It took me 44 years to discover why professional coaching is such a natural extension of my personal being. Fittingly, the discovery of my origin story as an executive coach came while working with my coach, Lori Siegworth, who helped me uncover the profound understanding that lay dormant inside me all these years.
Here’s the quick version.
My brother, Joel, and I grew up in a St. Paul home that was long on love and relatively free from judgment. I don’t remember many times where my parents, Mike and Fran, assumed they had answers that we didn’t, despite our youth. We were trusted to make decisions, which isn’t to say we always made good ones.
There was the time I drove with friends to ski up north in the middle of a blizzard. That trip ended with all our money spent on two tow trucks and scary words like “embankment.” It was a wholly predictable outcome that I was allowed to experience through my own poor decision.
Then there was the time I applied to a single college, the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Life would look different had I not been accepted, but my parents trusted me with the consequences. Certainly, a gap year or scrambling to apply to other schools would have provided its own learning. My parents saw that but withheld judgment.
These two situations made clear that learning from experience was expected and that judgment was withheld most of the time. Imagine if I had been judged harshly for poor decisions or if my parents assumed I wasn’t capable of making good ones in the first place. I could have been led down a path toward fearing risk or not trusting myself, which would have forever taken entrepreneurship off the table.
If that’s what didn’t happen, here’s what did.
My parents asked questions from a place of genuine interest and without a hidden agenda.
They dispensed with advice and let me keep accountability for my decisions.
I rarely felt my parents knew better, which must have been hard as heck for them in the many times they most certainly knew better (see the examples above!).
My mom, in particular, is gifted with the ability to tie current conversations to those from the past. Not in an “I told you so” way, but in a way that brings insight from the past to bear in the current moment.
They also let me experiment and lead and kept the spotlight on me when they could have put it on themselves.
Now, here’s the payoff.
Whoever and however we are, we develop a mindset and behaviors informed by our environment. My childhood home environment contributed to a mindset that withholds judgment or an assumption that I know better than my client. I “lead from behind” and don’t throw advice around unless it’s appropriate and necessary. I demonstrate trust and extend accountability to my clients, always.
I was raised this way and found a deeply meaningful career where this way of being is of value.
When I completed the Hudson Institute advanced executive coach training program last year, my mom asked if she could listen to a coaching session I was required to record. (I did so confidentially, without using the name of my client, and with their consent).
She heard me with my client in that session. And when I listened back to it, I heard my client AND my mom and dad. Now I know why.