Why I Became an Executive Coach

A woman talking to a colleague in an office.

I’m often asked how and why I became a coach.

Let’s go back to 2008. I had just moved to Charlotte for my new role running the succession planning program at Lowe’s Home Improvement. I got off to a good start but a few months after I started, the woman who hired me took a lateral assignment and her replacement and I weren’t as well-suited. I was becoming frustrated and disengaged but felt stuck in the role that I had just moved for. And to some degree, I was stuck – I’d signed a relocation agreement and would have to pay back all our relocation expenses if I left before the agreement expired.

To top it all off, I learned I was pregnant with my second son. While a welcome development, it certainly complicated things.

Person overwhelmed with work

Luckily, I had overlapped with my predecessor, the fabulous Jenny Clevidence, who left Lowe’s to start the coaching program at New Ventures West. She offered to take me on as a pro bono client during her training at the same time I was struggling with my next step at Lowe’s.

My feeling stuck, my desire to change my circumstances, and my willingness to take responsibility for my situation and my path forward all made me a great candidate for coaching.

I started coaching with Jenny completely frustrated with no real options. She helped me work through my emotions in a setting outside of work which enabled me to give my best at the office. This alone helped open doors to new options instead of closing them. Without coaching, I think I would have ended up bringing my bad attitude to work and I’m not sure I would have lasted long at Lowe’s.

As our engagement progressed, the opportunity for a promotion presented itself, and I was able to earn it (at essentially nine months pregnant) and negotiate a part-time arrangement with my new boss for my return to work after maternity leave. It was a terrific outcome, and one I know I would not have achieved without the benefits that Jenny and her coaching offered me. I was less stressed, calmer, more professional, more strategic, and generally showed up better for myself and for Lowe’s during what could have been a period of derailment and failure. Instead, I turned it into a big win for me and my employer.

My first experience with coaching set the tone for the rest of my career. The cadre of people who have supported me include Joy McCarthyLori EvansMimi DarmstadterMike McGinleyChris WahlFrank Ball, and many others in a less formal or more discrete but still coaching capacity. (I need a lot of help, don’t I?! But kidding aside, each one played a key role at a pivotal time in my own growth and development.)

Sign Board

Coaching offered me a productive outlet for my challenges at work (which had begun to bleed into my life) and without it, I doubt I would have been in a position to apply for a promotion, let alone get it. I’m a huge example and fan of what coaching can do for people and that’s why I became a coach and grew my coaching practice to work with some of the best coaches I know.

Part of why coaching was so effective for me and is effective for our Sparks Group clients is that it’s a radically different experience than what we are used to in training, mentoring, or consulting. Coaching is client-led, which means that the needs and interests of the leader participating in coaching drive the agenda. Coaches do not bring an agenda or a curriculum.

Coaching also engages the human, not just the professional. While coaching always has a starting point (leadership, career, health, relationships, etc.), good coaching extends into all the domains of life. Coaches are just as interested in creating more joy and ease in your life as they are in helping you achieve the goals that will make a difference to you and your organization.

For me personally, it’s a tremendous privilege to be allowed into a client’s interior life with the intent of helping.

Check out our overview of leadership coaching here or here or here.

Have you had a coach? What was your experience? If you haven’t had a coach yet, what’s holding you back?

Founder & CEO
The Sparks Group