Updated: Mar 20, 2020
Fifteen years ago coaching for me was a middle-aged white man on a football field.
There was a lot of shouting involved. A lot of running around. High blood pressure. Cigarettes. Early heart attack.
That was coaching.
And I was going to stay well clear of that. For obvious reasons.
Then, when I came to the UK I started learning more about coaching.
First, at my place of work, I was offered a 6 day introduction course to coaching. Which included traveling up to Birmingham. Including overnight stays. I didn’t go (I can’t stand travel and sleeping in hotel beds). My colleague did. And hated it. She couldn’t see how ‘just asking questions’ was going to help anyone!
Then I met the guy from the corner shop, who said that he was a coach. And his definition of a coach was someone who ‘told people straight’ (and that included calling someone all sorts of names on the phone, concluded with a ‘never call me again!’)
And then there were the woo-woo, dancing-barefoot-in-the-woods, airy-fairy women coaches on the internet, who thought that all women were ‘goddesses’ and were all happily acknowledging and supporting women’s 'magic' and 'exceptional' powers.
(Just as an aside. Did I miss something? Was there a big hand-out of ‘magic’ or ‘exceptional powers’ to women, and I was just - you know - working? Or commuting? Or cleaning the toilet?)
So, yes, it’s probably fair to say that coaching and I didn’t have the best start.
Gradually, over time though, I started thinking differently.
I was coached myself. On emotional intelligence. And on how to deal with redundancy (and anger).
And the experience was profound. Emotions emerged that I didn’t know were still there. I found clarity in how emotionally intelligent I really was, and where there was still work to do. I made progress in my life, and in my work.
But most of all, coaching gave me an experience of being heard and of actually feeling how reflecting on yourself, your emotions and your thoughts, has a profound impact on how you feel – mentally, yes, but also physically.
That knot in my stomach started to unwind. My shoulders started to relax (or at least I gained awareness of when I was holding tension in my shoulders). I started to become less ‘hard’.
I started to get convinced that I had been holding on to my inner ‘tough-ness’ as something that was somehow a good thing.
As if work and life was meant to be hard work, a struggle.
I wanted to bring more ‘soft’-ness into my life.
And that’s when I really discovered coaching.
Coaching as a way of interacting with people. As adults. With respect. Really listening to what they’ve got to say. Listening to what they are afraid of.
Coaching as a way of helping people understand how they can make changes. Change imposed by their organisation. Self-imposed changes.
Coaching that is not just ‘asking questions’. But about listening to people and helping them come up with their own answers. Asking the right question at the right moment. It’s about helping people to get that ‘aha’-moment, that moment when a shift in perspective happens, and learning takes place. It’s about getting people from lethargy and negativity to a place of energy and action.
I found that coaching is an actual skill. A skill that can be learned.
And I also found that coaching had turned into an actual profession.
A profession I wanted to be a part of. A profession I wanted to have a proper qualification in (so that I didn’t end up being perceived as the guy from the corner shop).
Long story short. I spent 15 months getting qualified as a Certified Professional Coach with an ICF* accredited training organisation. I loved the experience. I loved getting to know so many new coaches across the world. I made new friends. I found a community.
And I found a way of making coaching part of my longer term life plan.
And more importantly, I found a way in which I could combine all my interests, my skills, my need to tend to my ‘softer’ side, my wants and needs. In one business. In one life. With respect for people, creativity and coaching at its core.
It’s been quite a journey.
From a disbeliever, from someone who was actively discouraged from coaching. To someone who knows coaching works.
From someone who used her ‘hard’ project management skills and someone who believed that work was, well, hard work. To someone who actively looks to use her ‘softer’ side.
From someone who wasn’t unhappy in her job but not really happy either. And didn’t really know why. To someone who knows. Who knows how she wants to help. Who knows what she gets out of that herself.
From managing imposed changes, to helping intrinsic change happen.
From change to coach.
From projects to portfolio career.
From where I was to where I am today: Clarity, happiness, leading to a my very own coaching business for professional women!