The Significance of the Coaching Conversation
By Blanche Wallace
The coaching process is not an endpoint, but a journey of discovery. Coaching unfolds as a conversation that takes place over the course of a relationship. These significant moments in time — conversational moments — provide opportunities to introduce new knowledge.
A Coaching Conversation
The power of coaching to influence positive change emerges from a relational bond.1 The depth of intimacy and trust created in the relationship impacts the richness of the discussion during the coaching conversation. A coaching conversation is a goal-driven dialogue focused around a specific change objective.2 This conversation embodies the coaching process. This is where the work is accomplished.
A coaching conversation can occur in a formal, structured setting, as well as an informal, unstructured setting. Consider the coaching-like conversation between Jesus and Bartimaeus. (Mark 10:46 identifies the blind man by name.)
“As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening.
They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’
He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.
Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’
Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God” (Luke 18:35–42).
This passage reveals the pillars of a coaching conversation: active listening, and asking powerful questions. Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” This is not a rhetorical question, but an act of provocation. Jesus posed this question to prompt Bartimaeus to define the issue and to establish trust in the relationship.
Questioning — the primary mode of communication in the coaching process — raises awareness and involves the other person in the outcome.3
Jesus recognizes the man’s request for help. This creates both a coachable moment and a coaching moment. Such events are usually unplanned. But they provide opportunities to introduce new knowledge the recipient can embrace.
A coachable moment arises when a person is most susceptible to make the transition into a place of higher learning and deeper thought. These brief moments in time create awareness.
The blind man’s persistent request for an audience with Jesus indicates his knowledge of Jesus’ ability to influence change. At this point, the man’s apparent desperation suggests he is receptive to engaging in the discovery process, which will provide new information about his issue.
A coachable moment occurs when a person is most receptive to benefit from learning something new related to a specific focus area and is ready to take action.4
Jesus’ mode of direct questioning forced Bartimaeus to define his issue, contextualize his agenda, and consider his options.
“‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.
“Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you’ ” (Luke 18:41,42).
Jesus’ question was an action-planning inquiry designed to stimulate exploration and consideration of options. By stating his need and engaging his faith, the blind man had an active role and responsibility for the outcome of his agenda.
Once a goal is achieved, questions for additional communication might include:
- How has your situation changed?
- How does this change impact your agenda?
- What are your next steps?
- How can I further help you?
A coachable moment is critical because it links current situations with important potential outcomes for the client.5 These types of occurrences provide pivotal points with the potential to alter the client’s agenda or give them cause to reconsider the issue. The ability of a coach to maximize a coachable moment through the use of evocative questions successfully moves the client to a new place of thinking.6
Jesus integrated myriad methodologies as He prepared the disciples to transition into positions of leadership. He served as a teacher, lecturer, mentor, and coach.
Jesus exercised a coaching competency. Jesus used this encounter with Bartimaeus as a coaching moment for the disciples — an opportunity to model the coaching process before them.7 Seeing Jesus engage Bartimaeus further enhanced their learning. Jesus modeled the three disciplines of coaching: intuitive listening, probing questions, and assigning client responsibility.8
An active listener picks up on both spoken and unspoken communication. The listener then summarizes and paraphrases the client’s remarks, tone, and nonverbal cues.
Probing questions help the client identify the desired outcome and any issues involved. They raise awareness and assign responsibility to the client for the desired outcome.
Questions can produce a powerful impact if they are open-ended and direct; build faith and empower; lead to discovery by the client; place responsibility with the client; connect with a need established in the client’s agenda; and emerge out of curiosity, and not with the intent of leading the client.9
Upon asking Bartimaeus to state his issue, Jesus modeled a basic tenet in coaching: Ask, don’t tell.10 Powerful questions also help the client identify elements and define boundaries necessary to keep the coaching on track and moving forward. A prepared coach who seeks to understand and focus the client on the issue can seize the opportunities of coaching moments.11
A coaching conversation is a goal-driven, dialogue focused around a specific change objective.12 The coach uses the art of inquiry to stimulate the client’s thought processes and move the client to a place of deeper thought.
The progression and flow of the coaching conversation can produce significant moments in time that provide opportunities to introduce new knowledge. These significant but brief periods present coachable moments, as well as coaching moments. Coaches can seize the moments and maximize these opportunities by being fully engaged, listening intuitively, and being confident with the process.
1. Tony Stoltzfus, Leadership Coaching: The Disciplines, Skills and Heart of a Christian Coach (Virginia Beach: BookSurge Publishing, 2005), 22.
2. Ibid., 80.
3. John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance: GROWing Human Potential and Purpose (Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2010).
4. Jane Creswell and Perry Rhue, “Do You Recognize a Coachable Moment When You See One?,” Internal Impact (July 2011), www.internalimpact.wordpress.com.
5. Erik de Haan, Bertie Colin, Andrew Day, and Charlotte Sills, “Clients’ Critical Moments of Coaching: Toward a ‘Client Model’ of Executive Coaching,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 9, no. 4 (December 2010): 607–621.
6. International Coach Federation.
7. Executive Corporate Board, “In-The-Moment Coaching Framework,” Learning and Development Roundtable (2006).
11. Bonita Argent, “Effective Coaching Moments,” Sitkins International (2013), www.sitkins.com.
12. Stoltzfus, 80.