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How To Coach Next Gen by Roy and Margaret Fitzwater

Christian Leadership Alliance

By Roy and Margaret Fitzwater

As millennials move into leadership roles, turnover rates may be even higher and more costly so it is  important to understand how to coach next gen leaders. Cheryl Conner writes in Forbes that the cost of unproductive time and a sense of entitlement are particular challenges among millennials, who reportedly waste two hours per day — an entire 40 hours a month, compared to baby boomers, who squander an average of 41 minutes per day (Forbes, September 7, 2013).

Employee satisfaction, especially for millennials, can be greatly enhanced through attention to relationship. It is commonly accepted that an organization’s most valuable resource is its people. A wise leader will therefore invest in people, developing rather than using them. For the greatest return on investment, we need to focus on the people, not just on getting the job done. Because of millennials’ emphasis on relationships, the “coaching” approach to leadership development is even more important.

Taking a coaching approach focuses on understanding individuals’ current reality, identifying a desired future (the next level of excellence) and coming alongside them to facilitate their movement to attain that desired future. The coaching approach discovers the obstacles for achieving goals and clarifies strategies for overcoming?and/or removing them. It also encourages those being coached to own the need for change.

The primary strategy for effective coaching is developing a powerful relationship. That is done by knowing employees well through active listening and learning. To do that, you must ask great questions and wisely speak truth to provide needed clarity, direction and guidance toward growth.

Powerful Relationships

Bill Mowry, co-worker and author of The Ways of the Alongsider (NavPress, 2012), details how relationships that produce transformation — including those in the workplace — mirror the types of relationships Jesus had.

  • ?Intentional: Jesus invested the majority of his time in the select few, versus the multitudes. Jesus led with the heart of a servant, understanding and ministering to real needs.
  • ?Spiritual: In partnership with the Holy Spirit, transformation happens. We can only facilitate real growth that the Holy Spirit provides. Think about Jesus’ commitment to prayer; surely ours needs to mirror his.
  • ?Holistic: With a longer-term perspective, Jesus knew how to move from surface-level discussion and informational conversations to those of feeling and real depth. Without a doubt, he cared for the whole person.

Active Listening

You cannot know a person without listening well. Active listening requires practice and focus, and it is a clear signal to staff as to whether or not they are really cared about. Listening well is motivational. You can become an active listener by following these principles:

  • ?Be fully present: Be attentive, engaging and reflective, free of distractions.
  • ?Linger to listen: Listen to the heart of the staff, to the heart of Jesus and to your own heart.
  • Show authentic interest: Inauthentic listening is a dead giveaway for not really caring and loving as Jesus did.
  • Withhold judgment and interruptions: Speak with the intent to listen rather than formulating your response while the other person is talking.
  • ?Concentrate on the other person: Truly seek to understand the other person’s perspective.
  • Model appropriate body language: Your posture can signal attentive listening.
  • ?Respond with reflective questions or statements: Frame responses with “It sounds like you…,” “Tell me more about…,” “What did you mean by…?” and the like.

Asking Good Questions

Solomon said it well: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5). Perhaps this is why Jesus asks more than 1,000 questions in the New Testament. His approach caused others to think about their response and to truly learn. They acquire not only head knowledge but heart knowledge that leads to a real change in behavior.

  • ?Good questions are open-ended: Ask how, what, where, when or who, but refrain from using “why,” which can come across as judgmental.
  • Good questions lead to action:But the noble make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand” (Isa. 32:8). Great thoughts and plans are good, but we are here to produce results, and so are our employees. It is the “deeds” or actions that will tell the story.
  • Good questions take practice: Don’t get discouraged. This will take time, yet it’s time that will be multiplied in the fruitfulness of the staff.


A relevant leadership maxim says, “We can expect what we inspect.” A good coach follows up on those who’ve learned to see that they are continuing to practice it.

Problems and tough decisions are ideal development opportunities for people. The key is using questions and guided discussion to coach people on solving problems for themselves — instead of telling them what to do. Developing people rather than simply using them for results is vital for organizational success, and for engaging future leaders. We believe a deep-dive coaching approach is part of God’s plan for addressing the culture and planning for the future.


Roy and Margaret Fitzwater are co-directors of Navigator Church Ministries, a ministry of The Navigators. They are certified coaches, and previously led in Fortune 100 companies. This post is an excerpt from their article in the Fall 2015 edition of Outcomes Magazine.

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Christian Leadership Alliance equips and unites leaders to transform the world for Christ. We are the leaders of Christ-centered organizations who are dedicated to faithful stewardship for greater kingdom impact.

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