18 Feb Coaching Works!
In 2020, I achieved a significant milestone in my journey to become a coach by getting CPCC and ACC certified, 2 credentials accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF), the most recognized coaching body worldwide today.
What is interesting is why I came to coaching in the first place.
In 2016, I had been in Dubai for almost 5 years, starting our finance function in the region, recruiting and developing multi-cultural talents to support the growth of our business in the Middle East. My manager then asked me if I wanted to relocate to Germany because the finance team there was lacking appropriate leadership support. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity to tackle yet another challenge.
A few hours passed, and then I started to sweat, telling myself “man, am I out of my league here, what was I thinking when I said yes?” What dawned on me were 2 things. First, I would go from managing a team of 5 direct reports all sitting with me in the same office to managing a team of almost 70 people sitting in 3 different locations. Secondly, I realized the job was more than just bringing leadership support; in fact, the job was about turning around the team performance, creating an environment of trust within the team and with other stakeholders, and establishing strong accountability. And all of this in what was one of the major international markets for the company, which meant high visibility.
As I reflected more, I was filled with:
- Huge stress and anxiety of failing miserably in the new role
- Fear of being completely irrelevant for the role
- Self-defeating beliefs: I am not the right guy, I can’t do it, why risk my credibility, etc.
- Strong saboteur voices telling me that people would judge me. It did not feel good at all to envision that moment where I would fail and I would have to deal with people’s judgment
- Loneliness, a feeling that I was alone in that decision, with very limited support
Take a pause here. Has it happened to you already to feel like this before stepping into a new role? or when you were in front of a big challenge that felt like you needed to climb a tall mountain? Well, that was me in the Fall of 2016.
I will use a metaphor here (coaches love doing this with clients): There was a road with 2 different paths in front of me. To the left, a muddy road, it was dark and windy, it was hard to walk on that path. On the road, I could see all kind of people laughing at me shouting “you’re so incompetent”, “really, you, managing 70 people”, etc. You get the picture. That road was like “I want to run away!”
To the right was a clean road, straight, sunny, welcoming. I could see trees, life, blossoming plants all over the place. That road was the way into stepping up, taking the role and succeeding. But to get confident enough to engage on that road, I needed someone to hold me, encourage me, show me in a mirror who I really was and what I could achieve. That someone was a coach.
Until that time, the only coach I had had was a sport coach. Like most people, my belief at the time was that coaching = some kind of sergeant-like guy who rings at your door at 5 am to get you up and have you run a 10 km in the cold so you get back in shape!
Fortunately, when I discussed some of my concerns about taking the position with my wife, she indicated she knew an executive coach who also used to be a CFO. I decided I would call her and give it a try. At least, as a former CFO, she must have been in my shoes at some point in her career I thought.
Looking back, hiring an executive coach has been by far the best career decision I have ever made. Here are some of the results I achieved in the 4 months that I was coached by her:
- I identified my self-limiting beliefs, that refrained me from taking action when I needed. For instance, I discovered that my fear of being judged was actually more related to a fear of failing
- I got to better understand my core values in life, and how I wanted to be as a leader to align with these values
- I improved my abilities to communicate and manage difficult conversations
- I could take some courageous actions starting in my role, because my coach was there to hold me accountable and true to my commitments. Anytime I erred on the path of “I’ll do that next time” or “I am not sure it was a good idea”, she was there to remind me of what took me to that place, how I wanted to feel about taking the action. Incredibly, these discussions always put me back on track
- Most importantly, through that coaching relationship, I discovered one of my strongest values was a passion for people development and growth
This last realization is actually what brought me to be a coach.
I so much wanted to help people develop more and reach their full potential and aspirations. For sure, my new role in Germany provided me plenty of opportunities to do that. At the same time, I realized I was lacking some tools. I was lacking the same approach my coach had had with me, full of listening, empathy, creating safe space for people to think about their vision for life. In a way, I realized I needed to be a coach to continue to do my job as a leader the way I envisioned it.
Today, I have been on my coaching journey for almost 2 years already. What started with some curiosity ended up being the realization that holding the space for people to take courageous action, improve, do things they previously thought not possible because of saboteur voices or self-limiting beliefs is what I am strongly passionate about.
Don’t get me wrong. I am highly still passionate about finance, numbers, Excel. But as a coach, I can do much more. As a leader myself, I benefited from coaching, from reflecting upon myself, from learning new skills. It made me a more effective leader.
This is why I am coaching other leaders now so they too experience profound changes in the way they use their skills and exercise their leadership.
Now, take a minute to reflect. What is one thing that you want so much to change in your leadership or life? What could you achieve if you acted on that thing you want to change? Are you ready for coaching?