The Coaching Fellowship

Last fall I had an interesting opportunity: to participate in The Coaching Fellowship. I wasn’t 100% sure what coaching was when I started. The program has a handy chart, but everyone’s experience is different.

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The fellowship makes eight hours of coaching available to women 25–35 at a highly reduced rate. The goal is to give women the tools to succeed early in their careers and accelerate their impact. Applications have re-opened (open until June 12th!) and I wanted to take the time to share my experience as an example.

It started with an email exchange from my mom in early June, and a little over a month later I got the news: I was accepted!

Shortly thereafter, I started working with my coach, Lindsay Jean Thomson. Lindsay was a great match for me — many of her other clients are entrepreneurs in San Francisco. She has her own new startup: Women Catalysts. In addition to coaching, she’s spent time as a yoga instructor. She’s always taking interesting trips, and she was often traveling when we talked. She’s squarely in the age bracket where should could be a participant in the program! We have a lot in common.

At first I was a little envious. Lindsay seemed so secure in her work. She’s patient, she knows what she wants to do, and she does it. She reminded me of all my favorite lifestyle bloggers. But there was no real reason to be jealous: Lindsay was completely present and ready to help me figure out how I could be more effective.

The first session was my favorite. As a Product Manager, I love to define the system and figure out what’s going on. We needed to find a baseline to see what I needed to work on, and why. We went through a few key exercises, and I found all of them valuable.

I won’t go through the exercises in detail (that ruins the fun!) but to give you an idea:

1) We assessed the different “areas” of my life and how satisfied I was with each (work, friends, home, etc). We even used numerical metrics to make sure we had a firm baseline to compare to.
2) We figured out some of the persistent things that hold me back, and ways I negatively impact myself. These were the areas we wanted to tackle in the other sessions.
3) We did some visualization exercises to explore where I see my future.

One of the things I loved about the program was having homework. Having Lindsay assign the homework, and require a verbal confirmation from me, gave me more accountability. It can be easy to push personal improvement tasks to the side when you’re busy, and the homework made things more official for me.

At the beginning, Lindsay was active in defining my homework. We started with a very uncomfortable exercise in crafting a life purpose statement. As we spent more time together, Lindsay would ask me what I thought the best assignment would be and help me refine it. We’d figure out ways to apply lessons in my life. She always sent me notes after the call to reiterate the assignments.

In each subsequent session, we’d review the homework and find ways to push it further or tweak it. We maintained focus on a few key areas throughout the program. Some of them were about amplifying my strengths, and others were about fixing problem areas. I slowly got better.

The lowest point of the experience was right after my coaching ended. I’d subconsciously expected a neat bow: “and then I got my life goal of X!” or “and suddenly I felt Y!”

Instead, we just… ended. I’d put in the hours with Lindsay, I’d put in the homework, shouldn’t something magic happen? There was never a lightning bolt moment. At the time, I was sad. Almost a year later, I’m glad there wasn’t.

Coaching didn’t give me one moment, but it did give me a suite of tools that I’m still using. If I’d had that moment, I might have closed that chapter and moved on. Instead, I keep going through the process. I’m more aware of myself and my habits. I’m now better at catching the things Lindsay and I discussed. I’ll catch myself saying “just give them an A,” and I pause to ask myself if I’m devaluing intangible skills. I’m better at holding myself accountable for prioritizing personal changes.

The Coaching Fellowship is not a magic bullet. You might not end up with a visionary moment at the end, but you will emerge with the tools you need to keep going. In my mind, that’s more valuable.

Interested in applying? The Application is open here.