I made a major professional transition last year, resigning from my full-time role at Stanford and focusing my efforts there on teaching one class per Quarter—two sections of my Art of Self-Coaching course in Fall and Spring, and a section of Interpersonal Dynamics (aka Touchy Feely) in Winter. I made this move not only to dedicate more time to my coaching practice and writing, but also to create more room in my life in general. As I wrote last September, “doing my best work requires a certain amount of reflective time to read, write, and take good care of myself. This spaciousness was decidedly lacking last year, and I knew that something had to change.”
Having held my previous role for a decade, I assumed that this new arrangement would last for a while, so it’s surprising to find myself making another move just one year later, and yet here I am. The Art of Self Coaching has been well-received since I first began teaching it in 2015, and it’s been gratifying to know that our students have found this body of material so compelling. After I resigned from my full-time role last year the GSB asked me to add a second section in Fall Quarter, and several weeks ago I was invited to add a third section of the course in Winter Quarter. I was grateful for the opportunity, but it presented me with a dilemma: Having taken steps to dedicate more time to coaching, writing and self-care, I was reluctant to increase my teaching load. Doing so would require me to see fewer clients, to scale back my writing, and to invest less time in my own development.
Those changes weren’t palatable to me, so I knew that I would be limited to teaching just one course per Quarter. I initially assumed that this meant sticking with my current responsibilities, and I expected to decline the school’s request to add a third section of Self-Coaching. But the idea stuck with me, and the more I thought about it, the more appealing it became. I view this body of material as my life’s work, and being able to share it with such talented and dedicated students has been the high point of my experience at the GSB. I see opportunities for improvement in the curriculum (and in myself) every time I teach the class, and yet it’s been difficult over the past year to fully implement these changes as I shifted my focus from Self-Coaching to Touchy Feely and back again.
I realized that my heart was telling me to accept the school’s invitation, but this would require me to stop teaching Touchy Feely, and I was resisting because this felt like a risky step. Touchy Feely has been a mainstay of the GSB curriculum for decades, and it’s a certainty that it will always be in demand; in contrast, The Art of Self-Coaching is a new course, and there’s no guarantee that it will continue to be successful. While the nature of my work at Stanford has evolved continuously over the past decade, one constant was having a wide range of responsibilities; being dedicated to a single course would allow me to make improvements more rapidly, but it would also feel a bit like having an undiversified investment portfolio.
But over the course of my life I’ve taken a number of leaps. When I applied to the GSB as a student, I had quit my job and trained my successor before I knew whether I’d been accepted—I wasn’t sure if I’d be going to business school, but I knew I was ready to move on to the next stage of my career. When I decided to become a coach, I originally intended to make the transition in stages before realizing that I was never going to build a coaching practice in my spare time—I needed to leave my job and be totally dedicated to the process if I was going to succeed. Those were much riskier moves than the one I was contemplating now, and they paid off beyond my wildest expectations.
And I was reminded of this passage from W.H. Murray, a Scottish mountaineer, quoted in Steven Pressfield’s inspiring manifesto, The War of Art:
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way.
So I’ve decided to make the commitment and have accepted the school’s invitation. I’ve resigned from the Touchy Feely faculty, and next year I’ll teach three sections of The Art of Self-Coaching. And as excited as I am about this new chapter, I also feel a sense of wistfulness and loss. Beginning with my first experience in Touchy Feely as a student in 1999, the course has had a profound impact on my personal and professional relationships, my approach to coaching, and my view of the world. It’s no exaggeration to say that it changed my life, and it’s been an honor to be involved with it over the past decade.
But it’s time for another change. Goodbye, Touchy Feely. And hello, Art of Self-Coaching.
Thank you to the 600+ GSB students with whom I've had the privilege of working closely over the past decade, including...
- The 200+ students who participated in T-groups that I co-facilitated.
- The 72 students in my sections of Touchy Feely over the last two years.
- And, especially, the 144 students who've taken The Art of Self-Coaching so far.
And thank you to my colleagues in Touchy Feely over the years, including...
- Mary Ann Huckabay, who was my professor in 1999, who is still my coach today, and who’s been the best mentor anyone could ask for.
- Carole Robin, with whom I’ve worked in so many capacities, and who has contributed so much to my development as a teacher and coach.
- My co-facilitators: Agnes Le, Chevalisa Bruzzone, Chris McCanna, Erica Peng, Inbal Demri Shaham, Jimena Galfaso, Karin Scholz Grace, Lisa Kay Solomon, Liselotte Zvacek, Michael Terrell, Saraswathi Ram Mohan, Stephanie Stevens, Sue Neville, and Zoe Dunning.
- My fellow faculty members, past and present: Andrea Corney, Carole Robin, David Bradford, Gary Dexter, Lara Tiedens, Leslie Chin, Richard Francisco, Scott Bristol, and Yifat Sharabi-Levine.
- The facilitators on my staff over the last two years: Agnes Le, Anamaria Nino-Murcia, Chevalisa Bruzzone, Don Hejna, Erica Peng, Kevin Martin, Lela Djakovic, Mark Voorsanger, Michael Terrell, Rich Kass, Sue Neville, and Tuquynh Tran (and our reading coaches: Gabriel Cooper, Jamila Rufaro, Leslie Chin, Norman Tran, Stephanie Stevens, and Sunny Sabbini).
- My teammates on the school's coaching staff over the past decade: Andrea Corney, Anthony Ramsey, Bonnie Wentworth, Chris McCanna, Collins Dobbs, Hugh Keelan, John Cronkite, Ricki Frankel, Sharon Richmond, and Yifat Sharabi-Levine.
- The many, many faculty and staff members whose efforts have made this class possible over the years, including Barbara Firpo, Bryan McCann, Chris Sadlak, Courtney Payne, Ingrid McGovert, Kris Becker, Lara Tiedens, Lynn Santopietro, Mindy Hollar, Nancy Dam, and Sue Jensen.
- And Paul Mattish and Nonna Kocharyan, my faculty assistants, who are just awesome.
Photo by Catherine. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.