Coach Interview Series: Dr. Colleen Georges

by Brandon

Dr. Colleen Georges

Certified Life Coach

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 Dr. Colleen Georges. Colleen is a Certified Life Coach, Certified Career Coach, Certified Positive Psychology Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Organizational Trainer based in Piscataway, New Jersey.

She is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book RESCRIPT the Story You’re Telling Yourself: The Eight Practices to Quiet Your Inner Antagonist, Amplify Your Inner Advocate, & Author a Limitless Life.

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

Colleen: In my practice, I do life coaching and career coaching. I usually work with adults. I joke and say anyone 18 to 80. [laughing] The large majority of my clients are probably in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, so it’s a pretty wide range.

I’ve had my business for 12 years now. When I first started out, the bulk of the work that I did was predominantly career coaching. Over the years, I would say that half of my clients are strictly career-related coaching and the other half are life coaching.

With life coaching, career is usually a part of what we’re working on. We work on relationships as well as personal goals to get them feeling less stuck, more motivated, more passionate, and re-inspired towards their goals.

While working towards goals with my clients, the underlying basis for all of the work that I do is centered around self-talk and the conversation we have with ourselves and about ourselves.

NCA: You mentioned that you were more focused on careers earlier on but now you are also seeing clients about relationship challenges they’re facing. Was it a conscious shift that you made in your own business to see more clients or did it just organically happened?

Colleen: A little bit of both. When I started out my business, I was still working full time at Rutgers University. I worked there for 7 years full time and prior to that, I was there in school and also working part time while I was in graduate school. I teach part-time at Rutgers now, too. I tell my students I’ve been at Rutgers for 27 years. [laughing]

When the business began, I was working with college students on career counseling, academic advising, personal counseling — a little bit of everything. But career was a big focus. I ended up working on resumes with students all the time and I really loved writing resumes.

I started my business in 2008 largely as a resume-writing business. I found out very quickly — within the first few months — that my resume clients wanted more coaching on interviews and job search strategies and some of them were considering re-careering. Some of my clients were college students who were just graduating and still trying to figure out what they wanted to do.

In my informal conversations related to resumes, it ended up sort of being career coaching. So I quickly started doing career coaching. As I was working with people, other aspects of their lives would end up in the conversation. People would start to talk about their relationships or talk about other things they wanted to work on in their lives and personal goals. In truth, I started to miss talking about the other things that weren’t career-related.

While career is probably one of my biggest core passions in the work that I do, I missed not being able to branch into other areas. Since my background is in counseling and I worked at a nonprofit in the evenings for women, I did have a background in talking about all of these other areas with students. I was used to being able to sprinkle into various areas of a person’s life.

Within the 2nd or 3rd year of the business, I said, “You know what? I’m going to add it. I’ll do life coaching too. I have a background in it. I miss it and I might as well. It’s coming up in my conversations with clients.” It was both organic and choice.

That’s the hardest thing for me: having two sessions with someone in a tough place and I know that we’d have gotten there if they had just stuck it out.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that process and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Colleen: The most rewarding is two things: One, when you get to see your clients make those steps towards their goals and start to feel better about themselves. A lot of times when you begin working with people, they’re feeling pretty stuck and frustrated and some are feeling down. Getting to see those moments where a client begins to feel that confidence and feel like they are capable, when they’re able to see their strengths and achieve smaller goals towards their bigger goals — that’s really, really cool.

It’s when someone sets a big goal for themselves and you’re coaching them through the process. Getting to see them make the big move that they were really terrified that they couldn’t make is super cool.

Underlying that is when you begin to see that they are shifting the conversation — the way that they speak to themselves. You’re starting to hear them talk about, “I tried what you said.” It’s really cool when someone says, “What you said last week really stuck with me and I tried it. And I can’t believe it, it worked!”

Even with little things in the workplace. I also do executive coaching so I partner with businesses. A lot of times I’m helping people navigate relationships and conflicts with their colleagues. I go into workplaces and work with groups that are struggling and having conflicts with one another. I do presentations on staff development. Just yesterday morning, that’s what I was doing.

It’s so cool when someone tells you, “I tried this and it worked and I feel so much better now.” Or, “I feel so much more in control.” Or, “I realized that I can feel okay at work every day and I don’t have to allow this person or this situation to ruin my whole day.” It’s just really cool when you get to see people take back control of their minds and their behaviors.

For me, the most common challenge — and this is something that I’ve had to work on — is when clients struggle quite a bit, and before they are able to really ground themselves in making progress, they disappear. That’s the hardest thing for me: having two sessions with someone in a tough place and I know that we’d have gotten there if they had just stuck it out.

Another challenge occurs when I assign “homework.” Sometimes I just call it “actions” for people who didn’t like school and don’t like the word “homework.” In between sessions, you’re asking your clients to work on things and usually, you start out with some small shifts and some small behavioral changes to get the person acquainted with the experience of success.

But everybody’s lives are different. Some people, maybe because they have so much going on, find it very difficult to begin to take those steps and those actions. In other cases, it might be because the person is in a difficult emotional and mental place and that’s what makes it really difficult to make those changes.

When I’m speaking with a client and I’m all excited to talk about, “How did it go with the homework?” or, “Tell me about those actions you took this week.” And they go, “Oh, I didn’t do it.” Those are usually the clients who complete less than three sessions before it ends.

If we’re not working on those things in between sessions, I feel like those conversations we have are just conversations. They’re not turning into anything. They’re not turning into action or change. Of course, that’s going to be discouraging.

That’s the hardest part for me. Realizing that you can’t make anybody do something. Just because you see the value in it and you know the person is capable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that person is always going to put that stuff into action. And while that’s less of the time, it still can be a tough thing.

Really think about your own life experiences, the struggles that you’ve overcome in your own life. What has been the catalyst for overcoming those struggles? How did you do that and how does that influence your approach and who you most want to be working with?

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach that you’ve had in your own career who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this individual help you thrive in your career?

Colleen: My coach right now. [laughing] Her name is Linda Joy. I started working with her in October of 2018. It was initially because I was working on a book and she’s a publisher. I had written chapters in some of her self-help anthologies in the past. She’s a visibility strategist but she’s also just a coach.

I wanted to work with her because I knew that she was really great at helping prepare for book launches. I started working with her with that particular goal in mind. But much like my own experiences in working with people, sometimes one purpose evolves into other things. And now she’s my coach.

There are so many ways that she’s such a value and a blessing in my life. I find she grounds me in different ways. One of those ways is helping me not be so hard on myself, to not overdo it, to not feel like I need to take on everything and everyone, and to not do too much to the point of overwhelm.

She also helps me strategize. “What do I really want? What do I really love to do the most? What do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of in my business? Who do I most love working with? Where do I see things going?” And finally she helps me strategize about how to get there.

In times where I felt burnt out, she’s been so helpful to me. In the spring semester, I taught 6 classes. I probably had 20-something clients and I was also launching a book. By the end of my semester, I was exhausted and kind of felt helper’s fatigue. It was so great to have her there to validate that experience and not feel so awful about it because helpers don’t feel great when they say, “I don’t want to help right now.” [laughing] It’s not a good feeling when you doubt yourself.

She helped me learn how to care for myself while simultaneously caring for my clients and feel okay with the fact that it was alright that I needed to step back from some things for a little bit and recharge myself. She helped me give myself that permission over the summer, which made a massive difference.

I have had a coach in the past, too, and I’m grateful that I’ve maintained it. It’s a monthly check-in. It was weekly, then it was every other week, and now we talk monthly.

I think we all can use someone who is not necessarily biased in your decision making and your actions don’t impact them, per se. Someone in your life that’s an unbiased party that can just help ground you and help you remember why you do what you do and what you really want.

NCA: Finally, what advice would you give someone looking to get started in the career path that you chose?

Colleen: This is something that I learned from one of my other coaches, Joy Balma, a few years back. One of the biggest things she taught me was when it comes to who we most enjoy working with, there is often a connection to our own experiences and our own story. Those aren’t necessarily the only clients you can work with, but it often helps you determine who the good fit is. Those who share characteristics of your own personality or your own story or your own experience. She would call it your ideal client.

That’s something that I would really advise any new coach to think about. There’s a lot of things you want to think about in terms of training and transferable experience and getting mentors and how you bring previous experience and training to the table to come up with your approach and things like that. But it’s so important to think about “Who do I really want to work with? What issues really matter to me as I’m thinking about what my approach is going to be and how I’m going to be working with people?” Those things are so critical.

For instance, the self-talk thread of what I do and how that really guides my process and guides how I work with people. It’s completely about my own experience having panic attacks and anxiety when I was in my early 20s and how that was something that I had to completely change. How I talk to myself and how I talked about myself. Was I talking myself into catastrophe? Or was I giving myself hope and possibility and motivating myself?

That’s something that she helped really solidify for me. That would be something that I would tell anyone — really think about your own life experiences, the struggles that you’ve overcome in your own life. What has been the catalyst for overcoming those struggles? How did you do that and how does that influence your approach and who you most want to be working with?

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