A sleeping bag and a sense of purpose and possibility

A sleeping bag and a sense of purpose and possibility

Reflecting on twenty-years of Coaching

Twenty years ago I was sleeping on a bare mattress in a sleeping bag, renting a small room in an old house in Miramar. I was a backpacker in New Zealand with a vague plan to travel. However, that changed after hearing about this thing called ‘Coaching’, which sparked an epiphany; ‘That feels right!’ (Admittedly, there’s a longer story here involving an army assault course, a claustrophobic underground crawl-tunnel and a minor rebellion, but I’ll save that for another time.)

By Christmas 2003, I’d spent all my savings on a brain-based coach training course and had only $20 left in the bank. Whilst I lacked resources, what I did have was a growing sense of purpose and an obsession to pursue it.

A logo soon emerged and Elevate was born. Then came my website, then my first client and the rest – 800+ people coached, 1000+ people trained and over 80 client organisations – is two decades of history.

What I’ve most loved about coaching

  • The formula of coaching: Question, insight, action and change. Asking the right question to create insights. Turning insight into action. Seeing actions create meaningful change.
  • Moving through limitations: Seeing clients set goals that they’re unsure they can achieve. Then seeing them move through limitations to get there.
  • Places of honesty: Helping clients to arrive at that place of honesty to then make authentic choices around who they are and what they really want.
  • Learning legacy: Coaching helps people achieve their goals, but more importantly, it helps people develop who they are along the way. This is the legacy of coaching, where people can achieve greater empowerment to keep on achieving.
  • Autonomy and empowerment: The process of Coaching helps people to assess their situation, identify their options and then make powerful choices. It grows self-determination, resilience and an empowered state.

Learnings to pass on

A Taoist saying – ‘The Journey is the Reward’.

For me, the best way to celebrate this twenty-year milestone is to capture the learnings I’ve had along the way and pass them on. I hope they’re useful to you as you approach your own goals.

  • Experiment and take risks: In the early years, having few resources presented a level of urgency to experiment. I tried different ways to reach people, I outlined various coaching programmes (some were never going to work), and I designed thinking tools to help my clients get to their goals. In summary, I tried a lot of stuff to quickly learn what did and didn’t work. It wasn’t always polished, but I learnt fast and found my footing quickly.
  • Access the experts: In those early years, to develop myself as a Coach, I researched trainers and courses thoroughly and I chose science and credibility over other cheaper flash-in-the-plan options.
  • Find people who’ll give you a chance: Connecting with people is one thing, but being given an opportunity to fly is golden.
  • Build a reputation: It’s a slow road perhaps, but with no marketing budget I built my client base one client at a time by helping them achieve often life changing goals. From their success came word-of-mouth. Today, I don’t need a marketing budget – over 95% of my clients arrive via recommendation and referral.
  • Stand strong on quality: When I launched my own trainings, I had other Coaches tell me, ‘you’ll never make four day trainings work … too long!‘ Yet, this intensive deep-dive training approach helps make training stick and adds far more value. So I stuck-to-my-guns and avoided offering one-day flash-in-the-plan versions. Today I’ve trained over 1000 people.
  • Take a strengths-based approach: What am I good at doing that I love doing? This is a simple guiding question that’s shaped Elevate. If I make decisions that leverage my strengths and sense of purpose, I know I’ll stay fresh and do a good job.

My thanks

Elevate would not have succeeded without the help of others, and so with gratitude ….

  • For holding everything together I thank Megan Savage – trust, patience, belief and staying power – I’m eternally grateful for these qualities that supported me and for being an outstanding mother to our three ‘Savlings’. It’s a privilege to now see you fly through your Masters degree and build on your awesome Coaching and Counselling super-powers.
  • My first client. I thank Anthea – seeing you achieve your goals remains an inspiration and a testament to what’s possible with courage and vision.
  • To those who told me I’d never succeed running four-day deep-dive trainings – With genuine appreciation, you made me more determined to prove it could be done.
  • For the inspiration to follow a different path: I thank my Uncle Klaus for pointing out when I was a kid, ‘there’s more than one path in life’ and Carlos Castenada for describing the ‘path with heart’.

So, what does the future hold?

I’ve been thinking hard about this.

I’m now winding down the business and will instead plant a few hundred pear trees, religiously watch them grow, harvest the fruit and then bottle and sell them at the local farmers market. That’s not true, but it’s a genuinely attractive idea … maybe for later on in life.

The truth – Elevate continues as it is. Training more people to lead wth integrity, spark change and make a positive difference is still the mission. The formula of coaching and training is a little like alchemy and I love seeing people turn insight into action and from it create change.

THANK YOU to all those I’ve mentioned who’ve been part of this last twenty-years and to all my clients – I love this work and I appreciate you greatly!

I hope these insights are useful. Here’s to the next twenty-years … or maybe five, asides from growing pear trees, the mission also evolves.

Take risks,

David Savage

Photo by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash

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