What Cultivate Taught Me About Coaching
A personal reflection from a program participant
by Kiran Patel | September 2023
As someone who considers growth an important part of my journey, personal and professional development are two areas that I place a priority on. I’m always looking for opportunities to improve my craft and strengthen my leadership skills. So when my employer offered a program set to begin in January 2022 solely for women, focused on coaching, I was immediately interested.
I said yes to Cultivate.
Over the course of six months, we focused on developing our coaching skills through small groups, or pods, of three, as well as larger group sharing and instruction on key concepts. Now, a year since we completed the program, I’m taking some time to reflect on my experience.
Thanks to the Cultivate program, I’ve developed a clear understanding of what coaching is. Here are a few of my key takeaways:
Coaching is listening.
Thanks to my previous participation in the Elevate program also offered by AG Collaborative and OST, (I told you I’m a leadership enthusiast), I already had the beginnings of an understanding of what coaching is and what it isn’t.
This program cemented those learnings. Coaching is not instruction. It’s not sharing your problems and then being told how to solve them. It’s not making the conversation about you as the coach.
Instead, coaching is listening, and understanding there are different types of listening. It’s about asking questions to understand.
Throughout the six-month program, our pod regularly met as a smaller group. We each had a chance to practice three different roles: coach, coachee, and observer. We offered feedback to one another each session. We also practiced putting ourselves in the coaching mindset. I saw clear improvement in all three of us demonstrated by our ability to listen, repeat back what we’d heard, ask questions to understand, and keep the conversation focused on our coachee.
As I began to gain confidence in my coaching skills, I could see an improvement in my interactions with others. I recall a specific situation where my boss was sharing how he felt. I could tell he simply needed someone to listen. In the past, I would have responded with my own similar feelings, but this time, I just sat and listened to be an audience without needing to solve the situation.
Seek opportunities for deep personal reflection.
At multiple points during Cultivate, we were asked to take a pulse on how we were feeling. Admittedly, that’s not something I typically get a chance to do. But throughout the program, I set time aside to sit with my experiences and to simply reflect. I appreciated the opportunity to ask myself how I was doing, share that with others and take comfort in not being alone. We leaned into our collective wisdom as a group.
One of the most meaningful exercises I participated in during the program was during our final in-person retreat. We each wrote our names on a large sheet of paper. We then taped them around the room. We all went around the room and shared our appreciation for one another by writing words of affirmation on the sheets of our coworkers and friends. It was humbling to receive the sheet and read the notes of appreciation. I still have the card and refer to it whenever I need a positive reminder.
The greatest gift Cultivate gave me was a safe space and opportunity to slow down, listen and reflect. I’m grateful for the relationships I built with my co-workers and especially the closeness I gained with my two podmates. I’m also proud of the growth I gained in my ability to coach and listen.
To all the women I went through this program with, I’m proud of you, too.
We have loved getting to know Kiran as a participant in multiple programs over the last few years. She has a hunger for learning and we have loved seeing her grow in influence at OST Grand Rapids where she is a Senior Content Marketing Strategist.
Kiran is an avid storyteller who has a gift of shining a light on untold stories. She is a proponent of diversity and takes advantage of opportunities to share her background as an Indian American woman with others. If you’d like to connect with her, find her on LinkedIn!
Experience the Magic of Coaching
Group Coaching is one of the most powerful containers for human connection and transformation. It is the closest you will come to magic in the modern workplace. We have witnessed the power of this experience within organizations and now won’t offer it any other way. Cultivate offers the chance for a group of individuals to experience transformation alongside their colleagues and coworkers.