Most of the time I write about things I learned eons ago. Typically about a premise or a belief that’s an intrinsic part of who I am, rooted in my DNA. But I’m about to share a recent experience that I’m still unpacking.
I’m one of those uber-passionate people when it comes to many things; my family, parenting, good food, wine, new experiences, authentic people, real conversation, and my work is no exception. I’ve been lucky enough and worked hard enough to have created a job for myself that I love. I genuinely love the work I do every day; I love the people I work with, the clients we serve, and the industry we play in. I strive every day to learn more, be better and grow. Our team helps people be better people, and teams be better teams; we are no exception, so every once and awhile we immerse ourselves in a developmental experience.
The coaching side of our business is one that I particularly love, so last week I spent four days at a Coach Training retreat, as part of an advanced level ICF certification. The program, referred to me by a dear friend and colleague, has been amazing. Last week, the third week in this process was spent with a fantastic group of people. We were all ridiculously excited to be there, and you could feel the nervous anticipation in the room. What was to come? In what ways would we be challenged to look at ourselves and our habits in our coaching practice differently? When and where would the breakthroughs happen for each of us? We instantly became a family, ready to support each other in our individual and collective growth over the next few days.
Our mentor, the originator of this body of work, whom we had been studying with, from, and about this the past year, announced that he had stage four lung cancer. The air was sucked from the room, and then immediately, and silently, the group rallied to support him. This energy instantly recreated the same sacred space that he had created for each of us many times over the course of our time together. We had him, and we held him, without moving or saying a word. To be welcomed into another person’s mortality with such grace is an honor indeed. But the after-hours conversations revealed that many of us were thinking the same thing, the fact that we would quite possibly be the last group to study directly under him. It was a weighted honor for which none of us were prepared.
A few days into the retreat, during a silent practice, my mind was challenged to figure out what to do with this news. How could we carry his work forward? Serve his legacy well? Embody his teachings? I was staring out over the rolling mountains north of Asheville, NC, taking in the morning fog that had settled in the valleys like an old friend, and it hit me. The fix would be to remember what it was like to be in his presence and recreate the same sacred space for others. Interestingly, the body of work is known as Presence-Based Coaching; the irony is not lost on me. I got it. Really, got it.
The Strangest of Places
I’ve functioned as a Leadership Coach for several years. I’ve taught coaching classes, am certified in multiple coaching methodologies, and every single thing taught around coaching has had to do with the intellectual aspects. How to structure a conversation for a breakthrough? How to ask compelling questions? How to set developmental objectives for the relationship? How to uncover topics that are getting in the way of growth? How to create self-awareness? I’ve learned how to DO a lot in my coaching practice over the years, but last week I learned how to BE. Growth comes from the strangest of places, and while the diagnosis saddens me, it has had a metastasizing effect on me, too, both personally and professionally. It has forever changed how I’ll coach others.
The entire Presence-Based Coaching community will continue to support our friend and mentor as he continues his journey. I’m not alone in the intense feelings of gratitude for finding this body of work and studying under Doug and the gift of how it feels to be in his presence. The feeling he created has been ingrained in me on a cellular level and will remain with me as I move forward intentionally working to recreate it with others.