Coaching Partnerships: A Case Study
It can be hard for me to put in to words the shape and quality of longer term coaching partnerships. Lasting over many months they are a time of profound discovery and transformation for my clients.
The following is the transcript of an exit interview with an amazing woman I recently worked with for 6 months. We began working together just as she’d decided to leave her job in pursuit of more heart-centered work. The path ahead of her felt winding, unclear, and adventurous and she did not want to navigate it alone. What transpired for her during our 6 months of partnership was deeply transformational and enlightening.
I hope by reading it through her reflections you’ll get a better understanding and grasp of what coaching can create:
How are things different than when we began our work together six months ago?
As a result of our partnership, one thing that has changed is how I approach ideas. Six months ago I would have been like, “Oh, this is an idea,” and I would have strangled that thing to the ground until I solved it, figured it out, cracked the code, perfected it - all of that kind of forceful stuff. Now, six months later, what I’m doing differently is giving that idea space to breath, space to shift and evolve and be a different thing, and that comes through in the way that I approach it, the way that I brainstorm, the way that I let an idea sit for a minute before I have to do anything with it.
I come from a different space, but I think it’s all in that letting ideas breath and letting things flow.
What limiting beliefs have you let go of?
That's a big one. I no longer believe that there's one singular purpose that I have in life that I'm just waiting to discover; I don't have one calling that I'm going to go find and do for 50 years. That's limiting because then I shut myself off from other stuff,
I no longer believe that I have to do something once I start it - there’s a new ability for self-awareness and to be able to say, "What's going on here?" Ideas can shift and now maybe it's something else, you know what I mean? Something around work too, because I just got such freedom in that space. I no longer believe that somebody else is creating my life for me and I'm just along for the ride. I believed that before, which is insane, because it feels like lifetimes ago.
What beliefs do you now have?
I now believe that I have full autonomy and power creation, and everything comes from nothing. Whatever's going to happen today is nothing right now, and then I'm going to go do whatever it is. I'm going to go create that. I discovered that through experimentation and just trying things. It's just so insane to think I was so stuck - thank goodness that I quit my job. Thank goodness. Oh my gosh. I know not everybody has to do that, but just thank goodness that I did that. It was almost like the plug in the drain that just let it all come out. Anyway, I now believe that I have access to creating, trying things, going on adventures with ideas and freedom.
I now believe that I have an awesome red bicycle called myself and my tools and my thinking, my relationship to my thinking. I now believe I'm a creator, or a creative. Those things I would have never said that before. I now believe that I can do anything. Yeah, I can do anything.
How do you think your life is different as a result of what you’ve learned?
It feels much more free flowing, less strangling and with less anxiety and less desire to control. An idea can come in and it can breath. My life looks different because I'm not constantly having to strangle ideas. I'm less anxious, less stressed, more open-ended. My life is different in the sense of the amount of empowerment that I feel having done the big moves and having the big, hard conversations and experimenting and stepping into things that I've never done before and which terrified me. That's a really scary idea...and I'm going to go do it anyway. I just feel stronger, so my life is different in that I'm standing in a stronger place with myself, which then just makes everything in my life shift in terms of what I'm capable of doing.
I have clarity in places that I didn't have before - in the types of things I love doing. I have clarity around the next couple of years and where I'm focusing, you know what I mean? Career clarity feels a little sterile, but it's like I have clarity on what I want to be doing and putting out in the world.
My life looks different because there's some intention and direction there, which I didn't have before. I was kind of just on a wheel turning. I was like, "There's got to be something better than this, but I don't know what it is." Now I'm like, "There is something better than this. I know what it is."
I've come so far. I'm a different human. It's insane.
In what other ways has this work impacted your life?
I'm set up to work in a different work environment. I'm set up to operate differently in my relationships, and I'm set up to operate differently related to goals and things I want to achieve in my life. Everywhere, you know?
I said this to somebody the other day, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I was like:
I didn't know what I needed, but it's like the universe knew what I needed, because I didn't know that I needed this. I wouldn't have been able to articulate it. I thought I needed somebody just because I was ... I was smart enough to know I couldn't do it alone, you know? Then, I was like, " I probably need a resource that can help me navigate scary and unknown," but I didn't know what I needed, and all the stuff we're talking about that's actually taken place with the transformation of who I am, how I show up, how I show up to ideas, how I get freedom and stuff, like I didn't know any of that.
How would you describe this work to someone else?
That it’s gravitated towards and concentrates on women with big ideas and women who are drivers, women who are like, 'I want to go do this big thing,' and they have big ideas and they're going to be in action on it. And you bring this really interesting set of tools that complements it all in a way that's like chocolate to wine, you know what I mean? Apart they're great. You know, there's nothing wrong with one of them. And when they're together it makes total sense they're together.
What did you think this work would look like when we began?
I thought we were going to talk once a week and I was going to have stuff I was sorting through and you were going to be my co-processor; we were going to process together. I knew you would coach me. I've been coached before in non- formal coaching partnership context, but I get the concept, so I was like you’ll probably call me on some stuff. You’ll probably challenge me in some of the ways that I'm thinking or approaching things, so I'll get feedback. Then, I'll apply it and we'll talk again the next week and we'll do that. That's what I thought.
And how would you describe it now that you’ve experienced it?
Now having gone through it, I can for sure see why the word partner matters, because it's important. It's a partnership, and it's open. There's going to be open dialog continuously. There's going to be stuff that is about an area of your life, but then you're going to see it flood into other areas - we're going to be talking about career, a project, or something and then I'm going to start seeing how that translates to how I show up in my friendships.
It's going to be a little more fluid in areas of my life it touches. I didn't quite realize how the unlimited open communication all the time would breath life into things.
At first I thought I was going to climb a mountain and you were going to be at base camp and I was going to get to the top of the mountain and then I was going to stick my flag in and be like, "Word. That was fun." I thought I was going to do it in 90 days. Now, it's like I don't even know where I am on the mountain, and you're at base camp, but also sometimes I feel like you're with me walking, and then sometimes I feel like you’s day, "Hey, I'm going to transport myself up there from base camp. We're just going to hang out for a minute. Sometimes I'm going to be at base camp but I have to tell you the walkie talkies don't work." Just this whole kind of nuances it would take on of how you would communicate, when you would maybe offer more, like, yeah, let's get in and roll up our sleeves and tear this idea apart.
I don't think even if you had told me that's how it was going to be I wouldn't have understood it until I did it.
What do you think the secret sauce was that made this work so impactful?
One of them is your relatability; I felt safe with you almost right away. I resisted you a couple of times, but that wasn't you. That was me. Your relatability, honestly it's really a gift, and it just made it ... Just every time I got off the phone I'd be like, "Gosh, I just love her," you know what I mean? It was the type of relationship I needed at that time. I think sometimes in life you need somebody who's going to yell at you and make you go do burpees, and sometimes in life you need somebody who's going to just have a different conversation with you. I didn't need somebody who's going to yell at me and tell me to go do burpees.
I think the other thing is you have multiple things you bring to the table - thought partner, thought and action coach, champion brainstormer. You're so creative and fun to brainstorm with. You're really great at asking questions or pulling back and saying, “let's look at it from this angle.” You just bring so much to the table it's not one flavor, not one dimensional, so that creates a richer experience.
What drew you in to this work?
I was in action in my life and needed to be coming at it from a different place. I needed a different set of tools. There was also a sense that something was at stake here, something greater that I want and need to be doing. Some people that are like, "Oh, this might be nice, but take it or leave it. I mean, if I get something out of it great, but if not, fine." That, to me, just wouldn't work.
I remember at one point thinking, “man, I really wish I had known what this was going to be.” It wasn't what I thought. Then, I was like, "But it is almost unexplainable." Obviously you're fine tuning all of this as you evolve and things like that...but it’s almost unexplainable, but it's also explainable at the same time. It's kind of weird.
Because you kind of can't explain magic, but you also kind of can explain magic. If you say, "And then he had this deck of cards and it was amazing because he said, 'Draw your card'," you can explain that! But you can't explain what it felt like fully unless you were there to have your mind blown by this magic trick, or you definitely can't explain all the mechanics behind it because you're not a magician and you don't REALLY know.
Any final thoughts?
I'm sitting here in my car about to walk into an appointment, and I'm just like, "Holy shit. My life has forever changed." I just didn't think this way before, and I didn't have this perspective. I'm just so jazzed about where I'm standing right now and what I'm creating. I mean just to create things and be like, well, that wasn't that awesome? I just feel like I'm in such a good head space.
I used to be so afraid of whether I was making all of the right choices. But -- there is no right or wrong. There's discernment and there are all of these things and it just feels great. I'm clear on what I'm looking for. I'm clear on how I want to spend the next year. It feels really good.