The truth is I never dreamed of being a coach, or about being in people development. It was an ‘accident,’ or some might say it was my destiny.
Chapter 1 – how it all began
It happened one day in late 1997. I was in the back of the room staffing a seminar in Sydney, Australia. The seminar leader was leading a visualization process and hundreds of people were lying on their backs on the floor. I was in the back of the room and one of my fellow staffers leaned over to me and said, “I’m bringing coaching to Australia and I think you’d make a great coach.”
Say what? First of all, I had no idea what a coach was. Second, I didn’t see myself in the people development business. At that time, I had been in business for myself for 5 years, having co-founded a boutique consulting company that focused on creating computer generated graphically designed pictures of the strategies of large organizations. The graphic plan was a vehicle for the C-suite and leaders to more simply and memorably communicate their vision, values and strategic plan to all their employees and stakeholders. I had 3 employees. I was the one who did the sales, general management role. You name it. Anything to make the business happen.
But my colleague had piqued my interest. He asked if he could send me the brochure on the coaching program in early 1998 and I said yes. When the brochure arrived, it was perfect timing, because I was making money but not feeling satisfied with my business. My marriage wasn’t going well, and we had decided to separate. I was preparing to leave the business as an employee, and was open to exploring what this thing called ‘coaching’ was.
That is how I came to attend the first ever coaching program offered in Australia in March 1998. Trainers from the USA made the trek to Australia to deliver the Coach U training. I participated in 125 hours of face-to-face training between March-June, 1998. Within a few days of starting the program, I was hooked. And coaching soon became my main business, and has remained so ever since.
Chapter 2 – my first year of coaching
In my first year of coaching, I was full-time in my consulting business, and decided to only take on 3 coaching clients during that time. I was very honest with these first clients about my new specialty of coaching. They understood that I was still learning and I gave them a deep discount for the first 3 months (I’ve never coached pro-bono as I believe people are more committed if they pay something). The rate increased every 3 months that they continued coaching, and my clients were happy to do that because they were receiving value. Originally they were curious about this thing called coaching but then they started to see shifts in themselves and results in their businesses.
One of my first clients was a cafe owner who had been referred to me by the coach trainers from the United States, who had met him while staying at a nearby hotel in Sydney. I coached him for over a year mostly by phone even though we were in the same city. It worked well from a time perspective for him. He increased his success as a businessowner and employer. Of course, his family also benefited as he was seeing results in his business, and was more relaxed and confident as a result.
My second client was a colleague who lived in Melbourne. I lived in Sydney. She had owned a very successful consulting and training firm for 10 years and had 25 employees. She was burned out and knew she needed to change something if she was going to stay healthy emotionally and physically. We coached for a number of years and it was a very successful coaching relationship. She made big changes during our coaching time together, before later selling the business.
To be honest, I can’t remember who my third client was at the very beginning in 1998. But I bless them for being part of my first year of coaching. What I feel so very proud is that I never misrepresented my qualifications or experience as a coach. I always had the ‘perfect’ clients for where my expertise and confidence was. I encourage every coach to always be honest about their current qualifications and experience level. That way, you will never put yourself, ethically, at risk.
Chapter 3 – the early years of coaching
My first specialty as a coach was small business coaching. This was a natural because I had been part of founding a consulting firm that had grown from zero $$$ to nearly $500,000 in turnover within 4 years. And it was a very profitable business. So that was my lead card. I coached a lot of small business owners during that time, especially those who had employees and were feeling overworked. We worked on their vision, values alignment, delegation, team-building, and more.
By the way, coaching is always about the person you are coaching. A niche is just a way for people to relate to you from a credibility point of view.
From late 1998, I was fortunate to train as a coach trainer in the online Coach U Teleclass Leader program to be part of the first Australian coach trainers they had in Australia. It was a fast track of learning. I was in online classes as part of my ongoing growth of coaching skills for myself. And I was training to teach coaching skills. It was fun, and alot of work, but very rewarding.
From 1999 – 2001, I coached a lot of small businessowners, and I began to mentor coaches in 2001 as I now had 3+ years of experience of being a coach and it felt right to start mentoring new coaches.
Chapter 4 – moving from Australia to the United States
To say that coaching has touched and transformed every part of my life is an understatement. In 1999, I attended the global ICF Conference in Orlando, Florida and met some great coaches. One stood out, and we connected during that conference as colleagues.
In 2000, I again attended the global ICF Conference, this time in Vancouver, Canada. The same coach and I connected again, and we ended up continuing that conversation by phone and email after the conference. To cut a long story short, we were married in Sydney later in 2001 and I moved to the United States. I never saw that coming! In 2009, I became an American citizen too. Who knew that would ever happen – certainly not me!
I won’t sugarcoat this. It was a challenging time in those first few years that I moved to the United States, compounded by the fact that the 9/11 terrorist attack happened around the same time I moved here. The fear was palpable moving to the US. I was so grateful that I was part of an international community of coaches, and coach trainers through CoachU and Corporate CoachU. And because so many of my coaching clients were by phone, it was an easier transition because all that changed was the timezone and the telephone number.
To be continued….visit back next week to see where the journey twisted and turned to next.