From Coronavirus to Corona-ENERGY!
The pandemic is a wonderful opportunity to develop ourselves as coaches and mentors. It's all about paradigm shift, humility and a genuine intention to serve the human being.
Has confinement changed your life as a coach a lot? What does this period mean to you? What are the words that best correspond to your state of mind today: is it anxiety, fear of the future, doubt? Or is it, hopefully for you, a healthy self-reflection, curiosity about new ways of working, the vision of new opportunities, the desire for a paradigm shift and more?
We will all have learned a lot from the period of confinement. Today, we have to get used to social distancing, to new rules in our profession. Last week, I met up with a management team from a food company that I had continued to support through Zoom over the last few months. We wore our masks and sat at a distance that respected the new standards. Team coaching exercises that I enjoy are no longer on the agenda because they involve touching each other. So we need to review our working methods. The hugs and kisses will be for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.
So, let's take a look at the invitations this virus has been giving us for the past few months and analyze some basic principles.
Diversification: Coaching is not the way to settle your gas bill
I repeated it many times during my coach trainings and during information sessions provided by coaching schools: empowering our clients is part of our ethical rules. This encourages us to develop our financial autonomy. There is one business principle to respect: never let a single client hold more than 30% of your turnover. Either we multiply the number of clients, expand our geographical areas of operation or diversify our activities. For my part, I have opted for all of these. Many coaches are also trainers, supervisors, consultants, etc. In Belgium, I can count on the fingers of my hand the colleagues who coach 100% of their time. Also, remember the study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the ICF (2016): coaches carry out 2.8 activities in addition to coaching in order to earn a living.
Not putting all your eggs in the same basket is part of the basic principles in this period more VUCA than ever (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). I had neglected this principle over the last few years, contributing to Nova Terra’s growth. The situation is now corrected as I working now for several schools and companies around the world, in coaching, training, supervision and mentoring.
In Belgium, we have the chance to speak several languages. As a result, our market is not limited to eleven million people (for the bilingual ones) but extends to the whole world if we also speak English. A normal day now takes me across two to four continents, via Zoom. It's easy; the Covid19 helped us to do it because clients now accept more than ever virtual coaching sessions: this is a major advantage for us! Last Monday, one of my clients told me that he was being transferred to another country. Normally, we would have had to stop the contract. Today, I am continuing the mission in virtual mode.
Self-reflecting is a must
2019 will have been a year of transition for me. As my partner prefers to continue the development of our school created in 2011, I handed over the management of the school in September 2019 and completed last January the transfer of the entire curriculum and pedagogy. After training hundreds of coaches since 2006, both in Belgium and in Russia, the time had come for me to reconnect more deeply with my passion, my vocation to support humanistic leadership by acting directly with leaders and organizations. However, while the strategy 'building a solid reference base + creating innovative models such as Evolution Loops + writing books' was already being implemented, I had disappeared for years behind several commercial brands and had to reactivate my own brand, my old company Cannio Coaching, which had existed since 1981 under another name.
This meant creating a new website. Wasn’t it the best time to achieve this? To do this, I was helped by a coach who challenged me because I had to give myself permission to disclose myself on the internet and this time display loud and clear my experiences acquired over the last twenty years and more. It also invited me to actively engage in digital marketing. In November 2019, I went back to school with French, American and Canadian trainers aged between 25 and 29 years old. It was a rejuvenating experience, but above all, it was a real flea shake! I went through deep self-reflection and took the decision - a bit crazy, I admit - to part with 1600 coaches' addresses on my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to focus on my target client, my Avatar, whom I learned to track digitally and for whom I very often post messages duly worked out according to the principles of digital marketing.
Today, I still support a few coaches who ask me to supervise them or to help them define their positioning strategy, but I won't go any further in Belgium because my real target are the leaders who are facing a difficult life transition or who wants to enhance their leadership and communication. My niche has been reconfirmed that I find meaningful. As for my coaching and mentoring transmissions, I am mainly pursuing them outside Belgium. As much as I need security, like everyone else, routine doesn't suit me; it extinguishes me. And you, have you recently asked yourself if you still work with passion?
My invitation to you is to continue to define yourself over and over again. This definition goes from WHO you really are, to what really MAKES YOU FEEL ALIVE, to what brings you JOY. Any activity or partnership that doesn't correspond to you makes you lose precious time: my body used to tell me this because I regularly lost my voice... my way? It was time for me to react.
Sowing implies being able to do it on fertile ground, humus, and this is based on humility, on the ability to question oneself in order to better reinvent oneself. For those who are familiar with the Evolution Loops (available on YouTube: https://youtu.be/WKJsAZDpbx4 ), this is Phase 11, the Rebirth.
Also, don't mix ego and quest for visibility. I've met too many coaches who are so valuable but too timid to make themselves visible on the market. The right amount of ego means displaying your accomplishments in the adequate way to get three messages across: (1) the detailed and adequate (aligned) way for you to serve your client, in other words, a clarified offer, (2) solid references, so start collecting testimonials from your clients, display your ICF and/or EMCC credentialing path or other certifications loud and clear, this reassures the market and proves the seriousness of your approach. Finally, (3) allow the market to discover the beautiful person that you are, and show yourself as a human being who brings meaning and joy, and who is generous with the causes that propel you one step higher in the Bateson-Dilts’s logical levels or in the table of values as proposed by Richard Barrett.
One door closes; two or more open
Trust the process: be able to say goodbye or farewell to an activity opens new doors. Every time I have left a business (or a business has left me), I have found that I am growing at VV' speed. Even better, I found myself crossing a real quantum leap, the progression was dazzling. However, it happens on the condition that we learn from our experience and consolidate our body of knowledge. Isn't this precisely what the current crisis invites us to do? In the last years, I learned to create ACTP schools, to design models and programs, both in French and in English, to imagine new formulas, for academies/universities or for organizations. The small seeds sown over the past twenty years are now beautiful plants and their buds are numerous.
The most incredible is the activation of the law of attraction. In April 2019, I gave a lecture at the EMCC conference in Dublin. The room was so crowded that people were sitting on the floor. At my feet was a very smiling Chinese man, who contacted me in August to ask if he could become my agent in China. It's a country I know well. I first went there in 1982 to visit the Guangzhou fair, and I returned in Beijing in 1988 to negotiate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of my university. I know that the Chinese mentality is based on the long term and on a partnership marked by respect and perseverance. Instead of having a representative office in China, I simply proposed to him to create a joint venture and to base it on a business model that I had been working on for years, namely a broad international partnership.
Today, MentoringCo is the child of seven partners from seven different countries and has built up a network of branches in a whole series of countries... in just a few months! Better still, it offers a myriad of learning opportunities through the cross-fertilization of our knowledge and contributions: what a wonderful intellectual emulation, I love it! It also involves professional and written processes. In small firms, decisions are usually not recorded in detailed minutes. MentoringCo's minutes always include the appointment of the project leader, a date that generates commitment and methodologies that are well thought out/challenged and then accepted by all.
The universe has continued to be active as the list has grown, as projects have arrived one after the other. This is a basic principle that it is good to remember because it generates hope and motivation: the universe coalesces to help us as soon as our request is clear and duly aligned.
By the way, take a good look at the photo below, as it brings hope. While training in April in China, I noticed that they were in the same room in Shanghai (large group) and Beijing (small group), without masks or social distancing. In fact, they all have a QR code that certifies that they are in good health. And this allows them to work together again. Once outside, they systematically put on their masks. My Chinese partner has been insisting since January that I wear mine and has sent me a box of them, which I immediately shared with my family and close friends.
(Re)finding consistency, realigning
My early career was totally in line with who I really am: a curious globetrotter eager to meet new people and make new discoveries. My career path was coherent: a first job for IBM in Singapore, a second job for the Belgian Foreign Trade Office in the economic section of our Embassy in Kinshasa, a third job at Procter & Gamble. Then a fourth job as editor-in-chief of the magazine Nord-Sud, which took me all over the world, including to war zones. At the same time, I was teaching in two universities, based on the Belgian and English systems. Even in the early days of Nova Terra, I was still accepting assignments for the European Union's DG Development as I still needed to travel a lot. As my 23-year-old son reminded me last year: "Mom, it's time that you wake up! " At the age of 63, I've taken up my pilgrim's posture again and, even if the coronavirus makes us work virtually for the moment, my suitcase is waiting for me in the starting blocks. What about your suitcase?
Continuing to find joy and meaning
After 20 years of career with lots of travelling, I continued to do so when I was elected to the ICF Global Board in 2008 and to Global Vice President in 2010. It continued when I was invited in 2014 to create the ICF Regional Advisory Council for the Europe-Middle East and Africa region. I also went to Russia more than 20 times between 2012 and 2017 to establish Nova Terra. Like many of you, I attended almost every major ICF international conference. Also, but in a virtual way, when the company had won three beautiful contracts with the WHO, which gave me the opportunity to coach more than 30 country managers around the world (by Zoom) over three years and to meet them again for training at the Geneva HQs. At the end of the last contract, the five coaches who had participated in the WHO adventure found themselves somewhat orphans of meaning as our commitment to such a beautiful and global cause galvanized us. We were regretting our wonderful clients, those outstanding personalities who are totally dedicated to the much-needed cause of public health.
In recent years, while I always took great pleasure in training future coaches in Belgium and witnessing their new self-confidence, the Belgian routine had taken hold. I take my share of responsibility, of course, because we all master our choices and therefore influence our destiny: this is a principle that should never be forgotten.
ICF World's Great Leadership Lesson
As for the ICF, it remains and will remain for me a great leadership school. Belgian coaches, don't deprive yourself! In this area, the Americans are really ahead of the game - the ICF back office is run by a company who manages several federations like ours, and is located in Lexington, Kentucky. I learned to work on Zoom as from 2014, I discovered the rules of American and global governance in 2008, I applied my knowledge of economics, marketing and international management side by side with world's leading coaches and built a solid network of coaches that I have just reactivated. It was like a new MBA with innovative management methods, wonderful travels, incredible encounters and tangible participation in the advancement of our profession around the world. Isn't it tempting enough? When will we see a second Belgian move to global functions at the ICF?
Giving, sowing, and sending to the Universe... which always returns it to you...
Last but not least, this period mainly invites us to support all those who need coaching and mentoring. May I invite you to devote a few hours a week to this, whether through the ICF, the EMCC or through other associations or private initiatives? I currently support healthcare professionals for free; I have produced video-clips that I have posted on social networks and on YouTube to help people see their lives in a more positive way during confinement – the links to YouTube are listed below. I have just done a coaching demo for ICF Jordan, shared my Evolution Loops with ICF Malaysia and participated in international think-tanks on coaching and mentoring. Many of you give your time to ICF and the profession. You have my respect, gratitude and admiration. And you are so right!
Did you know that the Universe always gives us back what we have given, and so much more? This happens provided we understand one basic principle: it is not necessarily the same people who give it back to us. No, the return comes by other ways, often in innovative and surprising ways, and it is always abundant.
We can be more and more confident: we are operating in the mental health industry and more and more people do realize how helpful and necessary it is.
I wish you a luminous path aligned with WHO you really are and with the MEANING you wish to give to your contribution to our noble profession.
Here are the links to the "My Pillars of Wisdom and Light" vignettes posted on YouTube :
Nr1 - Relativity. https://youtu.be/AhNbAyzT8gg
Nr2 – To look. https://youtu.be/ZgFQj8DRC2Q
Nr3 – Go to the Essential. https://youtu.be/A5zXFTx1MJI
Nr4 – Think positive. https://youtu.be/nyl1LWPHQu4
Nr5 – Letting Go. https://youtu.be/c1vSX5ZyX6E
Nr6 – To Play. https://youtu.be/BXF49W9V7MA
Nr7 – Adopt the right Mindset. https://youtu.be/DEN1F73Y9Yc
Nr8 – Give without expectations.https://youtu.be/y-DbUZTPTgQ
Nr9 – Look in the rear view mirror. https://youtu.be/dyl5my2vBoA
Nr10 – Listen to the birds. https://youtu.be/Kz7guDEuxdw
Nr11 – To cook. https://youtu.be/noA0tiZz-4Y
Nr12 – Manage Fear. https://youtu.be/dcBqmG2fsFc
Nr13 – Create, Produce. https://youtu.be/rEjLKcXa6k8