Tag Archive for: coaching

Beyond words

Today, will mark the end of missionary interviews, the last two with our Assistants this evening.
After three years, I think Monic and I are now approaching some 6,000 coaching interviews.
We shall miss these special times; they have been a labour of love.

The Last Round

Whilst in one interview this week, a missionary inquired, “How do I ask good questions?”
Initially, I remarked about being fully present, by giving my full and utmost attention.
I mentioned the importance of deep listening, not only to the words used but the emotions felt and being guided by humility, compassion, and love.
Then, I introduced the power of clarifying.
Pausing, I said “Let’s do some roleplays…”
The missionary spoke and shared an opinion with me.
Carefully crafting the missionary’s own words in a different order, I drew attention to an aspect of the experience and asked a clarifying question.
In other words, I reflected the words back to the missionary and used them to ask a question in a different tone and a slower voice.
At first the missionary was startled by the insight, but after a little practice, soon cottoned on.
Then, I said, “You can also ask questions without words.”
“Huh?” came the response.

Body Language

You can ask questions in non-verbal ways through facial expressions, eye contact, a raised eyebrow, a puzzled look, tilting your head to the side, tugging your ear, placing your hand on your cheek, stroking your chin, using hand gestures or a combination of them all.
Self-awareness is paramount.
We practiced a little more.
To understand each other better, try slowing down and be silent.
Jesus Christ knew the importance of Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God…”
A favourite saying of mine often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi reads, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”
Jesus asked perceptive questions and then waited for answers, frequently listening not only with His ears but with also with His heart.
Key is to focus on what you feel inside, rather than on what you see and hear outside.
A good example is the story of faith filled Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, where Jesus stopped and healed him.
Often teaching without words, simply through His actions; that is the Master’s way.
How can you listen and ask questions more compassionately?

Divine Tutorials

It’s been an enjoyable week of 1-1 coaching interviews for Monic and I in Amsterdam, Leiden and Rotterdam.
We continue on our last round of these interviews before returning home at the end of June.
For some of the missionaries it was their first and also, sadly, their last interview with us.
I have considered these 25 – 30-minute personal coaching sessions as divine tutorials.
They’re certainly a little different from university tutorials!


Some personal definitions of these sessions would be something like this…
𝐃𝐢𝐯𝐢𝐧𝐞: Relating to and filled with inspiration and love from God.
𝐓𝐮𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐥: a one-on-one learning session, with a young missionary, where we come to know one another better, discuss problems, challenges and seek assistance through heaven’s help.
Over these last few years, there have been thousands of these 1-1 sessions.
Each different, but in some ways the same.

The Last Session

This week was no different, except we all knew this was our last session together.
We talked, we shared, we problem solved, we taught, we listened, we laughed, we cried, we prayed, we encouraged, promises were shared.
As I listened, I realised that as each missionary shared with me their personal challenges, it was as if each of them were being tried in a very personal and unique way in what I’d call, the 𝑳𝒐𝒓𝒅’𝒔 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒆.
Why is missionary work so hard sometimes?
Why does the Lord let such difficult things happen?
Why did it work out that way?
My witness is this…
As they apply the teachings of Jesus Christ and develop His attributes in their own life’s, I know that every single one of them changes.
I know that 𝒐𝒖𝒕 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒇𝒐𝒓𝒈𝒆, 𝒄𝒐𝒎𝒆𝒔 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒕𝒆𝒆𝒍.
Individually, they are galvanized and welded into a powerful cohesive group of friends in the Belgium Netherlands Mission of De Kerk van Jezus Christus van de Heiligen der Laatste Dagen
It is beautiful to behold, over and over and over again.
These moments will be treasured forever and ever.
Have you experienced a divine tutorial?

Walk and Talk

As we approach our last missionary transfer, I reckon that Monic and I are now approaching some 3,000 coaching interviews – each!
From the outset, we chose to invest a lot of time (15 to 30 minutes) per interview, as a catalyst to enable change with each of our missionaries.
We started off sitting for all of our interviews, but as time has passed we now both enjoy the occasional walking interview too!
Pacing ourselves in our walking is a joy and it can slow down the conversation.
It got me thinking about the process of our interviews…
Our journey together always begins in a similar manner.
We smile, greet one another, say hello and settle in.
Then, the conversations go something like this.
I speak and ask a simple question.
The missionary listens.
The missionary speaks.
I listen.
I speak and carefully, ask more questions.
The missionary listens.
The missionary speaks.
I listen.
I try hard, very, very hard not to interrupt.
I am curious and interested as to what the missionary thinks.
There usually always comes a point when they ask me a question.
I push the missionary hard to see how far they can go in their own thinking, before I offer any of my own thoughts.
Like any great coaching conversation, the process is all about helping the missionary to become more self-aware.
Frequently I find that I reinforce their strengths and help each missionary to explore their challenges.
And the walking?
Well, it simply helps to stretch our legs and our minds!
Changing the environment can also really help us change how we look at things.
Fresh air can really awaken all of our senses and aid both our thinking and every conversation.
“Walking is man’s best medicine.” - Hippocrates
Little wonder then, that the most frequent question we are asked at interviews is “Are we going for a walk today?”
When will you next venture outside for a coaching conversation?

Set Apart

In our recent missionary zone conferences in Antwerp and Utrecht, there were many wonderful sessions of training and instruction given.
In one of my own, I focussed on the term “𝐬𝐞𝐭 𝐚𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭” and I asked the question….
“What happens when you are set apart as a missionary?”
In my pre-mission life as a coach and facilitator one of my favourite coaching practices was to consider how far people can go in their own thinking, before they need my thinking…!
What followed was a lively exercise of very insightful thinking!
Having missionaries together in zone conferences are some of my most favourite moments of mission life.
So what does it mean to be set apart?

Leadership Tools

As a facilitator and a learning protagonist, I have lost count of the number of leadership models shared in workshops.
There are my favourites such as situational leadership, servant leadership, values-based leadership, action centred leadership, adaptive leadership and a whole list of styles and 4-box grids that I have used and am very familiar with.
While most of us can recognise good leadership when we experience or observe it, oftentimes it is hard for us to determine the best model to use in a difficult situation.
Blending leadership models as needed is a popular fix.
But then it struck me.
As I reflected upon the many leadership experiences I’ve had in life, a clear analogy came to mind.

The Garden Shed

As a child, I recall one day that I wanted to go out on my bicycle for a ride.
Forlornly, there were several issues with my bicycle, including a wobbly seat, a flat tyre, a loose wheel, poor brakes, and handlebars that were more than just a little squint.
I’d not been out for a ride in a while and sadly my bicycle had fallen into disrepair.
I called my dad down to the shed in the garden.
He came and looked at the bicycle commenting upon the amount of work it needed to get it back into shape.

The Box of Tools

I recall that he set to work immediately and pulled out a big box of tools.
One small spanner was used to tighten the wobbly seat.
Another set of tools were used to remove the wheel, repair the puncture and blow up the tyre again and tighten it into position.
Dad then got out a set of pliers to fix the brakes.
Finally, another wrench was used to straighten the handlebars.
All in all, using a variety of tools, after a short time, the bicycle was fixed and off I went on my ride with a gleeful smile.
“Dads are great” I thought!

Leadership Lessons

So, it is with leadership.
Oftentimes, whilst managing and leading others we are faced with a vast array of different problems, challenges and issues.
Yet, just like the multitude of tools in my dad’s box, so we too have a broad range of different leadership models to help us resolve/fix/repair/manage/lead even the most mind-boggling obstacles at times.
Tools equip us with solutions.
What new shiny model do you have in your leadership toolbox, or maybe that old well-worn rusty model, over there in the corner is the best solution perhaps?
What tools do you have in your toolbox?


Is it time to evaluate your values?
Some of my favourite coaching questions are simply these…
“What do you want?”
“What is important to you?”
“How do you want to live your life?”
“What do you enjoy doing?”
Take time to reflect upon your personal values…
Don’t live somebody else’s!
Be you!
Be mindful of what values are driving your life and look out for the illusion of ownership.
As each year passes by, I have become increasingly aware of the illusion of ownership and the world’s pre-occupation with it.
Oftentimes, I reflect on the fact we were born into this life with nothing, during our journey through life we exercise our greatest gift of free agency, (the right to choose), and with the exception of our memories and experiences we depart this mortal life with nothing.
Consider a few words – pride, envy, fear, stress, frustration.
Now think about the cause and effect of these words.
Remove the idea of ownership and the foundational characteristic of each of these words collapses.
As we understand the reality of stewardship and apply the principle in our home, family and business life, we can replace these characteristics with their polar opposites – humility, empathy, courage, peace, fulfilment.
By living our values – everything else falls into place.
What does the word “values” mean to you personally?


As an 11-year-old, I recall trying out for the school football team.
I was a little anxious that day about playing at my best and afraid that I wouldn’t make the team, like my brother had some years before.
As I unpacked my kit bag, I found a little note from my brother inside my boots, with a few simple words.
It said, “𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝒄𝒂𝒏 𝒅𝒐 𝒊𝒕, 𝒚𝒐𝒖’𝒍𝒍 𝒃𝒆 𝒈𝒓𝒆𝒂𝒕!”
That’s all I needed, I played well and was selected for the team!
Roll the clock forward several years, to 2013.
Starting out in business on your own is risky, challenging and can be a little frightening.
How grateful I am for my wife, who provided the love, encouragement and instilled within me the self-belief that I could make a success of setting out on my own journey.
Then onwards to 2021.
Serving as Mission Leaders in Belgium and the Netherlands has been a huge stretch!
There have been many ups and downs on our journey and likewise no doubt in your own journey through life.
Are 𝐘𝐎𝐔 a cheering section?
Yet, I know there are those pulling for us to succeed, including parents, partners, children, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, work colleagues and now missionaries past, present and even future.
My message is, hopefully, clear, every person in this life has a cheering section.
It is composed of those all around us who sometimes silently and oftentimes vocally, cheer us on to succeed.
Who is on the sidelines in your cheering section?


“How do I have better conversations?” the young missionary asked.
In response I said, “Be curious!”
We then roleplayed several conversations, restating and rephrasing words spoken, then asking further questions, by being 𝒄𝒖𝒓𝒊𝒐𝒖𝒔.
It was enlightening as we explored questions together.
Children tend to have it in abundance.
Curiosity has to be a personal practice.
Curiosity allows us to find out about another person’s reality, their views and their perspective.
Its easier said than done, but it takes humility and meekness, to escape the trap of thinking/feeling of “being right” at times, and see beyond our own thoughts.
To be really curious you need to see beyond what you think you know and become much more fascinated by the way others see things.
Consider every conversation as an opportunity to learn something new.
Curiosity requires that you become genuinely super interested in what the other person is thinking and saying.
It is important to slow down, be very present and take time to ask questions, listen and observe.
And you also need to suspend any judgements that you may be tempted to make!
Be inquisitive.
Ask others their opinions, their perspectives, and their approaches to certain things.
“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein.
Curious minds are exploring minds.
Yesterday, I met a complete stranger and engaged with them on a personal level, by being curious about where they came from, why they were in Amsterdam, and simply showing some genuine interest in them.
It was a wonderful conversation, and we discovered some insightful connections.
I was simply being curious.
These are a few of my thoughts and ideas this morning.
I’d be really interested in hearing a few of yours.
How do you stay curious?


It is an interesting little four-letter word “note.”
There are all kinds of notes, including bank notes, musical notes, people of note, promissory notes to pay a debt, or a brief record/memorandum used to assist our memories.
In my lifetime, I have sat through all kinds of meetings, thousands of them.
Note taking has frequently been part of my routine.
I know that by listening to and then summarising what you hear can help you understand and remember the information later.
I have probably filled up 100’s if not 1000’s of notebooks too.
Some of which I treasure to this day.
I’ve gathered action points and insights galore.
Taking notes can help you to concentrate and listen more effectively.
In fact, notetaking can also help keep you awake at times and even forces you to pay attention!

Paying attention

Growing older however, I’ve recognised that the most thoughts, impressions and feelings come gently, very softly even.
Last week whilst in a zoom call with Elder David Bednar, with other European mission leaders, he encouraged us to do something different.
Previously, sat in these kinds of meetings my experience is that there is an in initial rush to capture what an Apostle is saying, and like many others I found myself trying to keep up.
This time however, he invited us not to take dictation style notes, but rather to record personal impressions, as President Russell M. Nelson has challenged, so that “I know for myself”.


I started to look for and listen for those customised messages, specially crafted so that I could “know for myself” what I needed to learn in that very moment.
As I listened to learn, my note taking changed from words he stated, to personal meaningful impressions that came.
I recognised that there is a space between the words that someone uses to the feelings of the spirit that can stir our souls into action.
Still, small, whisperings of the spirit came.
Why not consider your note taking in your next meeting, seminar or class, consider not recording the words said, but rather the feelings or impressions that come.
Listen to learn and learn to listen.

Walk and Talk

Never before have we lived so close to a temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In Scotland, it is a 4 ½ hour drive to the temple in Chorley, Lancashire.

Today, we live only a short distance away in Leidschendam, a 20-minute drive from the temple in Zoetermeer.

Temples are different from the thousands of Church meetinghouses located around the world.

Meetinghouses are where Sunday worship services, youth gatherings, service projects, and other community events take place.

Temples have a more specific purpose.

They are places specially set apart for sacred service and ceremonies.

They are the House of The Lord.

The House of the Lord is the most sacred place of worship in the world — a place where heaven touches the earth, a place where marvellous blessings are bestowed, and a place where we can feel closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as we strive to become more like Them.

Temple Grounds

In recent weeks the temple grounds have become a favourite place to walk and talk.

The grounds are a place of beauty, serenity, and reverence.

The grounds attract many local visitors.

They have become a sanctuary to rest, to contemplate and to consider the deeper purpose and meaning of life.

The grounds have also become for me, a place to listen to, meet with, talk with, read with, laugh with, study with, walk with, pray with, reflect with, ponder with and counsel with our missionaries.


As we walk and talk, we learn together as our thoughts are elevated heavenward.

In my professional coaching career, I have also found that breakthroughs occur in our thinking more easily when surrounded by nature, open space, and a tranquil environment.

Walking and talking just make good sense!

My wife and I take time to walk and talk every day.

We take in the surroundings and breathe in fresh air. By so doing, we are using all our senses to be in the present and soak up the natural world.

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”- Charles Dickens

Imagine for a moment your favourite walking spot.

How does it make you feel when you walk there?