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Coaching For Change

By Marcus Peterson, Soundings, published by the Association of Legal Administrators, October 1999

Many of you will remember a few months back when Irene Leonard, Business & Personal Coach, spoke at the ALA luncheon. I was the luck winner of the free coaching session with her, and it was such a positive experience that I thought I would pass it on to all of you.

I went into the session with a bit of trepidation as I have always been my own coach, in all matters other than sports, and thought that I have done fine in that area, thank you very much! And what is coaching, anyway? I though of my high school swimming coach yelling at us from the end of the pool to do one more set of butterfly strokes before practice was over. Irene's presentation at the ALA luncheon was very interesting, however, so I went into the session with an open mind, hoping to come away having learned something. The free session consisted of a two-hour foundation meeting and four half-hour telephone sessions. I was amazed at how much I learned not only about coaching but about myself.

The foundation meeting was in person and had 4 objectives. The first one was for us to get to know each other. Irene explained that this is very important, as a coach is like a confidant and needs to be a person you know and trust. We talked for quite a while about our backgrounds, accomplishments, interests, etc.

The second objective was to get a list of values that are important to you as a person. She did this by noting values she picked up while we were getting to know each other and also asked me specifically to add to her list. The list was then prioritized and we talked in more detail about what some of the values meant to me.

The third objective was to examine and rate all aspects of life using a worksheet she called the "Wheel of Life." The wheel included the areas of health, physical environment, money, career, friends and family, significant other/romance, personal growth, and fun and recreation. We went section by section determining a rating on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how happy I was at this point in my life in each area, and then talking about the reasons behind each rating.

The fourth objective was to set goals for each area of life based on the rating I have and how important each area was to me. I learned that the sections are very much interrelated and, therefore, when we only concentrate on one, others are compromised. She also helped me come up with some tasks to accomplish before our first telephone session that moved towards the goals we identified.

The foundation meeting had me interested in what coaching can actually do. I was comfortable with Irene after the meeting and was impressed with the way she works with you, looking at all areas of life rather than finding a problem and concentrating only on that specific problem.

I didn't quite know if telephone sessions could be as valuable as in-person meetings. I was surprised at how well they did work. First of all, in the busy world in which we live, the convenience of making a phone call at a prearranged time instead of having to drive somewhere to meet, was great. Also, I found that talking on the phone rather than being in person actually allowed a little more freedom, a feeling that you are actually helping yourself.

Throughout this whole experience, I learned most during the phone sessions. A great thing about coaching and, for me, part of its success is the lack of pressure. I thought going into the first session with a few of the assigned tasks incomplete - that accountability would be a big issue. While it does play a part - you are reporting what you have done to someone - it isn't the focus of the coaching. A big part of the focus was actually what tasks you didn't do and why. We looked at the reasons behind what was done, and if it was actually a choice not to do it or if there was an underlying reason that the task was not accomplished.

The most obvious component of coaching and probably the most beneficial is simply having someone absolutely neutral to bounce ideas off of; someone to help you come up with ideas that may bring you closer to your goals. I was amazed at how many revelations I had just talking about the issues that I normally keep internalized. I think a big part of coaching is having someone who will urge you to look at things from a different perspective. Usually, Irene only had to point me in the general direction and I found the answer to the problem was readily available. She explained that often we just get stuck in a box, in terms of finding solutions to problems, and we really can't get anywhere if we don't get out of the box and look around at what we can do.

I came away from the coaching experience very impressed. I believe that coaching can be a powerful tool and will definitely be beneficial to this industry specifically. With our lives getting busier, and stress levels getting higher and higher, we have less time to examine all aspects of our lives, how those aspects interact, and how goals fit into the picture. Coaching is an excellent way to work towards a balance in life, to lower stress, and to make achieving goals more manageable.

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

Copyright 1999. Reprinted with permission from Soundings.