Learning Without Teaching

August 14th, 2014 | Coaching
Learning Without Teaching

Excerpted from Chapter Two of The Coach Model for Christian Leaders by Keith E. Webb.

Does coaching really work? Can you actually help someone without giving them ideas, suggestions, or advice based on your own experience? Yes! And this is why coaching is so exciting. You don’t have to have answers for other people, you simply assist them in thinking about their situation and allow the Holy Spirit to work through your questions and their answers.

Here’s an example of a conversation that illustrates how a coach used Process to help a coachee discover the Content he needed to move forward. 

Notice how the coach doesn’t give advice, but simply asks meaningful questions to help the coachee learn something new. 

Nick asked to be coached on how to restore his relationship with his Czech ministry partner. Nick had lived in the Czech Republic for seven years, and he was partnering with Jiri, a young Czech pastor. 

The first year of ministry together went well. In the second year, tensions steadily increased between the two men. Nick complained that Jiri was making decisions by himself and ignored his input. The church hadn’t grown as they anticipated, and instead of trying the many ideas Nick suggested, Jiri seemed to give up, spending more and more time in sermon preparation. 

The coach asked how Nick had approached this situation with Jiri. On several occasions, Nick had spoken directly with Jiri about the tensions, apologized for his part, and gently gave Jiri feedback on his own behavior. Jiri suggested that if Nick didn’t like how things were going, he should consider moving back to Prague and rejoining his mission organization’s efforts there. Nick was shocked and hurt. 

Having heard about Nick’s efforts to resolve the conflict, the coach asked a question that he himself did not know the answer to. He asked, “How do Czech’s resolve conflict?” Nick started to answer, and then thought for a moment, “I’m not sure, actually.” 

“Would that be something worth finding out?” his coach asked. 

“Sure, but I have no idea how.” Nick responded. 

The coach asked, “Where could you find that information?” 

“I’ve got a couple books on Czech culture, but I don’t think there’s much there on conflict resolution.” 

“How else could you find out?” 

He thought for a moment, “I suppose I could talk with Pastor Horsky. He’s got to be 70 years old and is the Czech version of Billy Graham. I interviewed him for a research project I did two years ago for my master’s degree, he was very helpful.

“Excellent. Who else might be helpful?” 

“Our mission’s field director has been here since the fall of communism. I could call him.” 

“Alright. Anyone else?” 

“I know a sociology professor from the University. He attended English classes here at the church last year. I could meet him for coffee.” 

With that, Nick had his plan for researching Czech conflict resolution. 

Two weeks later, Nick came back with a three-page summary of not only how Czechs resolve conflict, but also how leader-subordinate relationships function in Czech culture. Nick realized that his approaches to resolving the conflict had actually made things worse, pushing Jiri to become more defensive and distant. Armed with his learning on Czech conflict resolution, Nick patiently applied these new concepts as he worked on his relationship with Jiri over the next four months. They turned a corner, and the two men continued to work well together for the next three years. 

Questions are powerful tools to help people gain new awareness and shift perspective. 

The question, “How do Czechs resolve conflict?” raised Nick’s awareness. The coach didn’t know the answer, and neither did Nick. The question was purely serendipitous. It shifted the discussion from Nick’s efforts and Jiri’s resistance, which were symptoms of the problem, to deeper underlying cultural differences. The question prompted Nick to explore further, which resulted in deep learning. The experience also equipped Nick in how he can learn new things on his own from the resources (people and information) around him in the Czech Republic. 


Dr Keith Webb, PCC, is the founder and President of Creative Results Management, a global training organization focused on equipping Christian leaders. For 20 years, Keith lived in Japan, Indonesia, and Singapore. These experiences led him to question conventional leadership practices. In 2004, Keith created the COACH Model® and since then, a series of International Coach Federation (ICF) approved coaching training programs. In the revised and expanded edition of The COACH Model for Christian Leaders, Keith shares the process that he taught more than 10,000 leaders around the world use to solve problems, reach goals, and develop people. Keith blogs at keithwebb.com.


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One thought on “Learning Without Teaching

  1. Paul Cheese says:

    Great extract! I love this book!

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