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Change Your Life? It Starts Right Here

By Judy Guitton

What's on your list today? Getting a new job? Looking for a soulmate? Making a life changing decision? Irene Leonard, Edmonds business and personal coach, may be just the person to see.

For nearly two years, she has operated "Coaching for Change", a unique business for people who want more out of life. Leonard says, "It is about creating your own future, rather that just letting it happen. You need to say out loud what you want and make an action plan to get there."

Leonard says here clients include men and woman interested in "growing or redesigning their business, changing careers, finding a significant partner in their life, working fewer hours, making more money, getting the little red sports car, moving from the condo to the house, setting up for retirement."

She defines coaching as "a confidential ongoing partnership that results in steady progress toward your business, professional and personal goals." Working together, the coach and her client identify the client's values, priorities and goals, and then develop strategies to achieve them. In weekly half-hour telephone sessions, they follow up on implementing the goals and strategies developed.

"It's the ongoing work with a coach that sustains you to make changes," Irene says. "Working with a coach is empowering, fun and challenging." Personal and business coaching as a professional is less than 15 years old. Although coaching is relatively new in the Northwest, it's common on the East Coast where companies like IBM, Coca-Cola, and Citibank hire coaches to improve performance and management skills.

Why go to a coach for help instead of a counselor, friend, or motivational speaker? Irene Leonard says coaching differs from counseling or therapy in that it is goal-oriented: the focus is not on the deep-seated past issues but rather on "what we can work on today to change behavior and make dreams a reality."

She adds that working with a coach is more effective than talking with a friend or spouse because "they may be a good listener but, unlike a coach, they are not trained to ask the right questions." Anxious to help, they're likely to give judgements, opinions, and advice about what they think one should do -"which may not be what the person seeking help really wants or is prepared to do."

Getting motivated by a speaker or a book is "fine for getting you keyed up, but life happens, we get very busy again with everything else, and that edge wears off. Coaching keeps you going – it's continuous, so it's effective." The people Irene Leonard works with are busy, successful business people or professionals seeking guidance in their lives. Coaching fees, a business deduction for many range from $200 to $1000 a month depending on the clients needs. Many of Irene's clients feel they more than get their money's worth from their enthusiastic, energetic coach.

Paul Mar, director of Community Services for the City of Edmonds, says: As my coach, Irene has done a tremendous job in helping realign my personal life by being a resourceful sounding board and an action-talking catalyst. Her approach is straightforward and goal-oriented, where results are easily measurable."

Another client is Justin Reeder, who operates Edmonds Vitamins & Herbs "She's very professional," she says. "She doesn't project what she wants – she just helped me to know what I wanted. Coaching helped me by changing my attitude and helping me be more positive." Irene Leonard remembers that one of her earlier clients , soon after they began working together, wound up in a new job at a salary 35 percent higher than they had set as a goal. But there can also be unexpected complications. "One of my clients, a small business owner, made so much money that he didn't withhold enough for taxes," she says, laughing. "Come April, he had to stop coaching with me for awhile because I wasn't part of his cash flow!"

Before becoming a coach, she had 18 years' experience working as a real estate and business attorney in the U.S. and Canada, a business owner, in-house counsel, real estate executive and investor manager. Why leave it all behind to become a coach? "I was at a marketing meeting where a woman handed out an article on coaching. I read it and a little light bulb went on – it was the 'do what you love and money will follow' insight." She sought more information on the Internet and found the Coaches Training institute, a non-profit educational organization for coaches in San Rafael, California. She went on to complete her training at the Coaches Training Institute and is a certified member of the International Coach Federation, and a participant in the Puget Sound Professional Coach Association. Irene Leonard is also a member of the Washington State Bar Association, the Law Society of British Columbia, the Rotary Club of Edmonds, the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce, and the Edmonds Library Board of Trustees.

She often gives presentations on topics such as "Ten Coaching Skills to Improve Performance," a recent talk for the American Legal Administrators in Seattle. As a coach, Irene knows well the importance of achieving a balance between work and personal life. Among her many interests, the petite elfin Irene loves riding a motorcycle and says she's a Harley-owner wannabe."

For more information about "Coaching for Change", contact Irene Leonard's website at or call (360) 922-0944.

Reprinted with permission from The Edmonds Paper.