Boundaries - Keeping the Joy in Coaching!

Boundaries—Keeping the Joy in Coaching!

Scott Morton, International Funding Coach, The Navigators

Without boundaries in ministry, you can quickly disdain coaching and even avoid the people you committed to help. To keep the joy in coaching, you must establish three coaching boundaries.

Boundary 1: You are a coach—not a player.

Do you remember Woody Hayes, the famed Ohio State football coach, who late in a close game burst onto the field and tackled an opposing player who was streaking down the sideline? In his zeal to see his players succeed, Coach Woody exceeded a clear boundary! Coaches don’t do the players’ job!

Even though you ache for your mentorees to succeed, you must not fundraise for them. I find I cross this boundary when I:

  •     Make excuses for mentorees’ mediocre results
  •     Fail to be objective and stop telling them the truth
  •     Exercise too much mercy and not enough reality

Boundary 2: Cut back on something else if you add coaching.

How much time should you give to coaching in MPD? Good coaching takes time; it is not a minor ministry you can do on your lunch hour. What will you drop?

I do my best coaching when I focus on a few rather than many. I hesitate to suggest the number of hours it takes to be an effective MPD coach, but at a minimum, you will need to be on the phone or meet face-to-face for an hour per week. Plus, you need to study reports, read their letters, sit with them while they phone, and sometimes join them on appointments. If you have two mentorees, you can meet as “triads.” It need not all be done face-to-face.

But not all coaching has the same expectations nor takes the same amount of time. Break your coaching into two categories:

  •      Pro-active—you make a lot of initiative, schedule weekly meetings, stay in frequent contact
  •      As needed—you respond when they ask for help, perhaps only listening

Not all coaching arrangements need to be pro-active to be effective. Studies from physical exercise coaches show that even leaving a phone message helps people get to the gym (The Power of a Gentle Nudge, http://online.wsj.com).

Boundary 3: Establish end points.

On one hand, your work is never finished because mission workers are never finished fundraising. But coaching must change over time. The term “self-cleaning oven” describes a mission staff who is no longer dependent on a coach for accountability. If you coach someone who thinks you will coach them up until the morning of their funeral, ask them this question:

When will you not need me anymore?

Granted, we enjoy the stimulation that others bring us in MPD, but a pro-active coaching relationship should not last forever. Communicate that you expect your people to become self-cleaning ovens. A “check-up” now and then is fine. If your mentoree has no intention of becoming a self-cleaning oven, be careful of a co-dependent relationship. Like a mom or dad, help the kids grow up.

Coaching should change from “pro-active intense” to “as needed.” The time length can be set up before you begin. Adjust the plans as you go.

Conclusion: Even Jesus had boundaries. He said no to his brothers who wanted him to go to Jerusalem “now!” He said no to the disciples who wanted him to go back to Capernaum to start healing again. He even slept on a boat during a Lake Galilee storm!

Without boundaries, you won’t last long in coaching. In fact, you may not last long period!

Contact Scott Morton via email scott.morton@navigators.org

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