I started executive coaching with Amanda because things felt a little out of sync for me professionally. As a senior-level Business Manager for a global technology corporation, my job was to bring together teams to solve complex problems across business lines. After endless meetings, during which it often seemed the only thing we did was undo or redo our prior work, I felt like nothing had been accomplished.
Amanda helped me see that I was locked into thinking I needed the perfect answer to give to – or get from – my teams. She said, Relax! You don’t need to have all the answers, or, the one right answer. Then she showed me how I could prepare my teams to make more effective decisions by:
- Synthesizing information and framing the strategic issues.
- Presenting those issues in a succinct and compelling way.
- Proposing scenarios for discussion.
- Developing questions that focused my teams on the most important conversations.
- Letting those conversations happen.
I was astonished at how much easier it was to get at the answers with others in the organization. This approach was so helpful, I live by it now.
One of the great things about working with Amanda is the opportunity to have coaching sessions that include her horses. I didn’t have much horse experience and was pretty skeptical that a bunch of horses had anything to teach me. Well, it turned out to be a pivotal part of my coaching experience and I highly recommend it!
I was truly surprised at how sensitive horses are to non-spoken cues and human emotions. They just sensed when I was nervous or relaxed, distracted or focused. I became much more aware of when I was saying something I didn’t really fully believe, or pretending to agree with something when I didn’t really. My coaching experiences with the horses, helped me own how important it is for me to be truthful with myself about what’s going on for me, how to stay connected to who I am and to my values.
I also learned that horses have a natural drive to be together and connected. This reminded me of the strong need we humans have to connect with each other, too. I’d become so focused on business results I forgot how much I – and my teams – needed to be in relationship with each other to have more trust, respect, and fun!
Amanda challenged me to use my talent as a people connector and relationship builder to strengthen and encourage my teams. She helped me come at it from all levels. Yes, teambuilding is important. So is a daily practice of connection, like management by walking around. Now, I’m much more judicious about how I use technology – especially email – to communicate, and when I spend time with others one-on-one. Amanda really drove home that the time I spent in these activities were critical to encouraging a sense of belonging for others within my organization. And I began to see just how important it is to bring my whole self – who I really am – to my work life. I’m much more of myself throughout my work day and a more authentic leader as a result.
Following coaching with Amanda, Ryan is now a business consultant at Bridge Partners Consulting, putting his relationship building skills to work every day.
Alison Carl White and Amanda first established their coaching relationship in 2004, when Alison became the Executive Director for Seattle Works. New to the non-profit sector, she couldn’t help but think, ‘Oh my goodness what have I gotten myself into?’ With Amanda by her side as her executive coach, Alison not only got off to a great start, she flourished. ‘I still consider Amanda’s coaching the best money Seattle Works spent on me.’
This summer, after accepting the Executive Director position at NPower, Alison sought Amanda’s services again. ‘One of the smartest things I did was to meet with Amanda prior to starting at NPower. The organization had gone through an extended period of executive transition and I knew that NPower needed me to be a strong leader right out of the gate.’
Alison signed up for Amanda’s six-month Leadership Accelerator Coaching Package. Her weekly coaching sessions focused on how to help Alison lead a much larger organization, manage a staff that was tired out from two years of change, and work with a board that was ready to get going on strategic priorities. ‘Amanda’s coaching really supported me as I dealt with some pressing issues in the first 90 days and in helping me regulate the pace of new organizational changes. I felt confident that I could move everyone to the other side of the transition smoothly with speed and grace.’
Alison quickly realized that she also needed to get to know her senior management team. ‘We just needed to spend time together and get some cohesion as a group.’ The solution? A three-day leadership offsite for Alison and her senior team, designed and facilitated by Amanda.
‘Amanda did a great job of putting something together that really worked for us,’ Alison reflected. ‘She asked us all to read Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team before the offsite. She stood his concept on its head a little and gave us her version of Five Functions of a High Performing Team. We focused on trust-building, conflict management, and ended up with operating agreements and a strategic goal for our leadership team.’
‘On top of that, Amanda employed creative facilitation like the Marshmallow Challenge, which helped us look at our collective collaboration style.’ Alison’s team also enjoyed Visit our Village, an exercise that was particularly helpful in addressing organizational culture and history. ‘This was a powerful way for the leadership team to share their feelings about the past. It was a cleansing process that resulted in a sense of closure, and ultimately gave us a clean slate from which we can move forward as a team.’
I was transitioning out of my position as executive director of Groundwire when my board hired Amanda as a transition coach. I had resigned my position, and planned to spend my last six weeks as executive director working to position the organization for success in moving forward. I wanted to do it as professionally as possible, avoiding drama and negativity.
I was in a challenging position and I needed an outside perspective.
Amanda worked in the office and also led a leadership with horses session for me. She was very direct. She didn’t let me get away with anything, and she encouraged me to get through the transition with the highest integrity and impeccability. I had planned to give short notice and then work from home, but Amanda urged me to be there in the office even though it wasn’t easy. I did stay in the office, and I learned how important it was to stick with the challenges instead of trying to avoid them—how to live within them without participating in them.
Amanda also pointed out where I was avoiding conflict and when I needed to step up and deal with it. When a difficult choice or conversation would come up, I used Amanda as a sounding board, talking through my approach and receiving feedback on how to rise above the situation and stay as professional as possible.
I’ve now learned how to better prepare myself for conflict situations and how to deal with them.
My most enjoyable and valuable coaching experience, by far, was my session with the horses. During the session I made an immediate connection between my own energy, how I was holding myself, and how the horses were responding to me.
It was the first time I had ever made the connection between my physical presence and my leadership effectiveness.
I began by walking Cato, Amanda’s buckskin gelding, around with a lead. This came easily, so Amanda challenged me to try it without the lead. He wouldn’t follow me. Amanda then asked me to bring awareness to my posture. I realized that I was walking a bit timidly with shoulders down and hunched forward.
After working with my posture, my energy and purpose also needed some awareness. As I tried things out, I kept seeing the reflection of how I was portraying myself in Cato’s reactions. Eventually, I took a deep breath, stood straight, looked forward, and started walking. And Cato followed! By the end of the hour I had both horses and a donkey running around the arena with nothing but body language! It was a remarkable experience.
It wasn’t difficult to make the logical leap from my connections with the horses to how I was showing up in the office.
Leading Cato worked when I was firm, strong, and looking ahead. My lesson was to show up strong, confident, and aware of my energy. I also learned how much awareness, connection, and focus on subtle things it takes to be a strong leader—simple things like how I stand, talk, and walk. Mine were out of sync with each other, and Amanda helped me learn how to discover what was out of sync and to align it all in the same direction. She taught me how to act in new ways that I hadn’t considered before.
Amanda is a very strong and direct coach and her connection between coaching leaders and using horses is powerful. The parallels with the horses are incredibly enlightening and more effective than a lot of the leadership training that I have previously experienced. Someone could tell me how I affect others, but to see the immediate reaction in a horse ten times my weight is a concrete lesson. It’s one of the few times in my life that I have received a life long lesson out of immediate gratification.
I now wish that I had utilized Amanda’s coaching earlier. When I began working at Groundwire it was my first time in a non-profit organization and the previous executive director had been there for nine years. Amanda could have helped me make the jump from foundation to non-profit as well as help the transition flow smoothly with staff.
I decided to hire a leadership coach because I’m executive director for Westside Baby, a non-profit company that is rapidly expanding. I’m trained in law, not business management. I found that my background helped me be an excellent boss, but I could learn to be a better manager. I decided that leadership coaching would help me better my communication skills and learn to get the best from my staff and board.
Amanda was my choice because I clicked very well with her. She is a good listener and understood my personality. I felt she understood where I was coming from and could help me get where I wanted to go. I anticipated I’d feel uncomfortable and a little vulnerable about putting myself out there to be coached. Instead, I found myself looking forward to sessions with Amanda and laughing frequently in our conversations.
She managed to give guidance that wasn’t about fixing me. Rather, she offered wisdom and insight that encouraged me to make the changes I needed. She made me want to work on things!
Practical Tips and Helpful Tools
One of the things I really wanted to improve was meeting structure and content at Westside Baby. Amanda offered resources and advice on when and why to have meetings, how to distinguish different kinds of conversations (check-in versus strategic) and how to separate them out from each other to move towards what needed to be achieved.Our meetings went from being unfocused and uninspiring to more efficient and participatory. The tools Amanda suggested added a lot of value to our meeting structure, and everyone wants to participate now because it’s mutually beneficial.
Your Coach is Your Sounding Board
When I had difficult conversations that needed to be addressed, Amanda was a great sounding board. She framed the situation in a way that helped me look at it from many perspectives. I tap into my work with Amanda probably five times every day in managing people and communicating out. Amanda also gave me the confidence to trust my intuition and test out things that I wanted to try in my organization. Gaining outside perspective in a safe environment was invaluable and a critical component to having a coach. I was able to execute my decisions with more self-assurance. My board’s confidence and trust in my decision-making increased. Everything was accomplished with a little more oomph!
Horses and EQ Assessment Provide Insight
My EQ (emotional intelligence) assessment was eye-opening. I consider myself to be emotionally self-aware as well as in-tune with the emotions around me. The assessment confirmed this to a point, but also made it clear that I had areas to work on. The resources associated with the assessment provided useful and practical tools, and Amanda took them and brought them to life for me personally, making them easier to absorb and apply.
Nancy’s Coaching Insights
- It’s important to have a good match between you and your coach.
- Coaching provides an outside perspective in a safe environment.
- Coaching can help you accomplish things with more ease and grace.
- Working with a coach helps you and your organization.
I was excited about the coaching sessions with the horses, as I like to be around horses. My experience was fascinating. Horses mirror emotions, and my biggest lesson was that it wasn’t about whether they liked me or not but the emotions I was projecting. I spend a lot of time in the world worrying about people liking me instead of leading people with clear direction. Deciding where to go was not my forte, but a horse requires you to know where you want to go.
As a result of my coaching experience, I would recommend Amanda to anyone who is ready to make a leadership change, needs support in making that happen, and wants to enjoy the process. She has the ability to help you sort through the leadership changes you need to consider, categorize everything, and make it manageable without you realizing. It’s painless and you have immediate results.
Amanda pays attention to you as a person and can connect the solutions to not only what you need but what your organization needs. Amanda is not the least expensive option as a leadership coach – but she’s worth every penny. The results are probably triple what the investment was, not just on a personal level but also for my organization.