By Whaid Rose

To say that coaching is trending these days would be an understatement. Once exclusively related to sports, this term is associated with just about every profession imaginable.


Why this rapid growth of the coaching industry?

Theories abound, including the impact of TV shows such as Oprah and Dr. Phil, which, in a real sense, are live coaching sessions. The theory is that as viewers yearned to experience at home the same transformative results they were seeing on television, coaching became part of the cultural conversation and took on a life of its own.

But there’s more to it, as Atui Gwande illustrates in his brilliant TED Talk on the value of coaching.¹ Gwande is a globally recognized surgeon and medical researcher, dedicated to making the medical profession safer worldwide.

Apparently, the third leading cause of death is “medical mistakes,” after heart disease and cancer, in the United States. And in other countries where social and economic conditions make work difficult for medical professionals, the rate is alarmingly higher.

So Gwande poses this question: How do people get better at what they do? In other words, what’s the secret to professional and personal growth, even less than adequate circumstances?


Gwande looks at this question from two perspectives.

First, there’s the “traditional pedagogical” approach in which one chooses a career, does well in school, finds a good job, and becomes the manager of their own improvement through discipline and hard work.

Then there’s the other view based on this well-known fact: the best athletes in the world still have a coach. In this model, learning and growth are never complete, and outside input is critical to personal development.

Andy Stanley, Christian mega-church pastor and author, uses very direct language to hammer this point home: “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when somebody is watching and evaluating.”²

Applying this principle, Gwande invited a retired professor of his into his surgical ward to observe and critique him, and has led similar coaching experiments in India (the homeland of his immigrant parents) and other parts of the world where medical professionals work in sub-standard conditions. And in each case, the results have been nothing short of remarkable!

Gwande therefore concludes that everyone needs a coach. It’s how we get better at what we do. We’re not at our best when left to ourselves. We need the help of those who can see us better than we can see ourselves and provide us with a more accurate picture of our reality.

Without such input, we stop improving; with it, we discover the joy and fulfillment which comes with growth. And it is this discovery that is driving the “trendiness” of coaching in today’s world.


Needless to say, this has significant implications for leaders in a vibrant 21st-century church environment. It beckons us beyond the institutional dependency model of ministry to one of empowerment through equipping, the model set forth in Ephesians 4 as the means by which to bring all believers into the “fullness of the stature of Christ.

Connecting the dots between the equipping model and coaching provides a helpful perspective on Jesus’ role with His disciples, on Paul with Timothy, etc.

It explains the growing emphasis on coaching among outstanding leaders such as John Maxwell and Andy Stanley. (How telling that Maxwell, the world’s leading leadership expert, has narrowed his world down to a coaching company, and Stanley includes coaching as one of the five essentials of The Next Generation Leader.)

And it validates Artios Christian College’s commitment to this model and why the new Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership is all about coaching.


The focus is on people’s strengths and their potential for becoming all God created them to be, not on their weaknesses – what’s wrong with them – as does counseling. It is helping people learn how life works, and inviting them to become the change they wish to see in others, which is the catalyst for real and lasting transformation.

So how will you grow this year, get better at what you do, and help those in your sphere of influence do the same? Pastor Andy Stanley has a great suggestion: “Get a coach and you’ll never stop improving. Become a coach and ensure the improvement of those around you.”³

–Whaid Rose – The Artios Center for Vibrant Leadership



  1. Ted Talk by Atui Gwande: Want to Get Great at Something? Get a Coach.
  2. Andy Stanley, The Next Generation Leader: Five Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future (New York: Multnomah Books, 2003), 104
  3. Ibid, 127.