Book Club: The Hard Thing About Hard Things by…

Any management book that urges you to read Dr. Seuss is a winner. I just love metaphors and simple lessons to change the frame through which we look at the world.

There are plenty of books on CEO-ing, none of them so relevant as this one. As a CEO, it’s always great to brainpick other CEO’s and uncover their challenges, only to find out that they are always very similar to mine. This is, as you would expect from a CEO of that caliber: no nonsense, straight forward and directly geared to upping your being a CEO. It’s not a real how-to, it’s a selection of things you stumble upon and a view on how you might tackle them.

Most Memorable Quote: “Sometimes an organisation doesn’t need a solution; it just needs clarity”

I believe that far too often we are trained and groomed to find quick solutions and “fix” things, Ben Horowitz just voice what is most often needed: clarity. And the way in? Genuine curiosity. I notice myself that, when I’m approaching life from a place of curiosity, clarity arises and there is no need for fixing yet another problem. Furthermore, bringing clarity through/from curiosity grows the people around you.

In my bookshelf, it’s on the side of books I will page through again every so often.

#LessonsFromLeaders #LeadingFromWithin #HeartfulLeadership


A State of Organisational Grace

To be in a state of grace is to be absolved of sin.  To repent is to be exonerated, and to atone is to be pardoned.  To err is human, and to forgive is divine.  It is the most revered sacrament because it encourages us to look forward, not backward.

Odd start for a leadership column, right?  Stay with me.

A few months ago, a client shared how she’d badly mishandled a project.  The particulars aren’t important.  She did what we all do: stumble, screw up, drop the ball.  Not because of incompetence or negligence, but because our best efforts don’t always succeed.  To me the disquieting part was that she was still embarrassed and self-conscious.  She still thought her credibility was wounded.  The fact that she carried this weight after three months vouches that both she and her employer engaged in an unwitting conspiracy to create an untenable situation.  She didn’t apologize, they didn’t forgive.

The two most difficult sentences to utter are: “I’m sorry” and “You’re forgiven.”   The former admits fault, whereas the latter discharges it.  Both are hard.  Being sorry means acknowledging our shortcomings.  That’s something we’re loath to do, as it bruises the pride that protects our fragile egos.  Forgiving another is equally threatening because it requires genuine magnanimity, abdicating “l’authorité de la persone”.  When this reciprocal exchange doesn’t occur, a toxic cycle is triggered that leaves us cowed and our employers disappointed.

How do we reach a state of organizational grace?  A state where we aren’t afraid of failing, and our firms aren’t afraid of that either?  A state where license is practiced as well as endorsed?   (My friend, Jerry Harvey, wrote about this in his celebrated book, The Abilene Paradox.  Definitely worth a read.)

For our part, we have to place our precious pride aside.  The problem is that we’re savagely self-protective; an instinctual reaction to a threatening world.  Overcoming the instinct begins with faith. In this context faith is simply the belief in our own competence.  But to be competent is to learn, and to learn is to know what we have to learn, and to know what we have to learn is to own our own weaknesses and transgressions.

We have to quit taking things so personally.  A single mistake doesn’t define our professional identity.  I can’t even count my mistakes.  But that’s all they were, and they were shameful only when I repeated the same ones over and over.  All of us know that none of us is perfect.  In fact, we don’t like perfect people, so why would we want to be one?

But faith in us is not enough.  We must have faith in our firms.  That’s where leadership comes in.  Leaders can create environments where thoughtful failures are embraced.  That’s where culture—even the micro-culture of a unit or department—comes in.  Performance, or lack thereof, is part and parcel the product of culture; ignore it at your peril.  Culture’s a good thing, but if it gets in the way of taking chances without the burden of disappointment, then it should bend or break.

Leaders can also resist building performance metrics exclusively around quantitative metrics.  Such appraisal systems don’t capture reasoned risk, creativity and innovation.  Follow the money; reward it and it gets done, don’t and it doesn’t.  Leaders can craft policy that consents to deviation by not marking those who deviate as deviants.

Participating in this debilitating conspiracy is mutual.  We want to be forgiven, but we can’t get it unless we ask for it.  Our organizations want to forgive us, but they can’t do it unless their leaders understand its importance.  That’s a shame, because if we were released from our penitence, like my client needed to be, we could look forward instead of backward.   A wonderful life is made when we fall without fear because we know we’ll be caught.  That’s when ideas flow.  That’s when performance peaks.  That’s when you and I want to come to work.

There’s an Irish sentiment, to “throw the jute on the burning ground.”  Jute is a heavy reed used for thatching.  To carry it is a burden.  The burning ground is a place where we’re liberated from that burden.  To be in a state of organisational grace means asking for, and being granted, forgiveness.


How to Lead in 2018

The key leadership question of this uncertain era: What can we do to inspire optimism?

This post is dedicated to that sense of hope, sharing leadership tales and insights collected at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, a weeklong gathering of top entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators, and practitioners dedicated to holding business to a higher standard. More than 8,000 attendees (32% men and 68% women; average age of 38; from 60 different countries and 45 states) participated in 200-plus workshops, panels, studio tours, and keynotes.


When Ford CEO Jim Hackett talks about leading the 115-year-old companythat he took over in 2017, he acknowledges the need to speed up its metabolism—to try more new things. It’s one reason he’s endorsed fast prototyping at Ford’s new Greenfield Labs in Palo Alto. If Ford wants to withstand the revolutions of autonomous driving and next-generation engines, Hackett knows, its culture has to move beyond methodical and reliable. But Hackett also isn’t saying what Ford’s precise business model will be after these revolutions play out. And he’s okay with that uncertainty. He’s too impatient to stand still, yet deeply patient about selecting an ultimate course of action.


Someone once told me, “Before you say something in anger, count backward from 100.” Keeping calm is one of the hardest challenges in times of stress. It is also the route to gaining perspective. When Questlove talks about his love of silence—and how it serves as a creative engine for him—he’s definitely onto something. The sound of silence is the sound of someone thinking.


One of my favorite verses from the musical Hamilton is the lead character’s admonition of Aaron Burr early in the play: “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?” As leaders and as businesses, we are defined by the positions we take on the most difficult issues. To Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, that means pledging to hire 100,000 “opportunity youth.” To soccer star Abby Wambach, that means support for both U.S. patriotism and Colin Kaep­er­nick. As Nike’s Hannah Jones puts it, “A brand that doesn’t stand for something is no longer a brand worth working for.” This is not a moment to be shy.


Government officials may claim to be stewards of our social contract, but other institutions provide their own leadership as well. “Think about the sustainability movement,” says Nike’s Jones. “You fly across the world and you see windmill farms everywhere. It doesn’t matter what the U.S. administration is doing; we are all moving to renewable energy.” From education to gender identity norms, businesses play a central role in advancing global culture. Forward-thinking leaders embrace that responsibility with conviction.


In our tech-filled world of always-on connectivity, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, direct interaction provides the ultimate competitive advantage. As Ideo’s Fred Dust argues, face-to-face engagement is a dwindling art. Yet it is empathy that unlocks so much capacity and creativity. Whether in a one-on-one situation or a one-to-many forum, listening is an essential skill. As Brandless CEO Tina Sharkey says, “People are craving human interaction. That’s going to move the needle more than any technology you could ever dream up.”


Traditional demarcations of “generations”—what differentiates one age cohort from another—are becoming muddy, as experience takes precedence over age. While seasoned executives still have wisdom to share with young talents—Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood calls the training of young people “probably the most important mark I hope to leave”—modern mentorship is a two-way street. West Elm’s Doug Guiley admits to leaning on his 12-year-old daughter for perspective on his brand. He’s hardly alone in appreciating the fresh eyes and intuition of digital natives.


Even as businesses work to project confidence in a competitive world, we all have to get comfortable with a higher-than-usual degree of messiness if we want to iterate at the pace of global change. “We can’t think about being perfect, we just have to keep moving forward,” says Dell Technologies’ Elizabeth Gore. Whether the topic is bitcoin or AI, we have to accept that our knowledge is incomplete, that lifelong learning is required. Actor Kate Hudson, who cofounded athleisure brand Fabletics, groans at the prospect of robots invading the retail experience—yet she acknowledges that her company will inevitably need to reckon with them.


Diversity is not just a social issue; it is a business requirement. Having “a lot of different people in the room,” says Morgan Stanley’s Carla Harris, unlocks broader ideas and opportunities. What’s more, says Professor Michael Kimmel, diversity must be aligned with inclusion, breaking down silos and freeing voices. Whether it’s TV writer Lena Waithe discussing her emotional, Emmy-winning coming-out episode of Master of None, or drag queens Sasha Velour, Milk, and BibleGirl sparking dialogue around how we talk about gender with our kids, uncomfortable topics help us all to grow.


Millennials “are getting into positions of leadership faster than we did,” says Morgan Stanley’s Harris. “That is going to cause companies that have been around a long time to change.” A parallel transformation is under way in the consumer marketplace. Sundial’s Bonin Bough uses the term “promiscuous” to describe consumers, not in a derogatory sense, but to underscore how fluid our relationships with products and brands—and employers—have become. That sets the bar higher for everyone, to be more consistent, more responsive, more essential. Yesterday’s achievements just don’t hold the same weight; today’s best practices are tomorrow’s table stakes.


To hear Kimbal Musk and Dan Barber argue about the future of food is like glimpsing two parallel visions of the future. Will we grow produce in vertical farms within cities, as Musk would have it? Or will we return to family farming that balances ecology, sustainability, and health, as Barber prefers? Neither course would be considered likely by most analysts, and yet that skepticism bothers the two of them not at all. The fact that their visions are difficult to execute is part of what drives them. They take nothing for granted—and they put everything they have into remaking this vital sector. In the process, they open the door to a better way for all of us.

(originally written by Robert Safian and published on FastCompany on Jan 10, 2018)


Lean vs Agile. What is the difference, really?

Oftentimes both terms are mentioned in one and the same breath, but are they interchangeable? Where do they come from?

On Lean.

Lean as a term is coined in the 90ies and reflects the ideas and practices behind the Toyota Production System (the car manufacturer). Lean is short for Lean Manufacturing and aims at focussing the production effort to generate true customer value by reducing everything else (which is considered to be waste). It’s basically a way to make manufacturing systems customer centric.

The key concept in lean-approaches is waste or, as it is called, “Muda” (Japanese for waste). Next to this direct waste (Muda), oftentimes the terms “Muri” and “Mura” are used, designating secondary waste stemming from either overburden (Muri) or from unevenness in workloads (Mura).

The reverse of waste is “value” and is, in Lean, defined as any action or process that a customer woud be willing to pay for.

This implies that in order to become Lean every process is evaluated against the customer relevance and either considered a waste or a value-add. In a service organisation this entails often that the whole meeting-approach is turned upside down (and slashed), a strong push towards automation, eradicating multi-tasking, etc. The time expenditure is geared towards the things of which the organisation knows customers will need in the future and aim for a delivery as-fast-as-possible.

The emphasis of Lean is on the system “as a whole”. There is always a helicopter perspective at play and micro-management is shunned (micro-management generates non-value-added work, which is exactly what is not acceptable in a Lean system).

Related concepts are:

  • Six Sigma: set of techniques and tools focussed on eliminating defects and reducing variability (6 sigma variance is a statistical concept by which is designated that, in case of a production line the output is 99.99966% free of defects, or in short: 3.4 DPMO (defective features per million opportunities)
  • Value Stream Mapping: method for analysing the current state of the system and designing the future state: the core to many system improvement initiatives.
  • Kanban: an inventory-control system to control the supply chain. It is the key planning tool in a lean system. A Kanban (Japanese for Billboard) is a card that states the inventory going in, being in and going out of each subprocess or task. It enables you to see the backlogs, where inventory is being built up, etc. In short where the potential for the creation of Mura and Muri exists.
  • KPI of Key Performance Indicator and Balanced Scorecard: means of tracking the system as a whole, focussing the value-add of the customer and evidentiating the interrelationships between the customer, financial resources, organisational capacity and internal processes. It’s a way to track the execution of the company’s strategy.
  • The Deming Cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act (which is core to continuous improvement or Kaizen).

In short the lean principles are:

  1. Define Value: you need to understand what brings value
  2. Map the Value Stream: how to create and deliver the value to the customer
  3. Establish Flow: create a continuous stream end-to-end
  4. Implement Pull: make the customer aware and nurture the perceived need for the value (the customer has to be aware that there is value produced): no pull, no production
  5. Work to perfection (continuous improvement)
  6. And: mind the waste 🙂

On Agile.

Agile was launched in 2001 and comprises a set of principles put forth in the infamous Agile Manifesto and stems from the software industry as a reaction against the heavyweight methodologies that were the norm and out of frustration because so many projects were never really delivered upon within time and budget.

Agile starts with a set of values which are at its core:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools: i.e. self-organisation and motivation through e.g. co-location, working in pairs…
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation: focus on the added value (working software) over wasting time on writing lengthy manuals
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation: not all the software requirements can be clear at the start of a project. Therefore a continuous involvement of the customers is necessary throughout the project
  • Responding to change over following a plan: quick responses to change and a continuous development

The typical work method is called the Scrum which is a flexible, “holistic” product development strategy where a development team works as a unit to reach a common goal.

A scrum team consists of people fulfilling 1 of 3 roles:

  • Product Owner, representing the stakeholders and the voice of the customer. The PO is responsible for ensuring the team delivers value to the business. Typically user stories are used to point to the value components. (S)he manages the so-called product-backlog: what needs to be developed.
  • Development Team: responsible for producing and delivering the chunks of value (called: potentially shippable increments or PSI) at the end of each Sprint. A sprint is a block of time reserved to work on an item of the backlog. Usually the period spans a couple of days to a month.
  • Scrum Master. This is not a team leader, but the person responsible to “hold the space” and make sure the team can deliver free from distractions from the outside. (S)he also ensures that the sprint runs smoothly and according to the rules. The role is that of a team facilitator or servant leader.

On Lean + Agile.

More and more we see a combination of both Agile and Lean approaches melting into one. This is especially true in a start-up/scale-up environment where scrums make it difficult for larger chunks to be handled (unless they are arbitrarily cut up in smaller pieces). A Kanban approach can provide the overall framework and the handling of larger workpieces while scrums allow for the nimbleness and the self-organisation and feedback benefits.


How Coaching Turbo-charges Your Career

A coach isn’t a therapist, a friend, a mentor or a counsellor. The focus of coaching is on achieving specific goals. In this increasingly complex and fast-moving world, managers need all the support they can get to enable them to achieve their goals.

A coach will help you build specific skills that will bolster your professional performance. While a coach might encourage you to share your past experiences, the emphasis is on the future and, especially, on removing particular roadblocks from your path.

In general, there are two kinds of executive coaching. The first is remedial coaching. This is when a manager, director or executive is creating problems, and possibly completely out of their depth and misaligned. However, turning to a coach when everyone is at the end of their tether seems logical but is never ideal.

The second, and most successful, kind of coaching is when a manager, director or executive is feeling challenged, and may be in a “stretch” position. A coach can help to equip you with what is needed to do the job well. In an ideal world the situation is pre-empted and the coaching starts when the goal-setting takes place.

In other words: don’t wait for a crisis before contacting a coach. Instead, consider coaching when you are not feeling entirely up to dealing with the challenges you’re facing. Typically executive coaching helps managers who want to move on to the next level of leadership. Coaching works for anyone who knows they can do a lot better, who is not satisfied with their current performance and has a bigger dream.

How does coaching work?

The approach will depend on the needs of a client. Typically I start with a 90 minute session exploring goals, values, strengths & weaknesses, pitfalls, etc.

Goals are critical in coaching. Unlike therapy and mentoring, coaching is exclusively focused on achieving specific objectives. These could include a whole range of goals from all areas of life. Oftentimes these areas are interconnected and progress on one side might lead to leaps on another side.

The relationship with your coach will typically have an end-date, and won’t continue indefinitely. The coaching sessions are typically intensive for the first few weeks, and then less frequent as the client works on achieving goals. A large part of coaching is holding you (the client) accountable to do the work for themselves. While everyone is different, it can take three to six months before behaviours start to shift in a meaningful way.

How do you choose a coach?

The coaching sector is relatively unregulated. Currently, the gold standard is an accreditation from the International Coach Federation (ICF). ICF coaches have completed courses that have been certified by the organisation.

To find the right person for you, personal referrals can be useful. Get references and also scrutinise the coach’s CV to see whether they have the skills that will help you. Get a sense of where the person has worked and confirm their qualifications. The latter is crucial, she says. Many so-called coaches will punt their experience – “30 years in HR” or “extensive consulting work” – but don’t have any credible (e.g. ICF-certified) coach-specific training.

Also, and probably most importantly, have a coffee (or a call) with a prospective coach to make sure you are a good match. It has to be someone you will trust. There should be chemistry between you: your interaction should not be forced and you should feel understood.

Curious to find out more? Why not give it a try!


Why CEO’s really want to get coached (and Boards…

“It’s lonely at the top” appears to be truer than ever. A 2013 study conducted by the Center for Leadership Development and Research at Stanford Graduate School of Business demonstrated that nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches (dito for almost half of senior executives).

Interesting is that nearly 100% of CEOs in the survey responded that they actually enjoy the process of receiving coaching and leadership advice.

To me it’s eerie to see that CxO’s are left in the dark when it comes to uncovering their own blind spots. How can they ensure they deliver a continuous top-notch performance, time and again?

Some key findings from the survey include:

  • Shortage of advice at the top. Nearly 66% of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants or coaches, while 100% of them stated that they are receptive to making changes based on feedback. Nearly 80% of directors said that their CEO is receptive to coaching. (side note for European readers: “directors” are “board members”)
  • CEOs are the ones looking to be coached. When asked “Whose decision was it for you to receive coaching?” 78% of CEOs said it was their own idea. Twenty-one (21) percent said that coaching was the board chairman’s idea. This highlights that we are moving away from coaching being perceived as ‘remedial’ to where it should be: something that improves performance, similar to how elite athletes use a coach.
  • Coaching “progress” is largely kept private. More than 60% of CEOs responded that the progress they are making in their coaching sessions is kept between themselves and their coach; only a third said that this information is shared with the board of directors. Although much of the coaching discussion should be treated confidentially keeping the board informed of progress can improve CEO/board relations.
  • How to handle conflict ranks as highest area of concern for CEOs. When asked which is the biggest area for their own personal development, nearly 43% of CEOs rated “conflict management skills” the highest. Managing effectively through conflict is clearly one of the top priorities for CEOs. After all, when you are in the CEO role, most things that come to your desk only get there because there is a difficult decision to be made — which often has some level of conflict associated with it.
  • Boards are eager for CEOs to improve talent development. The top two areas board directors say their CEOs need to work on are “mentoring skills/developing internal talent” and “sharing leadership/delegation skills.” The high ranking of these areas among board respondents shows a real recognition of the importance of the talent pool. Today, boards are placing a keener focus on succession planning and people development, and are challenging their CEOs to keep this front and center.

Top areas that CEOs use coaching to improve. Sharing leadership and delegation, conflict management, team building, and mentoring. Bottom of the list: motivational skills, compassion/empathy, and persuasion skills. A lot of people steer away from coaching some of the less tangible skills because they are uncomfortable with touching on these areas or really don’t have the capability to do it. These skills are more nuanced and actually more difficult to coach because many people are more sensitive about these areas. However, when combined with the ‘harder’ skills, improving a CEO’s ability to motivate and inspire can really make a difference in his or her overall effectiveness. This is also where co-active coaching makes a real difference: action orientation from a grounded perspective.

The full report can be viewed here

Curious to find out to what extent co-active coaching can bring to your company? Give it a try, call for a free consultation! I’ll be having your back.


Five Strengths Coaches Bring to Your Table

Oftentimes I’m asked: “sure coaching, but does it really work?” And the answer is obviously: “yes, it does”. Other than pointing to independent research (see my previous article), there are some distinct benefits you get from working with a coach. Here are 5 essential ones:

A coach keeps you on track

A coaching relation starts (at least when working with me) with a solid mutual understanding of your vision, values and goals. Oftentimes I’ve seen that momentum is lost and motivation crumbles when we loose connection with these core elements of our being. Coaching ensures that you stay connected and that you don’t divert from those things you really treasure.

You get immediate feedback

You get what you buy. Oftentimes that implies that the vendor hides imperfection and sells you a dream. You can tell a coach anything you want, a coach will give you back i.m.m.e.d.i.a.t.e.l.y. what you are projecting, allowing you to understand and grow from there. When was the last time someone, anyone, really listened and gave you an honest feedback?

She hacks your growth

Keeping you close to your core, I keep you in check with your future. Oftentimes, we entrepreneurs, get faced with bolders that feel unsurmountable. However, our sheer will, passion and dedication, makes us believe we will prevail. Now imagine having someone by your side turning the boulders into pebbles, shifting your perspective and unlocking new paths to accomplish your objective.

She creates accountability

Isn’t it easy to say: “YES!” and than do something else, forget about it and having an excuse ready whenever you get called out upon it? After all, who is having your back? Who makes sure you keep to your promises to yourself? Your coach creates an environment where commitment happens. Your coach will make you commit and hold you accountable. When your coach sees it is really important to you, she will make you commit and make sure you deliver. She will make you accountable and champion you.

Your natural leadership comes to fruition

We all are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. Being recognised for your true self unlocks all possibilities to further your journey starting from a place of conviction, passion and dedication. You unlock your potential and break through the boundaries you’ve set yourself today. What else would be possible? What more can be achieved?Really?

Does it really work?

Yes it does. In my previous article I touched upon a bunch of studies all supporting the ROI of coaching in leadership. Not sure whether it’s for you? Give it a try! Sample sessions are generally offered for free (like here): just call a couple of coaches, see how it works for you. Experience it.


Coaching pays off. Here’s why.

“I encourage most of the CEOs I work with to get mentors or coaches (or both).” Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures (investments include Twitter, FourSquare, Zynga)


Who am I to state something different? After all, with 2 startups under my belt (and a Red Herring), I can state with confidence that with a coach, I definitely would have gotten to my goals much quicker and way more efficiently. Coaching really helps entrepreneurs become more successful by reaching and sustaining peak performance.

Studies in larger organizations show that coaching top executives at large companies yields 5 to 7 times the company’s initial investment! While studies haven’t been done on the value of coaching on smaller companies and startups, it’s reasonable to expect that entrepreneurs are under similar pressures and their actions at least as critical to the success of their organizations so that the value of coaching might be greater.

Entrepreneurs are generally lifelong learners; an executive coach may be the only person in your life who is solely devoted to accelerating and supporting your learning, growth, and self-knowledge. This in turn supports you making the best possible decisions and doing the best possible work for your company.

Wondering if coaching is worth it? Here are some studies about the return on investment for coaching:

  • Companies that have used professional coaching for business reasons have seen a median return on their investment of 7 times their initial investment, according to a study commissioned by ICF, and conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Association Resource Centre Inc. (ICF Global Coaching Client Study, 2009)
  • A study commissioned by a professional services firm, and performed by MatrixGlobal showed that the ROI on coaching was 6.8x the initial investment. (The Business Impact of Leadership Coaching at a Professional Services Firm, Merrill C. Anderson, PhD, 2006)
  • Three stock portfolios comprised only of companies that spend aggressively on employee development each outperformed the S&P 500 by 17-35% during 2003. (How’s Your Return on People? Harvard Business Review, Laurie Bassi and Daniel McMurrer, 2004)
  • Employees at Nortel Networks estimate that their coaching programs earned the company a 5.2x return on investment and significant intangible benefits to the business, according to calculations prepared by Merrill C. Anderson, a professor of clinical education at Drake University. Including the financial benefits from employee retention boosted the returns to 7.8x the initial investment. (Coaching the Coaches, Psychology Today, 2004, and Case Study on the Return on Investment of Executive Coaching, Merrill C. Anderson, PhD, 2001)
  • According to a study of senior level executives at Fortune 1000 companies who received developmental coaching, the average return from the programs was nearly 5.7 times the initial investment. (Maximizing the Impact of Executive Coaching, The Manchester Review, Volume 6, Number 1, Joy McGovern, et.al., 2001).

Oh, one last note: don’t forget to do your homework. Don’t settle for any coach: look for coaches with an appropriate training (CTI, Newfield Network, Hudson Institute…), who adhere to the International Coach Federation (ICF) and are certified or at least under certification. Get a sample session, see how it gels and don’t hold back. A good coach won’t do that either…


Why Getting A Life Coach Was The Best Decision…

This is an article originally written by Lindsay Tigar and published on Self.com. It captures one key asset of the value of coaching of which I didn’t want to deprive you.


From the outside (and her Facebook feed), 30-year-old Camille Galles seemed to have it all. She married her best friend, she loved the amazing city where she lived, her career was at an an all-time high, and she was in great shape. But something was missing, she tells SELF. While she had worked with many exciting start-ups and had a successful run at Google, inside, she couldn’t shake a hollow feeling that nagged at her.

“The impact that I was making never felt like it was enough. I wasn’t using my talent and gifts to their fullest extent and I constantly started to wonder, ‘What am I doing this for?'”, Galles’ says. “Yes, obviously for money, but ‘happiness’ to me while still making money was more important. The thought of going another year just phoning it in and not really taking a chance at who I wanted to be scared me.”

Then, she met NYU-certified personal life coach Alionka Polanco through a mutual friend. And while she was a little nervous before her first session, Galles described her initial meeting with Polanco as ‘groundbreaking’. Even after the first conversation, she says a wave of clarity instantly swept through her racing mind. I immediately felt energized and so happy.

According to market research company MarketData, there’s an $822 million market for personal or life coaching services in the U.S. The self-help market itself is a multibillion-dollar industry. Many of us are clearly looking for ways to improve and make the most of our lives. For some, working with a life coach may be the best method.

Wondering if a life coach is right for you? Here’s what to consider.

Why would someone need a life coach?

If a person feels unfulfilled personally or professionally (like Galles), wants to take their career to the next level, or is looking to make a radical change in their life priorities, they might benefit from a coach’s help. Palanco explains that most people need extra motivation to take a big risk, make a big move, or throw away their plan and create a new one that’s ripe with possibility. For Galles, it quickly became clear thanks to Polanco’s coaching that she needed to leave her job.

I needed someone to help me make a huge foundational shift, to be in the trenches with me to help me create a new way of thinking and a transition plan, she says. With Alionka’s help, I left my fantastic job, as well as my work family at Google, to take the big leap and start my own company. I’ve successfully launched and am already working with a wide array of clients. Galles now runs a digital media consultancy company.

Why not a therapist?

Many people confuse traditional therapy with life coaching, but the difference is actually pretty major. While a therapist can help you overcome feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety, or help you get through a tough period (like a death in your family, a heart-wrenching breakup, or job loss), a life coach is there to help you uncover the ways you could change your life to be happier. ‘Happy’ is the keyword here. Like Galles, for most life coach clients it’s not that anything specific is wrong, it’s that something is missing.

Life coaching is a multi-faceted process meant to help clients feel fulfilled and purposeful in every area of their lives, Polanco tells SELF. As a coach, I guide my clients on a journey to uncover their deepest desires, and then I help them create an action plan to actually get there. Along the way, I provide them with insight on their performance/behavior, and any tools and resources that will accelerate their growth.

Galles had seen therapists in the past, so she already worked through what she was feeling and learned that she needed to make a change. She just needed help taking action. I had already determined what I wanted, why I wanted it, and that it was not going to be easy, she said.

What results can you expect?

At first, the experience of branching out and figuring out what really brings you joy can be intimidating, but Galles says once she opened up and had some faith in the process and in Polanco everything fell into place.

Traveling on the path less traveled by was scary to me, she says. But once she got comfortable with it and was able to adapt, she started to see so many more possibilities. While it’s taken me 30 years to get to this point, I’m so happy I’m here. For the first time, I’m truly living and using my gifts. My husband and family have noticed a new me. My tone, demeanor, approach, and entire presence have totally changed. I’m happy beyond measure.

Polanco praises Galles’ six-month journey, and says that when they started working together in November of 2015, she knew she felt tired, frustrated, exhausted, unfulfilled and anxious. But at their last session in June of 2016, Galles was fearless, excited about possibilities, and proud of herself. Says Palanco of her client: She said she no longer cared what other people thought of her and had learned to trust her gut instincts about what she wanted in life.

Galles now runs her company and says she feels more engaged, inspired and satisfied than she has in years. Coaching has also helped her prioritize interests that she never dedicated time to like singing, a passion that always took the backseat to her career. Now singing isn’t something I just do on the weekends, Galles says. She now knows she doesn’t have to choose between the things that make her happy; instead, she has the courage to pursue them all.

So, what should you do if you want to get a life coach?

If you’re considering hiring a life coach, it’s important to choose wisely. The coaching industry is so large and still very unregulated, meaning many certifications can actually be bogus. Look for a coach that graduated from a university coaching program (like Polanco did) or search the International Coaching Federation’s website to find a coach in your area that has a recognized coaching credential. Also, ask a potential coach for reviews knowing others were happy after working with them is a good indication you might be, too.

Original article publish by Lindsay Tigar on Self.com (Jul 30, 2016); Photo by Alena Gamm / EyeEm / Getty Images