Coaching is not something one does; rather, it is who one is being. It is not an activity. It is a relationship. And all true coaching comes from a place of integrity, authenticity, and trust on the part of the coach and the one who is being coached. Coaching is not about giving advice, having all the right answers, pretending to be perfect, or fixing the coachee. Nor is it about creating an ideal mold into which everyone must fit themselves. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to leadership or being human, for that matter.
What I attempt to do in coaching is create a safe space with clear boundaries for leadership breakthroughs to happen by letting go of attachments, being true to oneself, finding one’s own voice, creating opportunities to experiment or try new things, and by being vulnerable; in other words, working toward success (as defined by my client) but allowing for failure. While no one likes to fall short of their goals, I think most of us would agree that the greatest learning and growth takes place when we do. When the coachee has the experience of being fully heard, fully supported, and fully accepted as they are, no matter what, real coaching can occur. And while there are moments that coaching could easily slip into therapy, I am always extremely careful to “name it” as a therapeutic issue when and if it arises, while suggesting they might want to pursue that with a trained psychotherapist.
I have experienced the totality in my career, from great success to a big fall from grace. Though I have had the experience of coaching people who are looking for some area of professional self-improvement, those who call on me (whether it is an individual or an institution) are often in trouble or are experiencing a breakdown of one sort or another. I can relate. I have learned that it is not enough to merely “do your work” or even be really good at it. The real key is listening for how others are perceiving you and being completely honest with yourself. It is not enough to have a high IQ; the EQ also needs continual development. Passion for one’s calling is essential, but so is compassion and empathy for others.
After thirty five years in the rabbinate
I know the pitfalls, the excuses, the rationalizations, even the lies leaders tell themselves. I know what it means to give tough love. And from years of being mentored as well as my own therapy, I know how to receive it. As a coach I am not trying to be anyone’s friend. Instead, I am focused on helping them be the best version of themselves by finding their own, unique voice. Just as I am continually working on that for myself, as well. At the same time, I am keenly aware of the power imbalance, projections, and transference that any such relationship (potentially) holds. I believe that once again the openness to “name it” and honestly talk about it, with a sense of humor, goes a long way to diffuse the awkwardness or discomfort that one might feel.
The vast majority of my hundreds of coaching clients have been rabbis, other Jewish professionals, clergy from other faiths, as well as lay leaders and heads of NGOs. Though people seeking coaching present a wide variety of needs, I find that they generally fall into three categories, which I call the three S’s—Skills, Self-Awareness, and Self-Care. While all are important, without the latter two, all the skills and talent in the world will not lead to true success. I feel that is a gift I can bring to anyone whom I will be privileged to coach.
I am grounded in Jewish as well as global spiritual values, traditions, and practices. These I combine with the best thinking of practical business, institutional leadership and modern cultural trends. As leaders of organizations, it is imperative that we master both worlds.
“Thrival” is a word I coined when writing my recently published fifth book. It was meant as a juxtaposition to “survival.” The latter is the default stance of many leaders and institutions in today’s world—they are just trying to keep it together, be “good enough,” faking it until they make it. I get that. Nothing wrong with doing some good and taking care of one’s loved ones. My coaching is for those transformational leaders who wish to go beyond that; who desire to create the future, not merely live into it; who want to thrive in their life and their work; and who want to serve organizations that wish to do the same. A world of thrival!
I look forward to sharing your leadership journey and consider it an honor that you have considered me to do so.