The Five Stages of Coaching Relationships

Learn what to expect, and how to react, as a small-group coach.

I'm sorry to say it, but no coaching relationship develops to perfect levels of openness and communication overnight. Instead, most coaches pass through predictable stages of highs and lows, which can be understood as a series of coaching stages. The following is a brief walk-through of those stages, including practical advice for growth.

The Romance Stage

My friend Trish told me that her husband, a doctor, was offered a prominent position at an upscale hospital in a different state. He turned it down. When they asked him why he wanted to stay at his Baltimore hospital, he responded, "I know the warts of this hospital. I don't know the problems over there."

For most endeavors in life, the grass really does look greener on the other side. Why? Because the brown spots are only visible up close. In the romance stage of a coaching relationship, everything is new, exciting, and green. The brown spots have not yet appeared. The cell leader is just starting out in a new adventure. She wants to win the world and multiply her cell in a few weeks. She thinks that you are the greatest coach in the world—that you can do no wrong. She's ready to drink in every word you say. Use this time to pour into your leader and prepare her for the stages to follow.

Advice for the romance stage:

  • Enjoy it for as long as possible. Don't try to hurry through it.
  • Take advantage of your leader's openness to receive homework assignments; teach as much as possible.
  • Go over your coaching relationship (e.g. how often you're going to meet, evaluations, confidentiality, expectations, and so on). Clearly remind the leader of the reality and resistance stages that will follow.
  • Help the leader count the cost. Remember that Jesus was constantly preparing the disciples for the tribulations that would follow.

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