March 15 – Passion & Paying the Price by Coaching Detective

Monday. Back in Stockholm, Södermalm. Parish of Maria. Isabella woke up by realizing that her alarm had not sounded. Again she had forgotten to set it the previous evening. She had, as almost every weekend when she had not the pleasure of being with her son, been working hard reading up on the latest newsletters, latest RSS feeds and LinkedIn updates. And of course all the literature she believed she needed to get better and better. She was passionate about her profession. The power of that love had already lead her a long way. But Isabella was convinced that if she did not developed her skills she would both stagnate and that hungrier, younger and possibly smarter competition will make her redundant. She was determined not to let that happen. She wanted her work to live, if not forever so at least for a decade. “Am I willing to pay the Price?” was a classic quote from Anthony Robbins, the self-appointed guru for business success. It was surely something in that, as she would not have come this far without spending hours, days, months and years trying to learn more. And not to mention that she had also spend huge amounts of money on classes, literature, travel and all that she could ever imagine – just to get better. Research and a number of telling examples had also indicated that you get nowhere if you do not practice. Some say that you need at least ten thousand hours before really getting good an anything. The guy mostly known for telling about this is of course Malcolm Gladwell. With or without gurus – Isabella was prepared to do what it takes to survive. She was surprised by so many clients, friends and colleagues believing that they could become something without doing anything! “Let’s face it – ten thousand hours means, if you only take two weeks vacation, that you will accomplish ten thousand hours in five years working hard at it full time. How many are really in personal development full time?”  Isabella had seen many “hobby coaches” being created by the coaching training centers and many lost souls entering into coach training without even a clue on what to use the coaching tools for. She was convinced though, that the marked will clean itself and a solid core of highly skilled coaches will emerge through the mist of the coaching confusion that is today. Some coaches are already there and Isabella thought of herself as one of those few. She also knew why she was in this profession in the first place, knew who she was and where she was heading. She always smiled when she found herself reflecting on what she usually would say to her confused clients on this subject. Isabella knew her coaching. Detetective work to say the least and Exploring too.

Paying the Price in Stockholm by Coaching Detective

Amazingly she received just such a client at ten in the morning. Her first client that day. It was a guy who had received a package of five sessions as a gift on his fortieth birthday by his wife. Isabella knew that this might be a tricky one as he had not decided on coaching for himself. Perhaps his wife had a special agenda by giving him this very special gift too. There might be more to this than could be perceived at first glance. But here he was at her doorstep as an anonymous letter in a nondescript envelope. Isabella wondered what she might find inside. “Welcome.” The man’s name was John, which is an unusual name in Sweden, she thought. She later found out that about sixty six thousand Swedish men wore that name and even twenty women. John was showing all the signs of someone not really comfortable. Isabella offered him a calming chair and a cup of coffee, knowing that coffee was not really calming and that a chair was not really sufficient either. John didn’t like his birthday present at all, or so it seemed. Isabella started on a light note “So John, let’s start with getting to know one another. I can start by telling you a bit about me and what these five sessions can be about. Is that OK with you?” John nodded, not knowing what to say in a situation such as this. It was sort of an interview for a job he had not applied for and not knowing what is was about either. John concluded that it was best to play along. Isabella, being an experienced coach, knew by John’s body language and her intuition in what room he was in right now. She tried to be as calm and pedagogic as she could when she continued. “This first time is about you and me really getting started. We have four more sessions to get the results you want out of coaching. First of all I want to know who you are. Who are you, John?” There was a silence, followed by another silence. Isabella knew that there are at least three kinds of silence. There is the kind where the client disappears into her own inner world and really is incommunicado. Isabella calls this kind of silence “The Sandman”. The Sandman is a mythical figure that comes to children every evening sprinkling magic sand in their eyes for them to relax, sleep and get in touch with their imagination and dreams. But wake up the day after. In Sweden the Sandman is called “John Blund”. “John” as in the client before her. Then there was the other kind of silence. A silence when someone is reflecting on a question and is really thinking about it and in a kind of a conscious flowing state. From that silence a fruitful answer would surely follow, leading the coaching forward. She calls that silence “Gloria”, both after the notion that it in some sense connects a person to something greater than herself and after the singer Gloria Gaynor who sang “I Am What I am”. That song means a lot to Isabella and is one of her power songs. The song meant that you know who you are and that you are prepared to handle whatever comes your way with no regrets. But there is also yet another, not as fruitful silence. This one Isabella calls “Hamlet”. This is a silence made up of a combination of fear, confusion and perhaps even a need to hide your true self from others, or even worse –yourself. Here the dreams themselves are something to be feared.

“To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come”

Isabella felt it loud and clear. Enter Hamlet. To break the silence Isabella said ”Have you ever bought a train ticket on the Internet?” John admitted that he had made a business trip to Gothenburg two weeks ago and that the new company sustainability policy had demanded him to go by train instead of taking a flight. In addition, the time spent would be almost the same. If the flight itself only took an hour, you have to add time to get to the airport, check in, and then check out your bag again and take yourself from the airport into town. If you add it all together you actually won time by taking the train. Isabella had a point to make by asking that question. It was not only to break the silence but to get somewhere. She continued “When you go to the website of the train company there are a few things you need to know, right? You need to know from where and to where you want to travel, who is going and what you want your trip to be like. You could book a special seat, with or without a table. You can travel first class or not and you can have the possibility to use the Internet or not. To get somewhere in life the situation is similar – you need to know who you are, what kind of experience you prefer, where you start your process and where you want to go.” John stuttered a bit before answering “ I am a middle manager for a large IT company.” “Yes, and….?” Isabella left the end of the sentence open deliberately to make use of the pause. John continued “ And I am soon to be partner in the firm.”  Isabella smiled to John and said “Are you anything more than just a businessman?” John startled in his chair. He apparently was so used to identify himself with what he did that what he was seemed like an unknown territory to him. Isabella had foreseen that and lay a white paper on the table between them and a silver Cross pen on top of it. “Can you write the four most important persons in your life on this paper? Take your time.” John picked up the pen, hesitated for a while and then, as he was used to deliver at work, slowly started to write something. He came up with three names: The name of his boss, his wife and his son. He suddenly realized that he had forgotten to mention his mother. Satisfied with his performance he lay down the pen and waited for the praise. “Are you happy with your choice?” Isabella lifted the paper and took a close look at the names and asked John to tell her who they where and why they were important. John did his best to explain. Isabella replied by telling John that what is written might not always be as important as the things not written. John stared at Isabella wondering what was coming next. Isabella took a deep breath and continued “I see that you have not written your own name on the list – what does that mean?” John suddenly saw. He was so occupied with all the things he imagined he had to do, perform and act like so he had completely forgotten himself in the process. John’s life before this moment now became something else and he saw it in a new light. This did not change John’s life  much yet of course, but altered the sentence a bit like a comma might do. John could not come up with a valid answer to save his life. He just sat there. Isabella left him in his inner space for a second, knowing that this moment was a fragile one. This silence was more of a “Sandman” silence. John was not back in the office yet. Then John looked up. He was back into the coaching session again. “You got me there.” he said. “I guess that I have to exchange one of the names for my own.” “If this is what you feel. What name will you lose?” When looking at the paper again the answer was easy. He could not lose his family, but a boss is just a boss. Tomorrow he might even work somewhere else. “So John – who are you?” This time John tried to come up with an answer that could not be found on his business card. He did find that he was a pretty good father, at least on days that he was actually present. There had been too much business travel lately. So to be honest – he might not be such a good father after all. And as for being a good son…..He had not talked, nor visited her mother in three months. He now started to wonder why his wife had given him coaching as a gift. John suddenly started to suspect that his wife was actually trying to tell him something. Perhaps this was his last chance to save himself, his marriage and his relationship with his son. And perhaps making a better connection with his mother before it would become too late. All this was a bit too much for John at this point, but he was saved by the bell as the session was about to finish. Isabella felt that John had gone through a bit today and asked him “What can you take with you from this room?” John laughed “Your CD player is nice. Just kidding. I have realised that I need to see myself more and what I do, or not do, to my family and myself in the process.” Isabella and John agreed to let two weeks pass before the next session and that John should take a closer look on what he wanted to change in his life. When Isabella and John hook hands she noticed that his hand was a bit warmer and a little damper than before. Something had happened in the room. Isabella could not be sure of what yet. Their next session would tell. Isabella decided on another cup of tea. She had bought a bag of Japanese green tea imported to Sweden by Yuko Ono. Isabella tried to make the tea according to the instructions only letting the leaves touch the water for 30 seconds before separating the leaves from the water. She then poured into a china cup and sat down, sipping as slowly as she could. It almost became a ritual, a meditation of sorts. Just what Isabella needed.

A need is determined by what exactly? A need to sleep, to drink or to eat seems like the most natural needs most of us but can be disturbed by forces we cannot always handle. But there are other needs that are not so easy to figure out from where they come. The need to kill is one. In our society today there is not much call for killing among most of us. There are of course exceptions. But they are almost referred to as criminal acts and should be punished by law. In Sweden there were about 65 murders taking place every year and the few murderers were sent to prison. In Sweden there has not been someone sentenced to death for murder since 1910 and since 1932 the death penalty is abolished. This means that the state has recognized that it cannot perform the illegal act either, not even against a murderer. However, individuals sometimes has opinions of their own on this subject. In the eastern part of Stockholm there surely is at least one of those. Right now drinking something substantially stronger than tea. An eye for an eye was not really good enough. A whole body might be more appropriate. A little interest if you will.

Isabella had, after her meditative tea break, the need to meet her son. She should pick him up at his school at about 3.30 so she should get a move on now. She did not want to be late. She had not seen David for a week so her longing was so concretely apparent you could cut it with a carving knife. She dashed down the stairs to take the next bus there. The evening should be a close connection with David. No work, no phone and no Internet. Just David, and perhaps his favorite children’s show on one of the children’s channels. Isabella had learned that if you do not treat your children well when they are young they will get back at you when they grow up. “Or the coaching or therapy costs will hit the ceiling”. Isabella saw David at the schoolyard now. Life was good. Her heart went flying without wings to meet him. Every good coach needs a coach to become a better coach and she was lucky to have David. “If you are wise you learn from your children.” Isabella was as wise as they come. This Monday evening will be wisely spent. David had once said “The center of the World can be anywhere” and tonight it will be in their living room, celebrated by strawberries and a few glasses of orange juice. As always – candy only on weekends. There is a certain value in waiting.

Flying Without Wings

March 12 – Metal Birds and Tigers – by Coaching Detective

Isabella woke up early knowing. Knowing that she needed to be creative this morning. She was wise from the day before that warm water was a scarce commodity in her hotel room. As a resourceful coach she had found a workaround. Every UK hotel room she had ever been in had a way to make tea. So she made hot water there and poured it into the wash-hand basin thus creating a real possibility to actually wash her hair. Unfortunately she had not arrived at the almost compulsory need to cut her hair short at the reached age of forty so she still had hair below her shoulders. But she followed the latest international hair trend and usually assembled it in a pony-tail, only changing the elastic band colours to match her clothes. Isabella had a tough time washing all her hair in the basin but did her best “kettle water wash” she could and dashed down to get breakfast. Just a coffee with plenty of milk to break the acid, a piece of dark bread with some marmalade on and she was ready for another day in coaching paradise.

In the Swedish morning paper Svenska Dagbladet that was opened at that very moment in Stockholm you could read that in this Year of the Tiger, eleven tigers had actually starve to death in China. No paradise for tigers there. The reader created an introvert smile. “Hopefully this tiger will do better.” It has always been apparent that the tiger was the perfect image for describing someone in three-striped shoes on the hunt for something. An endangered species too. The smile expanded into a quiet laugh.

In Victoria Plaza Isabella smiled too. David had sent her an SMS saying “dad can’t make breakfast – come home”. There was sadness in the smile of course – not on the fact that Marcus was so absent minded that he always burnt food but because she longed for her son. “There is always a price to pay!” She was not really in agreement with the thought of making her son’s life miserable but she had realized that keeping the relationship with Marcus would have made David even worse off than now. Now he had in a way both his parents without seeing them in conflict. And she thought that Marcus in this way got a better contact with David than before when she was there competing. Isabella had understood that she had also made it more difficult for Marcus to be a loving parent to David being more extrovert in her feelings towards David than he could ever be in her presence. That space had not been available to him then. But now David and Marcus are much closer. And amazingly enough in some quaint way Isabella liked Marcus better now as he now is becoming a great father. “Perhaps he will learn something from this and will come out a better man. Perhaps I have actually made him more attractive to women.” Life surely is strange. Like so many times before a bad thing might lead to something good. At least for Marcus. It is not always attractive for a man to find out that the woman he is attracted to is divorced with a child. On the other hand men should get acquainted with the reality of today – the divorce rate in Sweden is about 55 percent. So half of the women and half of the men are divorced. Chances of actually meeting someone around forty who has no children and who has never been married are very slim. Perhaps if you meet someone like that you might ask yourself  “What is wrong with this person?” The modern family consists of you, your children from before, your present spouse and his/her children from before, the possible children you have created together and all the people involved in all the children mentioned before. Quite a complexity. It must have been less complicated before when one life was enough. It seemed to Isabella that we tend to “wear and tear” your relationships as we have also done with clothes and our whole planet. It had to change one day.
As she arrived at the Plaza she went directly to take a seat for the first speaker of the day. And it was on sustainability. Isabella had already had those thoughts a few minutes ago. We do have to take care of our planet. The keynote was delivered by a guy named Sir John Whitmore. Sir John was right of course in that coaches has to keep the big picture in mind at all times. Amazing that everyone seems to be competing to be most “sustainable” these days. Isabella thought that we need to talk a lot before anything real comes out of it and that we are now still in the “talking phase”. This was not only true in the coaching profession but in the business community as a whole. There is talk on every website on sustainability and corporate social responsibility but not all companies really live up to what they preach. “Sustainability boiled down to marketing.” Isabella clearly saw the irony in that. Sir John on the other hand meant business.

After a break it was time for a Keynote speaker – a woman called Veera Johnson. Her topic was “Success lies in Diversity and not Perfection”. She was one of those “happy witnesses” that confirmed that coaching actually works as one of the tools to develop leaders and organizations.

Diversity in Red at the AC Conference

Veera’s topic gave Isabella a few thoughts to take home, but perhaps not the thoughts that Veera had intended. Isabella connected “diversity” not only with different abilities and talents but also different sexes, cultures and skin tones… Many connotations to be found there…The word “perfection” lead her to imagine all the clients dreaming of the “perfect” jobs, relationships, educations and homes. A shining dream, quite impossible to reach, but clients were still willing to die trying for it.

“Part of the human dilemma – longing for perfection knowing that if you find it, you will no longer be human.”  Isabella had learned that lesson many years ago, trying so hard to be a perfect daughter, a perfect lover, a perfect wife and a perfect mother. Isabella knew that she would always fall short if she tried that. She had found the perfect reminder never to fall into that hole again. She hums the theme to “Mission Impossible” and imagine herself being married to Tom Cruise. “Cute but too short in both body and mind. And who wants a boy who is over forty-five anyway?” Isabella preferred a man, perhaps someone like Harrison Ford who could carry Melanie Griffiths up a steep staircase or so. “As women obviously are just as intelligent as men, the only apparent reasons for using them would be to use their strength to carry the bags and their libido to create kids.”  Isabella smiled at her joke, knowing that she was far too modern to have those kinds of primitive, old hard-core feministic views on men. She knew perfectly well to see every person for who she or he is and not to put anyone in a ready-made little prejudice box.

A Box is Bought in the Old Town

Speaking of boxes. In a little shop in the Old Town of Stockholm someone had just purchased a small wooden box. A box just right for containing a number of small objects. The store keeper had imported lots of junk cheaply to sell off at double price to tourists. He treated this customer no different from any tourist from any of the numerous countries coming here. Many of the things he offered were associated in one way or another to Stockholm, Sweden or the Old Town. The German partiality to elk objects he could never understand, but didn’t really care as long as they paid for them. His latest customer was no German. Other statistically good guesses would be a Finn or a Russian, but no. The customer had not said even a single word so guessing was hard. The store keeper loved the challenge though and kept on guessing. He noticed that the customer had both Euros and Swedish Crowns in a small stack of bills so he assumed he could rule out Denmark and the UK. But anyone could purchase any currency and keep the home currency at the hotel, making it just as possible for any customer to originate from anywhere. This made it of course even more fun to make a guess. Almost like shooting dice, but the dice being slightly modified in favour of a certain result. But this time the shop keeper could not find a proper image to fit his client.

an Image can mean so mucg at the AC

In Victoria Plaza other images were on. Isabella was attending a workshop on using imagery in coaching lead by the quite legendary Stephen Palmer. His idea was to spread the word that using images could change the outcome of coaching sessions and make coaching able to produce self-confidence, energy and stamina in coaching clients. Isabella was all for images, as she herself came from the journalistic profession and had close encounters of the third kind with at least one architect. Architects usually had no idea on how to use words, but images were their home turf. As the workshop went on she again felt the familiar longing for home and David. She would run for Gatwick as soon as she ever could. It was nothing wrong with the workshop at all but it could never compete with her son. Isabella sighed as she realised she had one more workshop to attend before getting released.

On the other hand she was curious about the subject: Emotional Intelligence. The lecture was held by one of the pioneers of emotional intelligence – Dr Reuwen Bar-On. He made a most powerful point: “Listen, observe, understand and only then give consultation, but really listen!” Isabella smiled as she thought “Typical – a man speaking of really listening. Most men could not even spell the word.” And still there that man stood on the stage, obviously knowing something to say about it. And with a background both from the military forces in Israel and also formerly living in South Africa he should know something about a “not listening culture”.  She imagined that being a major in the armed forces of Israel for eleven years would be extremely challenging for a man really interested in listening. Or an extreme learning experience, as you can learn as much from the thesis as the anti thesis. Something close to how a Buddhist would approach something bad happening or when meeting a bad person. What is the lesson to be learnt? Perhaps war produced a man interested in communication? Just like everything in itself has the possibility to turn into its opposite? Or that you sometimes need something really bad to wake up and really do something good? Isabella had read something on Taoism a few years back and did not understand much of it but had picked up that they always said that something at face value looking bad not always was entirely bad and vice versa. And that everything always changes. It was some kind of comfort in that, Isabella thought.  And the man was really into listening.

THe AC Conference in London - March 2010

He showed the Chinese character for “to listen”, which he said consisted of a combination of “heart”, “eye”, “ear” and “undivided attention”. He meant that we should all listen with both our ears, but also read all the visual expressions, use our heart to feel what is really said and focus on nothing else when we are listening. Isabella reflected that it was something of a crash course in coaching. Coaching is so much more of course, but really listening to your client is a good starting point. Isabella found it, however, more and more difficult to focus on Mr Bar-On. He went on to explain more on the science of Emotional Intelligence, but Isabella thought “I can get that from a book later.” She decided there and then to make herself scarce and make a run for the airport, giving her more time to look for another gift. David was to be well materially compensated for her absence. She knew that something from “Lord of the Rings” or “Star Wars” would be hugely appreciated. David was turning into a boy now. He was not just a child anymore. A special transition time for him, being in two worlds. Both needing soft animals AND hard swords. Isabella remembered the other day, when David had shown her that his teddy bear knew Kung Fu moves. He had seen Kung Fu Panda of course. Amazing, but in such a film you could actually find things worth using in coaching. I a scene we are taught the saying “Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is a Mystery, but Today is a Gift! That is why it is called the Present.

Today is a Gift

So being here now is a key. Kind of the Mindfulness teachings which are so popular today. Mindfulness has of course “borrowed” that notion from LaoTzu and Tao. Same coat, new box. Isabella thought that the wrapping does not matter as long as it fits. Only infants are more interested in the boxes than the contents. When David was a baby he could play with the boxes for hours, completely disregarding all the very thoughtfully chosen toys he was presented from within them. Perhaps we all have an internal infant showing up at times. Perhaps that infant loves the free space inside the box and the abstraction of the outside. With those two the infant can imagine anything, making anything possible. The thoroughly designed toy can only do one already defined thing. A car is a car and a doll is a doll. A bit boring for a creative infant. Perhaps even boring for anyone. Isabella knew of course that David expected a bit more than just an empty box.

Just hours ago our mysterious client left the store with just that. An empty box. The new owner had every intention of filling it with objects. Just a minute after leaving the store one small object was already put in there to mark triumph.

Isabella ran like crazy to board on time. The search for David’s present had taken longer than she had expected, but now she saw the staff about to close the gate in front of her very eyes. She yelled “Stop! Please! Wait!” – And all other possible shouts that might catch the staff’s attention. And yes – they saw her just in time and let her onto the plane. “Sometimes you are in luck”, she thought. After a few long deep breaths she calmed down and mumbled to herself: “Yes, Steel Eagle – Take me home!!

Flying home from London

March 11 – London Water and Stockholm Fire! By Coaching Detective

Isabella awoke with a bang. Workers outside had started to open up the street like you would a can of tomatoes but much louder. She dashed up, realised that she had just time for a shower, breakfast and then run for the Victoria Plaza to make it to the AC conference on time. Or so she thought. The shower was the first show stopper. No matter how she tried she could not make it produce hot water. She simply had to wash her hair in cold water. “The English are always talking about taking a cold shower, now I know why!” Apart from the water being cold the room itself had been pretty cold too. In March it is pretty harsh outside, but inside should be something else. At least in theory. In Sweden everyone accepts the idea of an existing winter and actually make heating works and insulates the buildings. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe this is apparently not the case. She remembered back when she was still a rookie coach that her mentors always nagged her about using the GROW model when coaching. The R in the model stood for Reality. “I wonder how the coaches here can handle GROW when they have no link to reality regarding their housing.” Isabella sighed and did what she had to do to get ready for breakfast. Then the next little snag promptly arrived. The breakfast was not ready yet so she had to wait for an additional ten minutes to get her tea, toast and huge amounts of marmalade. And then optional sausages fried or scrambled eggs and other not extremely healthy alternatives. You can add as many Jamie Olivers, Gordon Ramsays, Nigella Lawsons as you wish but you still cannot delete the fish and chips traditions from England. Isabella quickly devoured a toast and dashed out. She quickly went along Elisabeth Street, turned left into Eccleston Square and continued onto Gillingham Street. When she reached Wilton Road she saw Victoria Plaza on the left – finally. She had only seven minutes to spare, an ocean of seconds. Now everything was Hunky Dory as the saying goes. Her father used to play a Bowie album called that, she remembered. The time of the LP Albums seemed long time ago now. But her snag day was not really over yet. There was no Isabella Strand on the participant lists anywhere. Isabella knew she had paid and she could prove it too. She brought out the receipt she had received after paying” I have paid!” A very helpful AC lady by the name of Katherine assisted her and said “You are fine my dear, it must have been something wrong in our data sheets now, we don’t really have an designated administrator so we try to manage things on our own apart from everything else we do. Don’t worry. The main thing is that you are here.” That felt reassuring of course, but Isabella hoped that the speakers and the workshops had not also been lost in some misplaced excel sheet. But it was true – the important thing was that she was here. Isabella intended to enjoy every second of the conference.

Back in Stockholm a murderer had not lost any time either. Knowing this was one important day, timing could not have been better. All stages of the first part of the plan had fitted into each other perfectly. The only remainder of the last two days work fitted nicely into an Adidas shoebox recently containing a pair of Adistar Salvation 2. Today our murderer was wearing them. They were light and perfect for a fast running experience. Amazing that shoes made for running were called sneakers. Of course sneaking was more appropriate for the activity these last two days. First there was the contact making. No problem there. Then the process of getting in and out with the necessary stuff. Like clockwork. The visit to Råcksta and the funeral chapel there also went well as did the copying of the keys to the place. The actual business there took some studying but OK. Now the first stage was complete. Not a second was lost.

Isabella surely tried to get into as many workshops as possible, but of course she was only one person and several workshops were on simultaneously. But Isabella, being an excellent coach, knew how to set goals and how to make decisions for herself. She was tempted to attend both the workshop on cat & dog behaviour and the workshop on horse coaching but decided to focus on the Key Notes and workshops on Global issues and Creative tools. Global for business and Creative for pleasure.
She settled for a seat close to the aisle in the middle to get maximum vision of the thing happening on the stage. Isabella couldn’t believe her eyes when that helpful lady from a few minutes ago happened to be none other than the present chairwoman at the Association for Coaching! And she was holding the Welcoming Address for the whole event! So once again Isabella learned that you should always be kind to everyone – suddenly they will come back into your life and sometimes faster than you know. Isabella laughed at herself as she usually gave her friends that piece of advice even though she was told by her coaching teachers never to give advice. The real world is somewhat different from the coaching theory though. People actually need some advice now and then and on occasion that advice could make all the difference. “But it is not always easy to live by what you preach eh?” Isabella was again humbled by her own lack of perfection.
The first keynote speaker was about to enter the stage. It was supposed to be someone called Julio Olalla and he should talk on something called “A ‘Good Life’ vs a ‘Better Life’. The talk could have started better though. Onto the stage came a fairly old guy, had tremendous difficulties with the microphones and stuff so Isabella thought “This is terrible, how will the rest of the conference be? What have I paid for?” But he finally got the hang of how to be heard and could start. the AC Conference in March 2010

And Julio was old yes, but Julio really had something to say and captured Isabella to the core of her heart as much so she said to herself “I want him every Monday morning to raise my spirits!” And Julio was of course talking about meaning and sustainability. Isabella reflected on the emerging longing for meaning that she had experienced from almost every client lately and in magazines and literature too. “We have to help people find meaning in their lives.”  When Isabella read about Julio in her conference material she found that he was by some regarded as the father of the coaching profession. And she had not heard of him before at all! A reflexion on that appeared and Isabella made a note: “The fact that you have not heard about an important matter does not make that non-existent. You can never study too much. Perhaps you always study too little and make too little research? Can we trust what we read?” Trust is what coaches build their entire business on so Isabella felt that she really had to make sure she was updated, informed and could make sure that her clients could feel that she was too.

The murderer was also good at the trust game. Without that it was impossible to get close enough in order to make the kill. And meaning was also a key factor. But only the exact kind of meaning that would accomplish the desired results of course. And it did. So far. A smile appeared and swiftly vanished. This was the first step.

Back in London Isabella was ready for her first workshop. Again another perspective but also somewhat the same. The speaker was Philippe Rosinski, an expert on coaching and cultures. So cultures was new, but again sustainability and meaning re-appeared. And there was the idea that a coach and coaching has to be multi-disciplinary. At last someone that stands up and says what Isabella had contemplated for some time. Standard coaching alone cannot do it all. Coaches have to bring in other knowledge and experience in order to really help people. “You cannot take anyone further than you have gone yourself.” Philippe also said “Spirituality is an increased awareness of a connection with self, others, nature, with the immanent and transcendent “divine”.”  “Well”, Isabella thought, “If I try to market “the divine” to my clients back in Stockholm they will think I’ve gone mad! Or will they?” The AC Conference in London March 2010

If you look a hundred years back in history everyone knew where they belonged and they all thought there was a God. Today most people have doubts on themselves, their abilities or if there exist something more than what they see. Isabella was lost for a moment in her own thoughts when she realised the workshop just had ended. Finally a coffee break! Isabella stumbled out of the session and found her way out to the coffee tables and all the other coaches that ran about hunting for cookies and a coffee buddy. She squeezed herself in , found a cup and a biscuit and then pointed herself to one of the round tables standing by. “Can I have a corner?” She realized that round tables did not even have corners but what the hell….THe AC Conference in London March 2010

Isabella was in luck and happened to stand by quite nice coaches eager to communicate and do some networking. The compulsory exchange of business cards actually seemed to be honest this time and that Isabella just might hear from some of them later. Not just a show. She also overheard several conversations on a number of subjects during that coffee break without actually take part in those discussions. Being an observer and a listener had its merits. But when she dared to open her mouth to try her best English skills her tongue felt like on crutches but everyone seemed to understand her anyway so she kept on trying. A coaching conference was the perfect place to try in as people at such an event were interested in other people and not only interested in their own businesses. So she could take a chance or two here. And really – the coaches took her under their wings. Isabella talked a lot with a nice man called William whose heart was into sustainability and also shared her feelings of that we rush too much and that we should slow down to actually achieve more. “We have never had so many ways to communicate and we have never felt more alone.” Isabella agreed and replied “And we have never had access to so much information and we have never felt more confused.” They both smiled and sipped on their coffee. Isabella felt she had found her first friend in the UK.

The murderer in Stockholm was not out to get friends but was enjoying the first steps with a coffee in a café close to Hötorget. The metal chairs made the occasional noise on the wooden floor,  a glass of water was placed on the table beside the plate with a Swedish cinnamon bun. It was a moment of stillness, but if you had looked close enough the spark of a strange fire in the murderer’s eyes would have made you worried. You would of course not know that it was a killer you saw sitting there. No other signs of that would show. Who is a murderer and who is not is never apparent, not even to close relatives or colleagues. Even your closest friend or sister can be a killer if the situation is right! So next time you see someone in a café he or she can be capable of not just taking a bite of the cinnamon bun. The killer did just that and finished the coffee. Time to get home to plan the next step.

“What is your next step?” Isabella had a moment before getting to the next workshop and had just overheard this question and could not help smiling. All coaches she knew over-used that question to the point of being almost ridiculous. And some of them tried it even before the client had a chance of even being close to setting a target. Many clients have not a clue. They do not know where they want to go or where they start from. “Imagine for a while that you visit your train company’s website to get a ticket. It is quite impossible to get one if you cannot state from where and to where.” Coaching has the same dilemma. So many times the coaching process starts with trying to find out these things, sometimes even to find out who the client is. Some clients do have an unrealistic image of themselves. Isabella had recently encountered many clients like that when she was job coaching. The recession in combination to a general lack of self esteem creates all sorts of problems. Some problems even crossed the border into the therapeutic area. She had one client that she had to send to a therapist she collaborates with just three weeks before. It turned out that woman had been sexually abused most of her youth, from the age of eight to fourteen at least. She had very blurry memories but was filled with shame and hatred. Isabella tried to treat her well and even accompanied the client to her therapist friend and said that she could call her at any moment if she needed to. “It is always too late to have a happy childhood.”  Isabella almost cried there and then at the conference when that memory hit her. But she was there to enjoy herself and to learn new things. “Inspiration” was another word that was applicable. Isabella looked in the schedule to see what was up next. The subject was “The Secret of Transformative Change” and seemed to be about creating a coaching culture in companies. Isabella had always thought that coaching might be an effective tool to use in relation to companies so she looked forward to this one.

As she suspected the benefits of a coaching culture were overwhelming. Words like “Empowered”, “Increased Productivity”, “Innovation” and “Staff Retention” swept across the PowerPoint Presentation and Isabella took notes like crazy.

After that display of fast note taking she felt ready for lunch. And apparently so did everyone else too. Isabella had a plan for her lunch. She wanted to find something special for her son so she went out into the street and ran towards Victoria station. That task was harder then she expected so she was too late for the next keynote speaker. When she met people who ha attended they all said that the guy had been both humble, business oriented and to the point. Isabella reflected ”This is also what life is about, to make hard choices for the right reasons and live with the fact that the choices you make might lead to some missed opportunities.” For her, her son had top priority. No keynote in the world could ever change that. Even if Dalai Lama himself called her on her mobile and wanted to have lunch she would forget David. She would never forget. “Never!” Some things are really written on stone in your mind or heart or where ever it is written. Good things and bad.

Isabella was very curious to see what the next workshop was about. It was called “Creativity in Coaching Supervision” and should contain something on metaphors and imagery which was perfectly up her alley. Or so she thought. When she entered the room a table was filled with images and someone shouted “pick your favourite!” Isabella walked about a bit to see what images were available and finally decided on a picture depicting a part of a Klimt painting. Klimt was Isabella’s favourite painter. There was always an erotic, sensual element in his paintings and always a very elegant feeling to them too. Isabella would have wanted to meet Klimt and be his model if she dared. Nudity was both tempting and scary and Isabella had almost always been a bit shy. But underneath she was definitely more daring than she was willing to admit even to herself. At night and sometimes in her daydreams she was a brave woman and took the initiative to sex as many times as she did quite the opposite. She smiled at the thought. There she was in the middle of a crowd and thought about sex. She hoped that she would not blush. Normally she could keep her cool. She noted that the room was arranged for a group session and decided to take a seat between a woman and a man in the closest circle of chairs. The first task was to explain to the person next to you why you had chosen the pic you brought to the group. Isabella had already guessed this and was a bit prepared. She talked on Klimt, creativity and communication as her key subjects. She realized of course that her choice reflected both a bit of who she was but also a bit of what she longed to be. “The I am and the I want to be are like two twin sisters arguing on who is most important of the two.” But the images made it a lot easier to get to know your neighbour without the usual “ I am the title X and work for the company Y”. The conversations naturally was more on character traits, likes and hobbies. “Quite refreshing, actually.” Isabella felt comfortable with using images as she liked photography and art and could even handle a camera fairly well. He ex-husband had introduced her to painting and sketching too, but she could not master that yet. Alison, the workshop host, now handed out the next task. The idea was to work in triads with one “coach”, one “client” and one “observer”. Isabella chose to be the “client”. She should have a client case to discuss. Isabella should choose an image that best represent her client and then return to the group to be coached.

Isabella knew what client to choose. She had many thoughts on her client Camilla and her personality. Of course she should never reveal the real identity of her client. The coaching ethics were clear on that. Isabella stood by the table with all the images for a few seconds. Then she decided – “A Hedgehog is perfect.”  The AC Conference London March 2010

Isabella would never dare to confront Camilla with the image of a hedgehog, would she? Perhaps that would bring out new stuff. Isabella’s workshop “coach” asked her “Tell me about your client from the image you have chosen.” Isabella was silent for a second and then she said “She is very cute, vulnerable and a bit disorganised. At the same time she can defend herself sharply and can be hard to reach.” Isabella amazed herself by being quite able to describe Camilla in “hedgehogian” terms. In fact she could describe her more accurate as a hedgehog than as a person. “If Camilla only knew!” Before choosing theh workshop she had read “Working with metaphor and picture cards … may often surprise us with their apparent initial lack of connection to the presenting issue, but by way of association and storytelling, new interpretations and therefore solutions may arise.” And yes – Isabella would certainly take this experience with her back home to Stockholm.

Isabella had decided on one last thing to attend before going back to her hotel to call David to say good night. She wanted to listen to Jonathan Passmore to get links to research on coaching. “It is always good to tap into the scientific world.”

And as you might expect coaching does seem to work, even if you ask science. Jonathan said that initial studies did not find any strong connection between coaching and progress but more recent studies clearly shows that coaching works. He provided quite a few studies and Isabella took careful notes. She had always hoped that she could support her case better with science on her side too. She could be happy now.

After this there was also a “networking event” between seven and God knows when with a number of really important speakers. The names Isabella found most interesting were Tim Macartney with visions on sustainability and Susie Howe’s on children. Isabella planned to look them up in detail later, but now the most important vision was to sustain her relation to her own child. As always – a mother first priority is her child! She could easily kill to save David…

Anybody could actually kill if the circumstances were optimal. Optimal in relation to killing was perhaps not the best choice of words but anyway. Given the facts from World War II, The Vietnam War and Jim Jones in 1978 anything can happen. As we speak on this Thursday night in March 2010 killing is not unrealistic for some now spread on a bed in Stockholm. And more thoughts along the inevitable thread are to come later. Right now it is time for a few hours of hopefully dreamless sleep. Some dreams are best unseen.

March 10 – One Flew West, One did the Rest- by Coaching Detective

Isabella had not been on a plane for a long time, but today she was off to London in the afternoon. She had left her son at school in the morning, promising that she would buy him something “cool” in London and went home to pick up her bag. She knew the Airline was pretty picky on the size of the bag and also the weight. She had packed the bag twice, weighed it and then repacked it a third time. “Why can’t they make airplanes that can carry filled suitcases?” she sighed. She guessed that it had something to do with not using a lot of fuel and making money. As a coach she dealt with that problem all the time. Well, not the fuel issue as much as the making money bit. Almost every client wanted a way to make more money in a more interesting and less time consuming way. “Dreaming is essential of course – but there should be some realism too!” She remembered the old SMART model from the beginning of the eighties, a model so old and used so often that “If someone says SMART again I will through up!” But there of course sometimes are relevant things even in old stuff. Coaching sometimes refers to both Socrates and Aristotle so coaches have nothing against the “Old Geeks”. Isabella giggled. She always loved it when someone made a linguistic joke. Marcus had made her laugh and then she had followed him home. Laughter is a strong medicine.  There are actually laughing classes now, arguing that if you laugh you will be happier. Apparently the brain cannot tell the difference between a laugh as a involuntary reaction to something funny and a laugh produced by will. The brain will in both cases tell you “I am happy!” Marcus used to whistle a lot and people told him “You must be happy as you whistle!” Marcus had reflected on that and the next time someone said the same to him he had replied “No, I whistle because I want to be happy!” Isabella was going to London not because she was wise, but as she wanted to become wiser. “Go West, girl!”
As Isabella fell asleep in her small hotel room in Belgravia a murderer was making the last moves to start the process soon, soon, soon….on the table crammed in between all the boxes was a bottle and a glass. The glass was half filled with Cinzano Bitter. Bitter is of course the flavour of the day. “Bitterness floating down through the body pouring into every vein making you warm but not satisfied.” Tomorrow will surely be another day – but frankly nobody will give a damn! The rest will then follow.

March 8 – Making Foolish Plans for Perfection – by Coaching Detective

To Die For - By Coaching Detective


A killer wakes up in a small rented flat in the part of Stockholm called Östermalm. The place is cramped with boxes and bags recently transported here from France. Now, 25 years later, Stockholm seems like a very weird place but this is not important at all. The Plan is all. The killer has waited enough. All sorts of tools, equipment and accessories is purchased i the little town on the Loire river and cannot be traced. Most things are prepared for the attack…
In Södermalm, only a half hour away, Isabella also wakes up. She has also preparation work ahead of her today. The plan is for her to go to London to take part in a coaching conference there. The conference is hosted by the Association of Coaching (AC). She is not a member but that is not a requirement to take part. A different rate though. The conference starts on the 11th so she need to get things sorted quickly now. The flight tickets are already purchased and she has booked a room at a small hotel in Belgravia, just walking distance from the Victoria Plaza hotel where the conference is held. Half the hotel rate was a key factor. Now Isabella is focused on making sure that everything will run smoothly here in Stockholm while she is away, especially regarding David, her son. Marcus has of course promised her that “everything will be fine”, but Isabella really has a hard time letting go. She always wants to be in control, even though she realises that it is seldom possible. Then there is the packing. The airline company had strict rules for bags and weights and Isabella tried to figure out the best composition for a three day trip. She had to leave for London the day before the event in order to get there on time. Isabella thought “Too much trouble for so little time!” but she had a feeling that the event would be great and widen both her coaching experience and her network. So she kept on packing believing that the near future would be great fun and a perfectly happy time.
In Östermalm the killer was unpacking instead. Unpacking crucial stuff to prepare for events to come and smiled in a way showing lines that had not been seen in that face for quite some time…A kind of joy that had nothing to do with happiness- On the surface nothing was to been guessed. Nothing revealed the process that was going on here and nothing should. Practice makes perfect.


March 4 – You Only Live Twice? by Coaching Detective

Yesterday was yesterday. Isabella felt that it had been a great day, but some of the coaching had not been so easy. She still had Camilla vividly appearing as soon as she closed her eyes for a moment. Amazing how easy it was to arrive the wrong conclusion. Better to let the client tell you more before starting to put things together. But Isabella loved putting things together! She had a flair for making sense of only fragments, a feeling for connecting them into something bigger. Her family had laid puzzles every Christmas when she was young and she had always tried to figure out “who did it” in the numerous detective stories she had read. If she had not become a journalist and now also a coach she might have wanted to become a detective or a policewoman. But both journalism and coaching was about finding out too. She had therefore chosen to have a “one-liner” in relation to her company and her e-message signature. “Detect Yourself!” And today she would have the pleasure of meeting her first cop! During her coach training there was a discussion on if you had to have field knowledge in order to coach someone and the class had been divided into two groups. One group believing that the process knowledge you had as a coach was quite enough, and the other maintaining that field knowledge was an asset and even crucial if you should coach a person higher or deeper into a special field. Isabella was inclined to agree that on one hand you could find more relevant filed questions if you knew stuff but on the other hand there was also a risk of the coach steering or colouring the conversation leading it to unwanted places. And now she was waiting for Harry the cop. She had no prior experience from police work other than her interest for detective stories. She hoped that he was nothing like “Dirty Harry” from the Clint Eastwood films. And nothing like Inspector Clouseau either. Isabella had been very lucky a few weeks ago and had by chance landed a deal with the Stockholm Police force. They had created a Personal Development Program for their leaders and one part of it was cash that the individual leader could spend freely. Three of the policemen had chosen coaching by ISIS. One of them was Harry Andersson.
She had already received information on the three cops that she had been “given”. On Harry she read: “Inspector, The Criminal Investigation Unit, social security number 660526-1715, married, 2 children, Stockholm”.  Isabella deducted that Harry was born not so far from where she was born. “I wonder where.”

Enter Harry! Mr Andersson was a mid-tall, mid-thin and mid-grey man. At first glance no one would detect him in a crowd, but when he started to speak he gained the room back by his empathic, open attitude. A more perfect police officer than could be expected really. And he had chosen coaching to develop himself too! Isabella felt happy to meet him at once. This session might be even more interesting than usual. Harry Andersson curiously checked out the practice, the availability of coffee and Isabella and finally he relaxed and became coachable. First they talked a while on the long term goals Harry was expecting from his coaching relationship with Isabella and Harry had a vague feeling that he wanted to become clearer in his relations at work and to get more focus into his daily life in order to be more efficient at what he does. He had recently been put into a new role as an inspector investigating fairly complicated cases and even murder and he had not yet passed the rookie state in the unit according to himself. “The others don’t see this of course, but I know.” Isabella replied that this was a process well worth investigating and a process known in other professions too. “What areas are we talking about here?” she said. Harry hesitated a second, reflecting on the question. “I think there are three…hm…first the balance thing between work and home, then the work relations that I need to define and finally there is finding a method, a focus,  a way to really get results in my investigations as it seems committing crimes are getting into fashion 2010.” Isabella stopped breathing for a second. As the deal with the Police only covered six coaching sessions they really had much work ahead with three areas any of which would take six. As a journalist she knew to take the most important stuff first. “What area do you think is the most urgent one?” “Well all of them are, really. And I feel that they cannot easily be divided either. That is perhaps also a problem.” “OK Harry, do you think we could start by you just telling me about yourself right now and then we take it from there – can that be the plan for today?” “Yes, we can do that.” “So what can we agree on to achieve today? What would you be OK with after this first session?” “A bit hard to say….perhaps that I feel that we have started to pin down my situation and that I know where I am.” “So if we have defined a number of issues to resolve today that would be OK?” “Yes that would be fine.” “How many issues are we talking about then – three?” “I think there should be more, perhaps five.” Isabella and Harry agreed on pinning down five issues today they should try to resolve during their coaching relationship. “Alright Harry, tell me about the life of Harry!” Harry smiled and started to tell Isabella about work, his present family and his former family, his twin boys who were 9 now “and blonde as wheat”, his trouble getting the hang of the unit and how his family was getting a bit tired of him staying late at work and still arriving home with more.”Amazing how thing can get complicated and it seemed like I became someone else in only a few weeks after starting on this job. Just like my two twin boys look almost exactly the same but they are two completely different people. And still they both exist in the same family and have the same genes! I may have become my own evil twin!” “And your “former family” – how come that didn’t last?” “The same old story. One of us began to study and found new interests and a new angle to life. The other stayed the same and wondered what happened. Hundred years ago the “until death do you part” was true. You actually did not live long enough to get tired of each other. Today we have room for at least two lives! I am not at all sure that this is a good thing.” Harry went quiet for a while and Isabella saw a little sorrow spreading in his face. She quickly got them back on track again “So how does the evil twin work for you?” “Actually he doesn’t. Neither at work nor at home. I want to get rid of him.” “How do you feel about him?” “I hate him!” “Good. Hate is a splendid motivator.“ Harry laughed. “Hate, money, love – all the classic murder motives eh?” “I suppose so.” Isabella worked hard to meet the goal for today’s session but towards the end it was clear that five issues was not to be pinned down today. Isabella said “Where do you feel we are right now Harry?” Harry of course realized too that the original objective still eluded them. “We haven’t pinned down the five issues yet!” “So what do you think about them right now?” “Perhaps I need to first figure out who I am right now before going on to think about where I am…” “Is that something you will take with you from this session and something we can start with at our next?” “Yes, I think so.” After finishing the session by agreeing on a new session and letting Harry off the hook this time Isabella reflected on the session. The “several lives during one life” was interesting, but she also thought that you actually also lived several lives every day in your different roles. Isabella was a coach, a journalist, a mother, a daughter, a woman, sometimes a little girl, a human being and a part of the fabric of the earth. She smiled to herself seeing how “Next Age” that thought was. She har heard about “Next Age” the other day as the successor of “New Age”. It was funny in a way.  The latest flu was officially named “The New Flu” in Sweden. Perhaps the next one will be “The Next Flu”? And then what? Naming is hard….but Isabella clearly saw one thing from the session with Harry – You don’t only live once or even twice! There is more….for good or bad….

You Only Live Twice

March 3 – The Die is Cast in Iron Square! Story by Coaching Detective

Isabella was in the “office” early. She wasn’t happy with calling it an office so she had many thoughts on calling the place many different things. “Studio” was one, “atelier” was another. Neither of them was perfect. She tried “practice” and “clinic” too but none of them covered the fact that the coaching relationship as she saw it was a combination of informality, intimacy and privacy. The idea was to have an “at home” feeling – both for the client and the coach. Isabella decided to call it “My Place”. She could then simply say “I have a place in the Old Town, we can meet there!” And the clients could feel like they were invited to the “home of ISIS”. When you feel comfortable at your coach you can free your mind from your daily struggles and start to see ahead and what you and your coach can accomplish together. Isabella was making the efforts necessary to make her first ISIS client for the day at ease. She made coffee, bought some milk and cookies and some oranges to put in a bowl. And to top it she had bought a bouquet of fresh flowers. All was set.

She remembered that her son had found two toy animals on the sidewalk when they were walking to school that morning, a dinosaur and a tiger. “I wonder if my new client is a tiger or a dinosaur.” She smiled at herself for even thinking this. One lady had seen her carrying them on her way to the Old Town and Isabella had defended herself saying “Oh, they are not mine!” The lady had replied “It would have been more fun if they had been yours!” Isabella realized that the lady had been right. We should allow ourselves to play much more. Isabella had been so good at that before, but the divorce had drained her playfulness for a while. Today was a brilliant day for getting herself back!
There was a little noise coming from the waiting room so she went to greet Camilla, her new client, arriving perfectly on time. Camilla was a woman in her forties, informally dressed in jeans and a blue leather jacket. Isabella offered her a cup of coffee or tea and she chose tea. Her choice of tea was vanilla flavoured and that seemed to suit her. While Isabella was doing her best to make Camilla comfortable to start off their coaching session in a good way another person in a small flat in another part of town was making an effort to appear as normal as possible and to blend in perfectly. To be seen regularly at normal hours was the ideal way of not being seen at all.
Back in the Old Town the coaching had started. Isabella told Camilla everything about the absolute confidentiality, the ethics surrounding coaching and everything she would need to know to feel safe with Isabella. “So what do you want to be coached on?” Camilla hesitated for a second. And then another. Then she said “I am not satisfied with my marriage.” Isabella lost her breath for a moment and thought “I get the clients I deserve.” Isabella asked Camilla “What is it really about?” A classic coaching question. “It’s about infidelities and different sex and freedom needs. And the infidelity is also with a man!” Isabella’s mind was working over-time. “So Camilla’s husband had betrayed her with a man? And the reason being his higher sex drive and need for freedom? That would surely be a hard issue to resolve. “OK Camilla, what do you want us to focus on today?” Camilla replied that she would like to find a way to repair the relationship.”What does your husband feel?” “Not husband – wife!” Isabella suddenly realized that her image of the problem was totally off target. Camilla had a wife – not a husband. Isabella wondered if the rest was wrong too and began to ask some more questions to remove the uncertainty. “Is it she or you who has been deceitful?” Camilla responded slowly “It is me. I seem not to be able to keep to one person or even keep to one sex.” Isabella learnt the hard way that everything might not be as it seems at first glance but totally different. In this case it was clear that Camilla was nothing but “vanilla”. Isabella wondered if it was even more to this than has met the eye yet but hesitated a second before continuing. This was a complexity beyond most of her coaching experience so far. But she knew that this client really needed help so she continued the session. A bit more than an hour later the session ended with Camilla making the appointment for their next session. Seems like Camilla had felt the presence and trust necessary to continue. Isabella had learnt new things too. Never take anything for granted!

just this colour! found at

March 2 – In the Beginning Was the Work…from Coaching Detective

What a new practice needs, apart from clients of course, is furniture. Nothing fancy, a couple of chairs, tables and somewhere to keep papers and administration in. And to get the furniture delivered you need to be equipped with patience in abundance. Every dealer needed at least three weeks to deliver. Isabella was astonished on the inefficiency and thought “What if entrepreneurs reasoned in this way – we would all go bankrupt within seconds!” So to survive she had to get old stuff from her basement, really saved for another day as most stuff we keep in store without ever using but for dust collection. This was an exception though. She found 4 white IKEA chairs and two tables she could use. Nowhere for paperwork yet…”I feel like an absolute beginner.” She smiled remembering the old Bowie song from the mid-eighties and what had happened when she and her then boyfriend Robert saw the film. They had both been absolute beginners, really. But that was then and she had been just 18. More than a lifetime ago or so it seemed.  Another time and another place anyway. Her mother still had some contact with Robert’s mother and said that he now lives in London and works for an oil company. Isabella could imagine herself living in London but never ever working for an oil company. Not after seeing what oil spills can do to the wildlife. “Stop!” She had to remind herself to focus on getting sorted to start receiving clients. Fortunately the furniture was pretty light and could be squeezed into two taxis so after a couple of rides she only had to decide where to put it. Carrying furniture up several stairs took some work, but work that was worth the effort. This was truly a miracle, to be able to be “a casa” as it were. Before she had to rent a room by the hour in different places in the city and there was always the risk of double booking, getting to pay for the room even if the client missed the appointment. Isabella was fortunate enough to get a fair amount of clients now and she had also a sub-contractor deal with a coaching firm that gets clients through the recently launched governmentally supported job coaching program. This program really put a new focus on coaching as a tool for progress and highlighting it as a possibility for everyone, not only executives, leaders and people with huge wallets. There was also stuff in lifestyle magazines on coaching now. Not all publicity had been good lately though. The tabloid press, represented this time by one of the two daily ones, had tried really hard to create a “scandal” of the job coaching program. Isabella guessed that the paper had mainly two reasons for their efforts – one being that this paper was not so keen on the government at hand and the other the classic trying to sell papers. Taking a closer look at these articles it was clear that the journalists could neither count nor show any facts to show that the job coaching program had failed. On the contrary statistics from the employments offices showed that it had been a success! Isabella wondered if there had not been other reasons for some people to get on a crusade against coaching and coaches. Perhaps extremely private agendas and even medical conditions. These persons would not be helped by a coach either – they would need therapy instead, and for a coach the ethical rules were clear – if a client is beyond coaching she should advice therapy. But even these negative people really helped to put coaching on the map for people. Coaching was discussed not only in the papers but everywhere: in schools, on buses and on TV. “Coaching is truly here to stay.” It was interesting times. And tomorrow she will have her first Old Town client…

The Old Town - Coach HQ in Stockholm from Coaching Detective

March 1 – The Game Can Begin at Coaching Detective

“Not only does God definitely play dice, but He sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”
Stephen Hawking

I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favour and who then asks: Am I then a cheat?

Friedrich Nietzsche

Amazing how terrible things can turn into greatness. Isabella Strand knew that this day was a new beginning for her and a chance to get a new base for her. She had been a hobby coach, beside her work as a journalist, for a couple of years after attending the coach training at an accredited school. She had recently achieved the qualifications and last Friday she got her ACC certification from the International Coach Federation. The last six months had not been easy for her as she and her husband just separated and all the paperwork was done just recently. As Isabella and her now ex husband Marcus also had a child and a cottage there was some angry words shared during the process but all in all the divorce was fairly civilized. Much of the reason for the divorce was that Isabella for many years felt she tried failingly to reach out to Marcus to make him open up and also trying to make him take a more active role in their marriage and more responsibility for their son. After six years of trying she gave up and told Marcus that she wanted a divorce. Marcus, as a standard introvert man, was totally shocked and had not realized until it was too late that something was wrong at all. Isabella once ironically said “I should have written it in your Outlook Calendar.” Her son David, who was now 8, was to be every other week at his father’s new apartment pretty close to hers in Södermalm at the centre of Stockholm.  The cottage was pretty well located and fetched a fair price which Isabella and Marcus split evenly between them. So the divorce actually gave her an opportunity – some cash to invest in a coaching practice. She had never really appreciated the countryside anyway. Too much fishing and too many mosquitoes.
Old Town in Stockholm - Place for Coaching Detective

Today, after leaving David at school, she would sign the contract for the new practice. By some odd fluke she had come across an ad for a small place located beautifully in the oldest part of Stockholm. The Old Town was truly a picturesque place to run a business in and such a perfect location for coaching. Every building here had been used for so many things over the years and there were even medieval buildings close by. Change was written in stone here at the same time as you could say that you always bring history with you. Isabella was so happy that this chance had appeared on her horizon and grateful that she could take it too. What she didn’t know was that the next few months would be more surprising to her than she could ever imagine and that events would develop in unexpected ways and directions. But today everything was all well.

A few hours later she stood outside her new business “home” waiting for her landlord to arrive. It was a grey day but her sun was shining from within so it didn’t matter. Finally a blond lady appeared on the stairs and said “Hi, you must be Isabella! I am Anna.” And sure enough she was right on both. Isabella thought that Anna looked nice and trustworthy, not so bad for a landlord…
The two rooms plus a waiting room were rather small but on the other hand the rent was fair and it would not take too much furniture either to fill them. Isabella started to imagine herself here and came to the conclusion that”Yes, this will be just fine!” Anna had brought the crucial bit of paperwork in a folder and it was time to fill in the necessary stuff. “Isabella Strand Inner Search (ISIS)” was the first item to fill in at the top and since her business not yet was a limited company she had to use her social security number. She noted “680404-1744” and realized that not only could someone tell that the company was owned by a woman but also that she was born in a certain county. “Never mind!” she thought. It was obvious to anyone seeing her that she was a woman, and the county thing she usually told people after an hour of conversation anyway. No secrets at all there. “A company these days has to be transparent”. Anna informed Isabella that the former tenant had been a private investigator. “The rooms are already tuned for search!” she said. Isabella smiled and wondered who would be her first client here. Amazing synchronicity that Isabella had a “one liner” that in some weird way was connected. “Detect Yourself!” After signing all the copies and getting her own she received two sets of keys containing two keys for the practice door and one for the main door to the building. And there was a door code too. She tried to memorize it “1789”. She suddenly realized that the code was a simple one to remember – it was the same year as the French Revolution and also the same year that the house was built! “This place will surely be a revolution for me too!” she said a little too loud, making Anna jump a bit by surprise…Then Anna had to run to meet another appointment so the two created the usual separation ritual and Anna was gone…
Isabella was alone in her new empty practice but she did not feel alone at all. She felt she had just met a new friend – and it had walls and a floor! Here she could do great things – great coaching, great business and just feeling great too. Tomorrow she would scout for the right furniture but right now it was time for one word, one shout “YES!” She had finally a home away from home….
Next week she will start her new life and right now she will be busy planning all the details. Right now someone else is also planning details – but not for life but quite the opposite!

Life is a Mystery!