How Your Coaching Relationships are Like Your Relationship With God

By Jonathan Reitz

September 29, 2014

Sometimes a book that has nothing to do with coaching or leadership will change how you view an important piece of your coaching practice. As I read a book by Skye Jethani recently, I felt my coaching practice shifting under my feet. Skye Jethani's book

Skye Jethani is the editor of Leadership Journal, a podcaster (as a part of the Phil Vischer Podcast), author and speaker. He’s one of those guys that runs in Christian leadership circles, but doesn’t make headlines for any of the excesses we’ve seen too much of over the last few years.

In 2011, Skye Jethani put out a book with the simple title of With. Skye Jethani's Book With Without revealing everything that’s in this book (which you should read, by the way…click on the cover image and you’ll be taken to the book’s page on Amazon–Affiliate link), Jethani begins by descrbing four common sets of expecations Christians have for God, and then suggests a better way. I see a lot of coaching relationships along this same vein. In With, Jethani describes:

  • Life from God–We engage God on our terms and expect blessings to flow our way, basically on demand from God. But we have no day-to-day experience in connecting to God. What we’re saying to God: I want what you can do for me, not you.
  • Life over God–We engage tols from all around us in an effort to catalyze activity and control the actions of the people around us (and yourself); in the process, leaving no room for God to act. What we’re saying to God: you aren’t acting fast enough or accurately enough for my plan so I’m taking over.
  • Life for God–We organize our lives so that we can claim that what we want its impact for God and demonstrate results that can clearly and esily be connected as God-honoring. What we’re saying to God: what we really want is more impact than others (who waste their impact–allegedly).
  • Life under God–We make a deal with God and do what God wants so he’ll protect me, and those important to me. What we’re saying to God: I’m afraid of you, but I still all your protection on my side so that I don’t have to worry about myself or the people who are important to me.

Pretty convicting profiles, huh? Jethani goes on to describe another way forward Life WITH God. (Get the book title now?) It’s really good, and I recommend you checking it out. As I read With, I couldn’t help seeing my coaching relationships through a similar lens.

Now, let’s just eliminate any confusion: I’m not suggesting coaches are gods or that a coaching relationship has any saving power. I will plant the seed that the very lessons Skye Jethani is calling us to understand for our relationship to our creator can apply to how we interact with our clients. How many of these relationships seem familiar to you? Read the following scenarios, and check out the suggested coaching strategies.

  • Results from the Coach–A client comes to you to engage you because you have been effective with someone he/she knows. The want you to do for them what you did for ________________.
    • What the client is saying to you: I’m looking for a silver bullet.
    • Coaching Strategy: Engage the client on the details of THEIR situation. While there might be parallels to the other person’s situation, you’ll need to find the uniqueness of THIS client’s circumstances.
  • Results over the Coach—The client has a new idea or tool in every session, and wants to figure out how to apply every single one to their situation. ANYTHING to get an edge. Effort is not the problem, and neither is focus. The challenge is choosing the right tool for the job and not the next tool.
    • What the client is saying to you: I’m not going to miss opportunities like other people do.
    • Coaching Strategy: Engage the client around the benefits of each tool and help them categorize where/when each tool might be helpful.
  • Results for the Coach–The client seems to have plenty of motivation, and is happy to point out everything they accomplish to you, their coach. Every session will begins with a long recitation of all their accomplishments since last session. No further progress can be explored until the coach signs off or gives approval.
    • What the client is saying to you: I really want your approval.
    • Coaching Strategy: Dig beneath the surface of the accomplishments and explore how the client stays personally motivated. Ask coaching questions like “What gives you the most personal satisfaction?” and “How do you know you’re making the most progress?”
  • Results under the Coach–This is the least common of the four coaching connections, and usually only comes up when a coaching relationship is assigned or is required by some outside circumstance. The client will go through the motions of the coaching conversation, and will look to only do the absolute minimum in order to satisfy the demands of the coaching agreement.
    • What the client is saying to you: I don’t really think this will do anything for me.
    • Coaching Strategy: Focus on the progress in the relationship. If you can help the client realize that he/she is moving toward a new future, you can build trust with the client. This is especially powerful when the client realizes that they are learning that they themselves can change and make different choices.

And just like in the With book, there is another way forward as well: Results With The Coach. In this relationship, coach and client work powerfully together. The conversation engages both people at a deep level. The client turns to the coach as a trusted resource…even outside of scheduled coaching conversations. The coach is confident in their own skills and the foundation on which the relationship to fully let the client set the agenda and lead the conversation. The client is fully invested in coaching, to the point of coming to each session 100% prepared and ready to work. The coach is also prepared and defaults to listening at all times.

When the time is right, a specific question with context gets asked. The client responds thoughtfully to every question and learns about themselves, their situation and the actions. When done well, coaching is powerful and empowering for the client. This is what *Results With The Coach means. The client gains confidence AND accomplishes their goals.

What strategies do you use to assess when your client has moved into from, over, for or under your coaching? How do you get back to WITH? I’d love to hear your comments!

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 This post appeared originally on   For more from Jonathan Reitz, please click here.

Jonathan ReitzJonathan Reitz has a number of impressive titles at CoachNet Global (Chairman/CEO/Guy with Coffee).  Jonathan has been coaching for over 10 years and has worked with over 500 clients in the church, the non-profit sector and the business world. 

  “Coaching plays a part in the kind of leadership the world needs,” says Jonathan Reitz.  “I want to be a part of that.”

For a daily coaching question from Jonathan Reitz, follow him on Twitter @jonathanreitz  Or, you can email him at or by phone at 440.550.4374.

Comments (1) - Post a Comment
one of my favorite recent books, I just took my leaders through it and I continue to refer to it.
I loved how you drew the comparison between coaching and how we relate to God.
Thanks for the insight
tami at 1:49pm EDT - October 28, 2014

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