A December afternoon
Me: Hey Rutger, thanks for coming. I told you about this job I have for you. It’s about this website for my new “purpose in life”: my coaching practice.
Rutger: ah! Of course, I should have known. Well, how about we reverse the roles for once? Why don’t I coach you through this process. What did you have in mind?
We’re sitting at my kitchen table, a distant imitation of a Piet Hein Eek, on the last floor of this new building in the Pijp in Amsterdam. This is actually the setting in which I receive those clients that are coming to see me at home. Equally often, I go to their workplace or some other location we have agreed. The room is clear, lots of sun coming in from the windows on this early December afternoon. Rutger is a friend, a talented designer and website builder (http://www.rs-design.nl/)
Me: Well, I don’t know really. You’re the designer. Let me introduce this paradox: there is a fortuitous coherence in my becoming a coach. As if I am arriving almost randomly where I was meant to be. As if this sequence of events, my resignation from the bank, my engaging into this long coaching study, is a logical outcome of all the things that I have done or that have happened to me before. Yet, at the same time it is all very new and right now I’m in very deep water. It’s funny you know, I have started this training at Ashridge (http://www.hult.edu/en/executive-education/) and the coaching practice just 10 months ago. It is really so different from what I used to do at the bank and at the same time, it already feels a part of me. But to come back to your question, let’s see: I have looked at a few sites from peer coaches which may help us figure out what we are looking for.
Rutger: that’s good, show me, that should help us get on our way.
How do you say: hello? And What do you say after you say Hello? to cite Eric Berne, one of my inspirations right now. How do you make your first steps in the world of coaching? How do you choose to present yourself to your future clients? I feel like a debutante at her first dance. Nervous, insecure, everything feels odd and dangerously treacherous and all eyes are on me: if I make a wrong step, say the wrong words, stumble while getting down the stairs, ridicule will pursue me for years to come. And all this while I have to wear these too high heels, this too long dress and this acrobatic couture hat that threatens to capsize at every step. I’m actually relieved that Rutger will coach me through this difficult exercise.
Me: Look at this one: I like how peaceful and straight forward it looks. I’d like my website to reflect how I would like my coaching to be. Having a discussion that goes straight at the heart of things, in the quiet and trusted circle of the coaching relationship. Being able to be authentic and sincere while we undertake together this journey into whatever life has put before us and that we must consider.
Rutger: I get that: you want people to be able to go straight at what they have to explore. What would you say is motivating you in this?
Me: that’s a good one. I guess we should introduce that somewhere. The thing is, I have had coaching myself, while I was in Italy facing many challenges in my work, and I found it to be a game changer, something that can make you look differently at things, at your entourage, at yourself. Victoria, (https://www.contiguitypartners.com) my coach, will forever remain, in my head, associated with her warm smile, with her support and compassion, while we were going through the issues I was facing. She kept following me from a distance since then and supported me in taking this step towards coaching. We are still in contact. I want to help people have such experiences: find a way upwards out of their challenge, create opportunities in complex situations, unleash potentialities. I want to help people become their best selves.
Rutger: and have you thought about saying something about you? How would you like people to see you?
Me: You’re right. Oh, this all looks so difficult suddenly.
Right then, I feel exposed and my fear is mounting. At Ashridge, I have learned to observe my physical reactions to a situation: I feel a pressure on my chest, my breath is shorter, I’m wobbling a bit on my chair and I’m scratching the top of my hand with my other hand. Rutger sees all this, and, while remaining silent, he gives me his most emphatic and supportive look. His posture is telling me: we can do this.
Me: of course I should tell something about myself. But it must be different from just the standard CV. People must be able to really get to know me so they can relate to what happened in my life. Where I come from, how I was raised, my parents, my family, how I moved to France when I was just 6 years old and how this has made me a compulsive traveler and observer. And I guess they should know I’m gay and how that has made me comfortable with unconventional lives and with ambiguity generally. You see, I want people to feel they can speak freely, that I am with them all the way.
Rutger: ok, so that would be the biographic part. What about your offer as a coach? How do you see that?
Rutger is very concentrated now. He is sitting almost by my side but still facing me, the laptop has gone. He is giving me his presence and I have this feeling that we are in this together. It feels good to have his support and attention while I’m struggling through this: a website, your window onto the world. Not something easy for a shy person like me. But Rutger makes me feel we will come to the right design and structure, no matter what it takes. He’s showing all the things I hope I am showing my clients.
Me: well, it isn’t rocket science, really. Actually, I have learnt mostly to reject templates, frameworks, complex psycho-metric tools, so that I can focus with my client on what he has in mind to work on. He is at all times at the center of our work. Our relation, being in the here and now, our discussion, our earnest will to undertake this journey and my undivided support and compassion: these are really the ingredients of my coaching.
Rutger: the emperor is naked…It’s not “less is more”, it’s “less is better”. I get it. But your clients will want to see what kind of issues they can bring to you, don’t you think?
Me: yes, the client is at the center of the coaching relation, and so are his demands. And actually, we can easily distinguish a few different fields: leadership, for sure remains the most important one. What does it take to inspire, motivate, facilitate and empower colleagues to realize an ambitious future? But change processes can present their own particular challenges, and coaching can help people to navigate this process while keeping an eye on the defined goals. In my short experience as a coach, I have found that career and life coaching can also make a great difference for who is confronted to a choice, or simply unhappy with his professional life. Finally, I should probably mention team building: helping people give each other feedback and create a stronger bond to achieve superior performance.
As we progress through the conversation, things I didn’t suspect were in my head, come out as if out of themselves. My breathing is now more regular, the pressure on my chest has gone. Relief.
Rutger: All, right, I understand. We’re almost there. You want to have a face to the world as well, don’t you?
Me: yes, you’re right. I’m not sure I have a picture that is staging me as a coach. Note to myself: ask Charlene Daniel (https://www.charlene-rose-k.com/) to have a photo shoot.
Rutger: I start to understand why you want your website to be simple and sober. We should create room for other things to be complex and not distract people unnecessarily. But are you not afraid this will all be a lot of reading?
Me: You’re right. There’s no avoiding some long texts. Maybe we can lighten things up with some pictures? But we must find something that keeps the peaceful and clean design. I’d hate to have, you know, these friendly advertisement faces, the sunset, the happy dancing family in the countryside.
Rutger: Let me make a few suggestions. I’ll mail them to you.
Me: that would be great. This has been a good session, Rutger. I feel we have gone deep into unknown territory but I felt safe with your guidance and I believe we have a much better view now of where we want to go.
We are now a few weeks later. And here it is: http://decoachwinkel.com/ , my baby, my website, the window onto my new work as a coach: the time has come to presens it to the world. Rutger found this stones theme that illustrates the different parts without creating unnecessary distraction. I like it.
My life has been put upside down when I decided to leave the bank and start this activity. Since then, I am out of my comfort zone (some would say: out of my depth) but I’m enjoying every bit of it. Coaching feels already like destiny. It’s like what happened before was, not a mistake, but a long journey to get where I am now. It may sound cliché but the pieces are falling into place: the 30 years of banking, the sabbatical leave where I worked on this philosophy masters, the reading, the events in my life: it is as if they all contributed to bring me to this place where I sit down and talk with you, and we have a conversation we have never had before.
I feel alive. I feel I can help people and do relevant work. How cool is that?!
I hope you will enjoy your visit and will help me making this website better with your honest feedback.