My wife, Melissa, colleague and friend, Michael Ehrenberg, and I went out on the streets of San Francisco yesterday to initiate a new project that we call SF Street Coaches. The idea was born from a Youtube video of Sivani Mair in London who calls herself a certified life coach and a professional communicator. Another Colleague, Marla Skibbins, CPCC sent Sivani’s video off to me a few weeks ago, and it inspired me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uF4nembFLIk
Taking a Stand for Those Around Us, Including Strangers
I thought, “Wow, just think of the transformation that might be possible if we, as coaches really got out in the world and gave everyday people an access to their wisdom.” It’s my hunch that we are living in a particular moment in history in which the old modes and models of living and being in the world are breaking down. Our society is coming apart at the seams. Just look at our political systems, our banking systems, our medical care, and our environment. We’re in grave danger if we don’t get our act together.
At the heart of this massive and collective breakdown is a mindset. From a very young age we all were taught not to rock the boat, not to want what we truly want, and certainly not to go after what we want. As coaches, we think it’s critical that we individually and collectively wake up and actualize what authentically moves us. When we do that, we can actually start to be a contribution in the world, we can start to give our gifts, and initiate the repair of all the breakdown we see around us. We can only give our gifts when we follow the thread of authenticity and resonance.
As a coach, I have the unique responsibility--and opportunity--to remind not just my clients, but the people around me, including the strangers I do not even acknowledge on the street, to wake up to this knowing. It takes incredible courage to both take a stand and to make it real in the world. Hanging my shingle as a professional coach was a big step, but being a coach in the world is much bigger. Yesterday, was a step in that direction.
Coaching the Masses
A few days ago I had buttons made that said SF Street Coaches. I also made a shell of a website. Melissa, Michael, and I met up in downtown San Francisco.
We didn’t have a clue about how we’d start. We all were both a little nervous and extremely self-conscious as we stood on Market Street. As we stood there, we were looking at all the various people passing us by wondering if any of us would have the courage to stop someone and initiate a coaching conversation. None of us knew how the heck we would do it.
So Melissa had a good idea. She said, “I hate to be stopped on the street. Most people do. Why don’t we go somewhere where people are seated and are relaxed?” So we found a boulangerie where we ordered a tea and sat…and sat…and sat. At some point Michael says, “I just want to tell you guys that I have no expectation whatsoever from this day. If we don’t coach anyone, I am okay with that,” to which I said, “Me, too,” to which Melissa said, “Not me.”
And immediately she turned her head to a couple of young women next to us and initiated a coaching conversation. That’s how our afternoon began. Instead of getting what we expected, “No,” “Not interested,” or “Too busy,” we got “Sure.” “I’m game,” “Would love it.” After the second or third street coaching client, it became clear that, for the most part, each person we’d ask was up for it.
The Boomerang Effect
Even more interesting was that four out of the five people we coached were hungry and open for the inquiry. What a privilege it is to have three ears listening curiously, attentively, and wanting only what you deeply want, rather than what your self-sabotaging voices want. This is an unusual gift to give another person. And when the authentic, resonant voices shine through, over those self-critical and self-doubting voices, something magical happens in the space of that interaction.
Each time we coached a stranger, the gift boomeranged right back at us. Just as we were giving the gift of curiosity, our clients were giving us the gift of transparency and of vulnerability. When complete strangers were sharing their hearts, their passions, their doubts, and their fears with us, it touched each of us. While we only spent 10 or 15 minutes with our clients, each managed to share their essence with us. Each willingly danced with us. The process really moved us.
I also really loved that we, the coaches, were a team. We both approached and coached as a team. It is rare that, as coaches, we get the opportunity to co-lead with one another. The process is infinitely more impactful when six ears and three mouths are offered than just two. Somehow whatever is said, either by the coaches or the client, is more real in the world when there are more than just one or two witnesses. Additionally, as a coach, it helped immensely to be able to lean into the support of my co-leaders. Finally, it was so much more fun to be able to share the experience with them.
Needless to say, the movement has begun! If you’d like SF Street Coaches to show up in your neck of the woods, whether on your street, at a party you’re throwing, at your café, or at your office, please let us know. We welcome any and all invitations. If you’re a coach and you’d like to take part in SF Street Coaches, we’d love to hear from you.