what, exactly, is leadership coaching?

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I’ve been coaching for a couple of years now, and I can’t even express how much I love it. I love it. Without exception, every person I’ve coached has blown me away with their stories, their resilience, and their determination. I’ve coached priests, I’ve coached doctors, I’ve coached lawyers, I’ve coached professors … I’ve even coached coaches. And there’s really nothing more heartening than watching someone suddenly have a revelation about their work that sets them soaring.

What’s funny is that a few years ago, I didn’t even really know what a coach was, outside of sports — although there are some distinct similarities between the two types of coaches. It was when I was attending a workshop to become certified in my friend Brené Brown’s work, where I met leadership and executive coaches for the first time — and realized both that a coach is probably something I could’ve used a long time ago, and that I certainly had enough corporate experience to be one myself. So I looked into leadership coaching. As part of my research, I became a fan of positive psychology after watching Shawn Achor’s amazing TED talk, and after learning more about it, I pursued a certificate with Wholebeing Institute, a coaching training program that is rooted in positive psychology.

And then I never looked back.

Anyway, it dawned on me that while I’ve shared that I’m a coach, I never really described what it is that I do. So I thought I’d share some thoughts on what I believe leadership coaching is about, and why everyone should have one.

First of all, here’s what it’s not: leadership coaching is not therapy. At no point with my clients do we ever discuss their relationships with their families of origin, addictions, mental health issues or anything similar. The truth is that I’m just not qualified, and wouldn’t want to say or do anything that might make a situation that requires a health care professional worse. So if I feel like these issues need to be addressed, I don’t hesitate to refer my client to a therapist or psychologist who might be more helpful than I. (And incidentally, if you’re ever working with a coach who isn’t a psychologist or psychotherapist, but nevertheless is more than happy to “diagnose” you, that should throw up a huge red flag.) Also, leadership coaching tends to be more forward-thinking than therapy: while therapy might help you untangle the past, leadership coaching is more about future goals and ambitions.

So that’s what leadership coaching isn’t. Here’s what it is: leadership coaching is like having an objective friend or colleague support you as you navigate your career path and goals, being mindful of what you want to achieve (as opposed to what society says you should achieve), while rooting for you the entire time. A good leadership coach will listen thoroughly to what you’re hoping to accomplish, invite you to explore questions that might come up, give you homework that helps you make forward progress, and acts as your accountability partner. A good coach will reflect back what you say, dispassionately, with clarity and without judgment, for you to hear what you’re trying to accomplish for yourself, and help you decide what steps you want to take to make it happen. I like to say that a good coach acts like the bumpers on a bowling lane when you’re learning how to bowl — the bumpers don’t tell you how to bowl the ball, and they don’t tell you where the pins are or how to make a strike, but they do help keep you from falling into the gutter as you do all the bowling yourself.

Make sense?

One more thing about positive psychology coaching (the kind of coaching I practice) — to be clear, this isn’t about blowing smoke, or simply telling you to be optimistic, that being positive alone will make you successful. That’s way too simplistic and frankly, a bit fantastical. It simply differs from most other coaching in the following way: many coaches will determine what it is that you’re doing wrong, and try to fix it. Positive psychology coaching is more focused on what you’re doing right — what you’ve done in the past that has brought you success thus far, and then helps you figure out how to do more of that so that you can create more success in the future. It’s very empirical, identifying evidence in your own life that shows you how to succeed in your own way. Needless to say, mining your past for success is incredibly empowering, and almost without exception, all my clients leave our sessions feeling energized and ready to tackle their days ahead. (For more information on positive psychology, seriously, check out that Shawn Achor TED talk — it’s fast-paced and funny, but is a great introductory to positive psychology, and how to incorporate it on your own in your own life.)

So that’s it! I hope that clears things up. If you think you might want to work with a leadership coach, there are obviously tons of them out there (in fact, my friend Brené has a directory of folks who are certified in her work, so you can find one local to you). And of course, if you’d like to work with me — I’d love that! My first session is always free, solely so we can establish if we’re a good fit to work together. If we do go forward, I have coaching packages available — you can find out about all of them, as well as my coaching methodology, here.

I’d love to help you make light.


want to get a glimpse of my coaching in action? join me at lime retreat!

Lime Retreat is back! Consider joining me for the brand new Lime Retreat on Saturday, November 16th, for a dream-making, goal-setting, strategy-activating day retreat with good food, good music and good fun! Held in a funky art gallery in downtown Houston, the day promises to set you on your way to curating a joyful, purpose-full life. In fact, maybe make a weekend of it.

Click here or the button below to register — space is very limited, and REGISTRATION CLOSES AT THE END OF THE MONTH.