Why did it take years for me to understand that the right help at the right time can make a world of difference? Important and positive change can happen through learning smart skills, seeing different perspectives, choosing wisely, managing feelings, or simply taking the right actions.
I coach because I can now offer what I had too little of in my earlier career. My aim is to help people avoid the painful paths and to go forward with more ease in their work, life and relationships.
I am impressed by many coaches’ excellent CVs, demonstrating their career competence, achievement and diligence. In contrast, my own career before coaching could be called opportunistic. I worked in sales and switched companies often in the early days. I once got fired for insolence, I passively endured badly-behaved colleagues and acted competitively, being foolish and proud. I had plenty of success at work, but plenty too of what I now call ‘experience’ (ie. failure, re-branded). I did not usually assert myself well but preferred to subversively and resentfully submit to others’ power, thus undermining my own career.
There were always two sides of me trying to co-exist: I was seen externally as smart, capable, articulate and confident and this helped me win business and manage important clients. The other side of me looked inwards and silently shook her head, asking always the same questions – why don’t you think ahead, take care of yourself, check your values and do what you really want to do? I didn’t listen to that part because I was running after money, status and recognition and I couldn’t see how the two parts could gel. I didn’t know the difference between ambition and purpose.
I eventually got some feedback that shocked me: other people’s perceptions of me were very different from my own, and not in a good way. So why was I not showing who I felt I really was? I took some courses and sought out career counsel, received more tough feedback and pondered.
The point of this story is that I had to work it out for myself. Apart from two great bosses, for nearly 20 years I didn’t find effective support. Advice from colleagues had an agenda, friends didn’t ‘get it’, parents were out of touch, and mentors seemed to shape-shift into other kinds of relationships with me (boss, client, romance). I didn’t think to find empathetic but neutral helpers, nor did I engage anyone curious enough about me to courageously dig a little deeper or ask non-judgementally about what really mattered. Of course, I probably did not want to listen anyway so I just sucked it all up and got on with life as best I could. I paid the price in reduced well-being and a stifled discontent with my life and relationships.
With hindsight, I can identify times when coaching would have saved me from myself or eased my path. The right coach would have helped me consider the impact of my attitude and behaviour, or develop parts of me that were under-used, or find more constructive ways to deal with people and problems. A good coach could have taught me to ground myself, or round myself out, or see my life more clearly.
So I coach now in order to help others avoid such slow progress. To help clients learn faster and avoid blunders, I aim to encourage clarity and honesty, and to refine and grow people’s sense of themselves. I strive to steadfastly support others in a judgement-free holding space that makes it possible to face up to who we really are, and to respond to our own selves and to what life demands of us, with grace and the widest possible range of resources and skill.
Years on, I still ponder because the journey to showing up to my potential is not over. I constantly look to develop my self-knowledge just as I help clients to develop theirs. I try new things, as I encourage my clients to do. I have the right support in my life now, and simply by providing timely support to my clients to the best of my ability, I know that I am happy doing useful work.