Second Acts: Becoming a Certified Coach

Susan Marc Lawley, Ph.D. Blog 3 min


It’s not unusual for athletes to move into coaching once their playing days are over, so why can’t business leaders follow the same path?

Just like Barry Trotz turned a solid, junior hockey career into more than 25 years behind the bench in the professional ranks—highlighted by leading the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup in June—knowledgeable, motivational and empathetic leaders can transition into the coaching ranks, too. But it looks quite a bit different. Just ask Chantal Weinhold.

While the career trajectory can be the same, the coaching styles are not. Sports coaches are often autocratic in calling the plays and setting up the systems that their players execute. They operate from a place of defining, deciding and telling.

Executive coaches, however, use the polar opposite playbook, and come from a place of curiosity and inquiry and appreciation.

Instead of barking out orders, coaches in the workplace ask provocative questions that encourage dialogue, draw out further information and catalyze discovery rather than providing answers.

After 37 years as a healthcare administrator in New York, the last 4 where she oversaw six regional hospitals, Chantal was engaged in succession planning that moved young leaders into more senior roles. She was also coaching incumbents to help them boost their performance but planned to retire in two years. 

But with her mentoring skills on full display, Chantal was encouraged by senior management to get her International Coaching Federation certificate. And instead of retiring, she embarked on a second career as a coach. (ICF is a non-profit organization dedicated to professional coaching with more than 30,000 members in 140 countries.)

“I received management’s support because I would then be more effective in helping with the day-to-day strategic development of our new leaders,” Chantal said. “It created an ‘aha’ moment for my leadership as they realized I would be able to help with  succession planning as well as play a very active and hands-on role as a dedicated, internal executive coach. All of a sudden it opened up an opportunity that wasn’t even on my radar. It was the perfect natural progression for me.”

Chantal took her “Coach the Coach” certification with Lee Hecht Harrison in Philadelphia and found it rewarding not only because she developed new skills but she recrafted old ones that she had picked up previously. The training, however, was more challenging than she thought it was going to be.

“As a coach, you need to be able to let go of yourself and what you know and lead the coachee on a path of self-discovery. At first, I struggled to move away from providing solutions to the problem rather than understanding where the individual was and helping him or her to determine their best next step,” Chantal said.

Chantal believes the best part about being a coach is helping aspiring leaders reach their potential.

“I’ve received feedback on how I have helped people to change their perspectives, feel more grounded and comfortable with where they are going and hold a higher level of professionalism. That’s very rewarding.”

If moving into a second career wasn’t surprising enough, Chantal found her inner entrepreneur along the way and has since opened up her own coaching practice.

“Being a coach and running my own business is a rewarding experience and a natural progression for me,” she said. “It’s provided the flexibility to balance my work and life goals and be in the driver’s seat of where I take my career from here. This has been an incredible and unique opportunity that I never thought of and a great segue that worked for both me and my employer.”

Interested in becoming an ICF-certified coach?

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