LinkedIn tells me it’s been 20 years since I ventured into the wonderful world of coaching – and if LinkedIn says it’s so, well, it must be. It’s therefore a logical time to reflect on the journey to this point and on what the future holds, but also to ask a critical question – how to celebrate?
As with so many great moves, my foray into coaching was serendipitous. At an inflection point in my career I found myself confronted with three articles on coaching from three different sources in three days. Coincidence? While I was nowhere near as big a believer in karma and universal forces then as I am now, even I could see that someone, somewhere was trying to tell me something.
Coaching back in 1996 was virtually non-existent in Canada, so I was starting with a truly blank canvas. Luckily my corporate career to that point had been in marketing and new business development – I knew how to build a category. So build it I did – fearlessly talking about what I was up to and seeking opportunities to work with anyone, anywhere. I also sought credibility and community, and so connected with the International Coach Federation early on, which offered wonderful connections with professionals elsewhere in the world who believed as I did that we were on to something truly extraordinary.
I quickly learned that my business background made me credible with corporate clients, and that my belief in measurement and accountability was appealing. I’d also worked with my fair share of strong personalities and “tough characters” in my corporate jobs, so I wasn’t afraid to take on what were presented as “challenging” assignments (and, for the record, the “challenging” clients remain, to this day, some of my favourite).
One day an HR leader at a client company called me to say that she wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing differently than the other coaches they’d tried, but whatever it was it was working so if I’d get some more coaches and teach them my approach her company would send me more work. And so was born my company, Parachute Executive Coaching – a team of amazing coaches from across the country and around the world and with whom I’m hugely proud to be associated to this day.
Time marched on and the company expanded and contracted as my life evolved – married, babies, unmarried, teenagers, travel, learning – but one thing has stayed consistent. I love coaching. One on one work remands my sweet spot – the thing I love to do most and the thing about which I continue to be most passionate. In fact I think I’m one of the few coaches who’s been at it this long who still does almost exclusively one on one work. It’s not the easy way, that’s for sure, but it’s what I do.
I often get asked what my “secret” is – what it is that’s kept me in business for so long when so many others struggle and where about a third of those who call themselves coaches drop away about every five years. I think it’s a couple of things. First, I’ve never for one second presumed I know everything. I’ve been committed to learning and professional/personal development every step of the way. Second, I’ve picked myself up after setbacks – and yes, there have been a few doozies!! Humbling moments of extraordinary challenge and equally powerful opportunities for new self-awareness. Third – I’ve nurtured my community. Clients, local colleagues, Master coaches who’ve been in it as long as I have – all brilliant people from whom I learn every day and for whom I’m very grateful.
Maybe most importantly, as a single mother for whom time working has meant time away from my kids – I’ve felt proud of what I do and the impact it has on the world. Beyond that, my kids have learned that loving what you do is not only possible, it’s necessary. Both my boys are now at the point in their lives where they are thinking about their careers, and I am proud of the example I’ve shown them of being able to work hard at something that has meaning for me.
So what does the future hold? I’ll continue to do the one on one work for as long as I find it fulfilling and for as long as I know I’m able to stay at the top of my game. Thankfully there’s no retirement age when you’re self-employed, and life experience only makes me a better coach.
In the very short term I’d like to celebrate what I do by doing more of it. A few weeks ago I conducted a little Facebook experiment where I offered coaching openly in a few different fee and structure configurations, and it was great fun. So here’s my 20th Anniversary invitation:
I’d like to coach 20 new people in the month of October.
If you’ve never worked with me, now is the time! I’ve got a few special price/session packages available, so if you’re interested, please get in touch – and please forward this note to anyone you think might be interested (and note – this doesn’t have to be “corporate” or “executive” coaching!).
Thank you to those of you who’ve been along for most of this amazing 20 year journey. Hopefully I’m writing another one of these 20 years from now!!!