The unexpected, amazing ways that coaching changes lives

I love my job as a coach. If you are a coach, you probably do, too.

There are many selfish reasons: flexibility, working with great people, a lucrative income, the ability to write and speak, and the satisfaction of helping people solve pressing problems.

But what I like best is when something unexpected and amazing happens for my clients, and it changes lives.

Here are three examples:

ONE: The CEO of a $1.5 company initially hired me to help him and the organization accelerate change. However, as our coaching conversations progressed, the CEO shared his concerns about his health. He was sleeping three hours per night. His blood pressure was becoming dangerously high. He felt stress. His doctor was telling him to make a change.

As we started looking for ways to get more sleep and reduce stress, it became clear that he was running his organization the way one would run a mom and pop store. He was doing way too much. We mapped out how many hats he was wearing besides CEO, and we counted eight different positions.

As a result of this work, the CEO moved some leaders into new roles, and hired others. He got himself out of the non-CEO boxes by replacing himself.

The outcome: The work we did together may have saved his life. I’m not exaggerating. He gets more sleep. His blood pressure is back down. He is more relaxed. He spends time with family when he is really present with them, because he has others worrying about non-CEO issues. Because of all of this, he is more focused and productive at work, too, and the change process at the organization is moving faster.

For me, what’s wonderful about this case is that a client asked for coaching about organizational change, and in addition to the results of that process, also got his life back.

TWO: The CEO of a multi-million contracting firm just wouldn’t get out of the way and let his 45-year old, very competent son take over. He knew that he had to make way for the next generation, and he had made some progress handing over control. But he still couldn’t butt out. This caused the usual conflict and tension that we often see in family businesses.

The coaching started to look at what he was afraid of, and that was keeping him from moving on. The client discovered that everything related to his identity, his legacy and ultimately his mortality. To him, getting out of the business felt like dying.

Instead of working on how to get him out of the business, we worked on coming up with a vision for what he would do next. The client came up with a new vision and direction for his life after this company. Actually, he came up with many directions – involving how he could spend time with and support his 20 grandchildren, his passion for fishing in the Florida Keys, time with his wife, and leadership roles pushing forward economic development in his community.  

In this way, a coaching assignment seemingly about succession planning became much broader and significant in scope.

THREE: A mid-career executive at one of the world’s top investment firm came to me for coaching on how to be a better leader. We worked for months on how he could stop micromanaging his people and step back to set direction, maintain high standards, and engage his team without doing it for them. He made some terrific improvements, and his company has put him on the short list to move to the next level.

Then, out of the blue, he asked for coaching about what to do next in his career (note that he was paying out of pocket, so there was no conflict of interest in moving to this topic). He shared that what is important to him is doing something significant and having impact in the world. He loves his current job, but isn’t sure if it allows him the opportunity to have the kind of impact he knows he wants to make.

At his request, we started exploring different options – from opportunities in his current company to possibilities in a smaller firm that might offer more autonomy, roles as a board member in some exciting non-profits, and careers in entirely new industries. We are discussing the best place to live, family plans, and other ways to have a completely fulfilling life.

Now this client is doing some powerful investigation of what his life is about and what his options are for the future. He is excited to be exploring so many possibilities, while still performing extremely well in his current role.

We are still in the middle of this inquiry, but the unexpected results of the coaching assignment could lead to optimal fulfillment in this leader’s career and life. That’s not what he originally hired me for, but that’s where we ended up.

The above examples show how amazing it is to be a coach. Often the results come from unexpected places. I can’t think of any type of work I would rather do, and I feel grateful to be part of this growing profession.

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