Sunday, September 28, 2014

Coaching vs Criticising

Whether personal or professional, I coach, teach, and sometimes have to correct as well as recieve instruction. What I try to avoid and don't like receiving is just plain criticism. There are times when analyzing a situation can feel like criticising because you have to be able to break apart a situation, relationship, methodology, or choice in order to examine and refine it, but speaking the negative without a plan to address it doesn't really do anyone any good. On the contrary, it can do more harm than you can imagine. 

I pretty much tanked this past week personally and professionally by venting my frustration over some unrelated situations. Yet, I advise teachers all the time to never overwhelm a parent with more than 2 or 3 action items to work on at home and always partner that with "here is our plan at school". I had no plan of action but a basic throwing up of the hands. So, I want to do some reflecting and revisit a couple of simple Biblical pieces of advice to get myself right. 
Ephesians 4:29 states "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

By definition, edify means to instruct (teach) or improve someone morally or ethically. Tearing someone down is not building someone up, and I definitely did not build up because I was just venting my frustration and feelings of overwhelmedness. Did it benefit anyone? That's the problem with venting and criticizing, it does no one any good. What it becomes is a voicing of all the negative thus giving the negative power over your life. If it has you upset enough to vent or criticise it, then it has your emotions. That is giving it power in your life. 

Criticism is the practice of judging the merits and faults of something. I would just recommend being careful about judging. I know that supervisors have to sometimes tackle "areas that must be addressed for the sake of the organization" (been there), but help the person come up with the plan to address the area of concern. 

Just dropping the criticism on someone and leaving it does absolutely no good. Criticising is easy but it is not coaching or teaching; coaching takes some work and commitment. As a matter of fact, a good coach would figure out a way to get the person to figure out their own weakness and then support the plan to address it. (Does that mean that you never give a criticism and plan to address it as a directive? No, just use caution and read my blog about having a coachable spirit.) 

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its' fruit." Proverbs 18:21 Your words have the power to destroy or give life. If you want to see fruit, then you have to speak love and life. 

For example, let's say that you have an employee or friend who is having a hard time accomplishing a task that to you would seem easy. As a matter of fact, it would seem to you almost ridiculous that he/she hasn't "gotten it." Do you stop before making a comment/criticism and reflect on what the Holy Spirit would have you say or vomit, "What's wrong with you, that's like the dumbest thing to manage. My 4 year old neice could get that going." 

I hope that you would stop and pray for some patience before proceeding, but how often do we seek the Holy Spirit in these types of situations? After all, we got this; the friend is asking us for help, right?  I don't think that the Holy Spirit would be pleased with the vomit version/critical comment or with not being consulted if you claim to be a believer. 

On the contrary, the Holy Spirit has access to all the answers in the universe, and who has better advice than God? Holy Spirit speaking through you might say, "I understand you are having a hard time with that. Maybe I can help you figure it out. Why don't you explain what you are doing and let's see if a different set of eyes helps." Then, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the answer and the words. It's amazing, but the Holy Spirit often has answers and guidance just waiting for us that we never tap into. 

I think back to my days as a classroom teacher and having to explain myself a lot, repeatedly, time and time again to the same kids who "always didn't get it" the first few times I explained whatever it was. The problem, though, was me and how I was teaching the concept not the kids who didn't get it. I can't change how a kid learns; so I have to change my mode of instruction. 

My frustration which was a result of my own feelings of inadequacy as a teacher only made the kids take on a negative attitude. Then, they would shut down, think that they couldn't learn, and hate my class/school. That had to change. So, I prayed for answers, changed my teaching to meet their needs, and the rest has been history. (What's best for kids isn't always easiest for adults, but it is what we as educators are paid for and expected to do.)

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control as outlined in Galatians 5:22-23. If your coaching doesn't line up with the fruit of the spirit, then maybe this is a good time for you to reflect on how you are coaching and teaching others.

As believers, we have embraced the walk of loving others like Jesus loved us. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and love our spouses like Christ loved the church. He layed down his life for the church, are you willing to lay down "yourself" for anyone? What expectation should be any different when teaching/coaching/advising our employees, colleagues, children, spouse, family, or customers? Do you love them more than you love yourself? Then take the time to reflect and teach them.

It's not easy to restore someone gently when you feel pretty passionate about whatever it is that has you riled up, but Galatians 6:1 reminds us that even when catching someone in a sin that those of us who are spiritual should restore that person gently. How much more so when just trying to coach someone through a computer system at work, budget, t-ball lesson, or driving lesson? The list could go on and on.

Are you gentle in your coaching and teaching? Would your kids say yes? What about your spouse? Family? Co-workers? Employees? I want to encourage you to pray about this today and just check yourself with the Holy Spirit. 

I'm praying that those that I have not coached gently would forgive me. I pray that as I move forward that I would enlist the Holy Spirit in every good work that I have been called to do. May the fruits of the Spirit shine in me and from me. May the vomit be removed from me that I would not curse, vent, or criticise. I pray that each of us are gentle and loving like Jesus loves. He didn't throw any stones. Why should we think that it's ok for us to throw them? I pray that God convicts us of the stones that we are throwing and the condemnation that we speak against each other. Father, help us to speak LIFE. Help us to remember that there is no CONDEMNATION in Christ. Amen.

It's not always easy to shine the light on our personal practices, but it is so worth it when we see the fruit in our relationships at work, home, church, and family events. God's blessing to you as you speak life and continue the hard work of refining each other In HIS Trenches. I see future blogs around this topic such as iron sharpening iron and an examination of Jesus' teaching/coaching strategies. Have a great week!

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