Over a century ago, a social activist in the United States named Lily Hardy Hammond wrote: “You don’t pay love back; you pay it forward.”
Reflect on the teachers, mentors, family, friends, colleagues who’ve loved you and helped you on your coaching journey. When I do, I see the faces and hear the voices of people who believed in me even when I was unsure of myself.
What inspired you to become a coach? When I ask coaches “why?,” I hear about their desire to be of service and to become their own best selves – to be lifelong learners. When we pay it forward, we put the ideals of both doing good and being our best into practice.
Last year, I had the opportunity to pay it forward – to work towards a better future – by serving as a pro-bono coach to a UNICEF education executive through the ICF Foundation’s Ignite Initiative. An agency of the United Nations, UNICEF works in 190 countries to help governments improve the health and education of children and their mothers.
Assigned to a new post in a different part of the world, my client forged her goals and experimented with new leadership practices. We worked together for six months, meeting 10 times via video. How did my client change through the coaching engagement? In our final meeting, she said: “Now I feel clear on who I am as a leader; I am more confident” and “I unearthed and articulated issues that were important to address and found ways to do it.”
What did I gain from working pro-bono with UNICEF executive? The joy of challenging and supporting someone to be the leader she wants to be. The insights from working with a person employed by a complex, global, social sector organization. And, as I hold my 2 ½ year old grandson in mind, the hope that my service will indirectly benefit a child somewhere in the world.
The generous heart of coaching is making a difference. How can we pay it forward? Consider these ideas:
- Provide discounted coaching services to non-profit organizations.
- Offer pro-bono coaching on an ongoing basis to a certain percentage of your clientele.
- Partner with other coaches in your area to launch a local ICF Ignite Chapter.
- Highlight your support for non-profits and people who are making a difference in the world via your website.
- Recognize coaches who volunteer their time.
Another step we can take is to encourage coach certification programs to get involved and to celebrate those who already are. One superb example is The Hudson Institute of Coaching, where paying it forward is engrained in the culture. Led by CEO Pam McLean, author of Self as Coach, Self as Leader, Hudson has long organized opportunities for Hudson coaches to make a difference – providing volunteer services worth millions of dollars to leaders in non-profits around the world.
At their 2019 learning conference, with the theme “Together, we change lives,” McLean announced Hudson’s latest initiative and invited the community to offer pro-bono coaching and donate cash to Direct Relief, a humanitarian organization operating in all 50 United States and 80 other countries. Why does the Hudson Institute encourage coaches to get involved? McLean told me recently, “We are living in a diverse world with a multitude of complex challenges. It makes the work of extending a hand even more important.”
When we pay it forward we honor yesterday and those who nurtured us, we connect with those we serve today, and we lift up the best in all of us that is possible for tomorrow.