The Art of Coaching with Heart and Soul


It is a warm Saturday afternoon in the Seaborg room at Berkeley Faculty Club.  I’m standing in front of a group of CEOs, managers and a few coaches that I just met a couple of hours ago. Next to me is Dr. Mark Rittenberg who is feeding me lines that I have to complete for everybody to hear: “What I want you to know about me is…” and words start coming out of my mouth, without filter, while Mark encourages me to speak slower and louder, urging me to look my audience in the eye. Next line… and I reveal another piece of my soul, next line… and another piece, next line … and tears start pooling my eyes while my words expose, for everyone to see, my soul stark naked.

You may wonder if I am a bit nuts and this was some kind of group therapy… not exactly. I was on the first day of my training to become a certified executive coach at the Executive Coaching Institute at UC Berkeley. I was one of the 24 participants that, every year, come from all over the world to take part in this transformative experience where, after 10 days of intense emotional, physical and mental immersion in the extraordinary world created by Dr. Mark Rittenberg and his team, you not only become a better coach, CEO or leader, but, quite simply, a better human being.

Mark, Arina, Lucy, Ivan, Jenny and the personal coaches assigned to each one of us (Ingrid, Tom, Reva, Susan, Siobhane, Thomas, Winston and Doy) pushed us everyday to take one more “baby step” out of our comfort zone. Mark would engage us in impossible-to-follow number games, that prompted us to be fully present, and think on our feet. Arina would encourage us to reflect on our life by helping us to find the defining moments that made us who we are today and assisting us to become comfortable with both the good ones and the bad ones. Lucy would teach us how to focus through the art of meditation. Ivan revealed to us the amazing power of our voice and taught us how to use it, not only to communicate, but to COMMUNICATE. And, of course, we learned coaching skills and had the chance to practice them with executives of leading companies from Silicon Valley and San Francisco. What a treat!!!

Pat Kiely, former CEO of AA Ireland, was one of the participants and my partner in one crazy theater piece we had to perform in from of the rest of the class. He told me that he had come to ECI to “get refreshed” after a rough couple of years. He attained his goal and transformed, in front of all of us, from a gentle Irishman that felt most comfortable blending into the background, to an outstanding, outrageous, funny Mr. Edison from the theater piece “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.” The performance left Pat feeling that he had more energy than the sun itself and everybody else with a smile on their face and a collective sense of achievement. Because, by then, it was clear that it wasn’t just the program leaders and coaches that were the source of our transformation, but that we all played an undeniable role in each other’s successes.

I’m flying back from the FFI Global congress at Brussels were I had the chance to test my own transformation.  After the ECI experience I decided to throw my MBA-like presentation style out of the window and I presented  “My story, Coaching and Coaching in Family Business” from my heart, fueled by my passion for coaching and family business. After the presentation quite a few people came over to congratulate me and they told me how my presentation and story reminded them of their own journey and that I had inspired them to continue walking the road less traveled or at least to start considering that path. My objective with this presentation was to educate my audience about coaching and about how coaching can help family business. Inspiring others to be better was an unexpected added bonus that has made all the difference to me.

Thanks, ECI community.  Let’s add one more little success to our list.

By Carmen Lence, Executive Coach at NextGen Consulting & Coaching LLC

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