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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.’ The reality is that I am fully, 100% present for every one of my clients, whether they check a “marginalized” box or not.

Here’s the difference: when I coach, 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 oppression.

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

My engagement with all my clients derives from my engagement with people who are the most marginalized. So my affluent, white client and my financially insecure, perhaps queer, perhaps BIPOC client are “treated the same,” which in practice means my privileged client gets the benefit of the acute sensitivity to privilege and oppression I bring to my engagement with my marginalized client, rather than the status quo situation in which my marginalized client would be denied the privilege of the full presence I offer my privileged client.

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.

Okay, but what happens exactly?

Here’s what to expect from coaching with me.

As a member of the International Coach Federation, I take their principles very seriously. First and foremost: confidentiality. I will maintain the confidentiality of everything that happens in our sessions. Also: coaching as an equal partnership. Coaching is a partnership between you and me to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

I am here 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.

We start with an intake form that you complete, which helps me understand where you are right now and the forces at play in your life. It also offers you a chance to start getting 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’m here to support you in meeting your needs. That means I do not 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. That said, let’s be clear that I have over the course of time collected a wealth of tools, exercises, and resources—not to mention expertise—that I will of course share happily with you as appropriate.

In our first session, we’ll go more deeply into your goals and aspirations, so that we’ve established a clear image in both of our minds of your hoped-for future, which I will use as my guidepost during our sessions.

Following sessions will have an arc: we’ll start with a review of what’s happened since we last spoke, and what you’d like to acknowledge yourself for. I also keep a running list of assignments and will ask about each of them. We’ll celebrate what you’ve accomplished, and we’ll troubleshoot and identify next steps on assignments you didn’t complete. Next, I’ll ask what topic you’d like to focus on for this session, and what you’d like to achieve with regard to that topic by the end of the session. We’ll launch into the session, and as we wrap up, I’ll ask you what you take away from this session, and any reflections on assignments and next steps.

The whole engagement also has an arc: the first couple sessions set the tone and offer momentum; it’s in the middle of the engagement that a lot of the heavy lifting happens, especially as your awareness sets in and takes effect in new behaviors, practices, and mindsets; and toward the end of our time together, we review your goals and use that review to guide the focus of the final sessions. In our last 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?

Contact me at vega@vegamala.com for a complimentary 45-minute discovery session.