To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the International Coach Federation convened chapter leaders from around the globe in Atlanta, Georgia, March 5-7, 2015. Approximately 170 chapter leaders from six continents and 56 countries came together to celebrate the history and growth of the profession, understand and align around the ICF global vision and strategic plan, and forge connection and renewal within the community. The coaches gathered represented an extremely diverse mix of all the different niches found in the profession.
It was a historic and fun meeting! It was the first time in the association’s history that all chapter leaders from around the globe were invited to gather in one space.
During the experience, I kept thinking about Thomas Leonard, who 20 years ago, made the choice to invest $50,000 in seed investment to create the ICF. Twenty years later, the seed he planted has grown into a global organization comprised of over 26,000 professional coaches in chapters located on six continents. This is a powerful example of how the seed you sow and the choices you make can leave a legacy many years in the future!
The forum provided an ideal opportunity to reflect on growth and begin to identify the new seeds of impact we want to plant and germinate for the future of both the coaching profession and the global community.
In many respects, organizations are like gardens. They often start off with a blank canvas, an idea or two, and they can take years of cultivation, time and resource investment, weeding, water, sunlight, attention, and care to become places of beauty, health, and renewal. Organizations — just like gardens — create a powerful container for growth and learning.
When I joined the ICF six years ago, my goal was to connect with like minded individuals who were pursuing this noble profession. At first, I didn’t know one other coach in the Ohio Valley. Now, I’ve met numerous colleagues and friends. I’ve matured as a coaching professional, developed my core coaching competencies, and earned valuable credentials. Along the way, the ICF’s provided me a safe space to learn and grow.
To scale for growth in the organization, ICF is nurturing regional organizations to strengthen connection between local chapters and the global organization. These regional seeds are taking hold and I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of chapter leaders from throughout the Midwest Region. This region is comprised of 13 chapters (Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Heartland, Indianapolis, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio Valley, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Wisconsin). The regional meeting allowed chapter leaders to connect and get to know one another, share best practices, and learn how we can support each other. ICF Ohio Valley is well represented in the Midwest Region leadership with Ann Huttner serving as president-elect of the region. Ann is a strong leader and is doing a super job in this role!
I met some wonderful coaches from the Midwest chapters who are each doing their part to help humanity flourish. One such coach is Sharol Tyra, my new friend and president of ICF Minnesota. Sharol and I talked about the type of coaching we do. Sharol is a nurse turned professional coach and she is a wonderful ambassador of the profession. I learned she is planning to travel through Kentucky later this year and I was able to share some tips on potential places to visit during her trip.
I share this bit of my conversation with you because these 1:1 conversations were what I found to be the most valuable aspect of the global forum. Powerful conversations are what we facilitate as coaches with our clients. Conversations can be a catalyst for learning, change, and growth. I really enjoyed being able to meet, learn, and share with coaches from so many different places from all over the globe!
Overall, the forum was a valuable use of time and I was humbled to represent ICF Ohio Valley and wanted to share with you the key themes and insights from my perspective.
Key themes and insights
1. Community — the glue that binds us together. Matt Varney, ICF director of chapter development, spoke to attendees about the power of our community. Being part of a connected community of professional coaches with high standards and ethics matters to us and our clients. For many coaches, it’s the community that binds us together and renews us. This connection is so important as we are part of a profession that is still in its infancy. Through the community, we can ask ourselves some powerful and reflective questions about our future: What if? What’s next? What’s possible? What’s happening here?
2. Legacy: My favorite talk from this forum was given by Fields Wicker-Miurin. You also can watch a TED talk she gave here. Fields asked us a very powerful question: What kind of ancestor do we want to be? This question creates a space for reflection and consideration. Fields further suggested the following leadership qualities for the future: 1. Self knowledge, 2. Vulnerability – I am open for you, 3. Courage, passion, and resilience, 4. Giving meaning and purpose, 5. Humility – it’s not about me, 6. Be the bridge – and cross it. As coaches working in the Ohio Valley, we operate in communities that are going through transformative change in the attitudes and behaviors of the people and organizations we serve. It takes courage, passion, and resilience to approach our work each day. Fields encouraged us to practice “unzipping” — the act of being vulnerable. Her talk was chock full of rich insights: “You are not your ego.” “Humility is about knowing your voice is not the only voice.” “Leaders are the reference point in their organization/community.” “Refuel in flight. Leadership is about being there for people when they need you most.” For personal reflection: What kind of ancestor do you want to be?
3. Power of Why: We heard from Peter Docker, an associate of Simon Sinek. Sinek is the author of “Start With Why” and “Leaders Eat Last.” Sinek’s TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third most watched video on TED.com. This message was simple and profound. People don’t buy What you do, they buy Why you do it. Too often leaders focus their activities on the What and the How and spend little if any time focused on the Why. My favorite insight from Peter’s talk: “Leadership is about creating simplicity.” For personal reflection: What’s your Why?
Break-out sessions and panels were focused on best practices and the necessary brass tacks of growing the chapter, serving our members, facilitating exceptional programs, building community, and building partnerships in the communities we serve.
We have big opportunities in Ohio Valley and I hope you’ll make the choice to renew your membership and reflect on how you can best participate in the chapter and help advance the coaching profession in the Ohio Valley.
Thank you for being a member of ICF Ohio Valley and taking the time to read this summary of this exceptional experience!
With all my best,
Chris Padgett, PCC