In my last post, I talked about my first coach—a consultant with an MBA who understood the importance of listening and of providing candid feedback.

My second coach wasn’t quite as skilled. Highly recommend by a trusted but recently acquired acquaintance, this gentleman was, to put it bluntly, what I concluded shortly after meeting him– a “kook.” He wanted me to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycles and interpret poetry with him.  That relationship lasted about one hour, and I had to rethink my trust in the peer who recommended him.

Then I reached the height of good fortune. I walked into a nonprofit agency in California that had no professional Human Resource specialist. Truth be told, back in the early 1980’s, there weren’t very many nonprofits that saw H.R. as a major force in their organizations. Necessary, but not a force for change, culture shaping, etc. When yet another H.R. crisis hit (it felt like there were at least 2 an hour), I called a friend who ran a different nonprofit and asked for help. She recommended a woman who was a former H.R. director for a major for-profit corporation.

Immediately, my doubting muscle flexed. For profit? She couldn’t possibly understand our issues. However, my friend said she had worked with the woman who had gotten her through a union threat, and there was no one she recommended more highly. And, I had no one else, so I relented.

Well. What a life changing experience this turned out to be for me. This young woman, I’ll call her Tracy, literally helped me reinvent my philosophy, my presence and my life.

Never before or since have I met anyone who could say anything to anybody and stay friends. Her ability to tell the truth in a way that was helpful was astonishing to me.

Of course, what happens in a coaching situation when the coach is good? You start to imitate the best traits and practice them in your daily encounters. When they work, you can go back to the coach and share your success.

Suffice to say, this coach helped me take an honest look at my skills and lack thereof. She was able to point out when I was coming across negatively, even when I thought I was at my most positive. Probably the most important thing she taught me was about the crucial skill of valuing people. It had just never occurred to me before—how powerful it was for the leader to stop and talk to a line staff, to know about something good that they had done and comment or to remember that their grandmother was ill and ask about her. It had never occurred to me.

What a gift. What a lady. What an impact.