Coach Interview Series: Kay Sterner

by Brandon

Kay Sterner

Personal Development 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 Kay Sterner. Kay is an accredited personal development coach based in Seattle, WA.

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

Kay: I’m a personal development coach who supports professionals who want to create deeper purpose in their work and life. Currently I’m a one-woman shop with loads of support from my husband, son, two cats, and small dog. I’m definitely interested in more collaboration as my business grows and I think it would be fun to partner with a fellow coach who complements what I do. My clients are typically professionals at all stages of the game. I’m not a traditional career coach in the sense that I give people personality tests and help them with their resume, though I can do that.

Our work together usually starts with a focus on career and always, always filters into other aspects of their life. I help people identify their soul’s yearnings, their strengths, and what gives them fulfillment and leverage that in the more practical sphere of their working life. I’ve had clients stay at their job and fully commit to a creative side practice, move states to find workplaces that values their work, figure out their bottom line when it comes to how much they will let their work encroach on their family life, and successfully pitch a mindfulness program at work they thought required a PhD to even be considered.

NCA: What initially got you interested in this career path and what kind of degree or certifications did you need to complete, if any?

Kay: I found my way to this career path through being coached. I was really stuck and unhappy in my work, and the experience of being coached by a skilled practitioner changed my life in ways other approaches hadn’t worked. I appreciated how coaching could be so creative and that my coach trusted me to know what was right for me moving forward. In a culture where we are taught that we aren’t enough by parents, teachers, marketers, approaching my life and career from the perspective that I was creative, resourceful, and whole blew my mind (in the best way). I was inspired to share the love, especially in the realm of work where people can feel really mired down by external forces!

I chose an ICF-approved coaching program in Seattle called SeattleCoach for my training, which is led by master coach Patricia Burgin. I was certified after completing the 9-month program, and I completed my ACC 3 years later. I didn’t have to get certified or accredited to do this work, but I think it is important to be ethically bound to a group of people who are working to continually set the bar higher in the field. I also have a BA in Sociology and an MA in Comparative Religion — as you can see, I’m interested in what people do individually and when they organize.

It comes down to seeing myself as a worthy co-creator on this planet who has the license and agency to make changes. I’m not just a cog in society’s machine of expectations. I can affect the direction life takes!

NCA: What is the most rewarding part of your career?

Kay: I love it when the client and I are in a flow state together and they gain insight that allows them to gently begin they changes they are seeking.

NCA: What is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Kay: Hands down, the marketing. I’m an INFP, for those of you who are familiar with Meyers Briggs, and the last thing I want to do is toot my own horn in public on purpose. Ha! I also want to stand out from the crowd who offer their clients big and quick fixes. I have to ask myself how I can compete with someone who is promising a six figure bump in income in six months.

The answer usually comes in the form of staying really true to the value that I do offer. One of the common approaches in marketing is to sell to people’s pain points. Coming from the perspective that people are creative, resourceful, and whole, this really challenges me.

NCA: Can you think of one client or mentor who challenged your beliefs or made you rethink the way you approach your clients or your work?

Kay: The first woman who coached me opened my eyes to a whole new way of being in the world. It’s hard to articulate what she helped me see, but I’ll try. It comes down to seeing myself as a worthy co-creator on this planet who has the license and agency to make changes. I’m not just a cog in society’s machine of expectations. I can affect the direction life takes!

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

Kay: Always act from integrity. Be patient. Be wary of anyone or any program that offers you quick fixes or changes; slow and steady wins this race. Be prepared to question all of your assumptions. Be open to doing other work while you are building your business. Learn the foundations of marketing and be critical about which aspects you employ. If you client is pushing your buttons, do your own work. Remember you aren’t there to fix anyone. Choose silence over more chatter during a coaching session. Silence can be very fruitful.

Finally, here’s a great quote by Mother Theresa I remind myself of all the time: “we serve life not because it is broken but because it is holy.”

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