Coach Interview Series: Ed McShane

by Brandon

Ed McShane

Psychotherapist and 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 Ed McShane. Ed is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach. He is the owner of A Coach For Your Heart based out of California.

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

Ed: My coaching practice came from a psychotherapeutic practice. I was a licensed LCSW in 1989. Part of what I had been doing was behavioral, as is a lot of coaching. It’s very goal oriented and involves setting out baby steps. There’s an old saying, “It’s easier to behave like you want to think than to think like you want to behave.” That’s kind of the mantra.

When someone hires me, I see them once to twice a week, and we are either on the phone or texting daily. I usually put people on a 90-day program of daily contact, and phone calls are going to last anywhere from five minutes to an hour and we set out what the goals are. Some of them are kind of “I need to change my life goals,” so we break those down. Some of them are emotional, like “I have to forgive somebody. I have to get to the point of accepting certain conditions, people, circumstances in my life.” There are the more concrete behavioral goals and then there are the more emotional or ethereal goals and they require a different approach or sometimes a different timeline.

NCA: What initially got you interested in becoming a coach and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Ed: I went Southern Illinois University, and when I was 17 I declared my major in Social Work. I wanted to give assistance and I felt that those who do social work are the ones in the trenches. I got my Master’s degree in Social Work in 1982. I became an LCSW after I had worked with Child Protective Services from ’85 to ’89 — about five years.

I felt that it would be a way to get paid for looking more deeply into the people that I was reaching through my social work career and I could provide services, I could give assistance, I could help with direction. But when it came to these people bringing themselves to the table, they have histories of abuse, alcoholism, drug use, screamingly low levels of self-esteem — and I didn’t have enough time. I thought psychotherapy would give me that time where I’d be able to reach it with different pocket of consciousness that I wasn’t able to do just as a social worker.

So combining the two — being able to serve people through guiding them toward what they could do and what services and what foundational issues they could deal with and then on top of it, deal with the therapeutic and psychological and behavioral. It made me know the distinction between coaching, which is more behavioral and directive to the psychological, to the emotional, to the presence of our spiritual nature and our cognitive nature. That gave me those two different perspectives and that’s what got me mostly to coaching.

Four times as many people who are looking for any kind of emotional support are looking at coaching first before they look at therapy. Four times. People are reaching into this and for good reason. It is worth trying. They want the answers now. They don’t want to know things about their inner child — they want to move forward. I could see the growing popularity of coaching because I think it’s more time sensitive and they can come back to it for different issues. It can be issue per issue instead of something more emotionally blanketed.

Listen. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Do not give advice. Most people know exactly what they need. You want to know how to question.

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

Ed: The most challenging always seems to be people in transition. Whether it’s teenagers, depending on the developmental level they are at and everything that goes along with that. Whether it’s Asperger’s or behavioral issues most of the time. I think it takes a special kind of individual to work behaviorally with teenagers.

The other one is relational. 3 out of 4 people who go to counseling end up in divorce court. So you keep that in the back of your head when you’re doing coaching. It’s tough. People usually come for relationship coaching as a last intervention. It kind of is a life preserver and many don’t make it. That’s a challenging one, too.

Lastly, I’m a guy. I don’t know what the statistical relationships between men and women psychotherapists are but I can tell you it’s heavily more on women. I believe it’s more on men for psychiatry. Men and women go about the emotional intervention differently. I don’t want to say it’s a shortcoming of men but I think it’s a challenge and a hurdle to overcome. Just my maleness.

A lot of guys feel that coaching isn’t too many steps away from trying to be Vince Lombardi. Not exactly your first choice in interpersonal intervention. But I think that in the back of their head, they’re trying to make the play run in your life. That can be a little tricky.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor in your career who was the most vital to your success as a coach and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Ed: I can think of about three.

The first one was a psychologist named Dr. Nancy Gamble. When I was about to get my first client, I said, “Well, what would you do? What kind of advice would you give?” And she said, “I don’t have anything to tell you. Just be kind. Just listen and be kind.” That was extraordinary.

The other one is a man named Hal Lingerman. Hal has written a few books. He is a spiritual guru and he asks, “What is the highest goal of the person that you are sitting in front of? Not your agenda, theirs. How you want to be of service to them?” Not trying to lay out a directive but trying to accept where they are and start at that stage for them.

The third person is my cousin who went through a course of miracles which is a wonderful tome and helped elevate what is possible. From her, I wasn’t looking just at what I think the next step is, but instead looking at how high somebody can truly reach. When you look at that, your perspective on not only their potential but your intervention changes significantly.

NCA: What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is at the very beginning stage of their coaching career?

Ed: Listen. Keep your ears open and your mouth shut. Do not give advice. Most people know exactly what they need. You want to know how to question. You want to be able to read the room, and if you can just listen and say “What I hear you saying is..” and parrot back to them at least some validation into where they see they are and to identify where that place is that they’re standing in, the two of you can then mark a path into the next phase of development.

You gotta know where they are. Once you do that, you can join them on the path. You can take them together into the place where they want to be. It sounds cheesy, but there’s a hell of a lot of truth to that.

The first thing that you want to do is sit in front of them. Let’s just say they’re telling you a story. Your response to their first interview should be nothing more than, “And then what happened?” and “Wow, what a co-worker.” and “No kidding! Really?” These are the things that people want to hear — that you’re interested in their story. It doesn’t take a lot. You just have to kind of put yourself in that position where you are being told a story of their life and that story is just the greatest thing that you are about to hear. If you posture yourself in that framework, you can’t go wrong.

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