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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

01 Aug '08

The mentor/coach model of supervision



What does it mean to be a supervisor? For many the word 'manager' comes to mind. But think about that. Do you like to be managed? For many, that word spells control and it is not a cool or empowering word. What it says is that my manager does not trust me to do the job I have been hired to do or that two people need to have a hand in doing my job - my manager and me.

One of the most frustrating issues good people face is the sense that they have too little freedom to use their gifting, skills and creativity to accomplish the work they have been hired to do.

Do you really want to 'manage' others? Most ministry leaders and supervisors I know find the traditional job of 'managing' others frustrating and time consuming. And it should be because good people were not made to be managed. They were made to be empowered, set free and then coached and mentored. If people on your team cannot be set free, empowered and then coached, you have the wrong people on the team.

A mentor coaching model is dependent on your staff having a clear plan and a clear understanding of what spells success. Thus the importance of Key Result Areas (KRAs) and Annual Ministry Plans (AMPs). If you need more information on KRAs and AMPs you will find a clear paradigm in the book, Leading From the Sandbox.

I am going to make a distinction between mentoring and coaching. They are different sides of the same coin, each with its own focuses. A good team leader needs to practice both, depending on the circumstances.

The Practices of Coaches

Coaches want to release the gifting and potential in others
Coaching is not about helping others become like us! Or having them do things the way we would do them. Coaching is about releasing the gifting and potential in others and helping them become as successful and impactful as they possible can be.

'Release' is a key word for a coach. Good people have been gifted by God with unique skills and particular ways of approaching problems and situations. Coaches want to tap this potential and these gifts, pulling them out so that the gifting and potential are released in increasingly productive and effective ways.

Coaches don't tell, they ask
Releasing the potential in others means that our challenge is not to tell people how we would do things if it were us, but to help those we coach figure out how to solve problems and meet challenges themselves. Coaches ask questions, lots of questions, questions that make others think and come to good conclusions.

Coaches care about the whole person
Many leaders and organizations simply use people. While good organizations, teams and leaders are deeply missional, coaches understand that there are many factors in a person's life that affect their work, their emotional health, and their makeup. Caring about the whole person is one of the keys to unlocking potential.

Coaches are exegetes of those they coach
People are different and need to be approached differently. People cannot be treated alike in a cookie-cutter way. Individuals are just that - individuals, and our approach, whether mentoring or coaching, needs to fit who they are and the wiring they have.

Coaches hold people with an open hand
The ultimate test of whether we want the best for those who work with us and for us is: Do we hold them with an open hand? Are we willing to develop them for their sake even if it means that we end up developing them out of the organization?

Holding people with an open hand and wanting the best for them engenders huge loyalty and appreciation. The message we give is that we ultimately care about them, and what God wants for their lives, not what we want for their lives or what we can get out of them. When we try to control others we are violating them and may be violating God's best for them.

Coaches always try to keep their people engaged
People, especially highly motivated people, are not static. They grow, they change, they get bored, and they periodically need new challenges. My philosophy is that I want to find the very best people I can find and then keep them highly motivated by changing their responsibilities when I need to.

The Practices of Mentors

Mentors give honest feedback
Constructive feedback is often missing in ministry organizations where the culture is supposed to be 'nice.' The lack of honest feedback hurts the individual and the organization. It does no one any favors and can eventually result in people actually being let go for behaviors that might have been modified if someone had been courageous enough to be honest.

Mentors get people individual training when necessary
Good mentors not only provide honest feedback but also, where necessary, insist that an employee or team member receive help that will allow them to be more effective. This often means help from a psychologist or a good mentor, especially when someone is dealing with behaviors that negatively impact their own lives, the lives of others or those on their team.

Mentors care about their people but they also want a winning team
Leaders build teams that can win. Healthy leaders are committed to results, insist that the team play well together, that players are playing to their strengths, and that the results re consistent with the mission of the organization.

This means that if changing the responsibilities or team members to better organize the team for effective ministry is necessary, they will do it. It also means that there are times when they need to let someone go because they cannot play at the level needed in their ministry role, or the person is not effective in their job even after intensive mentoring. Good leaders do not allow the mission of the organization to be compromised by keeping people who are not effective.

Being a mentor/coach with those you supervise takes more time but it also brings out the best of those who work with us, engenders huge loyalty and yields huge ministry dividends. It is worth the investment.