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Is Coaching Too Time Intensive by Tim Cosby, M.Div, CLC

Apr 24th, 2011 | By | Category: Coaching and Discipleship Guest Posts, Leadership Coaching, [None]

?One of the obstacles to creating a culture of coaching in organizations is the belief that coaching is too time-intensive. The argument is that it takes less time to tell people what to do than it does to help them through the coaching discovery process. It’s true that the process of collaboration and discovery takes more time than “telling and selling,” as a friend of mine called it the other day. But in the long run which model leads to sustained life transformation, and which model results in mere behavior change? I spend several hours a day coaching leaders
and it does feel very time-intensive. Maybe there’s a faster way. Is coaching too time intensive? It may appear that way to some people.

People have been coming to me for advice and counsel for over 30 years and I’ve given out a lot of advice. Some of it, I hope, was good advice. But I’m sure I’ve given a lot of bad advice along the way, although nothing comes to mind right now. Not only have I given bad advice but I’ve received bad advice from well-meaning people. They wanted me to go a certain direction based on their opinions and their own experience with God. The problem is that God doesn’t necessarily work in my life the same way he does in another person’s life, and the people who have given me advice sometimes haven’t taken the time to listen long enough to really understand my situation. They were in a hurry. They didn’t have time to help me discover the “good works God has prepared in advance for me to do.” (Eph. 2) On the front end of a decision the advice-giver doesn’t have to spend much time because they assume they already know what the other person should do. After all, they’re the expert, right? So, we just tell people what to do. It feels more efficient. Deadlines are looming and time seems to be running out. Giving expert advice seems like good stewardship of a leader’s time, doesn’t it?

But there’s more to the story. A model of advising people that is time-efficient on the front end doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be time-intensive on the other end. Let’s say that I received poor advice and I acted on it. I made a decision based on an expert’s advice. It seemed like a wise thing to do at the time, but after making the decision I discovered that the “goal” wasn’t really my goal; it was the expert’s goal. When obstacles appeared I began to second guess my decision and realized I didn’t have the necessary passion or motivation to persevere. And not only that, I realized that this new path didn’t really fit me. It fit the expert but it didn’t fit me. So now, for the sake of argument let’s say I’m six months into this new venture and I’m ready to bail out because I’ve run out of energy. Is that going to be time-intensive? You bet! Not to mention everyone else’s time.

Let’s imagine another approach that incorporates collaboration, coaching and time for discovery. Let’s say I have a gap in my life between where I am and where I want to be, so I go to a friend and instead of giving me advice, she listens, asks great questions and helps me design measurable action steps to accomplish the goal that I’ve chosen. Is this a time-intensive process? You bet! It might take several months before I can identify the main issue and gain clarity on what God wants me to do. But when I discover the goal and design a process to complete it, I’ll be doing something that fits my passion and values. I’ll be taking responsibility for my future. When difficulties come I may still struggle, but if it’s my goal I’m much more
likely to actually accomplish it.

Which model is more time-intensive: advice-giving or coaching? Both! But I’m suggesting that advice-giving may feel more time-efficient in the short run but will be more time-intensive in the long run. Not all the time, but maybe more often than we’d like to admit. Do we want behavioral change or inner life transformation? If we just want a change in behavior there are some quick methods to get people to do what we want them to do: fear, guilt, shame, power, manipulation, threats, a gun; just to name a few. But life transformation is also a time intensive process and there are no short cuts to a truly changed life. Where do you want to spend the time: at the beginning of the process or at the other end?

Does this mean that we never give advice? I don’t think so, but when we’re talking about transformation, people change when they decide to change, not when we want them to change. Sustained life change must be internally motivated, not externally manipulated.

Maybe time isn’t the best measuring stick when we’re talking about life transformation. Jesus had a big mission and a relatively short amount of time to complete it, but I never see Jesus in a hurry. He seemed to have time to listen to people’s issues, time to ask questions, and time to wait for them to change. Maybe it depends on what we want: time saved or lives transformed. What do you think? Is coaching too time-intensive?

Tim Cosby is a certified Life Coach in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Terra Nova He also owns Empowerment Coaching Network,www.empowermentcoachingnetwork.comwhere he and his partner offer Christ-centered peer coaching training via a 2-day, accelerated learning experience. He has been married to Diane for 35 years, has 4 children and 8 grandchildren. Tim’s mission is to create cultures of coaching wherever he goes. You can email him at © 2011 Terra Nova. All rights reserved.

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