Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.
This month I am interviewing Kate Hayes an independent leadership coach about finding wholeness, what coaching is really all about, and getting to the center of your creative work.
1. I love being a “slash” personality. I am a writer/poet/brand manager you’re a Leadership Coach/Facilitator/Director working with nonprofits. Among many other things! Why is it important to combine our interests and how can someone do it successfully?
I love it too! It certainly keeps life interesting (as a rule, I try to avoid saying “busy”) and is a great way to pursue multiple passions at the same time. I’ll share two things that I think are important to consider when it comes to combining our interests successfully.
The first, and probably most important, is that I truly believe that our work is more than what we get paid for. Whether you think of it as purpose, or finding meaning, or anything else, work is what you’re meant to do in–and for–the world. As an example, your day job might be working as a bank teller, but in the evenings you support a nonprofit with their financial accounting. Or perhaps you get paid as a server, but you also are a visual artist, helping others heal through art. Aim to find the intersection between what you’re uniquely good at, what you love to do, and how you can help others.
The second concept is wholeness. Wholeness is grounded in unity, harmony, and the feeling of being complete. There is so much debate about work-life balance/integration, and it’s just not working anymore. To think that we can just put ourselves in a work box, a life box, a (insert anything here) box is just not possible. We need to seek wholeness in allowing ourselves to be who we are and where we are.
This means that sometimes you work a lot of hours for a paycheck, and sometimes you’re going to need to take time off to help a sick family member. Sometimes you’re going to have bouts of insomnia when work is extra stressful, and sometimes you will spend your vacation writing that book you’ve always wanted to write. Allow yourself to lean in towards different parts of your life at different moments – and be okay saying no when you need to. That is where you can begin to find wholeness.
2. You work with a range of people (entrepreneurs to creatives, vice presidents to managers) what is a common thread or questions among all of them? Or what is the most common issue clients come to you with?
The most common question that the people I work with grapple with is how to make a difference. It doesn’t matter whether they are a social start-up leader, a VP at a big bank, or a recent college graduate – the vast majority of people want to do good in this world. The difficult part is figuring out how to do it best, which is where I usually come in. Not everyone needs to quit their day job and start a nonprofit – in fact, if that happened, I would be out of my day job working with corporate leaders looking to engage in the social sector! Instead it comes back to this notion of considering work as more than what you get paid for – and taking the time to not only volunteer, but to hold the door for someone. To smile at someone who looks like they are having a bad day, or give someone a heartfelt compliment. These things matter most, and is where real impact happens.
3. What’s the best piece of guidance for your own life that you’ve received from someone else?
First of all, I love that you phrased this question as guidance, as opposed to advice. (As an aside, I do a lot of thinking and curriculum development on asking great questions, which is why I continue to notice everything that I love about yours!) The best guidance I’ve received is that people notice the little things. This is something I learned from a young age, and was reminded of over and over again.
Over the years, my values have driven me to pay attention to the little things, because using our values to drive everyday decisions is where things get tough – and magical. For me, a core value is being present. If I am in a meeting or conversation with someone, my phone is silenced and put away (99% of the time – I’ll tell someone if I’m expecting an important personal call). Because of this, I notice whenever someone checks their phone, and it becomes obvious that their mind is somewhere else. It can lead to me internally questioning them and their buy-in to whatever we’re working on.
People also notice the good things you do, even if they never tell you. Think about how many instances you remember where someone went out of their way to support you, be kind to you, or just show you that they were with you. These things matter a lot, so pay attention to the little things – because others are too.
4. Some people tend to believe that coaches have it all figured out, but I think the coaches I know, including yourself, would disagree. Do coaches go to coaches? And how does that speak to the power of coaching?
Yes!! We coaches are people too, and we are continuously going through our own challenges. We just happen to be really good at asking the right questions. That being said, almost every coach that I know (including myself) has a coach. To simplify it, all a coach does is create the conditions and space required for a person to achieve their goals. As a coach, I know that every question a person has, can be answered with their own inner wisdom. It is my job to take myself out of the equation, and follow client deeper and deeper until they find that answer. Coaching requires an insane amount of presence, which is why my coach friends and I commiserate about how exhausting (and exhilarating) it can be. That presence and support from someone else is invaluable, which is one of the many reasons we coaches benefit from it too.
If you haven’t worked with a coach yet, it can be a unbelievably powerful tool. I’ll share a few tips. First – shop around! Don’t work with the first coach you meet. Talk to a few, to understand their values and style, and make sure it feels right for you. Second – make sure it’s the right time. You get out of a coaching engagement what you put into it. If you’re only going to show up for a weekly session, and don’t expect to do anything outside of it – don’t find a coach at this moment. Wait until you have the time and energy to do the work, both inside and outside of formal sessions. Finally – if it feels uncomfortable, it’s probably a good thing. If your coach is just building you up and never providing tough feedback, you should ask them to. Part of the power of coaching is getting reflective feedback, so you can understand how others perceive you, and gain insight into how to get better. One of the ground rules I set into my coaching engagements is to ‘get comfortable feeling uncomfortable’ – because that is where real change occurs.
5. I find creative work to be particularly challenging because it can be hard to attach a physical value to it most of the time. What guidance would you give to a creative struggling to continue with their work?
You are totally right on this one, and it is a struggle that I see many go through. I think it’s important to keep a few things at the center of mind. First – consider how you value the creative work of others. As a coach, I didn’t get comfortable with charging others to be coached by me, until I started paying other coaches. It certainly reminded me of the value that I bring and helped me get much more comfortable with the physical value.
Next, ask yourself WHY. Why are you creating? Why, really, are you creating? What would the world miss if you stopped creating? As you go deeper and deeper into this question of why you’re doing it, you’ll begin to see that there is immense value in continuing to create.
Finally, and this one actually is inspired by you, Amanda. Create for one person. Think about it – if you can influence just one person by creating something that means something for them, why wouldn’t you do it? This concept has completely changed how I do everything. When I write something, I just hope that it will change the thinking of one person. When I speak, I hope that just one person in the audience will hear something meaningful. Whatever you create, just do it for that one person. And more likely than not, it will have an impact on many, many more.
Kate Hayes is the director of Direct Impact at Echoing Green and is an independent leadership coach. At Echoing Green, she oversees programming for business leaders who are dedicated to realizing their full potential as agents of social change. She leads retreats, workshops, and immersive site visits focused on leadership development, purpose, strategic governance, philanthropy, and social entrepreneurship. In her coaching work, she focuses on helping professionals accelerate their career and their life, while understanding how to make a meaningful impact on the world. To learn more and connect, you can find her on LinkedIn.