Pope Francis has a special devotion to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots.  This devotion was new to me, but as I learned more about it I found out that it was not new at all, but only new to me.  The problems in life are many, both big and small, but over time they can produce one giant, overwhelming knot (think Clark Griswold in the movie Christmas Vacation) making it nearly impossible to become an overflowing conduit of God’s grace, and thus directly impeding our charge towards evangelization.  What are the problems and struggles you face for which you see no solution?  Surely, the Blessed Mother will help you untie the knots in your life, but so might your family, friends, and even co-workers – help comes from both heaven and earth!

In recent years, I have been blessed to discover the art of coaching.  Before this experience, my definition of coaching equaled sports, period.  I know sports, and I have experienced many coaches over the years. But as this new dimension of coaching unfolded, the words of St. Paul came to mind: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things” 1 Corinthians 13:11.  I have concluded that coaching is not about me. Of course having four children helped bring this point home, but it is true, it is not about me!  St. John Paul II said that “we are at our best, we are most fully alive and human, when we give away freely and sacrificially our very selves in love for another.”  This involves me letting go of my childish ways and becoming a parent, a leader who cultivates and applies the charisms, talents, and strengths gratuitously given to me by God for the sake of those people in my charge.  I let go of wanting to be seen and heard, of wanting to be “The Most Interesting Man in the World” aloof, preoccupied, and stifling.

So, what exactly is coaching and how can it benefit you?  First, as a coach, my focus is on you.  I already know what I think; I want to know what you think, and what you feel and I will be listening deeply for it.  I am uniquely curious about you and the “unrepeatable” reality that God created in you.  I provide questions, not answers, confident that the answers will come from our partnership; I am fully present and engaged; seeking only to foster learning and inspire action.  If I did well as a coach, you will be impressed with me, but if I did great as a coach, you will walk away impressed with yourself.  Is coaching still unclear? Consider the following distinctions:

“Managing is making sure people do what they know how to do.  Training is teaching people to do what they don’t know how to do.  Mentoring is showing people how the people who are really good at doing something do it.  Counseling is helping people come to terms with issues they are facing.  Coaching is none of these – it is helping to identify the skills and capabilities that are within the person, and enabling them to use them to the best of their ability.” – Unknown

How can we as members of the Catholic Church help build and bring about a coaching culture?  How will you ennoble the human person, the person you are called to love and serve each day?  Going forward, I suggest we take seriously the goal of building a coaching culture by creating a mindset that encourages relationships, learning, and communities where coaching skills can be used to untangle knots by helping us become more of who God created us to be, and, ultimately, a people who are capable of approaching others in a way that helps them to flow more fully in faith.