When the LST board asked us to begin the strategic planning process, they were in agreement that they wanted an outside party to be an integral part of the process. I believe that the main reasons for this was to
- Insure the integrity of the process,
- Benefit from an experienced person,
- Benefit from one who has thought deeply and creatively about the process.
Two other criteria seemed very important to them: first, that the person be at least experienced in working with faith-based non-profits—if not a strong believer themselves. Secondly, we wanted to find someone who used a coaching model, not a consulting model—about which we will talk more about later.
We first explored a well-known Christian organization with which some of our board members were familiar. I’m sure they would have been of great help to us, but we eventually decided not to turn to them for the following reasons:
- They did not seem to grasp the scope of our need and kept offering us more than we wanted and more than we could afford.
- When we finally got on the same financial page, what they did offer seemed barely adequate.
- Our assigned advisors seemed like they were new to the organization—which doesn’t mean that they might not have been the very best on the staff, but it did not inspire great confidence when we talked to them.
We then gathered recommendations from our acquaintances. Our board members were very helpful, suggesting university professors who taught strategic planning, attorneys who did mediation and other people-oriented services, and executive coaches. As we interviewed each of them, it became apparent that they were all highly qualified. Those that we removed from the list came off because
- Their area of strength was not really strategic planning.
- They were so professional that we were afraid of being put into a template plan with little regard for our idiosyncrasies.
- Their time schedule for availability did not match ours.
One of the first requests I made of each of these candidates as we were interviewing them was if they would explain the difference between coaching and consulting. I confessed to being pretty fuzzy on the distinction—and I wasn’t the only one. Nevertheless, these are the distinctions that came out of our conversations:
- Consultants advise clients on how to solve problems while coaches ask questions that help the client discover his/her own solutions.
- Consultants focus on results and clients focus more on the people involved.
- Coaches help their clients create processes while consultants analyze, advise, and sometimes implement their solutions.
As I mentioned earlier, our board was keen on using a coaching model, not a consulting model. I know coaching is all the rage now, but it seems to me that consulting has its own place and value as well. Sometimes the home team is in a totally new situation or they are in a potentially overwhelming problem; they need someone to offer them solutions and perhaps even implement those solutions. They don’t have any of the answers themselves and need help from those who have had similar experiences and dealt with them successfully. Consulting has its place.
We chose, however, a person who uses a coaching model, primarily because our board does not think we are in the middle of an unsolvable crisis. I believe they wanted a coach because they believe that those of us who know the LST ministry the best—the board themselves, the staff, our workers and volunteers, and our donors—are in the best position to evaluate the present and look a little ways forward.
I really appreciate that confidence as does the rest of our staff.
Next, we’ll look at beginning the strategic planning process. By the way, I welcome your questions or insights!
I know you want to know who we hired to serve as our coach. If you don’t mind, I’m going to show him what I am writing and ask for his permission before I tell you. Thank you for your patience.