GrandCoaching™ Seminar

Coaching Skill Number Two

Coaching Skill Number Two

Posted on April 1, 2024

By Don Hawkins, D. Min.

Almost every seat in the meeting room in the Senior Resource Center was filled. A few stragglers were still doctoring their coffee or picking up a bottle of water, when Bill, the Center’s executive director, called the meeting to order.

“I’ve invited my friend Rod to talk to us tonight about “GrandCoaching™,” Bill began. “He has over 20 years of experience as a life coach, and he’s certified as a life coach trainer. He’s going to explain to us the most important skills life coaches use and how they relate to how we might influence our grandchildren in a positive way.”

“Before you introduce him, can you tell us why in the world you think grandparents might be able to learn how to be life coaches? And while I am at it, is coaching the same thing as counseling?” Sidney, a regular at each monthly meeting, always seemed to have a question at the beginning of each session.

“I’ll let Rod provide you with an answer,” Bill responded. “He’s also worked for a nationally known counseling center, and he can explain the difference between counseling and coaching and why this might be something you and the rest of our group might be interested in.”

“Thanks Bill,” Rod took his place on the platform. “I had intended to use a PowerPoint to illustrate the difference, but my computer is on the blink. So I’m going to see if I can paint a word picture to answer your second question first.

“What was the most famous vehicle for long-distance travel in the early days of the West?” Rod continued. “By the way, not the covered wagon.”

“The stagecoach,” Sydney and several others responded almost in unison.

“You are all correct,” Rod answered. “And my next question is, did stagecoaches have a reverse gear?”

“Of course not!” Again, Sydney was quick with a response.

“That’s correct,” Rod replied. “Stagecoaches always went forward. And that’s a simple way to distinguish between coaching and counseling.”

Coaching and counseling: a contrast

“Now, there’s a place for both coaching and counseling. Both are effective tools which can help provide guidance to people of all ages. Counseling typically looks into a person’s past to determine what has caused pain and dysfunction like abuse and bullying. Coaching on the other hand, comes alongside the person being coached to help them understand exactly where they are with respect to their environment, then formulate a plan for moving ahead toward agreed-upon goals. In the case of coaching grandchildren, our major coaching objective is to help them understand some of the hazards they will be facing that may undermine their values, causing them to substitute values their parents and grandparents considered to be harmful.

“I’ve spent over 20 years working with Faith-based counselors, and I’ve seen the amazing difference they can make in people’s lives. But in recent years I’ve come to understand that coaching has a broader application. It’s especially useful in helping people who may be stuck at some point in life become unstuck and move forward.

“Let me illustrate it this way. In the field of medicine, you have specialists like surgeons. Their job is to dig into things like cancer or broken bones and repair damage from the past.

“Pardon the pun,” Rod added as several chuckled at his word picture. “Coaches, to use the medical metaphor, would be more like a wellness specialist. Someone who works with you on diet, exercise, and other factors that will help you maintain good health.”

“Sounds like a worthwhile objective,” Bart chimed in. “But I don’t have a clue about how this kind of coaching should work. I once coached a Little League baseball team. But what I did there was decide who played what position and in what order they batted.”

“But you probably also helped them understand what skills were necessary to play ball, and then led them in exercises that enabled them to develop the ability to field, hit, and throw. That leads me straight into our discussion of life coaching skills, and how you can use them with your grandsons and granddaughters.”

Listening and asking: key life coaching skills

“As I mentioned, I always like to start with what I consider the second most important skill for life coaching. The reason is, it’s also the first skill a coach needs to master. Both these skills will definitely serve you in good stead with your grandchildren, and help you avoid the most dangerous relationship killer.”

Sidney’s hand shot up. “What do you mean by relationship killer?”

Rod smiled as he began to explain. “When I was young and first began my coaching practice, there were two older men I worked with. I remember one of them for his four favorite words: ‘Let me tell you.’ I had a hard time relating to him, partially because I was younger and resented his imperative tone. But later I realized that all his communication was about what I was doing wrong and how I needed to do things exactly the way he suggested.

“The other colleague took a totally different approach. He would come alongside me and ask questions like ‘How’s your coaching going?’ and ‘How did Johnny seem to respond to your last session?’

“In short, my second colleague practiced most fundamental coaching skills we teach in our GrandCoaching™ course: active listening and asking cultivating questions.”

“While I began to resent my first colleague’s intrusion into my career, I really responded to the second colleague. I developed a strong respect for his approach, because it made me feel valued, and gave me input into what he was trying to communicate.”

Avoiding relationship killers with grandchildren

Stanley raised his hand. “Rod, I think I see what you’re getting at, and frankly it’s one of the reasons I wanted to be sure to get in on this session. I spent a good deal of time with my grandfather as I was growing up, but he was always telling me ‘do this,’ ‘don’t do that,’ ‘you’re not doing that the right way.’ He had been a career military officer, and I guess it carried over into his everyday life. Looking back, I feel like I would have responded better to some excellent advice if it had been given in a different way.”

“You’re right on track,” Rod responded. “I suspect he didn’t do a lot of listening to you or ask you a lot of questions about how you felt or what you thought.”

“Spot on,” Stanley replied. “And the problem is, I find myself responding to my grandsons the same way my grandfather responded to me. And they become increasingly hardened to my advice, just as I did to my own grandfather.”

“You used the word ‘hardened’,” Rod answered. “That brings me back to the subject of asking cultivating questions. As I said, it’s the second most important skill, because if you aren’t listening you don’t know what kind of cultivating questions to ask.”

The concept of cultivation

“I grew up on a farm in Alabama, and I learned from my father and grandfather the importance of cultivating the soil. No farmer in his right mind would go spreading seed across the field that hadn’t first been cultivated. Before planting a crop, whether corn, beans, or something else, the experienced farmer prepares the soil to give it the best opportunity to produce healthy plants. This process is called cultivation. Some of the benefits of cultivation include:

• Breaking up and loosening soil that -- over time -- becomes compacted and hardened.

• Allowing deeper penetration of the planted seeds into the soil

• Enabling the plants to grow deeper roots

• Destroying unwanted weeds

• Making the soil more porous, so that it is able to absorb and retain more moisture

“The process works the same way in coaching, especially with grandchildren. These days, there are many influences that harden the ‘mental soil’ of our grandchildren and make it almost impossible for us to plant those good value seeds into their lives so they will take root and grow. And I’m sure you can think of other analogies to the weeds that we kept having to deal with on the farm.

“Those cultivating questions you ask, especially when you are also using the skill of listening, help prepare your grandsons and granddaughters to receive the insights you will share with them. That opens the door for you to warn them of some of the dangers they will encounter in education, on social media and even from their peers.”

“But how do I know which questions to ask? I’m going to need some more help here,” Sidney interjected.

Bill stepped up to join Rod at the platform. “Rod, we’re out of time for today. But I believe you have a good deal more to share with us about this GrandCoaching™ strategy. We will meet again next month at the same time. Are you available?”

“I am, and I’m delighted to have the opportunity. Let me leave you with one thing. Check out our website, We have a number of articles there to help you relate to your grandchildren, as well as information on how to sign up to take the online GrandCoaching™ course. And I’m happy to tell you that the team just authorized a significant reduction in the cost to enroll!”


Don Hawkins, D. Min. is the Chief Content Officer for the Master Life Coach Training Institute and the President/CEO of Encouragement Communications. He hosts the Saturday evening call-in program “Encouragement Live,” and has authored over 25 books including Master Discipleship Today, Friends in Deed and Never Give Up.

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