Christ-centered coaches are often innately relational and compassionate individuals. Often, this deep-seated concern for others well-being is a major factor in becoming a coach. However, while having a generous spirit is foundational in developing trust with clients and deepening their walk with Christ, it can contribute to weak boundaries.
What are Boundaries?
A boundary is an established perimeter that allows for healthy relationships. Think of it as a wall around your life, much like the wall around Jerusalem, as described in the book of Nehemiah. The purpose of this ancient wall was to create and contain a strong, productive community, as well as keep it safe from outside threats. As a coach, it’s important to establish a similar line of demarcation between yourself and your clients in order to:
- Create a relationship built on a foundation of trust
- Clarify responsibilities for both coach and client
- Increase your confidence
- Establish your credibility
- Preserve your joy at work
- Maximize your effectiveness
- Keep the focus on God’s will, versus your agenda
Assessing Your “Walls”
Nehemiah was an Isrealite displaced from Jerusalem by the exile. While he was serving the Persian King, God called him back to his homeland to rebuild the broken walls around Jerusalem and reestablish a holy community. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to assess the damage, he walked around the perimeter of the city to evaluate each section. In some places the walls were cracked, while other sections were leveled. There were also numerous gates, all of which had been burned to allow Judah’s enemies easy access to the interior. In the same way, our boundaries have “doors”, which have the power to open and close at will, determining both what we allow in and out. Here are some common signs that your coaching “walls” and “gates” might require some repair work:
- Your clients are often late to their coaching sessions, if they show up at all.
- You often start coaching before a client has paid the fee.
- You regularly answer emails and phone calls outside of office hours.
- Your family and friends regularly comment that your work always comes fiYou experience more fatigue, anxiety, and frustration than joy or job satisfactioYour desk is uncharacteristically messy more often than not.
- You are forgetting important details and often feel rushed.
- Your relationship with God feels stagnant.
As servant leaders, sometimes it’s easy to let boundaries crumble in the name of “ministry”. Nehemiah’s example is inspiring if we regularly find ourselves compromising to make others feel loved, or attempting to secure their business. He didn’t waver in completing the restoration of Jerusalem’s boundaries, despite internal and external opposition. How can you contain your compassion in such a way that you honor yourself, increase your effectiveness with clients and communicate God’s love and grace? Here are some suggestions to prayerfully consider based on the example of Nehemiah:
- Ask God to reveal where work needs to be done. As Nehemiah did, stop and pray before taking any actions steps: Lord, please speak to my heart and reveal to me where my boundaries are broken in my personal relationships, interactions with others and interactions with you.
- Ask yourself: What is my part in the issue? Perhaps ask a trusted friend or family member or feedback to reveal blind spots.
- Determine what steps do you need to take to rebuild a healthier boundary and develop a plan.
- Consider what resources do you need to support making changes that will endure?
- Lead with love, not blame, to ensure you don’t go to the other extreme and build a fortress of self-protection around yourself.
- Stay enthusiastically committed to establishing appropriate parameters with every client, and you will be successful!
Finally, reevaluate your Coaching Agreement and make discussing it a priority with every client. Establishing clear expectations up front allows clients to wholeheartedly pursue the process with you, and actually develop a deeper more trusting relationship. This is often the single most important step you can take in healthier, more productive coach/client relationships.
Taking these steps to establish healthy boundaries requires commitment and a willingness to change deeply ingrained beliefs and behaviors, but the rewards are great! When Nehemiah and his team finished the wall around Jerusalem, God was glorified (Neh. 6:16) and a community rooted in teamwork was established. When we attend to our lives and work in a way that honors God above our own needs, He is seen through our success. Your “labor of love” will impact your clients, family, friends, as well as your walk with the Lord, resulting in more peace, joy and energy for the work God has given you.
Boundaries don’t contain your potential, they expand it!
How effective are the boundaries in your personal life?
Where might the walls around your professional life need attention?