"I agree with the last guy," he told me last week as we met face to face. "Get rid of the word coaching.
In fact, ditch the coaching altogether."
When I met with this retired executive for the first time a year ago (we'll call him Dan, for ease of communication), his message was similar, and has been a part of my internal conversation since we first met. While his focus last year wasn't so much on offering advice around my coaching, he did strongly suggest that perhaps my place was with the foot soldiers--leading the troops, the students, the masses--to create change from the bottom up. At the time, I certainly took his message to heart, but simultaneously felt strong resistance. I came to him, both times, with the underlying belief that my place is at the top, supporting those with great power and influence in a manner that could only benefit our climate and the well-being of humanity. I had my dream, and felt torn about giving it up, despite his extensive experience and the respect I had for him.
Dan spent most of his career in corporate America, working as a marketing executive for many years in one of the most profitable businesses in existence at the time. Ultimately, it became clear to him that he wanted to focus on on environmental sustainability, and took to his own road in order to bring the benefits of sustainability into the business community. This experience certainly served as an inspiration for me, and paired with his heartfelt way of listening and delivering his message, left me hesitant to disregard his advice despite my temptations to do otherwise.
While my initial presentation of Dan's message may seem wholly unsupportive, I felt incredibly supported by him in the hour and a half that he offered me, and more connected than ever to the purpose that I'm seeking to fulfill. "Lead with your heart," he told me, with tears in his eyes. "Let them see who you are. Tell them that you're an educator, a mother, and that you want to learn from them. Ask them to coach you. And trust. Trust that things are going to work out." He also shared some of his perspective about the business world, believing that the hierarchical culture hems you in. You have to make your boss look successful, and you have limitations on what you can do. At the C-level, as well, business executives held back by the system. It's all about stock prices, earnings, and whether they are growing at a rate that will ensure their success in the marketplace. Thus, real change comes about by people who are willing to step out of the system, whose existence does not depend on being a success defined by status and money. "If you want to really make a difference," he continued, "find the people who have the courage and the motivation to step out."
For the rest of the day, his words swirled through my mind. And after hours of Nahko and deeper connection with what I really want, my vision began to change. It hit me that I'd been basing my whole business intention on three primary beliefs, structuring my life around the assumption that they were all true:
- In order to have the biggest effect on climate change, I need to work at the top.
- I need to work with executives, or at least with business professionals, because no one else will pay me (well) to work with them during the day (and I'm ready to work days over evenings).
- If we make a lot of money, I can quit worrying so much about it, and we'll ultimately be happier as a family.
As Dan helped me shine the light on these beliefs, I started to realize the fallacy of this belief-set--as obvious as it seems to me now as I write this. And, with that, came the realization that if they aren't true, then what is possible? What difference can I really make? Who could I work with? Who would pay me? Where might the money come from?
While my conversation with Dan wasn't as I expected it to be, gleaning insight into his life as an executive and the challenges that he experienced in that role, it opened me up in a way that feels integral at this stage in the journey. I connected to what I really want, and got clear on what beliefs were driving the show. I want to be me. I want to bring my strengths to the table without the fear that my experiences will lose me the role I want to play and the difference I want to make. I want to be appreciated for what I can do, not chided nor disregarded for what I haven't.
So, from that place, I move forward with this new perspective and acceptance. Maybe executives aren't my niche. Maybe they are. We'll see how it all unfolds. But either way, I'm clear that coaching remains my passion, as a beautiful blend of who I've become and what I want for others and this world, and that I will continue to put my heart into creating further opportunities to support others on their journey as I'm being supported on mine. Thank you, 'Dan'!