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How I Became a Coach

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At one point you wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between me and the energizer bunny. 

I was jumping around between consulting jobs. Internally, I felt my purpose was long-term but my career moves were short-term. I was thinking in terms of 3-month stints. I was consulting, but it didn’t feel as fulfilling as I wanted it to be.  

When I was holding my new baby girl in my arms, I finally took the moment to slow down and reassess. Back in my hometown, I sat on the pier, breathing in the sea air, and tuned into my mind, body, and heart to ask myself what I really wanted. 

My habit with founders and consulting work was to ask them “what are the unnecessary things you’re doing? What are the unnecessary features of this product? What are the unnecessary goals that are on your strategic roadmap?”

As I applied that same line of questioning to myself, I found that most of what I was doing in my consulting work was unnecessary. It became extremely clear to me that the most valuable part of what I was doing was creating a super high-value hour. It was one hour over lunch or one hour over coffee. 

During that hour, I connected the mindset of the leader, the psychological past of the leader, to the way it was playing out in the whole organization. Because I saw time and time again that your psychology as a leader is evident in the organization around you.  

I realized that if I had to choose, that’s the one hour I would charge for because that’s the most valuable hour. I knew that because I would hear back from people that I had coffee with and they told me how it completely changed their company.

So I had figured out what I would want to charge for, but I didn’t know what that was called or if anyone would be willing to pay for it.

I struggled to nail down what exactly I was doing. Advising? It didn’t feel like advising because I was not giving advice. Consulting?  The complexity of consulting was not something I had the space or passion for, especially when I had a newborn and was breastfeeding and up a lot of the night. I didn’t want to be on the hook for returning a lot of emails and doing project planning and giving reports, because that didn’t fall into my Zone of Genius, so it was not consulting. 

I was asking CEOs, founders, and managers high-level questions. Digging to find soulful and heart-centered answers.

Lightbulb moment! Was it coaching?

My heart sank.  I didn’t want it to be coaching. Coaching, especially after going through my Ph.D. at Berkeley, where there’s a very high emphasis on rigor and being analytical, sounded frilly and soft and unsubstantiated.

I felt an internal resistance. I even reached out to some people and asked if they thought I was a coach or consultant or advisor, and no one said coach. 

But when I tried to think of another word, to sum what I did up, I couldn’t figure out how I was anything other than a coach. So I decided I think I’m a coach. 

Now here’s the crazy part. The next day after I have this realization, I woke up and there were five different emails in my inbox. 

“Hey, I’d love to just bounce something off you, could we grab coffee?”

“I’m going through some career change.”

They were asking for coaching. It was the sign that gave me a lot of confidence that this was the thing that felt right to me.

Coaching is about presence. Coaching is about powerful conversations. Coaching is about being of service. 

So if every day you wake up and ask yourself how you can serve someone and their growth that day, you will be well on your way to being a coach.

Photography by Kelley Raye //

Dr. Caneel Joyce is a CEO Coach and social scientist who helps people break out of the invisible traps and make whole-life changes easily and naturally.

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