How Do You Do Success?

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Guest Post by Greg Stoughton

An approach to coaching that I have found effective is to help a person explore how he or she does success? We each have patterns and preferences for how best we work to get things done. But most of us haven’t made time to give thought to our most effective practices.

Let me provide you a bit of context for the narrative of a coaching time that follows. Many colleagues and I are part of a mission organization where we have the privilege of recruiting a personal ministry partner team (individuals, families and businesses) to pray, finance and come alongside us in ministry. Sometimes, that can be of some challenge. The colleague I coached was in a season of support need.

Our coaching session that day went something like this.

Me:  Thanks for your desire to meet. Let’s pray and see what work God would have us to do today?

Colleague: Sounds good. (Prayer)

Me: Ideally, what would you like to see happen in this time? Where are you feeling stuck?

Colleague: I want to see us our family (in ministry) at full financial support. With our daughter two years of age, another child due soon, and then sensing God’s call toward a two-year overseas assignment, our felt need is creating some stress. It feels overwhelming. We need about $2,000/month of added funding. I want to trust God by faith, and do our part, but lately we haven’t been too successful in seeing results.  

Me: Great. Not that I ‘m excited to hear that you need support and that you are struggling. I’m sorry for that. But that your focus is clear of what you need to do. Would you grant me permission to come alongside you and to ask some questions, making a couple of observations along the way?

Colleague: Absolutely. That’s why I am here.

Me: Great. Let’s get started. In order to move forward, I’d like first to take you back some.  Clearly, you’ve experienced some past success. You’ve graduated. You’ve found and kept a job. You’ve found a wife. You’re in pretty good physical shape, and you’re fruitful in your service of the Lord. Well done.

Colleague: Thanks. That feels good to hear.

Me: Can you think back to a time when you faced a big challenge that with God you experienced success—a time when you overcame a challenge of some significance (allow wait time). Take a moment to identify one of those times.

Colleague: I got it. Do you want me to tell you what it is?

Me: You can if you’d like, but you don’t have to. Your choice; just be sure that you have a clear picture of the situation, or event or season, in your mind.

Colleague: I can share it with you. I brought a $10,000 debt, and some IRS complications, into my marriage. Three years later, we were debt free.

Me: Fantastic. That’s great! Now let’s think as to how you went about taming that beast. That’s a big goal. Where did you begin?

Colleague: My wife and I got away for a weekend to plan. We prayed and talked about steps that we would need to take to bring about the desired change.

Me: Great. It’s good to pray, and it sounds like you started with a plan. What could you tell me about that plan?

Colleague: It was a pretty detailed plan. We stated our vision. We identified a number of goals that we then broke down into smaller steps. We had a timeline of how much debt we hoped to eliminate—how and by when. 

Me: How then did that work for you? Did it help you to experience success?

Colleague: It did. 

Me: Super.  So what else besides a plan guided you toward success?

Colleague: You mean, like where did I work?

Me:  Sure.

Colleague: I focused best on this task at my office at home. I needed a quiet place where I could think lots and focus. I remember many nights going up to the office and closing the door. There I would open an Excel spreadsheet on my computer where I could remind myself of the vision, see where we were in the process—what we needed to do next. I tracked our progress on the Excel spreadsheet.

Me: Great. What else?

Colleague: Most evenings I had a cup of decaf coffee with me in my favorite mug. Does that count? And most nights I listened to some background music—a little 80s rock, on low, of course.

Me: Of course; perfect.

Colleague: We tried to just take it one bite at a time—not do it all at once. My wife and I both knew it would take some time, and I think that we gained confidence as we were able to note small steps of progress.

Me: Great job. So now, let’s picture for a moment your family being at full support.  What would that feel like?

Colleague: Fantastic. I think we would feel much peace as opposed to the constant pressure that now surrounds us both.

Me: It sounds like you really want to see this happen. (We took a little time to brainstorm some of what he felt had led to recent “stops” and “starts” to get to this goal. I then shifted his focus.

Me: You have a mountain to climb. But you have climbed peaks before. To move forward, let’s once more look back:  What can you draw from your prior “success” (eliminating debt) to this challenge? Give thought to the way you work—to your patterned preferences of what most often is part of how you do success.

Colleague: Well, I would guess that my wife and I need to get away and develop a thorough plan. We need a plan with some specific short-term goals.

Me: Definitely. That’s where you start. What else? From having his computer open to an Excel spreadsheet (goal in sight) to closing his home office door for greater privacy, to having fresh decaf and soft 80s music in the background, we cited many items common to how he best works. We seemed nearly done, when God’s Spirit provided him one last, huge “A-HA.”

Colleague:  I have been going about this all wrong, haven’t I? 

Me: You tell me. What do you mean?

Colleague: I have totally cut my wife out of this process. We solved that financial crisis together. She tells me that she wants to help with our support, and I know that she has great strengths in areas that I don’t, but I have kept her on the sidelines.

Me: Wow! Now that’s quite a revelation. So she’s part of your personal success strategy. That’s terrific. What do you think it might look like for her to be more involved? With fresh enthusiasm, he shared some specific roles that she played to help cancel their debt. He began to see how they could leverage her strengths, too, for greater success. But to do so, they would need to get away to plan and clarify their roles.

Post Script About six months have passed. They have both expressed repeated thanks as together they are now making progress toward a goal that they now both own. She casts big-picture vision of the ministry, and she writes all of their newsletters and notes. He dials the phone for the appointments, schedules the trips, and closes the deal on their face-to-face meetings. Today, they are close to being at full support.  And I get the joy of knowing that a colleague in ministry is retained and re-energized—not by me telling him what he should  do, but by simply helping him to discern some personal practices as to how best he does success.

Conclusion To help another determine their personal “success” strategy, lead with questions:

  • Questions of the challenge itself (The plan? The statement of vision? Specific goals? Benchmarks?)
  • Questions of what motivates?
  • Questions of process or sequence (What first? What next? Then what?)
  • Questions of the environment (Where is it that he or she works best? Is music present? Food? Beverages? Room temperature? Technology?)
  • Questions of resources, systems or helps? (Is there a preference for working alone, with a spouse, or in groups that helps maximize success? Books? Web? Mentor or Coach? Accountability structure?)
  • Questions to help another identify—and then leverage—their personal strengths.

Why not give it a shot? Coach a client or colleague of yours toward discovering his or her personal strategy for success. Why not start with yourself? Pause long

Greg Stoughton has served with the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ/Cru for 21 years. He presently provides communications support to Cru president Steve Douglass and the Executive Leadership Team. You can read more of his personal story and life experiences at MyMissingFingers.com

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Paul Cheese   |   21 March 2013   |   Reply

Great post! thanks Greg; and thanks Bob for posting it – it’s a really helpful example of what a really good coaching appointment should look like (and i’m rather interested in the topic myself!). Thank you gentlemen.

Pam Smith   |   21 March 2013   |   Reply

Nice post! I glanced at it this morning and said to myself, “This one needs more attention than I can give it right now.” Just took the time to drink it in.