the opportunity to probe for the appropriate action to harness the sudden burst of energy that will ensue.  What can the client do today that will enable more of that energy and aliveness to appear more often?

Listening between their words.  The client may be silently shouting.  Body language, unconscious movements, and changes in breathing can be signals worth paying attention to.  Articulate what you notice.  Ask about it.  Don’t presume it is loaded with meaning, because it may not be — or the client may not be ready to recognize what it means.  But it might be important, and your willingness to point it out may be the greatest gift you could give your client in that moment.  What is the unspoken ache?  The unarticulated fear?  The joy not expressed?  The rage just beneath the surface about an injustice?  Create the space for all of what the client has to say to be expressed.

Listening to the Holy Spirit.  As a Christian coach working with a Christian client, you are never alone.  Seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal to you and to your client whatever needs to be revealed.  Ask the client to stop talking and just listen in silence for a few moments.  Watch what happens.  Be ready to explore something very deep, very true, and very important.  It is a tremendous privilege to be present when a truth is revealed, a new picture is seen, or a new direction is given.  Be amazed.  Be blessed.


Anita Stadler, PhD is the owner of Horizon Executive Coaching.  She coaches Christian leaders and business executives who want to connect their career and their calling more intentionally.  She is also a full-time executive coach and leadership development advisor for a Fortune 100 corporation.  She can be reached at (714) 952-0995 or  For more information, see

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