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Leadership Coaching

I love coaching. It has always come quite naturally to me, and I started doing it in the mid-90s as an outgrowth of my ministry and university teaching. The coaching profession was in its early stages, and a lot of people were hanging shingles, some of them reputably, others not so much. I followed the evolution of professional coaching through the International Coach Federation (ICF), and watched it emerge into a respected credentialing organization. I appreciated the high standards and benchmarking, and pursued certification. Today, I am an ICF/ACC Certified Coach and have over 500 hours of carefully logged coaching experience with over 75 clients. More importantly, I receive coaching constantly.

What is Coaching?

When I hear the word coaching, my first images are the football coaches and band directors of my youth. I can still hear the words of Tommy Powell, “Suck it up, Gupton, and go back out there and hit someone!” Or the Little League coach, “Keep your eye on the ball, use your low center of gravity to step into your swing, swing hard and level, and you’ll be surprised how far the ball goes.” Or Ed Welte, the band director who would settle for nothing but our finest. He said, “If you make excuses, you’ll always settle for second best. There comes a time when you must simply say, ‘Ok, I’ll do it!’” And then I was honored to play in a regional high school orchestra under the guest conductor, the legendary University of Michigan Director of Bands, Dr. William Revelli (look him up, you’ll be impressed). To this day, I have never been moved to that level of excellence, and I will always think of Sousa marches as musical masterpieces.

All of these are legitimate ways of understanding coaching. But today, the meaning of coaching has expanded to include any relationship that helps you bring your best to the challenges and opportunities before you. And as a credentialed helping profession, coaching is an intentional, ongoing conversation with a partner who is skilled in listening and client-focused guidance to help you discover yourself, target growth areas, and take action to reshape your life around that learning. The goal is to help you live and lead more effectively. In the Christian context, through prayer and spiritual attentiveness, the Holy Spirit joins that relationship to empower you to discern God’s leading and live out his calling.

“Carlus has been excellent in coaching me in my transition from local ministry to ministry in higher education. He asked the right questions and helped me discover potential pitfalls in my new position. He follows an organized coaching strategy that allowed me to follow up on our discussions and be more successful.” – Dr. Carl Williamson, Andy T. Richie Distinguished Chair of Discipleship and Church Planting, Harding University, Searcy, Arkansas

To learn more, contact Dr. Gupton

Coaching Principles

  • Coaching is a safe, confidential relationship – Coaching provides a safe environment to help you see yourself more clearly and identify gaps between where you are and where you need or want to be.
  • Coaching is about your goals, your learning, and your growth – I will listen deeply, and help you lean honestly and hopefully into God’s gifts and opportunities.
  • Coaching is about fulfilling God’s mission in your life – The spirit of the coaching relationship is best expressed in the prayer of the apostle Paul, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” (Ephesians 1:18)
  • Coaching is about learning rather than teaching – I am not an expert on your life, but a partner to help you build self-awareness and maximize your strengths. I use techniques such as active listening, open questions, encouragement, and challenge in a supportive environment. All of this is to assist you in discovering insights and taking next steps.
  • Coaching is about seizing the opportunities of life – Often, coaching helps you move meaningfully into a new phase of life. I help you understand the transition process and act with greater purpose.
  • Coaching is about action, your action – Each session you will determine 1-3 action steps you will take before the next session. You may be surprised how quickly you progress toward your goals.
  • Coaching is about all of you, not just your work or ministry – We all know that changing old habits and thought patterns are difficult. I help you recognize these patterns and support you as you change and grow.
  • Coaching maximizes your effectiveness – Coaching is not remedial help to overcome debilitating weaknesses, as valuable as this is. Instead, it capitalizes on strengths to forge ahead. In some cases, companies reward their most productive employees with coaches to help them reach greater potential.

“Carlus Gupton is a good listener. His ability and desire to listen well to what I am concerned about, and what I need to work on as a coach and consultant, myself, helps me to accomplish my goals more quickly. That my growth and my success brings him joy is evident at all times. His ability to look past the surface to deeper waters elevates me to greater heights as a professional who helps churches. I am forever grateful for the time spent with him, and look forward to more opportunities to be coached by him in the future.” – Dr. Timothy Gunnells, Associate Professor of Bible, Leadership and Ministry at Amridge University; Lead Minister, Southside Church of Christ, Shelbyville, Tennessee

To learn more, contact Dr. Gupton

Assessment-Based Coaching for Deeper Self-Awareness

While I do a good amount of coaching that is guided strictly by your current story, one of my specializations is assessment-based coaching, which attracts a lot of client interest. I am a certified coach in several personality instruments such as DISC, Grip-Birkman (and Birkman Signature), Gallup Strengths Finder, Emotional Intelligence, Enneagram, Conflict Styles, TTI Twelve Driving Forces, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. These can be used with individuals, groups of two or more, and teams. The client-guided nature of the sessions is still the same, but with a focus on the implications of the assessment results for your self-awareness and future-oriented goal-setting and fulfillment.

The value of these instruments is their capacity to enhance self-awareness. Tasha Eurich in her landmark book, Insight, demonstrates the importance of such exercises.

Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more effective leaders with more satisfied employees and more profitable companies. (Harvard Business Review,

A common difficulty with these instruments, however, is that they are used inappropriately, either as ends in themselves (i.e., completed without guidance), or as stimuli for affirmation without attention to blind spots, or as occasions for deep and often paralyzing self-analysis. On the other hand, when used knowledgeably as a basis for understanding both strengths and weaknesses alongside targeted feedback, they are powerful tools for growth. As Eurich points out, we need both internal self-awareness through guided introspection and external self-awareness through feedback others who see us in action. The coaching relationship is a perfect context for that to happen.

What Coaching Is Not

  • Coaching is not authoritarian – Unlike a tough sports coach who gives strong correction and makes you do fifty push-ups if you make a mistake, a coach is always supportive. I will indeed push you beyond your current level but will always be encouraging. You are in control. The responsibility to decide and act is yours.
  • Coaching is not therapy – Many of the communication techniques are the same, like active listening, reflecting, use of questions, limited advice giving, etc. However, therapy focuses on healing wounds and mitigating the effects of life difficulties. Coaching is future and action-oriented for people who are not carrying unresolved issues.
  • Coaching is not (necessarily) mentoring – Mentors are experts in a field who pass on the benefit of their experience to those with less experience. They provide knowledge, advice, guidance, correction, and encouragement to people who are newer to a field. They may use some coaching techniques, but mentors usually play the roles of advisor and teacher to impart knowledge and wisdom. In my case, it is not uncommon for my work with church leaders to be coach-mentor.
  • Coaching is not training – In training, the trainer sets the agenda. Change comes from outside the participant, via the trainer. In coaching, you set the agenda. I use adult learning principles of self-discovery to motivate change from within you.

Why Does Coaching Work?

Coaching works because it brings out your best. I believe you can create your own best answers and am trained to support you in that process. Specifically, this is what I will do during coaching sessions:

  • Listen – Your story is central. I fully engage in what you are saying. I also listen to the Holy Spirit and encourage you to do the same.
  • Ask questions – I use questions to stimulate your thinking and creativity. Questions are about possibilities and the future.
  • Encourage – Everyone needs encouragements, and usually we do not get enough. I will hold up your vision, your progress, and your efforts.
  • Facilitate while letting you lead – Coaches facilitate your learning and problem solving. Yet, they are never fully leading – you are, with your agenda and your approach.

Why Use a Coach?

The reasons people want coaching are endless  and as unique as the person. Here are a few examples that motivate people to use a coach.

  • To make significant changes
  • To move forward amidst uncertainty
  • To make better decisions
  • To set better goals
  • To reach goals faster
  • To grow spiritually
  • To have a collaborative partner
  • To improve relationships
  • To make a bigger impact on the world
  • To be a better leader
  • To simplify life
  • To reduce stress
  • To navigate life transitions


I usually keep a careful limit on the number of coaching relationships, and am open to inquiries. If you are interested, please contact me, and I will be happy to discuss the possibility or arranging coaching sessions.

Coaching Endorsements

“Dr. Carlus Gupton asks the right questions at the right time. He listens well and guides conversations toward self-discovery and real progress in self-development. His coaching led to fundamental changes in aspects of my leadership style and eliminated frustrations I faced from misunderstandings of my own strengths. I feel more confident and focused as a leader as a result of Dr. Gupton’s guidance, wisdom, and insight.” – Lieutenant Jamin Bailey, Battalion Chaplain, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division


“Life has ups and downs, and Carlus contacted me right at the time I needed someone to help me through a particularly rough situation. I had lost some confidence and was beginning to question my leadership, but Carlus kept me focused and continued to point me to resources that I could consult, allowing me to face some of my fears and develop my character. I left our sessions having a plan to move forward and the emotional energy to continue working with passion. I consider Carlus a friend, and I look forward to continued guidance and wisdom from him, and I also look forward to the variety of resources he points me towards for enrichment and encouragement. Today, I listen to podcasts that feed my soul and have a stack of books to read, and I am thankful for these changes in my daily routine.” – Dr. Jonathan Woodall, Preaching Minister, GracePointe Church of Christ, Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania; Associate Teaching Professor of Communication at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg

To learn more, contact Dr. Gupton