Season 2, Episode 35

Welcome to the Coaching Studio Podcast

This podcast features fun, lively conversations with masterful coaches who are creating an impact. Get to know them, their journey into coaching, and discover what wisdom they would offer you about being a better coach.

Let’s go!

Welcome Chariti Gent MCC to the Coaching Studio

the Coaching Studio Guest

I am happy to welcome Chariti Gent, MCC, to the Coaching Studio Podcast.

Quick Links from Episode
Learn more about Chariti Gent, MCC by visiting the UW Certified Professional Coach Program
Find Chariti Gent, MCC, on LinkedIn
University of Michigan: The Social Identity Wheel


  • Host: Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC
  • Music: Frolic by Harrison Amer
  • Production Editing: Lyssa deHart
  • Social Media and Communications: Michele Logan

About This Episode

Join me as I welcome Chariti Gent, MCC as she shares many nuggets of coaching wisdom that help us move through the internal churn of needing to fill the space and our discomfort with silence; Coaching with the Twenty-Second Rule was priceless! We also explore the work of education around equity and inclusion that she is working on with the University of Wisconsin Coaching Program. The question becomes, how do we bring white people together to do their work so that they can dig into themselves and figure out how to participate in advancing coaching as a paradigm for transformational change for human beings across the planet? Honoring other cultures and other experiences.

Chariti Gent is a veteran of the coaching world, having started her journey by hiring her first professional coach in 2004. Since then, Chariti has held positions as an internal corporate coach and trainer for a major international franchise, president and founder of Chariti Gent Coaching and Consulting (, and Program Director and Lead Faculty for the University of Wisconsin’s Certified Professional Coach program (UWCPC). Currently, Chariti is the Director of Professional Coach Education at the University of Wisconsin. Chariti received her formal ICF training and certification through the Co-Active Training Institute in 2010. She became a certified ICF PCC Assessor in 2018 and earned the designation of Master Certified Coach (MCC) in 2020. When not working to bring top-notch training to all of the UW’s coaching students, Chariti can be found e-bike riding around town, creating mixed media art in her home studio, and/or relaxing near the lake with a cold beer.

Read the transcript of this episode of the Coaching Studio Podcast:

Lyssa Hi. Lyssa Hart here and welcome to The Coaching Studio. Today in the studio is Chariti Gent, and I am very excited to have her on the show. She is an MCC coach with the International Coaching Federation, and I welcome you to the show. Chariti, thank you so much for being here. Really excited to have you.
Chariti Thanks for having me. Super fun. Thanks for having me.
Lyssa You’re very welcome. And I guess one of the things that I’d love to hear is really what precipitated you becoming a coach. I know you had probably a life before coaching, and what was that trajectory like for you?
Chariti Yeah, um, so I first learned about coaching in about 2004. I was at a conference and I was sitting next to a woman and we got to chatting and, um, I asked her what she did for work and she said, I am a professional coach. And I said, what is that? And she proceeded to tell me, and I said to her, is that something I can get? Can I be coached? And she said, Anybody can be coached who wants to be. And so I thought, oh, this is fantastic. And her name was Freddy Ray and she was my very first coach that I hired. And I worked with her and had just a really. As most of us do. A great experience. And then went on to. As. Uh. Serendipity has it. I was working for a company at the time who tapped me on the shoulders a couple of years later and said. Hey. We’re starting this new initiative in every office across, the at the time, they were just a North American company and now they’re global. But they said. We’re starting this thing called coaching and we are interested in we’re wondering if you’d be interested. Um. In creating a training and coaching program at your local level office. And so they had some coaching training that they sent us to and that they provided. It was not ICF directed or accredited. However, it was very good in terms of giving you the basics around what we as coaches know to do in terms of being relational and working through obstacles and overcoming the limiting beliefs and all of that. And I became so interested through the course of working as an internal corporate coach for them. Then for about four years, I became very interested in just this bigger idea of coaching and this world of coaching, and found the ICS and got involved there and decided to go ahead and get credentialed. And that was what 2004, like I said, started, and here we are, 2022. So, 18 years ago, mhm and I continued to grow and develop as a coach, um, and coach trainer.
Lyssa That’s brilliant. And you know, I’m always curious, like, when you think of this journey, this 18 year journey that you’ve been on that has led you from like, what is coaching to MCC coach? What have you seen as the challenges along the way, maybe developmental stages that you went through as you developed your acumen?
Chariti Yeah, um, well, you know, it’s funny. It reminds me of that, um, staircase analogy of, like, the unconscious incompetence, the unconscious competance. You go through all those things you’re consciously incompetent. And so that’s kind of how I think of you’re always sort of up and down somewhere on that ladder in your learning journey. And there’s always something new to learn.
Lyssa Okay.
Chariti Sorry. And then you want more do you want to know more specifically about what I have kind of struggled with? Yeah. Okay.
Lyssa Got you a bit more personally what you’ve struggled with, because I agree with you. I mean, I think that we’re all on that learning journey and that bouncing back and forth between conscious confidence and un conscious competence before we moved into unconscious competence. I see us all somewhere on that. But there is a movement towards the developmental stages to becoming unconsciously competent. And then how do we add in the next thing, right? So that our coaching is continuing to evolve and we’re a better coach today than we were yesterday? Somewhat. So for you, were there any particular things that really showed up in your own coaching where you were like, oh, uh, this was kind of hard to overcome, but I did it, but it was the thing that I really had to navigate?
Chariti Yeah. You know, I think the hardest thing for me, and I think I’m finally getting there, but it’s still a challenge at times. It’s what I would call performative coaching, or working too hard for the client, or feeling like you need to fix or get in there and solve the problem. And, you know, in the beginning, you’re so of the mindset because of the society in which we live, you’re so of the mindset that you have to be fixing, you have to be solving, you have to be doing something to provide value to your client. And as I’ve evolved from the ACC to the MCC level, the one thing that has really hit home with me is that my value truly and this is not just me. I believe this of all coaches, and this is what I trained my students at the University of Wisconsin. Your value as a coach is really in your ability to hold space. And to see and witness, to bear witness to another human being and their experience, whatever that is, in the moment. And to acknowledge who they’re being in that moment, at least from your vantage point. And then to work with them like we always play in the good old ICF language, partner with them, um, to figure out what they need to do to move forward. And I always tell my students, too, if you feel like you’re working too hard in any coaching conversation, like, it’s just like a struggle, like your sisyphean sort of movement here. That’s because you probably are. And the best thing you can do is to just take a breath, take a pause, and put a piece of duct tape over your mouth and shut up and ask a question. And then just hold that space and let the client do what they need to do. So that, for me, I think has been the biggest thing because I’m a people pleaser. I’m the kid in school who wanted to get the A plus and the gold star. And so I’m always getting in there trying to tell and not tell, but trying to help the client figure it out. And that’s, uh, really, you have to let go of that at the mastery level. I think that is one of the key things. It’s that presence of being in the moment, letting go of everything else, and just really holding that client with a pure heart.
Lyssa Yeah. And I love the sisyphean pushing that rock up that hill forever. Right. And I do think, uh, in my own journey, that idea of the value we offer is such a crucial element to all our growth as human beings, honestly. And I don’t know, when you think about that capacity to hold space, what is the piece that when you’re talking to your students or you’re talking to one of your clients, how do you really sit in that space with them? Versus explain it to them? Because maybe you explain it to them also. But I get this question a lot, and maybe you get this also. You see coaches overly explaining what coaching is, and the client kind of glaze over and don’t really know what coaching is. A result of being told, this is what coaching is. I’m not going to tell you what to do. Uh, how do you hold that space? And how do you support your clients without having like, how do you do that? I mean, maybe you do tell them something, but I’m curious.
Chariti Two things come to mind. Two things come to mind. One is in the very beginning, when we do our initial sample session, or maybe our initial discovery session, that first session before you’re really diving into coaching, um, the very first time you meet them and they’re interested, I say, hey, I literally use the word. Rather than tell you what coaching is, I’m going to show it to you, you’re going to experience it. And I will kind of set some broad boundaries and frameworks for them, as we all know how to do, and then just launch in and let them experience the coaching. And I literally will tell them we’re only going to go for maybe 30, 40 minutes. And at the end, um, I’m going to ask you, number one, how was this experience for you? What did you learn? Um, how do you think maybe you’re different from how you were half an hour ago? And is this something you want more of? And if you do. Let’s talk about how that might work and how that might look between us. I also let them know that we may get to the end of that sample coaching session. And they’ve experienced coaching, and it’s not for them. And that’s okay, too. I went and had a coach say to me, uh, Chariti, not everybody is coachable. And, uh, I thought, that’s a relief, because some people that I do sample sessions with just aren’t down with it. So that was helpful. That is helpful. That’s one way I do it. And then once you get in relationship with a client, I feel like one of the ways that you can really hold that space for them, uh, of coaching, and not jump in to be telling them or saying, well, in coaching, we would do this or that, is really to lean into that power of silence. And I teach my students what I call the 20 second Rule, where I literally say, whenever your client stops talking, you say nothing for 20 seconds. Literally nothing. You watch. I actually have I’m pointing over here. You can’t see it if you listen. But I’m pointing to the clock on my bookshelf, uh, and it has a third hand, a second hand. And I literally will stare at that thing for 20 seconds while I’m listening on the phone, um, to my clients. And I don’t say a word for 20 seconds. And it is so hard in the beginning to do that. But once you get comfortable with it, what emerges in those 20 seconds for the client is oftentimes some of the most profound work they will do in that session or in that space of time. So holding that space for them in silence is really helpful.
Lyssa I feel like I should wait 20 seconds to ask you this question.
Chariti I also like the 20 second Rule because it helps, um, not only when they stop talking, but when I ask a question. I will then wait 20 seconds to give them time to think and speak before I will speak again.
Lyssa These are both, I think, such valuable nuggets of wisdom, which I think it is so difficult to move past that discomfort with silence. Right. And so I think we’re just sort of like, I need to fill the space. I must fill the space. And, um, the idea of the 20 second Rule is just genius, honestly, as far as giving the client space before we ask a question, or before we start asking our next question, or before I think another one is, don’t explain the question.
Chariti Right. We always talk about it. Like, ask the question and then duct tape your mouth shut. Literally, like, put your hand over your mouth. That’s it. Go ahead.
Lyssa This is your best coaching tool.
Chariti Exactly, yeah. Short pithy, as few words as possible. Uh, and that’s, I think, just a muscle you have to practice and have experience with as a coach, because the more you do it, you realize, wow, the less I say that the juicier thiese thing gets.
Lyssa Yeah. How did you get to the place where you were comfortable with those silences? Because for you and I mean, 20 seconds really isn’t a very long time from my perspective anymore. But at one point, it was incredibly difficult to I mean, it just as soon as, uh, three or 4 seconds went by, I was already starting to feel the sort of internal churn that I needed to fill the space. And I guess I have two questions. So here I’m going to stack questions which don’t do that either. Um, one, what do you think that’s about? That discomfort that we tend to start with around the silence? And then my follow up question is, how did you teach yourself that muscle memory? Like, what was the way that you took care of yourself so that you could hold the 20 seconds?
Chariti Yeah. Um, so the reason I think we feel uncomfortable with it, I’ll just speak for myself. I just feel like if I’m sitting there with someone else, especially if I’m waiting for them to speak and I sense that maybe they’re uncomfortable, even if that’s not true, but that’s the story I’m making up. Then I want to do something to shift that energy. Um, so it’s really about my learn, like you’re saying, learning your own comfortability in those moments. And like I said earlier, I think we live in a society where we are really taught in western capitalist civilization to see a problem, fix it, move on. There is not much credence given to the pregnant pause to just stop, slow it down, give it a minute, let it sink, let it percolate, and then think about it to create a response. And so I think it’s just a matter of realizing that, like you said, that’s a muscle we have to learn to build. And so I think the way that I really was what are some of the ways in which I learned to build that muscle? I think more than anything, I learned to build it. Because one of the things, honestly, I realized in listening to myself on recordings because I do that a lot, I still do that to this day. And I know that sounds corny and nobody likes to hear their voice on, um, a recording. And it’s crazy.
Lyssa I think it’s great.
Chariti But that’s what I do to get better. And I tell my students that’s what you need to do is to listen to yourself. And you will notice how in doing that, you will hear yourself jumping in and you’re like, why didn’t I just shut up right there? They clearly were needing some time to think. Oh, and that’s the other thing I think I tell my clients upfront in the relationship before we ever get started. There are going to be times when I’m going to ask a question or you’re going to say, something and we may go 2030, 45 seconds with nothing being said. And that’s perfectly okay because that is time in which I want you to go inside and process. And I am happy to just sit here. And it’s my job, I’m trained as a professional to sit here and hold that space for you. Because it is so rare that we take time as individuals to stop and just spend a minute thinking about a question someone just asked us, asking us, uh, without responding or coming back with a retort or figuring out what to do next. We just get to be with the question and see what’s arising.
Lyssa I love that you’re bringing this up because I do think that it’s one of the places where… It’s that holding the space that you were talking about earlier, right? Where we have the opportunity to do more than just solve a problem. We have an opportunity to really explore what’s even driving the underlying story behind the problem or beneath the problem. And the only way that we are going to get there is if we go a little bit deeper, than let’s figure out how to solve X. Right?
Chariti Yes.
Lyssa And I agree with you, too. I think our culture is so although I don’t even think it’s just Western culture because I see this from other cultures also. We’re just designed to want to see a problem, solve a problem, see a problem, solve the problem. And that capacity to sit with that idea that the coach isn’t responsible for solving the problem. And if you feel like you’re working too hard, you probably are. Like, these are jewels and gems that you’re sharing. But the other thing that you said that I think is really crucial is that you listen to your own work on a regular basis.
Chariti Yes, absolutely. That is honestly the one way I have found that I get better. I mean, yes, I do a lot of reading and yes, I’m always interested in watching other coaches demonstrate their work so I can get ideas on things I could do differently or better. But honest to God, the way I get better is you listen to yourself. You listen to yourself.
Lyssa And that’s a hard one, too. I mean, that’s a muscle we have to practice also because I have lots of, uh, participants in my mentor coaching group and they’ll be like, I hate listening to my voice.
Chariti It’s awful! No one likes it. Like, that’s what I sound like when I say that.
Lyssa Why wasn’t I quiet there? Where was my hand?
Chariti Hindsight is 20/20. This is what I always tell my mentoring clients and students. I’m like, listen, I’m going to go in here and listen to your recording, and I am just going to give you all kinds of feedback. And remember, it is so much easier for me sitting in this seat, listening to it than it is for you as the person reviewing your own work to hear it.
Lyssa Yeah. Well, that brings up another, uh, really interesting question, like, how do we build the muscles so that we can hear feedback from the perspective of usefulness versus feedback, as you’re a terrible coach? Because there I don’t know. I see the spectrum of usefulness in questions and then some questions, and I don’t know if you find this to be true also, but in its simplicity, in its conciseness, it actually meets more of the competencies than the ones that are really…
Chariti Say that again. What are you saying? I’m sorry.
Lyssa When you have a very simple question, right, and you just ask a simple question, like, what just showed up for you in that silence, that you actually meet more of the competencies than you do if you hit this really long, tangled kind of question? And so how is it that you see people getting comfortable with getting feedback? Or how have you worked with your students to make sure that they realize the, I don’t know, the safety that is inherent in the space that allows for this feedback and the part of the journey that that is?
Chariti Yes. First of all, I always tell them that in getting the feedback, that is where you bloom. That is where your practice blooms. And so I really kind of frame it up that way, that this is not about punitive sort of, uh, feedback. This is developmental feedback. So we’re going to fertilize you here in this space. It’s going to open you up, right, and make you bloom. And, um, I also tell my students and my mentoring clients, I remember when I was working on my MCC, and I was going through mentoring for the MCC, and the very first session, we had to coach in a fish bowl, um, meaning there were other people present in the room, and we had to coach another person in the room. And then everybody gave feedback. And then at the end, the leader gave her feedback, both orally and in writing. And I remember I thought I had just nailed it. I was like, yes, I am a great coach. And I get this feedback back, and it’s like five-six. So, uh, think about the ICF’s rating scale of one to ten, and she’s giving me a five-six on that session, which is like beginning PCC territory. And I was like, “what? ” I mean, I was floored, and I was devastated. And I was like, oh, my God, I might as well curl in a hole, because clearly I am not MCC material. And what I realized was that bringing some humility to it is a great part of feedback. Being able to receive feedback, knowing that, wow, it’s hard to get it. So as a person giving feedback, I always try to remember, like, it’s hard to hear feedback about your work. So I try to tell my students this is a very developmental thing. I know it can be hard, I feel you. I get it. And I, uh, want you to try really hard to divorce your personal feelings from what you’re seeing on this paper or from me. And this is really just about tweaking around the edges. Finetuning, the TV, like, you’re going to be a great coach. Believe in yourself, but just know we’ve got some work to do and that’s really all we’re trying to do is to really yes. Blue, I guess, is really the word that comes to my mind.
Lyssa I’m visualizing pouring miracle grow on students.
Chariti There’s a metaphor again. Yes, absolutely.
Lyssa Yeah. Um, I think that it speaks to another sort of maybe a misunderstanding about coaching. Just being like, oh, I’ve always done it my whole entire life. I’m a natural born coach. And the reality of the skill set involved. You teach at a University. What do you see as that learning and development that people maybe unlearning, that people need to pay attention to when they decide, hey, I’m going to really do this coaching thing?
Chariti Yeah. So much unlearning goes on. So many people come into the program saying, I already coach, I’m just here because I want to get a credential to formalize what I already do. And then nine months later, on the other side of the program, they’re like, wow, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And, um, there’s a lot of that that we deal. In fact, I think that’s probably honestly, most people’s experience. I know that was my experience when I went through coaching schools. Um, and so there is a lot of that unlearning, for sure, that goes on. Yeah. Um. What else am I just going to tell you? Totally lost my train of thought. Well, uh, it’ll come back to me in a minute, but yeah, I think that that’s something people really have to focus in on is just the kind of and we tell them that. Let’s have a beginner’s mind. We know you, ah, all have your experience here, but really, let’s keep a beginner’s mind, really stay open and curious to what you’re learning. And be open to a different way of thinking about what coaching is and how to do it. Oh, I know what I was going to tell you, and that there are these, you know, coaching is a very I, uh, always frame it up like this too, for my students. Coaching is a very, evaluating, coaching is a very subjective exercise. And so you can have two coaches in a room evaluating another coach’s session and what they will give different marks for different things. It’s just human. What the ICF competencies and the PCC markers are trying to do. And soon the ACC bars, as they’re being published later this year. What they’re trying to do is to put some kind of objective measure on what is inherently a subjective process, uh, so that people can actually sit back and say, okay, if these are the things. Uh, this is what makes for a masterful coach. And I put that in air quotes that I need to do these, these, these things, then it would be very helpful for me if, when I’m given feedback, someone could actually point to those behaviors and say, here’s where you did this and what you should have done with that. That I can internalize and try to change and work on. Gosh, I don’t know about when you got your original, um, credential, Lyssa, but when I did, there were no markers. I don’t know if we had competencies, frankly. I remember there was a list of things that, uh, CTI, I went through CTI, the Coaches Training Institute at the time. I think it’s Co-Active something now, but they actually had a list of skills that they wanted us to master, and that was it. We got either a check, yes, you did it, or a check, no, you didn’t. There was no, like, when did you do it and how could you have done it differently? And what other behavior might have expressed to us that you understand this particular competency or skill? And so that’s what all of those PCC markers and those, uh, ICF competencies are meant to do, is to provide as much objectivity as possible in that otherwise subjective process.
Lyssa You’re bringing up something that makes me kind of think back to when I first started, um, my first coach training, which was in 2007/2008. And I have to be honest. I think I’m having an epiphany right now. Which was I thought that I just didn’t remember the markers that I was trained. But I had a sense that I wasn’t trained with the markers because the competencies are very. Uh. There are a few of the competencies. When you look at the older competencies that they had out. That are kind of behaviorally oriented. But some of them are very vague and esoteric. Like, what does that even mean? And so, when I came back into coaching, because I had to go through my own developmental bias about what, uh, coaching was and what I did and all of that stuff. So I came back into coaching in 2014, and there were markers, but the school that I went to didn’t teach the markers. Which I think is a honestly, I don’t think that it’s fair, because I think in many ways, what the markers do is they give you the developmental or the behavioral indicators of the competencies. And the behavioral indications are so much easier to recognize. Versus something sort of esoteric, like partners with clients. Okay. Um, but asking the client about their experience, asking the client where to go next, like, these things are pretty specific versus partners. Right. And so I love that you’re bringing this up, because I think that the markers or the bars, whether it’s for ACC, I know the MCC bars are going to be coming out also. Um, and I think that we need to understand what the behavioral indicators are, because to your point, it’s incredibly subjective when you have people assessing these things. Which is why ICF teaches us the markers.
Chariti Right, right. And it gets even more tricky when you start thinking on a global or international scale, because what behaviors are acceptable in, say, American culture or how we express certain things in American culture may not be how you express certain things in Argentina culture or Chinese culture. So it gets a little tricky. But I think that this is the best we’ve got right now, and we’re always continuing to evolve it. But really, truly, like you’re saying, those behaviors are tangible things. We can point to that say, Ah, yes, I can change that, or I can address that, and my coaching will blossom as a result. At least my ICF-aligned coaching.
Lyssa Right. Well, and I think that’s a good point, too, which is there’s a huge difference in my mind between ICF aligned coaching for an evaluation and maybe how we move in and out of a role in a particular conversation or coaching engagement that we have with somebody. Because I hear people, and it seems sometimes a bit of binary. Right. Like, uh huh. Consulting or coaching. Like they don’t cross over. Yeah. I think there’s a way of sharing what you’re noticing or something that you’re curious about that also comes from the background of your knowledge with somebody, but leaving it open for them to interpret what’s useful out of it, because you still work with clients also, beyond teaching, how do you navigate the different roles that may show up in a coaching conversation?
Chariti So this is also an evolutionary, uh, thing with me and that I used to be of the mindset that and I was trained to say, I’m taking off my coaching hat for a moment, and I’m putting on the proverbial consultant or trainer or whatever hat, expert hat, and let me just tell you or train you for a few minutes on this. Is that okay? Client. “yes that’s ok” Um, but what I have evolved into doing and have learned through my general journey to mastery is actually to instead of say that, say, because they will ask you, your clients, who have you been working with for a while? They trust you. They want to know what you think. They know you know them probably more deeply than most other humans at that moment in their life. So they’re really looking to you to say, honestly, what do you think? I mean, you know me, deeply, see me. What do you think? And you may have an opinion, but what I have trained myself to do and what my students I train my students to do is to say, I am more than happy to comment on that. I actually have some ideas for you. But before I give you my idea, I want to hear what you think first. Nine times. Out of ten, you’ll never come back around to them asking your opinion.
Lyssa Yes. You know what? I very much am an alignment with that, because I have that exact experience with people all the time, like, hey, Chariti, tell me what you think. I mean, you know, this XYZ, and if you allow me, let’s first explore what you know and what you think by the end of it. I often, like, I just see the same thing you’re seeing, which is nine times out of ten. The client doesn’t even need my two cent.
Chariti Right. Occasionally they do ask me, they’re like, right now, tell me, will you tell me what you think? I have another little trick that I like to try before I launch into saying anything to them about my opinion of what’s happening. I will just say to them, well, yes, and I’ll tell you what I think. First and then I ask a question that I gather based on what they’ve just said. So I will just start unpeeling their onion before I offer mine, if you will, uh, not think anybody wants me. To give them an onion. But, you know, I literally know what you mean, though. You know what I mean?
Lyssa Exactly. Yeah.
Chariti So I’ll try to I’ll use what they’ve told me as a launch point, or I’ll use what I know of their experience around this particular issue as my jumping pad or my diving board into the sea of whatever we’re in, just to form a question. Basically, that’s my bottom line here. Is question always come back with a question. Um, that’s just a great default, I think, stance to have as a coach. Reflective statements are certainly have their place, and they’re helpful, and I always think question first, reflective statement second, or maybe make a reflective statement offer and then ask the question.
Lyssa Yeah, no, I really appreciate that. Also, when you think about your own coaching now, I mean, given that we’re all, as you said earlier, on a developmental journey, up the ladder, down up the steps, and down the steps, and around the steps, what have you focused on in your own coaching right now? That is where you’re really exploring and playing?
Chariti Yeah. So, for me right now, and this, I just got back from the ICS Midwest Conference last week in Milwaukee. Uh, first time we were all able to be together, by the way, since Covid. So that was just in and of itself, a treat. The accessibility of nontraditional populations to receive coaching is where I’m headed, number one. I think most of the coaching world, at least in North America, is very white, very privileged, financially, uh, and in other ways. And what I learned when I go to these conferences, and the reason I bring up the conference, is I get exposed to people who challenge my ideas, and they say, you know, you know, that over in India, there are a ton of people that get coaching, like, they’re not your typical client. They’re not a business executive from America. These are people who maybe run small nonprofits or who are working in, uh, community villages to really help improve people’s lives, day to day. And it just gets me thinking, like, coaching, in my mind, this is just my opinion only, has become very much a white person sport. If you have money, you can get coaching. If you have access to resources, you can get coaching. If you come from a traditionally, um, marginalized population, coaching isn’t something that really enters your world, probably. I’m also very attuned to this accessibility idea in that there are a lot of people of color out there who don’t want to work with a white coach. Who don’t trust people with white skin for whatever reason, colonial legacies, slavery legacies, all of that. And so we need to be reaching out to create the environment for more people who want to become coaches, people of color who want to become coaches, to do so. And to think about what are the barriers in place. So, of course, I’m wearing the coaching educators hat more these days than the individual coach hat, but what are the barriers in place that keep people from applying to my program? People who otherwise, I think, would be fantastic coaches, but for XYZ reason, they don’t come our way. What is going on there? And so I think it is incumbent upon us, and this is something I’m working on with my faculty and my team, is to figure out how do we create more of that accessibility? And one of the things that we want to do this year in response to that is to create a white affinity group. For lack of a better term. But to bring white people together to start talking about this stuff and to do their own work so that then they can begin to get inside the crucible of all of this, and dig around in there and figure out how do we advance coaching as a paradigm for transformational change for human beings across the planet. Not just in sector or industry or country. So that’s really where my mind is lately in terms of the edge. Um, and it’s been there for a couple of years. And so we’ve done a lot of work to redesign our curriculum, to be centered on cultural humility. And we do a lot of work to try to really force the envelope on some of these questions that make us wiggle as coaches, that make us very uncomfortable as white people and as people of means and privilege and education. Um, so I could go on, but.
Lyssa Actually, I wouldn’t mind you going on a little bit more about this. Um, so when you think about that like an affinity coaching affinity, or how to help a white person. I’m a white person, too. How to help a white person have a wider perspective, a wider lens for how they look at how other people’s experiences are going to have been different than their own. And the assumptions that they bring ah, into their own coaching. How are you, uh, exploring that with people?
Chariti So one of the entry points we use in our program a couple of things, but one of them is we have our students do what the University of Michigan has put out something called the Social Identity Wheel. And that’s where you go through and you identify which parts of your life you most identify with, if you will. And then you talk about what is the impact of that on me as a human, on me as a coach, on me as a coaching client, on my clients, etc. Um, we also have people create what we call a write for us people being our students, write a cultural autobiography, meaning talk to us m about who you are, not from what you’ve done, but who you’ve become and how you got there. Um, Oprah Winfrey phrase around the trauma research, which is not who are you, but what happened to you. So we want to hear from people culturally, what was your life like to get you to this point, and then share that with your clients. You create them that space of trust and safety and a place to begin having these conversations. And what I think is important for white coaches, why I’m attracted to the affinity group idea is that I think there’s a lot of white coaches out there. And this became very clear to me at the conference. There are a lot of white coaches out there who really have a good heart and they want to do better, and they don’t know where to start. So rather than ask questions, they stay quiet. And so what I’m thinking with these white affinity groups is if we could get people of white skin color in a room where they aren’t going to be chastised or berated or made to feel badly because they aren’t on their journey. Where someone else might be in terms of understanding a lot of the diversity. Um. Literature and research and understanding. It’s a place for them to express their ignorance. Basically. Where they can learn. And we’re not putting the burden of understanding and touching on the people of color. We are doing our work as white people. So those of us white people who maybe are a little further along in the journey can help those who aren’t understand maybe and give you some access points for figuring out how to wrestle with all of this well.
Lyssa A couple of things show up, as you say, that one of them is nobody’s brain works well under judgment. And so and there’s a lot of reasons for white people to be judged harshly. I think having that sort of separation and the point of white people supporting white people to, uh, become a bit more self-reflective. And self-aware, um, I think is so crucial because the judgment isn’t there the same way since, um, I too, I’m not just the president of the company, I’m also a member, kind of thing. Right. Um, I’m a white person, too. Um, I also find and I wonder how this, uh, flies for you. I do work with people from other cultures and of color. And I just acknowledge very early in that first session, there’s no elephant in the room. I’m white. How do you want us to be with that? And how comfortable do you feel to push back if I say something that doesn’t work for you at all? And how do we create a safe space for you to go. “I disagree with you, Lyssa. ” Because I think that’s another piece of it. Right. I don’t know if I meet you, if you’re strong enough to hear my I don’t like your idea or not. I just know that, uh, on a surface level, we haven’t formed a really strong agreement. And that safety and trust based container. I don’t know how you’re going to respond to me. And this really goes for any two people, but even more especially under the context of whether it’s, um, religious differences, ideological differences, cultural differences, color differences, uh, any kind of identity differences. Right. Like, we are challenging ourselves to be more transparent.
Chariti Yeah. And I love what you’re saying, and that’s why I also love starting with this social identity wheel in that initial session, because it not only sort of opens up space to talk about how do you want me to be with you as a white person or a woman or fill in the blank. It also makes you vulnerable.
Lyssa Yes.
Chariti As the coach. Because you’re suddenly sharing something that could potentially you’re putting your belly your soft side is out facing. Yes. And so that’s huge. Like, you can’t have trust unless you have, uh, the ability to be vulnerable with one another. And so you can tell a client this is something else I’ve learned in my evolution. You can tell a client all day long that the space is safe, but they really have to experience it first, before they’re really going to buy into it.
Lyssa It’s sort of like what is coaching. Right. You really need to experience it. Right.
Chariti The knowledge.
Lyssa Yeah. I think this is so crucial, and I think that and I especially think and this is maybe a bias of mine, um, is that if I haven’t done that work around my own privilege, and not that I haven’t earned everything that I’ve developed in my life on some level, but the recognition that I got an easier road to hoe. Right. Like, I didn’t have all the rocks and stuff in my road that I had to chip away in order to find myself where I am, maybe, uh, or I may have had a ton of rocks in my way, they were just my rocks. But other people have had very different experiences than me. Until I’m capable of having that awareness, it’s really incredibly difficult for me to really appreciate somebody else’s experience that is vastly different than my own. Right?
Chariti Yes. Uh, and this is where I think the powerful questions being the short, the pithy, the not too many words, long, entangled questions become so huge as a skill to master as a coach. Because you’re not assigning any interpretation to anything when you say yes, things like what else? Or how does that feel in your body? Or fill in the blank.
Lyssa So no, I think it’s true because it doesn’t matter what your identity is, whether it’s your gender, whether it’s your culture, no matter what it is, what are you noticing? Is really neutral.
Chariti Yes.
Lyssa Right. And it doesn’t have an implicit or an explicit judgment attached to it that’s negative. It’s just an inquiry to you in your space as you, your humanness. What is it that you’re experiencing in this moment? What are you learning about yourself? What are you noticing? And I think this is crucial not just to coaches, honestly, I think that this is crucial to human beings in general. But I love that you guys are working on this with coaches because coaches really, you’re going into a relationship where there’s going to, if any real work is going to be done, there has to be vulnerability. And as the person who’s asking the question, the onus is on me to be vulnerable first.
Chariti Exactly.
Lyssa Right. Because there is some positional, power and asking the questions versus the person answering the questions. I was a therapist for many years, for about 20 years before I became a coach.
Chariti I guess I did remember that, but I’d forgotten.
Lyssa Yes, but my life, um but that was one of the things, too, that I always struggled with. And I would just say to clients when I met them, look, I’m not the kind of therapist who’s going to just sit here and go, mhm, if I feel like there’s something useful to share of myself, I’m also going to share that. Because I wanted to kind of bring equality into the seats that we were sitting in, that it wasn’t me in that position of power. But a lot of people, and I think people come to coaches, therapists, doctors, attorneys, like all sorts of different experts, um, people who are consultants, putting on that consultant hat, just as soon as they change that hat, they move themselves into that expertise. And that means somebody else has moved into the not knowing. Right. Like the, ah, child or whatever, the not knowing places. Right.
Chariti Um, I love the not knowing. You’re making me think about I was at a session, um, at the conference, and it was called not the Power of Not Knowing. And it was an entire 90 minutes breakout around not the gifts of not knowing. Possibility and curiosity uh, and intrigue and mystery and just, uh, all of it. And so, yeah, not knowing that PeerToPeer relationship is so key, that partnership of, uh, equals is so key. I always like to tell my students that the power in a coaching relationship and this isn’t mine, this is probably something I learned along the way it could have been in my original training. The power of the relationship doesn’t sit with the coach and it honestly doesn’t sit with the client. The power sits with the relationship itself. Like, we’re granting power to the space. That’s, uh, where the power lies in this dynamic. And I think that’s, like you said, that you tell them upfront and then they just have to experience it time and time again with you before they really trust it fully.
Lyssa Yeah. And I think it’s also really interesting too. I mean, there are going to be moments where, like, it doesn’t happen all the time to me, thank God. But I mean, there’s certainly been times where I’ve had somebody be like, no, you’re not listening, you don’t understand. And maybe it’s just a semantic difference or whatever, like, and I if I can go, this isn’t personal, this is an experience somebody is having. How would I, if I were this frustrated, want to be treated? And I go, Tell me more about this. I really want to understand. It’s a very different response than getting defensive or upset about something. And I mean, it doesn’t happen very much to me anymore, rarely. But I’m thinking of a conversation that I had with somebody of color where I was trying to understand something, but then I could have gone more with not knowing, um, in that moment. And they got really annoyed with me, and I said, oh, well, you know what? Forget that. Because clearly there’s something going on here that I don’t understand and it isn’t important. How would you like to move forward in a way that is more useful for you in this moment? And then they told me. And we had a conversation the next session about it. But my ability to not get personal, not take it personally, not get angry, not get defensive, like all the different things that are possible in the human experience, actually was the thing that created even more trust.
Chariti Yeah. Right. Absolutely. Yeah. Keeping that in mind that you are part of us, we’re part of a system, and sometimes, ah, as human beings within the system, we’re going to respond in certain ways. And that it’s hard not to take it personally, but that honestly, you have to retrain your brain not to take it personally. And just stay curious. More than anything, if you see somebody frustrated with something you said or they’re like, why aren’t you hearing me? You’ve got to stop yourself. Especially as a coach, and just go, Whoa. I am noticing that something really upsets you just there. And what I said, what’s going on? Really with pure heart and, um, complete empathy and compassion.
Lyssa Well, and I think you spoke to it earlier. There’s you and there’s me, and then there’s this relationship between us. And if the goal is this relationship between us.
Chariti Yes.
Lyssa Then it doesn’t have to be about me or you. It can be about, what does this relationship need?
Chariti Yeah. And what are we creating in that space?
Lyssa What are we in that space? Mhm Chariti this has just been so much fun talking with you. So I’m glad that you are willing to go further into this because I think it’s just crucial. And to your point, there’s a lot of white, or affluent, because I think socioeconomics is a differentiator also. And, um, just recognizing that people have an opportunity to really learn more about themselves and thus show up better with other people as a result of that. Um, I’m going to be putting links to you for LinkedIn and to your website. Um, but I’ve been closing each session with a question, each session, each podcast with a apparently I’ve forgotten where I am. Um, with a question. And that question is, if you are writing your autobiography today, what would you title it?
Chariti Um. Oyee
Lyssa I love the response.
Chariti Yeah. Maybe that’s my Oyee, my autobiography. Um, I would say probably, um, the word enthusiastic change. Those two words are coming up to me. Something like that changed with, I don’t know, enthusiasts. Go with that, Enthusiastic Change.
Lyssa Brilliant, I love that enthusiastic change. Thank you so much for being on the coaching studio today.
Chariti It’s been my absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me and letting me share some time with you. This has been great.

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Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC

Lyssa deHart, LICSW, MCC


Lyssa deHart ditched her therapy practice to become a Leadership Confidence Coach. Along the way she discovered a passion for professional coaching and wanted to find ways to share that passion with the world. Come join her in discovering and meeting some of the most amazing professional coaches on the planet. Her goal is to inspire coaches. Lyssa is the author of StoryJacking: Change Your Dialogue, Transform Your Life , and The Reflective Coach. Lyssa is an ICF PCC Assessor, Certified Mentor Coach, and budding Coach SuperVisor. Lyssa uses her understanding of the ICF Core Competencies, combined with her knowledge of Neuroscience, to work with people to become extraordinary professional coaches. Let's Go!

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