A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett
Because we believe in holistically supporting our clients on their path to success, leadership coaching is an integral part of our approach.
We sat with Amelia Truett, one of our executive coaches, to hear more about what it’s like to coach and be coached. We spoke about the power of questions, her path to becoming a coach, and the value that coaching generates for clients.
Organizations must change in order to grow, realize their missions, optimize profit… to flourish. And yet humans hate to change. How does coaching connect with that?
As a younger person, I strongly disliked and feared change. Experience changed my perspective. After living through lots of major changes, some of my choosing and others not, I began to see that my relationship with change was definitively not helpful.
Some of those changes were incredibly hard. This is why strength-based coaching resonates with me. I see people as the experts in themselves. Our clients are the experts. They are whole and nuanced individuals. As a coach, I am not here to fix them, but to help them develop and grow towards the goals and intention they have for their work and lives.
Whole doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t even mean always performing well. It does mean that clients have the fundamental tools needed to change and develop available to them.
How has coaching changed your perspective on individual and organizational success?
Coaching has broadened my perspective on what success looks like. There are so many paths to success. This comes back to the idea of wholeness. I am not here to fix my clients. One of my clients was the Executive Director of a nonprofit that was merging her organization into another organization. As a part of our engagement, she made a small mental shift around one belief. That small shift opened so many doors and unlocked her perspective in a way that allowed the merger to be successful.
Personally, I’ve changed tremendously through my experience as a coach. Each time a client learns and connects the dots in new ways, I get to learn with them. Coaching is all about a forward-looking mindset. Timing is important. For change to be sustainable, a client needs to move at his or her own pace.
How can coaching shift mental models?
Coaching uncovers hidden gaps and blind spots. Once an organization or an individual sees the gap, they can take action to close the gap. There is a particular kind of empowerment that is created when a person makes a deeply meaningful connection and articulates a gap aloud to another person.
Coaching provides a structure for expansive thinking. Coaching is the scaffolding that supports the client as they make changes and create new results. Once clients begin to see one thing differently, it changes how she or he interacts with colleagues, the organization, and the world around them. There is a positive ripple effect.
What tends to hold people back?
Limiting beliefs hold people back. These are the stories that we tell ourselves about what is possible or not. We are in control of the stories we tell ourselves. Coaching conversations can shift the mental models that individuals rely on. Individuals in turn have the power to transform organizations and entire systems.
How do clients turn questions into action?
Coaching encourages ownership and personal accountability for action. Taking action on purpose means knowing why you are taking action. After experiencing coaching, clients have a better understanding not only of how they want to lead or manage, but also why that approach will work for them and their organization.
How did you end up becoming a coach?
My first experience with coaching was as a client. I was stuck and unable to accomplish goals that were very important to me.
The funny thing is that I distinctly remember wondering why I was paying a coach when I was the one doing all the work. This illustrates how coaching differs from other types of interventions such as mentoring or consulting. With coaching, the coach follows the client’s lead and the client does the work. Initially, I didn’t understand that was how coaching works.
Coaching questions are challenging. There is not an easy answer. But the questions are fruitful.
Six years later when I considered making a career change, another coach offered an exercise to write about two instances when I felt wildly successful. I saw so many patterns regarding strengths used and actions that I enjoyed taking that aligned with coaching. For example, I love encouraging the growth in others. When I ask a coaching question without an attachment to the outcome of the answer, it opens doors in unexpected ways. I delight in witnessing what emerges. Throughout my experience as a coach, I am continually amazed at what is created by the client.
How is a coaching question different from other types of questions?
Coaching questions are open ended. As a society, our culture often interprets silence and pauses negatively. In coaching, it represents thoughtfulness and an opening for new ideas or a fresh perspective. It is good when someone takes time to think quietly during a coaching session.
Similarly, American culture and many companies reward us for having the answer. This is how we are socialized in school. Being coached is more about thinking about the right questions, not about having the right answers. Coaching has more in common with disciplines like science and research, which are founded on asking why and testing hypotheses.
Where do you see answers being valued more than questions? Can a coaching culture help shift that and provide value?
This shows up everywhere! I studied accounting as an undergrad and grew up in the business world. It was a black and white world where knowing what to say and how to answer a question was important and rewarded. Many organizations, apps, and products are valued because they offer concrete solutions. You don’t go to a financial planner for the purpose of receiving open-ended questions.
Coaching is counter to the culture of organizations that value formulaic thinking with clear inputs and outputs.
I’ve coached in organizations where people were so conditioned to the answer paradigm, that early attempts to introduce a coaching mindset and use coaching questions drew blank stares.
It often seems easier to coach in mission-driven organizations where the focus is on the mission rather than products.
That’s not to say that coaching isn’t results-oriented. Coaching is very intentional and goal-oriented. Effective coaching works towards well-defined goals. •
Amelia Truett holds a certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, an MBA from the George Washington University, and a BS in Accounting & Finance from Virginia Tech.
Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.
Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.
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