Goalminded Talks Coaching with Professor Brenda Ellington Booth, Director of the Leadership Coaching Program at the Kellogg School of Management
Since launching Goalminded, we’ve told you a lot about why we think coaching is so great. That’s why we thought it was time we had an expert weigh in on what exactly this whole “coaching” thing is all about and why it’s become such a hot topic. We caught up with Professor Brenda Ellington Booth, faculty member at the Kellogg School of Management and leading authority on coaching and leadership, to get her take:
Let’s start with the basics… What is coaching?
I think the ICF (International Coach Federation) puts it best when it says that coaches partner with clients “in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Hmm… coaching sounds a bit like therapy. How are they different?
Therapists are in the business of healing and people tend to seek them out when they have a mental health issue. Coaches are in the business of helping clients maximize their potential and create new possibilities. Whereas therapists tend to focus on the past as a way to understand the present, coaches tend to live in the future, helping clients figure out what they need to do now to overcome obstacles, create possibilities, and reach their goals.
Working with so many clients over the years, I’m sure you have a few interesting stories to share. What is one of your favorite coaching moments?
One of my clients was hired by a Company to eventually take over as CEO. The Company hired me to help her prepare for an interview with the Board of Directors. A few sessions into the process, she was in tears. It had become clear to her that, at this point in her life, she valued family above everything else. She’d been divorced twice, hadn’t spent as much time with her kids as she would have liked, and was now considering a job that would lead her to spend even less time with the people she cared about most. Despite the fact that I was hired to coach her to prepare for a role that most people would covet, she eventually realized that she did not want the job as CEO. It’s truly amazing what coaching can help people realize about themselves.
What’s your favorite piece of advice you give your clients?
Make time for yourself to think and reflect. It sounds simple, but it’s often easier said than done. If a busy person just says they are going to make time for themselves, they usually won’t. They need to find a compelling reason to do so; they need a clear objective. In the case I just discussed, for example, when my client was forced through our sessions together to reflect on what was really important to her, she was able to avoid getting herself into a job situation that didn’t align with her values. It is critical for business leaders to allow themselves time to self-reflect, space to come up with new and fresh ideas, and the freedom to think independently. Also, business leaders need to ask themselves: is this where I want to be? Am I satisfied with my life? So many leaders get caught up in the trappings of success, they might not even realize they are not happy. The legendary commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford a few years back is a great reminder of what’s really important.
You mentioned how important it is for coaches to “practice what they preach” and that you have a coach of your own. How has coaching helped you in your own life?
I tend to be a perfectionist and obsess about making sure things in my life go according to plan. My coach helps me make sure I’m not focusing on outcomes that are beyond my control. I can prepare 20 hours or 100 hours before teaching a class, but my level of preparation will have no bearing on whether or not a student shows up to my class. All I can do is be confident in the knowledge that I’ve done enough to prepare myself for success, and then be present enough to enjoy the experience of teaching my class.