I ran across a great blog entry recently from Carey Nieuwhof. I highly recommend reading the post by Jenni Catron; you can find it here. One phrase in particular that stood out to me was “Define the What; Release the How.”

Define the What; Release the How. 

The concept—in its most basic form—is that you as a team leader can define what your team needs to accomplish, but then you need to release them to figure out how to accomplish it. I found myself thinking about the ways this idea relates to supervision and to coaching. I’ve written about the distinction between these two forms of support before: you can find one of those entries here.

Supervisor and Coach

But this insight from Jenni Catron brings an additional level of clarity to the issue. As a supervisor, you define the what, then let your team members figure out the how. As a coach, you can be helpful, but you don’t need to tell people how to do what they are doing. As Catron notes, too often we are micromanaging and actually getting in the way of our staff members’ progress.

Now, none of us like to be accused of micromanaging, and few of us will own doing it. (Similar to how 73% of American drivers consider themselves to be better than average, when the actual number of above average drivers must by definition be 50%.) To release the how, we need to rethink the role of supervisor.

Think back on a time when you were working under someone’s supervision in ministry. You knew what to do, you had a good approach in mind, and your supervisor keeps constantly interrupting to tell you what to do. Annoying, right? And didn’t it make you feel like the other person didn’t trust you and thought maybe you weren’t smart enough to figure it out for yourself?

The cornerstone: Trust

As I’ve considered the issue, I’m really realizing that way too often we don’t trust other people sufficiently. The Holy Spirit can speak to them just as he speaks to you. Others have intelligence and ideas and perspectives just as you do. So be careful not to jump in when you shouldn’t. Let the other person have the reins to take responsibility and initiative… even if you’re “in charge.”


Coaching 101- We are successful when we find out what part God has for us and learn to play it well. Coaching can help us take steps that move toward the completion of the work God has given us to do.Coaching 101 will help you discover the power of coaching in your life both as a coach and as someone being coached.

Coaching 101 Handbook- The Coaching 101 Handbook is a resource designed to help leaders apply the practical principles introduced in Coaching 101 and begin the journey of becoming a more effective coach.

The Leadership Difference– If you are running up against barriers that aren’t specifically theological but are more about how to lead people and get along with them as you work together, The Leadership Difference is for you. Whether you are leading a church, a team, or a small group, these skills and strategies will result in lightening your own load, developing the skills of others, and getting the job done effectively.

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Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash