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2020-winter-coaching-for-success

Coaching for Success: Finding a Thought Partner to Help You Unlock Your Potential

It seems like each time my peers ask about my job, it makes a little more sense to them than the last time. They finally asked me to write an article explaining what I do! There are so many different kinds of coaches, the title can be confusing, so I’ll start by describing what coaching […]

It seems like each time my peers ask about my job, it makes a little more sense to them than the last time. They finally asked me to write an article explaining what I do! There are so many different kinds of coaches, the title can be confusing, so I’ll start by describing what coaching is and isn’t – to me. There are other types of coaches, and they are free to use the term as they wish. I’ll describe my own definition below. Then I’ll give you tips on finding the right coach for you.

What coaching is not:

It’s not therapy. Therapy for past trauma, childhood issues, and severe anxiety (to name but a few topics) are necessary. The coaching I do does not claim to take the place of psychological therapy or counseling.

It’s not mentoring. Mentoring is a process of training, advising, and passing down wisdom to a younger or less-experienced colleague. I do this for aspiring coaches in Heidrick & Struggles’ Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance (LCOP) program, a post-grad certificate offered at Rutgers and American U. Although I use some coaching skills in that role, my function there is more that of a mentor than a coach.

It’s not a consultancy. A consultant is an adviser with expertise in their field, which they will use to help you problem-solve or strategize.

What coaching is:

Coaching is neutral. My background is in Communications, Business, HR, and Leadership, but in a coaching session, my knowledge is on the back burner. The reason is that research shows advice rarely works. People are more likely to change if they make their own discoveries. I’m trained and practiced at actively listening without getting attached to a certain outcome or action I’d like you to take. If you’ve ever been annoyed by unasked-for advice (and who hasn’t?), you’ll understand how powerful my active listening (without trying to control the outcome) really is.

Coaching is powerful! A good coach is specifically trained in how to ask questions in a way that opens your eyes to answers you just wouldn’t discover on your own. And thinking out loud with someone who knows what to ask and how to ask it is totally, shockingly different from sharing your thoughts with a friend or loved one. I often get client comments about the “magic” that seems to happen when our conversation leads to crystal clarity about exactly what to do next.

Coaching is a codiscovery process. What interests me is what you may discover about yourself. If this sounds too airy-fairy to you, hang on: usually, the barrier between you and the success you want is something you could change if you only could identify and face up to it. It’s like the proverbial monster under the bed. It’s a lot less scary when someone comes in and shines a light under there. By the same token, during our sessions, I help you gain insights about yourself that help you pull down the barriers that stand in your way.

What to look for if you’d like a coach as described above:

ICF qualification. Whether you’re looking for an executive coach or a life coach, make sure they are accredited and qualified through the International Coach Federation (ICF). Look for ICF ACC or PCC on their website or card.

Accessibility. Make sure your coach is local enough to easily meet with you face to face or has experience with virtual sessions. Research shows that telephone (audio-only) coaching is as good as or better than video-conferencing. But the coach should have the training and/or experience in virtual coaching to be effective. And of course, face-to-face is still golden.

A good rapport. You need to feel comfortable with your coach. If you feel intimidated or self-conscious with your coach, this will hinder your journey to peak performance. If your would-be coach doesn’t put you at your ease, you may simply not be a good match for each other. Any good coach will be plugged into the coaching community and more than happy to recommend others you could try.

A trial session. Some coaches offer a no-obligation 20-minute laser-coaching session for you to experience what coaching is like. You simply need to be prepared with a decision or challenge you’re facing that you’d like to take action on. The coach will take it from there. I offer this because I want to spread the word about what ICF executive coaching is like. Call me with questions, or text me to book your complimentary 20-minute laser-coaching call!

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summer-2019-women-and-imposter-syndrome

Women and Imposter Syndrome

It can creep up unsuspected like a distant ache in your gut, like dread in the face of an insurmountable obstacle, or like the paralysis of doing everything except the one thing you know you were meant to do. Imposter Syndrome. That sense that you are not up to the task, that they promoted the […]

It can creep up unsuspected like a distant ache in your gut, like dread in the face of an insurmountable obstacle, or like the paralysis of doing everything except the one thing you know you were meant to do.

Imposter Syndrome. That sense that you are not up to the task, that they promoted the wrong person and will soon discover their error.  Or, if you are self-employed, the struggle to put a dollar amount on your time and convince potential clients you are worth it.  The pain of “marketing” one’s services while inhabiting the same body that was once a child: the one who skinned her knees, and who cried when she couldn’t break open the piñata at her own birthday party.  Now, she is a Human Resources Director, a Family Therapist, a Department Manager.  And you know that girl is still in there somewhere.

In addition to seeing our own past or present weaknesses, many of us fear seeming disingenuous offering our services to people within our network with whom we have collaborated in the past.  We do not want a friend or former colleague to feel used, or like we are selling to them.  To flip our mindset to see that we offer something that will benefit them far beyond the dollar cost, we need to realize the value of what we bring.  This is easily done intellectually, but to bring that knowledge to the heart often requires time in conversation with a neutral party who is trained to help you change the underlying beliefs that feed the mindset.

While Imposter Syndrome is not unique to women, we seem to experience it more.  In London, England when I was first promoted to HR Director, I called my mom stateside to tell her the news.  Her first comment was, “Do you think you can do it?”  I was bilingual, well-educated, experienced, and living in my third European country of residence.  But her question threw me off balance for a split-second as I wondered how to answer.

When I relayed this story over the years to other female friends, they identified with the feeling and shared similar tales of their own.  In some cases, our beloved mothers unwittingly transferred their self-doubt onto us.  Many of us did not realize this had happened until our 30s or 40s, when we got a renewed energy for stepping into our bigness.

One of the barriers to self-actualizing in this way is concealing our vulnerabilities.  Sometimes when we try to explore how we might step outside our comfort zone or reach for the stars, we mention it to the wrong person, who shoots us down in the blink of an eye.  They speak out of their own narrow view of self, lumbering you with their own set of perceived limitations, their own shoulds, musts, and can’ts.  The result is that we clam up, unable to state out loud the thing that holds us back.  Yet, saying it out loud and looking it full in the face may be the key to disarming it.

Another dynamic that may leave women bewildered is that many (not all of course) are big enough people to see and praise others’ giftedness.  We are confident enough to see our own strengths and those of our colleagues, and to see the value of collaborating.  This ability is one of the hallmarks of an excellent, mature leader.  However, in an ego-driven or male-dominated work environment, the person who does this may be left doubting herself as she celebrates others’ expertise and no one returns the favor.  In fact, as she applauds her male colleagues’ gifts, everyone else is doing the same, and hers may remain unseen.  This reinforces her nagging suspicion that she is an imposter and unworthy of her position.

My response to this is not, as you might expect, for women to band together and support each other, giving each other a leg up whenever possible.  This is no bad thing, but I would suggest instead that male and female leaders actively work together to dissolve the unconscious divide between men and women; that we seek the person underneath the gender.  This is becoming particularly important in an age when socially, and especially amongst millennials and Generation Y, gender roles and even gender itself has become a blurred line or a point somewhere on a spectrum rather than the traditional cut and dried definitions of male and female.

To find courage to navigate leading in a changing world, a coach who helps you see new possibilities and open your eyes to perspectives you would not have found alone can be an enormous asset.  Some coaches function as advisers, mentors, or consultants.  I believe to get beyond Imposter Syndrome and make the kind of self-discoveries that will help you improve your mindset and make good decisions, you need a non-judgmental thought partner who asks questions that help you see what lies beneath the issue for you so you can design your own actions.  My advice would always be limited by the fact that I am not you.  That is why I help you better understand what you know about yourself and the situation, to enable you to design your own action steps.  The actions you design yourself are far more motivating to you because they are authentically yours.

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