Listening Well

Here’s the goal: you want to be an effective, transformational coach who honors Christ over the long haul. What skills do you need in order for this to happen? Among the many important abilities that could be discussed, one crucial skill is often overlooked: you need to be a good listener.

God through his Word instructs us to make listening a priority. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Proverbs 19:20 gives us this directive: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” Listening well provides us with a chance to gain understanding that makes us more effective. Listening well also protects us from missing opportunities or making mistakes that undermine our effectiveness.

Listening is clearly important. Why, then, are we often not good listeners, whether as coaches or in other areas of life? One thing that hinders listening is hurry. When we’re in a rush to get to the next thing or our mind is racing, we cannot give the time and attention needed to listen well. Another hindrance is pride. If we feel we must always be “right” or we coach by the “it’s my way or the highway” mantra, we won’t listen well. A third hindrance is lack of practice. Most of us are not naturally good listeners. Listening well takes intentional practice. We have to resist hindrances and distractions in order to engage in really listening.

As a coach, to whom should you be listening? The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s crucial that you prioritize listening in these three areas:

1. Listen to God. The God who loves you and reconciles you to himself through his Son Jesus is speaking to you. He is directing you to become who he created you to be and to pursue the fullness of life he has for you. He gives you wisdom to coach and live for his honor. All of this, though, requires listening to him. Listen to God through regular time reading and reflecting on the Bible, which is his primary means of speaking to us. The more God’s Word saturates your mind and heart, the more you’re also able to listen to God’s Spirit as he prompts you to do or say something – always for the purpose of exalting Christ.

2. Listen to those closest to you. As a coach, there will always be lots of voices vying for your attention: fans, detractors, social media, well-meaning “experts,” and many others. Make sure you don’t let these voices drown out those who are actually most important to you: the ones who love you and are for you no matter what your won-loss record might be. If you’re married, make it your priority to listen to your spouse. If you have a family, listen to your children. Listen to colleagues and mentors that you know genuinely care about you.

3. Listen to those you desire to influence. God has placed players and fellow coaches in your sphere of influence, and he desires to work through you to impact their lives. To fulfill God’s amazing purpose for you, though, requires that you really listen to your players and fellow coaches. Ask good questions and listen to what’s going on in their lives and what’s on their hearts. Listen so that you can get to know them and genuinely care for them. This doesn’t mean you must do everything they suggest, but if you listen well to them, they’ll be much more willing to trust you and listen to you.

Coach, because you desire to be an effective, transformational coach who honors Christ over the long haul, make it your goal to keep growing in the skill of listening. Be quick to listen and eager to gain the wisdom that comes with receiving advice and instruction.

For reflection: Take a moment to evaluate how you’re doing in these three areas: listening to God, listening to those closest to you, and listening to those you desire to influence. As you recognize where you need growth, ask God for his strength and grace to take next steps toward being a good listener.