At the core of coaching missionaries is the heart of hearing.
When I first started coaching in 2003, I really wondered how effective I could be by serving clients via telephone instead of in person. My first “coaching nook” consisted of a small foldable table and an old two-drawer filing cabinet in the walk-in closet of our guest bedroom. Nothing to write home about there. However, through the months in that quiet place on the phone with my clients, I watched as my capacity to hear increased. I could not depend on visual cues and I was not distracted by facial expressions. I learned to listen for pauses, sighs, or a quickening pace. I learned to hear on a deeper level to what each client was saying and simultaneously tone down my internal voice.
A coaching model written on paper makes coaching look easy, but it is not. It takes a strong self discipline to listen to what a client is saying (purely for the client’s benefit) and not for my next great question or brilliant idea. What a gift we give to our clients when we deeply listen! It is a great gift to be heard, to be understood. Not just listening to what they say, but what they meant to say, or even listening for what they don’t say.
Listening is key. It is especially so in my work with missionaries who can be geographically and emotionally isolated. Who, for example, can missionaries honestly talk to that will not jeopardize their reputation, their position, or their financial backing? Who can the parents of missionaries talk to about legitimate grief and separation issues without sounding “unspiritual”? Who can college age missionary children returning to their home country from the field discuss their discomforts with, without seeming like an even greater misfit? Who will listen? Who will understand?
Recently I received an affirming email from a client on following her session. She said, “Having you listen and HEAR what I was saying was overwhelming. ‘Hearing what I was saying’ felt so kind. When you listened yesterday, it touched a deep chord in me and caused me to remember the ‘feel’ of kindness. The tears came from so deep inside of me. Yesterday, you were the kindness of Jesus.”
In the exploration phase of coaching, we really need to hear our clients. Perhaps this little acronym that might help sharpen our listening skills.
H– What is the heart of the issue? Remember it may be different that what the original topic appears to be.
E– Listen for energy or the loss of it.
A– What attitudes do you pick up on that might help or might be an obstacle?
R– What reflections can you ask for that would help the client know themselves better?
True kindness can be expressed by how we listen.
About the Author:
Sherri Dodd, PCC, is a career missionary, ministry leader and a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. She has been coaching professionally since 2003. As the founder and executive director of Advance Global Coaching, she has a heart for the emotional and spiritual health of mission workers! After serving in Europe with her husband as a church planter for 22 years, she knows the pressures of adjusting to new cultures, learning new languages, moving nationally and internationally. Sherri understands what it takes to build a ministry, a home, and a family. She has been married to her high school sweetheart, Randy since 1975 and has experienced both the rewards and the difficulties inherent to balancing marriage and ministry. The Dodd’s have three adult children, three grandchildren and live in the Atlanta area.
Today, Sherri undergirds cross-cultural workers and mission leaders with support that nourishes, challenges and sustains. She believes coaching is a personalized tool that can help reduce the attrition rate in missions. Through phone and internet appointments this ongoing support is affordable and accessible. Advance Global Coaching has a team of coaches to serve mission leaders and workers so that they thrive in their calling!