Coach Interview Series: ArLyne Diamond

by Brandon

ArLyne Diamond

Founder, Diamond Associates

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing ArLyne Diamond. ArLyne is a Leadership, Management, Professional Development, and Organizational Development (O-D) consultant specializing in people and processes in the workplace. She is based in Santa Clara, California.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

ArLyne: In a word, insane. [laughing]

I do a combination of things. I consult, I coach, I train. I do a lot of writing. I do a lot of webinars. It’s a combination of many different things. My background is psychology. I have an extensive business background, then I became a psychologist. Then I owned my own business and I now I’m just a one-man band. I combine a lot of background into anything that you think of surrounding the soft skills — coaching, training, consulting, etc.

NCA: What are some of the most common challenges that your clients face?

ArLyne: We’re dealing in an era where people are working with people they don’t know. They don’t know them primarily because they’re from different cultures and they don’t have the same kind of social cues that they grew up with. The small town no longer exists in the business world. Because so many people are working from remote locations, they don’t get to see them face to face.

Consequently, there is very little in the way of the honey that makes things go round so much more smoothly. They don’t have friendships with each other. They don’t have social contact with each other. There’s no extra incentive to get things done on time to do the job well. I call it the honey — the extra incentives that make them want to do a little bit better. I think it’s a huge problem.

I’m in Silicon Valley, so this is more true here than probably any place else in the world. We have promoted people into management that are technical people. They are scientists, mathematicians, coders, etc., and they have no people skills. Therefore, they don’t have good management skills which makes for discomfort all around. Those are the primary problems.

NCA: You mention that you have a business and psychology background. Can you talk a little bit about what initially got you interested in coaching specifically?

ArLyne: Helping people is something I’ve been doing all my life in one form or another. I helped them as a therapist for 20 years. During that period of time, a lot of people were bringing me their workplace issues.

When I left the field of psychology, I had the opportunity, partially because I was geographically located in the heart of Silicon Valley right where the semiconductor industry was. So I had Intel and National Semiconductor and all of those companies as clients. But it just was an easy transfer to go from doing therapy into doing growth, which is really what you’re doing when you’re working with people in the workplace.

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

ArLyne: The most challenging is to know that a person needs help and that person doesn’t want help with things they need. And that’s true with a lot of people here in Silicon Valley. There are total know-it-alls — especially the highly technical people. I’ve done some work with IT departments that I deserve a medal for

I was brought in by the CEO of a boutique semiconductor company to work with his executive staff. The first day that I was at the executive staff meeting, the chief engineer put a formula on the whiteboard. I looked at him and I said, “Alright, you win. So what does this really got to do with why I’m here?” And he looked at me strangely and he said, “Well, how can you help us if you don’t understand this?” And I said, “That’s not why I’m here to help you.”

He later became one of my strongest allies in that company. I consulted with that company for many years until they basically sold the company and the CEO retired. But it’s like, “How can you help us if you don’t understand our specific company?” And of course, I’m not working with their product or service. I’m working with them. That’s the challenge.

I can’t say that the most rewarding just comes specifically from coaching. But there’s one situation that comes to mind and I’m still in touch with the woman, which is really lovely. I started coaching a woman who at the time that we started was in a low to medium management position in a very large company. I worked with her weekly and got her promoted over time. I got her promoted to a director and then eventually to a vice president of this company. That wasn’t the most rewarding part.

The most rewarding part was after she left that company, she went and got a doctorate in psychology. And I felt like a mother. [laughing] She has thanked me many times over. I was certainly not the only influence, but a partial influence for making that decision. I hear from her from time to time and she’s very happy with what she’s doing.

When you see somebody grow and make progress because of something you’ve helped them discover — that’s why we do what we do.

Recognize that it’s not about you. It’s about the other person in the room and that your job is to be sensitive to where they’re coming from and to find ways to reach them as opposed to going the script.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach that you’ve had in your own life who was the most vital to your success as a coach?

ArLyne: I grew up in the Bronx. We lived in a high-rise apartment building but we had a private entrance. There was just our apartment and the next-door apartment.

At one point when I was in my early teens, the next-door apartment was rented to two women who had a boutique dress shop. Madeline was one of them. I was friendly with both but Madeline in particular. I can’t even begin to tell you how much she taught me.

She taught me that it was okay to be a strong woman, although I got that from my mother and my father as well. That it was okay to walk into a restaurant alone as a woman without having to have a man on your sleeve. [laughing] That there are certain dresses that look better without a bra than with a bra. She taught me how to be a sophisticated but warm, not snobby but nice woman. She taught me all the tricks of the trade, as it were.

She took me down to Washington D.C. and to the Lincoln Memorial at sunset (and if you’ve never seen Lincoln Memorial at sunset you don’t know what you’re missing). She just took me out of the Bronx, in a way. She was just a wonderful, wonderful role model in my life. The promise that I made to myself about paying her back was to mentor other people, and I have through the years. In particular, my two nieces, but other young women and guys as well, that I have mentored.

I think of mentoring as something very different from coaching. The difference is that in mentoring somebody, it’s not in one area. It’s all over the place. It’s helping them in whatever ways they need help at any given point in time. It’s more of how we become who we are other than our past. The mentoring relationship is such an intimate one.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is just starting in their coaching career?

ArLyne: If they have not received formal training, I would strongly recommend that they go into a training program where they have lots of opportunities to practice, lots of role-playing, and they’re under supervision with people who will help them.

The other answer is to recognize that it’s not about you. It’s about the other person in the room and that your job is to be sensitive to where they’re coming from and to find ways to reach them as opposed to going the script.

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