A few weeks ago, my friend and coaching colleague (who I will call Susan) called me to discuss an experience that had really upset her. She had, the day before, had a session with a coach (who I will call Carol) as she wants to grow her business and take it in a slightly different direction. She did her research and eventually settled on Carol as she seemed to be exactly what my friend was looking for. She had come across as competent yet caring, kind yet firm, which is exactly what Susan felt she needed as she has been struggling of late to know where she heading, professionally speaking. She was excited, hopeful and nervous when I spoke to her a couple of days before her session. So when she called me the day after, upset and confused, we started to unpack the experience to work out why her expectations and her reality were miles apart. What Susan described was a coach who, more than once during the session, told her what she 'needed' to do. At a little below a couple of thousand pounds for the session, Susan was obviously expecting to have some firm guidance but she actually came away feeling that Carol had no clue what she or her business were about and had basically imposed her own agenda upon Susan. She was at times passive aggressive ("It's been really interesting working with you - you slip in and out of 'flow' so much" - Is this the woman to woman equivalent of "You're a bit emotional love, have you got your period?!") She was less than encouraging about Susan's latest coaching programme ideas and told her she needed to shelf the project (honesty is obviously much needed in coaching sessions but it's not, in my opinion, the place of the coach to tell the client they shouldn't do something, but rather explore the validity of an idea and allow the client to take responsibility for their own decisions). She seemed to lack the skills to back up her claims that she would be competent in helping Susan work out her next moves.
As the conversation went on, I was reminded of an experience I had several years ago, when I found myself in a similar position to Susan. I really needed to grow my business, as I was raising my two boys alone and to say money was tight would be an understatement. I was at a coaching conference, when I was introduced to a woman who I will call Angela. She was confident and self assured- two qualities that at the time I slightly lacked. We swapped numbers and a couple of days later she called me. We had a conversation that lasted about 45 minutes, in which time she told me why I really needed to sign up to her 3 month coaching programme. When I told her that I really didn't have the (several thousand pound) fees that she was charging, she insisted that if I was serious about making my business work I would "beg, steal or borrow the money" (yes, she actually said that!) I felt simultaneously inadequate and inspired by her sales pitch (I genuinely didn't realise it was one at the time as she was so excellent at selling- talking to me about her own children and her experience of how hard motherhood was. I really felt a kinship with this woman and truly believed that her primary motivating factor was to help me. She seemed so 'feminine' and kind and so I did what she said. I begged and I borrowed the money -I didn't resort to stealing!) and a few weeks later, there I was, on her coaching programme with two other women.
When it comes to coaching, depending on what you are looking for, it is really important to establish how balanced your coach's masculine and feminine aspects are. If they are very much in their masculine, this is great for if you are the kind of person who wants to go in, set goals and get out again- so if you are very much goals and action oriented yourself. If your coach is more in their feminine, it may not necessarily be so effective in terms of actually making the changes. Yes you will experience an abundance of nurturing and healing but effectively changing your outer world may not be so high on the list of importance. This is particularly true if the coach that you have chosen is operating from their distorted feminine aspect.
I myself, (and several of my female friends and colleagues) have been seduced by female coaches who are absolutely excellent at marketing themselves as Divine feminine women who are oh-so-spiritual and at peace with themselves and the world around them. They may talk about 'sisterhood' and other buzz keywords and phrases that are so overused and misunderstood that they are actually causing damage and casting even further aspersions on the integrity of coaching. In the hands of a supposed professional who has had minimal training and then enlisted the help of some 'coaching/marketing guru' to expand their business into some amazing six-figure thriving international business, I have seen many a vulnerable woman part with (sometimes huge amounts of) money they couldn't afford, because they have been drawn in by a seemingly soft, gentle, feminine woman who, with their hand on their heart and a concerned expression arranged across their face has told them that they NEED this intervention in order to fully 'show up' for their own life. Throw in, for good measure, a line about "clearly not being committed to your own growth" "abandoning yourself" or "not taking yourself seriously" when you balk at the idea of parting with more money than you could possibly afford and you might just find yourself throwing away your life savings faster than you can say "I love myself unconditionally"! Cast your mind back to Angela, telling me with all 'sincerity' that if I was serious about being a success, then I would resort to any means necessary to raise the several thousand pounds that she was charging, to turn me into a fully functioning woman in charge of her own life and business. Sadly, I believed her, because I really needed to believe in something better at the time. She didn't deliver on her promises to help me turn things around. She also took no responsibility for her part in it, stating that I hadn't worked hard enough and that if I would spend another thousand pound with her, she was sure I would be in that place I needed to be to successfully attract the clients I had hoped to find as a result of her false claims.
The problem here was that she had been learning from a man (a highly ambitious one at that), how to market herself. This man was really good at what he did in terms of creating successful coaching businesses. Unfortunately though, he failed to understand the true meaning of feminine. His own wife was out there in the world, standing on the stage at his many conferences, looking beautiful and feminine, speaking with the softness of a Disney princess and, well, just being one of the girls. She and the army of women the two of them had enlisted to take their message out there into the world, would then deliver a very masculine "sell, sell, sell" (at the expense of the recipient in so many more ways than purely financial) training that is so out of sync with everything that the feminine is about. Please don't misunderstand what I am saying about money and charging for a service. Of course I believe that to charge for a good service is necessary for both parties involved. What I find so repellent is this notion that you can get rich quick off the back of somebody else's needs or suffering.
Which is why I was so totally delighted recently to attend an intensive course which involved 96 hours of Integrated Healing practitioner training. Mathilda Van Dyk co-created this powerful healing modality with her husband Nic Oliver several years ago. She now co-facilitates the training with Nikki Barrett. These two ladies really are the embodiment of the Divine Feminine. Every day, the sessions began and ended with a hug for every single participant and Mathilda regularly reminded us of the importance of hydration and other self-care practises. There was such a feeling of nurturing, safety and unconditional love in the room at all times. There was also an enormous helping of humour and story-telling, which made a highly complex learning experience so much more enjoyable and palatable. These two ladies have magnificently balanced their feminine essence with their masculine selves. What did this mean in real terms? It meant that I, as one of the dozen or so attendees, knew I had some serious work to do, but that I would be fully supported throughout. This is turn created a sense of trust and confidence in all involved. Everyone in that room exuded encouragement and the desire for their peers to succeed in becoming the best practitioner they could be. It was about genuine service to the world and exploring how we could deliver these tried and tested protocols in our own unique way.
Throughout the two weeks training, there was not a single suggestion of any upsell or need to buy another overpriced 'product' to 'guarantee' that I would be another step closer to being good enough. These two ladies have managed to sustain a viable international business based on truth, honour and community. They are here to build a better world, not fund another holiday home. That's not to say they might enjoy the benefits of substantial earnings as a result of their hard work. I really have no idea whether this is the case or not but what I do know is, they have maintained humility and integrity and those qualities to me are what set them aside from my earlier experiences of women in the world of Coaching and Therapy. I think I just found my professional tribe and I couldn't be happier!