Have you ever thought of coaching as self-care?
Written by Helené van Tonder
Written by Helené van Tonder
Divya is an entrepreneur who builds and runs businesses across different domains like climate action, marketing and advertising, and gaming. For her, coaching has become a core part of her life as a founder and business leader. She meets with her coach every second week. If something difficult or important crops up, she’ll even call upon him in between sessions.
My chat with Divya was very interesting! Her coaching journey is quite different from my own, or the one I wrote about last week. It has broadened my understanding of coaching, and how it works in different scenarios.
Below are the transcribed excerpts from our conversation. I hope you’ll find it insightful too!
Why is it important for you to have a coach?
I’ve had some very good mentors in my life, and that gave me appreciation and respect for the role of good listeners and conversation partners — especially if they’re outside your organisation.
When leap and their 1-on-1 coaching offering came along, I decided to give it a go. I was dealing with a lot of business challenges at the time.
Now I view coaching as much-needed support for anyone who is in a leadership position. For me, it’s even a form of self-care. If you’re an entrepreneur, you easily get lost in your own head. You can lose perspective, or struggle to differentiate between your emotions and reality. You often have a lot of doubt. The list goes on and on. A coach serves as a very helpful sounding board and provides a safe space to process difficult things.
Can you tell us about some specific things that your coach has helped you with?
Yes, there are 3 things that I will highlight.
First, I’m a very self-critical person, and I focus on my weaknesses a lot. But my coach has helped me to focus more on my strengths and how I can leverage them. In our first or second session, he suggested that I do some assessments. I’m generally skeptical about these kinds of things, so much so that I was almost offended when I got the results. It was so accurate!
Based on that, we’ve had some very useful sessions focused on my strengths. It turns out I have negative associations about some of my biggest strengths. Command, for example, is one of my top strengths. But I looked at it as a characteristic that is overbearing, possibly even rude. He’s helped me redefine some of these concepts. “You’re running a ship,” he said, “and having command is very important for success.” It’s made me comfortable with my strengths, whereas before, I shied away from some of them.
Second, he also helped me identify the weaknesses or problem areas that I should work on. We often think that we have 20 000 problems, and in fact, that’s the mindset with which I showed up for my first coaching session. But it’s not the case. We mostly have 2–3 core problems, and if we deal with them well, many other things improve as well. My coach has helped me tremendously in this regard: to identify the core things I have to work on and to give me guidance, support, and resources for tackling them.
Third, he is a very good and trustworthy sounding board, and having that is very valuable. For example, rejection is something you face a lot as an entrepreneur. After a couple of rejections, you start taking it very personally — you feel that people are rejecting you and you don’t understand why. You’re unaware of your blind spots, but a good sounding board helps with that.
I recently went through such an experience. I felt that people were not trusting me even though I showed them the results. I was very annoyed with the situation, but then my coach pointed out that I was failing to communicate crucial information to the stakeholders. It’s information that I take for granted, and I was unable to identify this as the missing piece.
Do you have any tips for others on how to approach coaching?
Sure, let me share a couple of things:
You have to trust your coach and be honest with them. They can only give you input or tools based on what you tell them. So if they ask you a tough question, don’t just say the first thing that comes to mind — it’s not a competition or a quiz or something you’ll be judged by. Spend the time to really think about it.
You have to be patient and willing to put in the hard work. If your coach gives you homework or stuff to read — do it.
As for chemistry sessions, don’t expect magic from them. Be clear about your goals and expectations, and allow the coach to get to know you a little. Put your video on during the call. Make sure you check the practicalities with them. I have a very unpredictable schedule, for example, and I needed to know that my coach will be okay with rescheduling sessions on short notice.