When I began my career, I would have said there was no way I would become a coach. My focus was getting to the top of the tree. After all, what other goal would anyone have in a company? A lot has changed for me over the years, not least figuring out coaching is what energizes me. I have talked a lot about leadership topics in this blog and not a lot about coaching. So here goes, this is the story of how I became a coach.
It began when I was a very successful, ambitious and high potential leader. I felt I could do no wrong until the project that changed everything. It didn’t go well and suddenly I became the person who could do nothing right. I had a new boss following it and in our first meeting he asked me if I was thinking of leaving the company. I wasn’t and the thought of leaving was terrifying. It was a humbling moment and I knew I had to change. My boss agreed to give me a chance to earn back my credibility leading a new under-performing group.
Learning to lead
I was lucky to have an executive coach at the time and he helped me recognize the error of my ways. I was the sort of leader who thought he needed to know all the answers and tell the team what to do. It wasn’t an egotistic thing, I thought that was my job. I was also pretty clear how I saw the world and if your view didn’t align with mine, I dismissed it. After all, I was very successful up to that point.
My coach Scott showed me a different style of leadership. One of leading through others, empowering and supporting the team to be at their best. I embraced this new style and tried it with my new group. We established clear goals, priorities and guiding principles. I got out of the details and instead supported the team to do their jobs, and they did them very well. Results started to improve and the group ended up easily exceeding their goals. Most satisfying, morale across the group changed from one of the lowest levels in the company to one of the highest. And this new way of leading was fun!
I had the opportunity to lead another under-performing group and again test my new leadership style. It worked and I had tremendous fun doing it. It didn’t matter that I knew little about this new function, I knew how to lead effectively. These two experiences shifted my perspective. I was no longer aiming for the top job, my satisfaction came from seeing these groups excel and have fun doing it. I found this far more rewarding.
Around the same time, I decided I needed to share what I learned with others. It took me over 10 years to learn how to lead and I knew I could teach others in less time than that. I took the plunge and started coaching school. A year later I got my foundational coaching certificate. This allowed me to start coaching at Intel in a part-time role, approximately 3-4 hours a week. And I loved it. Helping another leader learn and then thrive was very rewarding. I didn’t notice at the time but I was beginning to figure out this was the most fun part of my job.
This led to a big decision. To invest over $30,000 of my own money to attend a three year advanced coaching program called Coaching Excellence in Organizations. This was the missing link. My coach Scott studied in the program before me and now I learned these same leadership principles and practices in much more depth. It helped me further develop my leadership style and do a much better job of helping others do the same.
I now knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. Even though I was getting promoted into more senior roles, this wasn’t what motivated me any more. I knew my path was to become a leadership coach. Intel finally pushed me over the edge by offering me a generous early retirement package. I figured I had no choice but to accept it. If I truly wanted to become a leadership coach, I wouldn’t get a better opportunity.
The rest is history. I love what I do every day and helping other leaders is incredibly rewarding. I am glad I took the leap into the unknown to do what I love.
This is my story. Are doing what you truly love?