1182410_wooden_actorThis week I was in conversation with a woman who is also a coach and she said to me, “*Maggie is not how a coach should be”

“How should a coach be?” I asked.

“Like *Sarah. She’s how a good coach should be. *Maggie is aggressive”

I didn’t hear truth in her words, I heard cultural conditioning.

I don’t know Maggie. I do know Sarah and she has a beautiful gentle voice, is very warm and approachable and incredibly loving. I like Sarah a lot. I’m sure I would like Maggie a lot too if I met her.

Reflecting on this conversation I remembered how I too had once triggered a woman who practiced alternative therapy. I had been invited into the group to demonstrate the effectiveness of NLP and I had used a volunteer to act as “client” (pre-planned with full consent). Afterwards this woman said, very aggressively, “I thought what you were doing was very aggressive” I asked the man who had been in the role of client if that had been his experience. He smiled and said, “no, not at all, quite the opposite actually”

So my approach was labelled aggressive by a bystander. I have worn many labels in my life and in my work. I was once labelled masculine in my approach as a coach and it was clear from the woman’s tone that she didn’t like it. I have also been labelled gentle, loving, provocative, kind, wise, funny in my approach. I am willing to wear all of these labels because labels are not who I am, nor do they signify how effective I am in my work. These labels are, quite simply, who you need me to be in the moment if I am coaching you. I wear them as I would wear a mask.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to like these labels, it doesn’t mean you have to like how I’m being with you in the moment, granted. But if a coaching relationship was about two people liking each other, I would never ask for money for that, as it seems odd to turn that dynamic into a transaction.

So, within the dynamics of coaching it might look like I’m being harsh at times, cruel even, and that might be the most loving way to be with you in that moment. I can withstand the judgements of others, because, just like my labels, their judgements are not who they really are. If I’m coaching you, when I’m with you I’m loving you – I’m dancing with who you think you are and I’m encouraging who you really are to expand. So I can withstand the labels, they serve a purpose. As a friend of mine says, I care so much that I don’t care.

But when I hear a fellow female coach say “that’s not how a coach should be” referring to another woman (as was said in this context) that doesn’t sit so easy with me. Because I wondered, was that a comment on how a role should be played – according to the “rules” , according to what caring should look like¬†– or was that something more? At a deeper level, was that a comment on gender and how a woman should behave according to cultural conditioning? I don’t really know, but it got me thinking.

From my experience, I notice women who have judged other women within the kind of context I describe here have often had a firm grip on a victim story of some kind that they are existing within. And their judgements of other women who behave in ways that don’t match how they think a woman “should” behave are born out of the parameters of that story. I say this in recognition of my own victim stories that have played out in the past. If there is anything I have been an expert at (and I’m not convinced there is) it’s how to spin a good victim story.

I have no interest in living in a world where a coach should be a certain way, where a woman should be a certain way, a man should be a certain way, a child should be a certain way. And if you pay me to coach you and I see you have created that world as a prison you live inside then it is my job to wake you up from that dream. And I may do that in ways that appear on the surface to be aggressive, masculine, gentle, loving, provocative, kind, wise, funny….and many more labels, no doubt. You will dictate which label, which mask I wear. And you might not always like the mask. But know that underneath and within that mask all I will ever be doing is loving you. As a coach. As a woman. As a human being.


If you would like a coaching conversation with me, please email [email protected]¬†


*Names changed

About the Author

I coach high achievers in the performing arts and music industries, together with entrepreneurs and leaders in corporate. I'm drawn to work with pioneers and innovators. "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" Marcel Proust

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