Trina Roach is an executive coach, consultant and trainer who focuses on helping her clients develop their leadership and interpersonal skills. I recently ran across her blog, and I was struck not only by her thoughtful posts on a range of issues, but also by the fact that she works on both sides of the Atlantic, which in my experience is uncommon among coaches and professionals in related fields. I dropped her a line and asked her to participate in my Three Questions series, and I'm thrilled that she agreed. Thanks, Trina!
1) You're based in Germany and have worked throughout Europe, but you also maintain a coaching practice in the Philadelphia area. What rewards and challenges do you experience as an American coach working cross-culturally?
The greatest advantage that I see to coaching in a cross-cultural context is the dual perspective and the intimate understanding of both sides they afford me. (Cue Joni Mitchell singing "Both Sides Now" *smile*). I have practical experience with just how our personal belief systems and values have been molded by our socialization--and how a different set of beliefs and can values work equally well. With my coachees--especially those at odds with any particular belief or value--my knowledge in this area allows me to act based on experience and not theory. I take bolder steps in asking them provocative questions that challenge them to confront things that are not working for them personally (and maybe never have worked for them) but which they have--to date--accepted as a given. Obviously, I have to remain very sensitive within this process in order to avoid seeming dismissive of any emotional connections that they hold dear--these are things coachees have to choose to re-evaluate within the context of their lives and the objectives they have set for themselves. It's also important for me to fully grasp my own 'helicopter' position, and not slip into the guise of the "American" or "European-based" coach. As I continue to build my coaching practices on both sides of the Atlantic, it is my objective to initiate more cross-cultural coaching experiences in order to further broaden the experiential horizons of coaching--both for my coachees and myself!
2) I love the clear and helpful distinctions you draw between coaching, mentoring, therapy and other related services. (I'm reminded of a post I wrote a few years ago on the same topic.) How do the similarities and differences among these various disciplines affect your approach to coaching?
I had worked in management training and development for several
years before beginning a career in international advertising. I spent
the end of that particular career as Head of Human Resources
Development for a major agency here in Germany. My job included not
only running a trainee program for young advertising specialists, but
also the coordination and implementation of an award-winning in-house
training program for all employees. In that capacity I was not only the
person many of the younger executives went to for mentoring and
'coaching,' but I also realized how one-sided our own training program was
with its concern for hard (client- and information-centric) versus soft
(personal development-centered) skills. It was my own realization that
the 'open ear' and 'sounding board' functions I provided for many
younger colleagues were not available to me that ultimately led me
towards coaching. Having made that shift, I am very aware of leaving the
responsibility for shaping a career in the court of my coachee. I don't
strive to be their ersatz-mother, nor do I facilitate anyone looking
for a scapegoat to blame for less-than-stellar performance or
unrealized dreams. To this day people who went through our agency
program still get in touch with me for support and advice. For that
reason some informal mentoring has been the soft introduction to a
clearly defined coaching relationship. Because I do have several
coachees in the general advertising/marketing sectors, I am in some
cases also a consultant. However, I try to clearly differentiate
between the two roles by creating a verbal segue between Trina with her
coaching hat and Trina with her consultant's hat. There have also been
situations where it's quickly obvious to me that personal issues are
spilling over into our coaching relationship that fall under the
category "dealing with the past" and not under the heading "creating my
professional tomorrow". At that point the coaching relationship is put
on hold (in one case for almost 1 1/2 yrs.) until the coachee feels
able to continue coaching without that particular baggage.
3) In discussing why you love presenting, you talk about the inspiration you draw from the preachers you heard as a child, and how those memories motivate you to connect with an audience by presenting in a unique style that's an expression of your authentic self. How have these influences shaped your style as a coach?
My love of presenting has a lot to do with establishing a
connection to my audience. In order to do that successfully, I have to
be able to focus in on an individual and 'read' them. Can they follow
what I am saying? Do they feel I am speaking directly to their needs?
Will they require additional information to be able to buy into
whatever premise I are supporting? In coaching it's not about what "I"
have to say or sell, of course, but it's just as important that I
understand what is going on inside of my coachees. I have to be able to
read between the lines of what they are saying to get to what they
really mean. In time, my coachees have to feel so 'at home' with me and
our coaching relationship that they can be themselves with me--and
openly express what's in their hearts and on their minds. I also have
to grasp where they are coming from and what they are grappling with in
order to be able to chose the correct type of coaching method to
facilitate their progress--during a particular session as well as
throughout the entire coaching relationship.
Bonus Personal Question: San Francisco is my adopted hometown, but I grew up in Harrisburg, PA and still identify with my Pennsylvania roots. What keeps you connected with Pennsylania and what does that area mean to you?
What a coincidence that we are both (proud) Pennsylvanians! I was actually born in New Jersey, but moved to Harrisburg when I was about a year old. My father grew up in Bressler and Steelton, where his father worked for Bethlehem Steel. My grandparents came up from South Carolina in the early 1930's. As my father and each of his siblings left home, they all moved to Harrisburg, and three of them remain in the general area today (my parents have retired to Southeastern New Jersey and I have an aunt who lives in Virginia). My late uncle, Clyde Roach, was for many years the Chaplain for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Governor Leader, who he greatly admired, dedicated a memorial in his honor at Italian Lake. Although my family moved to Willow Grove while I was still in grade school (after the Air Force base at Middletown--where my father worked--was closed down, he transferred to the Willow Grove Naval Air Station), I still remember going to the circus at the Farm Show Arena (I remember Doug McClure being there one year), taking trips to Hershey Park, catching the bus at 15th & Herr to go shopping downtown, spending Saturday mornings in the library downtown and going to "The Spot" for a chili dog... Our ties to the Harrisburg area have remained strong all these years, and my parents and sister visit the area regularly. When I am home, I also make an effort to get up there to see family members, visit family graves, attend our family's home church in Steelton, and just reminisce! From what I've heard, the city has really made quite some progress recently. My parents were there about a month ago, and had great things to say about what they saw. [Ed: My parents still live in the Harrisburg area. I visited just a few months ago, and I agree that it's become a vibrant city.]