A few years ago, while I was still trying to find my footing in ministry and I had two very small children, I found myself struggling. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but everything seemed overwhelming to me. Looking back on it, I think I was experiencing some burnout and some mild depression, but when you are in the midst of the fog, sometimes it is hard to remember what life feels like when the sky is clear and light.
Right around that time, I connected with a friend of mine from seminary over the phone. She had recently completed training to be a coach, and she was also an ordained minister. This led to a coaching relationship that lasted for over two years, and we made appointments to check in with each other about once a month.
Coaching isn’t a quick fix, and it isn’t a substitute for counseling, but a trained coach can help you look at something you need to work on, and empower you to find the solution yourself. Coaches don’t usually give advice, but they do help you to see that you probably already know the answer. My coach helped me to grow in confidence, find the courage to see a counselor, work through some snags in my leadership style, and each step of the way I felt like I was letting go of everything that was weighing me down. In a real way, coaching saved me.
So, when I connected with Jane Halton recently, and had the opportunity to talk with her on the phone and via email about her coaching, I was eager to do so. Jane is a fantastic person and an excellent coach. But, rather than tell you about her myself, I thought it would be fun for you to get to know her and her coaching work by interviewing her on what she does.
What experiences led you to pursue coach training?
JH: As it is with most career changes, I can follow the journey back many years. Upon graduating from seminary in 2005, I began working at a non-profit in the inner city of Vancouver. I spent most of my time there hiring, training, and working with volunteers. I helped them figure out where they would fit in our organization, what they had to offer, and what they wanted to learn.
After nearly ten years, I was feeling ready to move on. Around this time I went to a workshop with a good friend of mine and we began to chat over lunch with a former-pastor-turned-coach. My friend Dawn asked him more about coaching and, as he explained what it was, she looked at me and said, “Jane, this is what you should do next!” I agreed! My seminary degree, work at the non-profit, and (ironically?) ten years as a swim coach, had me interested. I began coaching school in Sept. 2012 and finished one year later.
Who do you coach?
JH: I work primarily with Christian women who are ready and willing to make a change in their lives. That change can be in their career, attitude toward something, health, relationships, etc. What I have found is that often times Christians who have grown up in the church have learned something that really limits them, or they have unconsciously and unhelpfully twisted something they grew up hearing. For example, they have been taught that pride is sinful but have twisted it into “I can’t admit what I’m good at or really own my talents because I will be prideful.” This can become incredibly difficult when applying for jobs or even choosing a career. I help to untwist these things while still honouring what they believe about their faith. I’m happy to work with men or people of other faiths as well, but the majority of my clients are Christian women.
What benefits of coaching do you see?
JH: The benefits and results I see in my clients are what keep me coaching! With the encouragement, clarity, and accountability you get with coaching, people accomplish more than they ever imagined. I’ve seen people gain confidence and make crazy decisions they’ve wanted to make for years. I’ve seen people get jobs they never dreamed of and, on the other hand, quit jobs they have hated for years.
One of the best things I see is people finding deep meaning in their work or life. This often happens through discovering values (and figuring out if they are being lived out) and changing perspectives. And lastly, I see the benefits of people actually getting things done! It’s amazing what can really get accomplished with an outsider offering unbiased encouragement and accountability.
Why would I hire a coach instead of a counselor or why not just talk to my pastor?
JH: I get asked this question a lot, in fact, so much so I wrote a blog about the difference here.
But in brief, coaches are trained to help you move forward more than dig up the past. Although we work holistically and won’t ignore areas of your life, our focus is moving you forward. Also, we don’t diagnose people and gladly refer people to therapy if necessary.
Pastors can be good people to talk to but are, in my experience, often ill-equipped to offer all the things coaches can (especially long-term accountability). Also, many people feel inhibited by the ‘status’ of pastors and don’t want to share as openly. The anonymity of coaching can help draw people out.
(Side note from April: Coaching can be wonderful for everyone, but coaching can be especially great for pastors and other church leaders who do not have a pastor or confidant within the church to turn to.)
Is coaching just like all that self-help stuff – you know, be happy, positive, smile more?
JH: Ugh. I have to admit there is some of this, and I can’t stand it. I’ve really had to work through it because it is not my thing. However, when you really pick apart some of that “10 ways to be happier” stuff or whatnot, something in there will probably work for you. I just don’t think there is an easy answer to it. It is hard work to change your attitude or perspective on something, but ultimately it can make a world of difference. If you are interested in reading more about this I wrote a guest blog post for Addie Zierman called Self Help for Christians: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
How can people find out more about coaching with you?
JH: You can read more about coaching and me on my website but the best way is to experience it. If you are interested feel free to sign up for a chat here and we can figure out if we are a good match!
Jane Halton is a certified coach, a wedding officiant, a casual blogger and an occasional preacher/speaker. She describes her coaching work as pastoral care meets your to-do list (or sometimes ‘blowing up evangelical baggage’). Using her coaching skills, an MDiv, wit and thought provoking questions she not only helps people figure out what really matters to them but also, what they’re going to do about it. Jane is a Canadian who got lost in California for half her life (she is pretty sure there is sadly no good Mexican food in all of Canada). She lives with her husband Dane and their two young and extremely chatty boys in Vancouver, BC. She loves reading, swimming, and urban gardening. For more info visit: janehalton.com, Twitter or Facebook.