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Coaching: What to Expect

Coaching for the social justice sector

I’m occasionally asked what I mean by ‘coaching for the social justice sector.’

Here’s how I see it: I approach coaching with a feminist, antiracist, anticapitalist ethos. There are other words I could use as well: liberatory; abolitionist; anti-imperialist, to name a few. And my assumption is that the same holds true of the people I work with.

Among other things, that means that there’s less you have to explain, veil, or sidestep. I’m less likely to startle you with weird capitalist-steeped assumptions or microaggressions (though I’ll make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them). And you can assume a large degree of values alignment.

It means that I am acutely aware of what it means to be marginalized. My entire professional life has been about understanding, supporting, and amplifying the experiences, truths, and resilience of oppressed communities. I support my clients to find their voice, confidence, and power—while being mindful of the ways that oppressive forces create a minefield that marginalized people must contend with when we do wield our voice, confidence, and power.

It means that self- and community care matter to me. I am committed to challenging the toxic, dehumanizing characteristics of white supremacist culture. And I likewise assume that the people I work with are equally committed to this work, and to co-creating a people-centered, values-based culture in their organizations and movements.

I’m reminded of the cartoon line, “But if you shovel the ramp, we can all get in!” I know that if we listen to, learn from, and co-create our communities (social policy, architectural design, coaching models, food choices at conference meals dear god, and everything else) based on the experiences of the most disenfranchised among us, then that’s going to yield the best results for all of us.

 

 

Background, experience, and specialties

I am an accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a graduate of the International Coach Academy (ICA)I also bring to coaching:

  • My years of research and teaching in sociology of race/class/gender stratification in work and family;
  • My years of working closely with undergraduate and graduate students on graduate school, fellowship, and job applications;
  • My background in nonprofit leadership as an executive director, staff member, board member, and volunteer;
  • My own personal spotty career record, successes and failures, and total breakdowns and crises of confidence; and
  • My own history and deep reflection as a brown queer immigrant woman.

Me on a hike with friends outside Oxford, UK, spring 2016

My coaching specialties include leadership development, career transition, and intentional life planning. My clients are highly motivated, idealistic changemakers from the margins — queer people of color, women of color, people from immigrant/refugee communities, and our hardcore allies.

I frequently work with relatively new Executive Directors who are committed to social justice principles, and who imagine a different, values-based practice that shares power and builds leadership in the community.

Through our coaching relationship, you’ll become more confident with the decisions you make and how you spend each day; create a plan, action steps, and support structures to build and live out your goals; and use your gifts, talents, and strengths to make the change you strive for.

Coaching is a partnership between you and me to help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Using your goals as my guidepost, I help you figure out how you’re going to achieve them. I come with no hidden agenda, no unsolicited, if well-meaning, advice, no emotions to have to deal with. Just listening, curiosity, reflections, observations, resources. I am radically nonjudgmental. But as they say, don’t mistake kindness for weakness. I am also incredibly tenacious. I tell you the truth, I remind you of the commitments you’ve made to yourself, and help you stay on track — in a judgment-free, positive, forward-oriented space.

It’s not magic, but it’s maybe the next best thing. As you watch yourself make progress and grow into who you’re meant to be, you’ll move through your life and work with increased confidence, intention, and ease.

What happens during coaching sessions?

I’m a member of the International Coach Federation and follow their principles.

I will maintain the confidentiality of everything that happens in our sessions.

I understand coaching as an equal partnership between you and me, where I support you to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

My role is to listen—without judgment; with curiosity. To ask questions. To share reflections, observations, ideas. More often than not, I’ll invite you to consider a homework exercise or assignment. You’ll get the most out of coaching if you come fully prepared and present, take charge of the topic and the work, and truly understand that the space is yours. And I believe in your faith that I welcome your feedback and that I’m comfortable with all of your emotions, including frustrations with me.

I’ll ask you to complete an intake form, which helps me understand where you are right now and the forces at play in your life. It also offers you a chance to get clear about why you’re seeking coaching right now, what your goals are, and what changes you’d like to see as a result of our work together.

I have no agenda except your agenda; I take my cue from you about what you’d like to focus on, what kinds of practices and exercises work for you, and how you’d like to use our time. I don’t come with a prepared curriculum or predetermined package of assessments. Any homework or assessment that I invite you to consider will emerge through our work together, and you will always retain the right to agree to or opt out of any homework invitations. Needless to say, over time I’ve collected stacks and stacks of tools, exercises, and resources—not to mention expertise—that I will happily share with you as appropriate.

Our initial session will involve a deeper exploration of your current status, experiences, strengths, and aspirations. It helps establish a baseline and a clear image of your hoped-for future, which I’ll use as my guidepost for future sessions.

In following sessions: we’ll start with a review of what’s happened since we last spoke, new insights, questions, clarity. I also keep a running list of assignments and will ask about them. If you didn’t complete an assignment, we’ll troubleshoot and identify next steps. Based on what’s happened and what’s calling to you, we’ll determine the topic and hoped-for outcome of the session. Toward the end, as we wrap up, you’ll have a chance to note takeaways and homework commitments.

In our final session, we’ll spend some time on more practical aspects of how you’ll maintain your momentum after the completion of our engagement.

I also appreciate a (complimentary) 15-minute closure session, to reflect on our time together, offer you a chance to appreciate where you’ve come, and offer me a chance to share my appreciations of our time together.

Ready to dig in?

Book a complimentary 45-minute discovery session, a chance for you to share more about what you’d like to achieve through coaching and for me to share my coaching approach.

You can also contact me at vega@vegamala.com.