To write “one true sentence” was a nugget, a commandment if you will, that I took from an American writer. I am reminded this week, watching Ken Burns’ work on country music, of the homespun poetry of songwriters who weave a story that nestles truth. Writing has always been a love of mine that, like any lover, demands my best energy and attention. This past year has allowed me time to work on two manuscripts, one on my theory and practice of leadership and another on my stories of being a priest. My love demands time and focused energy, but it’s a labor of love and soul satisfying.
But I also am enjoying spending a good bit of my time coaching. This is a new means of delivering care and help to others, assisting people in developing both professionally and personally. Coaching is often thought of as something one does for athletes in sport, but it has a more general application to coming alongside a fellow person and assisting them in doing whatever they are wanting to do. This new means and mode of helping others has my attention.
I have been coaching all my life, be it a youth soccer team, young couples preparing for marriage, or training freshly minted clergy who are beginning their careers. My work of helping people grow began formally as a psychotherapist, working with individuals who had hit a rough patch in their road, or were looking to be more intentional in their negotiation of a transition in their life. This therapeutic work with individual persons was a rich part of my life, being entrusted with the sacred stories they brought to tell me where they had been, why they are as they are, and where they want to go in their future.
Extending that work to couples when I served as Canon Pastor at the Cathedral, I enjoyed helping young couples prepare for marriage in a workshop format as well as working in couples therapy sessions. For many couples, it was after “the fall” that happens predictably as the illusion of having married the “perfect” person wear off, or having the so-called “dream” marriage break down in a variety of ways. The couple comes in seeking to repair the break and get their relationship back on track. It’s hard work, but incredibly important. I was able to do some creative work, dealing with families and the dynamics in play as they seek to be a healthy unit of care. But the individual person seeking to grow was always my favorite within the context of the intimacy of the therapeutic alliance.
I began work as a consultant early on in my time in priesthood working with congregations that were troubled. Facing the daunting reality of change in leadership at the Cathedral, I studied the discipline of change management and applied it to the specific transition happening at the largest Episcopal parish in our country. The lessons I learned through that change I later applied to my work at Christ Church, Tyler and to the change we were enacting in the Diocese of Texas. Change and transformation has been the theme that has been the consistent focus in my work, in people, in marriage, in families, in congregations, in organizations, and even in cities.
The last decade, I have worked specifically in healthcare in the work of transformation, using a turnaround model developed by Dr. Robert Miles and employed by my firm, Galloway Consulting. I have worked with CEOs and various C suite leaders to transform the work of health organizations to become more adept at delivering higher quality care in a more efficient and less costly way. This remains a most challenging work that my colleagues and I strive to make a significant contribution to our nation’s effort to do better and be more responsive to this human need of healthcare.
In this work, I have used a method called coaching, in which I come alongside a leader to assist him/her in the work and art of leadership. I had added to my expertise by training in the discipline of coaching, becoming certified by the leading organization of coaching, the International Coaching Federation. With that, I have been teaching the discipline of coaching as well as consulting with others who are training to be coaches.
The coaching I do is a bit of a hybrid model, bringing both a coach specific process that relies on the native gifts of the client to set the agenda and direction of the work, as well as bringing my specific expertise to inform that process in concert with my client. It’s a much more practical work as it assists the real life work of my client in the present moment and in his/her plans for the future. I believe in the modality of coaching as an excellent way to address the way people can develop as human beings in their personal lives as well as in their professional work.
One of the things I value about coaching is that the starting point of the work assumes that the person has all the answers within the self, needing some assistance in becoming more aware of those gifts and then deciding on how best to use them. This is the key: coaching assumes that people are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. Unlike traditional psychotherapy that has a starting point of fixing or managing pathology, coaching assists in the person’s native ability and instincts as to where he/she wants to go. The coach helps the person decide how to get there. For me, this is exciting work.
Presently, I am enjoying the variety of clients I am engaged with in coaching. I work with the CEO of a major healthcare organization in planning the effectiveness of his leadership, the evolution of his team, and his own life as a husband, father, and person.
I am working with a wide variety of clergy who are looking for ways to be faithful pastors and leaders in this most challenging of times. I do this both for individual clergy, but in a group context as well as we support and challenge one another in the context of a community. One of the gifts I am able to bring to this work is an independence from denominational structures that may have specific agenda and limiting perspectives.
I am working with a variety of non-profit leaders who are seeking to grow their organizations. As a former leader of a non-profit, the landscape of leadership is particularly challenging with the use of volunteers as major resources in the life of the organization. I have learned a lot from working with non-profit boards that must be faithful to fiduciary concerns while simultaneously desirous of being creative in their responses to the needs of their communities. The area of leadership has always been a source of energy and fascination, continuing to energize my spirit.
I am working with older professionals who are negotiating an impending retirement. How do they “end well”, setting up the next chapter in their lives for continued enjoyment and personal development. Having been in my own process of ending and new beginning, this is an exciting new piece of work for me.
I have been working with persons who are in transition from one career to another. For years, I worked with folks who had “first acts” in one career that left them “dry” and wanting more meaning. These intrepid souls dig deep, finding the courage to move into a new venture that promises to be more satisfying personally. This can be dangerous work but also exciting to assist in the birthing of a new life of passion.
Another birthing of sorts happens in my old world of working with the stories of those who are seeking to grow spiritually into a life that is prompted by the Spirit, calling one into a new way of being. I have done this for years as a spiritual director for clergy, even monks, who are wanting to grow as faithful persons, but now I am finding myself doing this with “all sorts and conditions” of folks, notably lay people who now find their life structure is providing a new found freedom to break out of the moorings that have constrained them in the past.
This work of coaching is claiming my best time and energy these days. I still write, and hope to keep doing that with a passion to meet that Hemingway challenge of writing that “one true sentence” from which all good work flows. I am sure that Ken Burns work will inspire me as he exposes the truth of country music: three chords and the truth.
If you are interested in finding a coach to help you move more intentionally into the next chapter of your life, I would be happy to help you find the right coach. Just drop me a note here or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . A good coach can be the catalyst that will propel your story into a new chapter.