Sometimes we all need a boost. Maybe to overcome an impending challenge. Or maybe to finally act on a personal dream. Regardless, maybe it’s time to consider hiring a coach.
Deb Stallings left a long and successful career as a fundraiser to coach emerging leaders. She joins us to discuss why coaching is important, how to find the perfect coach, and what you can expect from coaching sessions. Join us and get ready to follow your dreams
Listen to the Episode Here!
Website: Full Circle Coaching & Consulting
(7:11) What to expect from coaching
(8:41) What to expect between sessions
(15:36) What to look for in a coach
(19:15) Deb & Dolph’s ideal client
Dolph Goldenburg (0s):
Welcome to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg. Today, Deb Stallings and I are going to have an incredible conversation about coaching. Before we get there, I have to share with you, this is the last episode that we are recording today. As you know, I like to batch record the podcast because I’m a little bit of an efficiency nerd. And so we’ve already done five. It’s about 6:00 PM where I’m at. And I will share with you that this is always the best episode that I do. This is the point at which we let it all hang out. If you could see below the mic right now, you would see that my shirt tails are no longer tucked into my pants.
Dolph Goldenburg (45s):
We are just going to have an incredible conversation about coaching. Now, Deb Stallings is the principal and founder of Full Circle Coaching and Consulting. She started her consulting practice after a very successful fundraising career, where she helped build institutions on the forefront of disability rights, gender justice, and LGBTQ equality. So as you can imagine, when I realized that she had rolled out of the nonprofit arena into consulting, I said, “Deb, we got to get you on the podcast.”
Dolph Goldenburg (1m 29s):
She spends a lot of her time doing coaching, leadership training and board development. Let me share a couple more things about Deb with you. She is a trained Co-Active coach. And I will also share with you that she has an amazing spirit about her, which you are going to see just shine throughout this conversation. Both Deb and I do a good little bit of coaching and so I think we’re probably both going to talk about coaching from our own experiences.
Dolph Goldenburg (2m 11s):
We see coaching a lot in the for-profit sector, but it’s only recently really started to move to the nonprofit sector. And I think for a lot of people that are professionals in our community, they don’t fully understand what coaching is or why it’s important. And so, while I don’t want this to seem like an intro conversation, to a great extent Deb and I are really just going to be exploring coaching 101. Hey Deb, welcome to the podcast.
Deb Stallings (2m 44s):
Thanks Dolph. I am delighted to be here. I’m truly a fangirl about you and your work with great nonprofits. So I’m really, really honored to be here.
Dolph Goldenburg (2m 54s):
I will say the first time we spoke, I thought, “We have got to get Deb on the show.” And I thought a great way for us to start our conversation would be for our listeners to get to know you just a little bit, because your path in the last year took a hard, unexpected left turn.
Deb Stallings (3m 14s):
It did indeed. And a feat of remarkable timing. I left a career of almost 12 years. The LGBTQ foundation in San Francisco is called Horizons Foundation. It’s the world’s oldest and largest queer fund. And I loved my work there, but a few years ago I started my road to Co-Active coaching. I had just finished a capital campaign and a hundred million dollar legacy giving campaign there. And I felt like it was time to try new things. The big part of that plan was to travel. My partner is a leadership coach and there’s a lot of flexibility around where we can live and do our work.
Deb Stallings (3m 55s):
We had decided to travel and my last day at Horizons was on March 6th. And you know, a week later we were sheltering in place in San Francisco. My future wife likes to tell people that I had two goals in leaving my work. One was to travel and the other was for us to spend more time together. And we have certainly gotten to do that.
Dolph Goldenburg (4m 17s):
I will say you certainly have gotten to spend more time together, but you all also changed cities.
Deb Stallings (4m 23s):
We did. We were in San Francisco and then in Napa for a couple of months, but her mom is 86 and the isolation of the pandemic had gotten to her. We came to Denver to support her and we were going to stay for a month. And now we’ve been here four months. We are headed back to the Bay area at the end of this month. We’re excited about that.
Dolph Goldenburg (4m 50s):
I also just need to reflect that one of the ways that I think you and I are really similar. You were leaving a job where you’d been successful and you’d done a good job and you were taking a step of faith into something new. And the last time I had a permanent job, I was in a similar position. As I often talk about, I was burned out at that point. But it was a step of faith where I said, “You know, I could probably keep doing this for a long time, even if I’m burned out, but instead I’m going to walk out there and I’m going to build something really amazing that’s going to take my life in a new direction.” I feel like you did something really similar.
Deb Stallings (5m 34s):
It’s true. I really decided that I have to practice what I preach in my coaching practice. I encourage clients all the time to follow their dreams. Plan towards those high dreams, but then you have to take the action. I loved my job at Horizons Foundation working in the LGBTQ community with the most dedicated and talented professionals and our donors. I loved that work, but I knew there was something else that I was meant to do. I had been in the job for almost 12 years. I think it was time to stop hogging the best job on the planet and share it with someone else. That’s what I decided to do. And I came to coaching at a very interesting time.
Dolph Goldenburg (6m 20s):
I have to share with our listeners that Deb is being phenomenally modest. Deb is perhaps one of the most successful fundraisers inside the LGBTQ community. She did amazing things with Horizons Foundation. Part of the reason I say she’s being modest is when she decided it was time to leave, she could have rolled into the CDO position at any large national LGBTQ organization that was looking for a CDO. Instead she took the step of faith. One of the things I adore about you is you are so modest, but I just have to make sure listeners really understand that. Let’s talk about coaching. When a professional or an executive is looking and thinking about coaching, what should they expect from the experience?
Deb Stallings (7m 11s):
That’s a great question. They should expect to be challenged. I think they should expect to be uncomfortable. They should expect to face their own brilliance and their own beauty and their own talent in the world. No coach worth their salt is going to let you out of the immense discomfort of seeing yourself through other people’s eyes and recognizing your own brilliance. I think for lots of people, it’s really challenging when we get reviews at work, we go right to the negative part, and it’s so easy to believe the bad stuff that people say about you. And it’s so hard to believe the really spectacular feedback that we get from folks.
Dolph Goldenburg (8m 4s):
It’s really tough on that negative stuff in the review. This was true for me when I was a permanent employee. At some level it still is because when I do an interim, Lexie actually does a review. She reaches out to staff and board members and does a review. It is so hard to not take that personally, even when it’s just, “Hey, here’s some ways you could do an even better job.”
Deb Stallings (8m 28s):
We coach a lot on evaluations and things like that. And I say, it’s a perspective. It’s that person’s perspective. It’s not necessarily a fact, right? It’s their perspective.
Dolph Goldenburg (8m 41s):
What is your sense of what people should be expecting from coaching in terms of work between sessions?
Deb Stallings (8m 49s):
In my experience, the transformation doesn’t actually happen in the coaching session. The transformation happens as you take what you learn there or what you discover there and you put it into practice. We’re big on homework and the collective model, which I practice. It’s all about the homework. It’s all about how to take what you’ve discovered here today and implement it. Because that’s where you have to grow the muscle. It’s where you have to develop the new habit. I think it’s kind of different for each person. Each of my clients has homework. There’s often a challenge. I like to make a challenge that my clients say “no” to the first time. When I make a challenge, clients can say “yes,” “no,” or counteroffer.
Deb Stallings (9m 34s):
I love it when they say, “That is cuckoo bananas. I’m not going to do that, but here’s what I will do.” So we really try to tailor that to each person’s schedule. You don’t get marked down if you don’t complete your homework. And oftentimes my clients don’t even report back to me on their homework. I’ll say, “Is there anything that you learned from the homework?” And they might want to talk about it, but I never say, “did you do your homework?”
Dolph Goldenburg (9m 59s):
You and I do have different approaches. I’m somewhat different in that. I will often ask about it. And so, as an example, if someone I’m coaching has been putting off a difficult conversation we might agree that, before we meet again in two weeks, he or she is going to have this conversation. I have notation of that. And when we sit back down, I am so excited to hear how the conversation went.
Deb Stallings (10m 30s):
I do design accountability with my clients. So every time they accept homework or they accept a challenge, I’ll say, “Okay, how do you want to be accountable for that?” I had someone who wanted to walk out and put her feet in the ocean. She texted me a picture of her feet in the ocean. I think it’s important to design the accountability that feels right to the client.
Dolph Goldenburg (10m 54s):
Absolutely. Are there other things that people should be expecting as they walk into a coaching relationship?
Deb Stallings (11m 1s):
I started as a Co-Active coach. I started going to the classes at the Co-Active Institute CTI because my partner is a Co-Active coach and a leadership coach with 20 years of experience. And I just started going to classes because I needed to know what she was talking about. I would think that we’re fighting and I’d say, “Are we having a disagreement?” and she’d say, “No, honey, we’re just designing how we want to be around this.” I didn’t have that language. I didn’t have that toolbox. So that’s actually why I started going to CTI and taking classes – to have this shared vocabulary. But I found something there that I’d never had in my 30 plus years of nonprofit management.
Deb Stallings (11m 44s):
I got this missionary zeal about bringing coaching to nonprofits. In the Co-Active model, we talk about doing and being. The reason that this is so important to nonprofits is that most of us are in the positions we’re in at nonprofits because of some value system or something that we consider to be our life purpose. Hardly ever do you just accidentally wind up in a nonprofit organization. You’re there because it’s your heart’s work and that’s kind of the being of it. But I think that we get thrown into the non-profit model and we forget that because resources are tight and everybody’s wearing 12 hats.
Deb Stallings (12m 27s):
Ultimately, it becomes about what we can do. Can we raise the money and fund this program? Can we make this event happen? I think that nonprofit professionals often lose the connection to being part of that and why we’re here. I can’t remember a time when I was a young nonprofit professional where I said, “Well, how is this in conflict with my values?” I just didn’t have those kinds of conversations. And so I love the opportunity that the Co-Active model offers to nourish the nonprofit sector by keeping us connected to why we’re doing this and what’s important about the way we’re being in that work.
Dolph Goldenburg (13m 15s):
I agree 100%. And I love the value system that you’re talking about, in part, because it goes beyond just the value of the mission. For example, I believe in gender justice or I believe in Black Lives Matter. It really is my own value system. If I have to have a difficult conversation with someone, how should I be having that conversation? Or if I have to make difficult decisions as the chief executive, how do I do that and still stay true to my values?
Deb Stallings (13m 51s):
I did that even when I made the decision to leave Horizons Foundation, which was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. I didn’t start by saying, “Okay, how do I want this to go?” I started with, “How do I want to be in this?” And the word I came up with was “graceful.” I wanted my transition to be graceful and get really centered in the being of it. And then the doing of it makes more sense. And of course, then you have to get strategic. You have to get tactical. But I think that we spend so much time thinking, “Oh, what do I want to say?” And very little time thinking, “How do I want to be in this conversation? Well, I want to be direct. I want to be authentic. I want to speak for myself. And so when we get rooted in our values, the being part of it really helps the doing part make more sense and ultimately leads to a better outcome.
Dolph Goldenburg (14m 49s):
Totally agree. And I’ll say actually, we’ll often use some role-playing around those conversations and values, just so people start to get comfortable with how they’re going to say it. And if they don’t quite say it the way they want when we’re doing it, that’s okay because it’s harmless to not say it quite the right way with me. So let me ask you, let’s say we’ve got some folks out in our listening community and they’re thinking, “Maybe I’d benefit from a coach. Maybe I’d benefit from some more values alignment or more balance or fulfillment in my life and in my work.” If someone’s thinking about getting a coach, what should they be looking for in that individual who’s going to be their coach?
Deb Stallings (15m 36s):
Well, I think the number one thing is rapport. It just has to be a good fit. That’s why I offer chemistry sessions with folks. If they’re thinking of coming to coaching, we’ll do some coaching to see if it works for them. Because not every client is the client that’s right for you or the client that’s right for me. They have to find the right fit. And I think there’s a fair amount of self-reflection and self-assessment that goes into that. Like, are you ready to do the work? What do you hope to gain from the work in my coaching practice? We also establish outcomes. Are you really committed that these are the changes you want to make? Also, identifying the kind of coach that you want. There are relationship coaches and health and fitness coaches. There are career coaches who help you find new positions or a new tack on your profession. So you need to know what you’re looking for.
Dolph Goldenburg (16m 33s):
I also think that fit is just so critically important. I say this in almost all things but, “You can’t fix fit.” And so from my perspective, if I was looking for a coach, I would probably talk to three to five prospective coaches. And if there was something in my gut that was just like, “Hmm, I don’t think this person’s the right person,” even if everything else about them seems perfect, this is an area I’m going to trust my gut.
Deb Stallings (17m 14s):
It’s interesting- I work with people who do work where I have no idea what they do. My partner works with people inside big tech companies and she’s the most technologically unsavvy person you would ever hope to meet. But it doesn’t matter. Leadership principles are leadership principles. They go across all boundaries. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t benefit from knowing who your inner leader is or how to recognize and quiet your saboteur. Who doesn’t need that? We’re not there to coach anyone on the technical aspects of their job. We are there to help them develop their leadership skills and to develop their personal skills
Dolph Goldenburg (18m 3s):
You are so right. By the time someone is at a point in their career that they’re getting a coach, they’re probably already a subject matter expert. It’s the other stuff that they need a little bit of coaching and help with.
Deb Stallings (18m 22s):
Yeah. People call it the “soft skills.” I don’t do performance improvement coaching. I just don’t enjoy it. So if the company is going to pay somebody to get coaching to improve their performance, that’s just not my cup of tea. But I do think that coaching skills are fundamentally great communication skills. And they can impact every aspect of your life. And so I think that most people can benefit from coaching, not just a new CEO.
Dolph Goldenburg (19m 15s):
So that that’s a great segue to ask: Who is your ideal client?
Deb Stallings (19m 20s):
My ideal client is someone who is intensely curious about themselves and really wants to understand what makes them tick and what’s true about them. I came to this late in life. My partner started this work 25 years ago. And what she learned about herself in that time had always been true about her and remains true today. What I learned about myself as I started this, my inner leader, my values, those things, have always been true about me.
Deb Stallings (20m 1s):
And when you know what is true about you, it helps you know what’s not true about you. You don’t necessarily believe the bad press because you know it’s not true. So I really look for people who are intensely curious. They’re curious about themselves and others. They want to know why they get irritated when people do that X or Y. And it’s probably because people are stepping on some deeply held value they have. I just love going through that process.
Dolph Goldenburg (20m 35s):
So I’ll share with you, I’m similar to you in that I often end up working with people that are in transition. Maybe becoming a CEO, whether it’s for the first time or just with a new organization. Or they find themselves in a real crisis. Often an organizational crisis feels like it threatens not only their career, but also, frankly, the wellbeing of their organization. And I’ve often found that it is the kind of coaching where people show up really motivated because either you’re starting this new job and you want to succeed or you are facing a precipice and you don’t want to end up over the precipice. And so things like homework aren’t really a big deal for them. They’re like, “What do I have to do to be able to tackle this challenge?”
Deb Stallings (21m 26s):
Yeah, they are. I love that you said that they are highly motivated. Sometimes people come to coaching because they feel like they’re in a rut or maybe they’re just too comfortable. I find those people much more difficult to move because they are comfortable. Change is so hard for people. But when things are changing anyway and they can’t control that, they’re much more likely to recognize that things are changing and ask, “How am I going to cope with that?” And they are often less resistant to change. And we can really maximize the impact of that change.
Dolph Goldenburg (22m 4s):
The other thing you and I talked about before we hit record is that our ideal clients are also not looking to us for consulting because we’re serving as their coach and not looking to us as therapists because we’re not licensed therapists.
Deb Stallings (22m 22s):
Right. I asked somebody that in my first class at CTI. We were in class half a day on Friday and then all day on Saturday. And then on Saturday night they said, “Okay, go home and coach someone.” And I remember saying, “Well, that’s malpractice.” I said, “What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?” Susan Carlisle, who is a hero of mine, looked at me and she said, “Are you a licensed therapist, honey?” And I said, “Well, no, I’m not.” She said, “Then it’s not therapy.”
Deb Stallings (23m 3s):
I do think it’s important that people have access to more than one modality. I think as a coach we have to be completely comfortable with emotion and the CTI model that’s called process coaching. We really just help people stay in it. There’s nowhere to go. There’s nothing to fix. There’s nothing to fear from emotion. But you know when it’s a therapy topic, and I often refer that out.
Deb Stallings (23m 44s):
Sometimes working with clients in the nonprofit sector, they want advice. And that’s an area that we have to tread very carefully. I will do consulting. And some of my consulting is very coach-like. But it’s not a pure coaching relationship because if I’m the consultant, I have an agenda for you. If I’m your coach, I have no agenda for you. I hold your agenda. And so you have to be careful there. Sometimes they’ll ask a direct question and I’ll say, “Okay, look, I’m going to answer this as a consultant, not as your coach.”
Dolph Goldenburg (24m 18s):
Every now and then a coaching client will turn and say, “I just need you to tell me what I should do.” And, as coaches, we often find ourselves in that difficult space where we have to say, “This is about you understanding on your own what you need to do and not about me just going, ‘Oh, you should do X, Y, and Z.’ That might work for me, but it might not work for you.”
Deb Stallings (24m 42s):
Right and that’s what I tell people too. If I’m your coach, I’m helping you grow skills. If I’m the consultant, you come in, you ask me a question, I give you an answer and you go away. But as your coach, I don’t want you coming back and asking me the same questions. I want you to learn to get the answers for yourself. They can be compatible for sure. But it’s important that the client recognizes the difference in the role.
Dolph Goldenburg (25m 17s):
Right. So, let me ask you, in the nonprofit space, are you doing coaching with CEOs, CDOs, everybody? Who are you primarily doing coaching with?
Deb Stallings (25m 26s):
I love emerging leaders. So folks who are new to an ED role or someone who’s coaching their organization through times of change, which pretty much is everyone right now. One of the areas I’m really focusing on right now is grief. We’re all grieving something. Some of us are grieving the loss of loved ones. We’re all grieving the loss of community. For example, I miss hugs. And then lots of organizations are facing real financial crises and that’s just heavy for people.
Deb Stallings (26m 8s):
In my coaching, I’m not helping them avoid financial crises, but helping them hold their responsibility and hold the weight of that. In my consulting practice, I’m doing the other piece of it. But nonprofit organizations on the whole just don’t invest in nourishing our staff. And it’s our number one resource. It’s our most significant resource. And we just don’t invest in the people who were doing the work. So, I will coach a nonprofit leader on pretty much any level.
Dolph Goldenburg (26m 47s):
I love that. And I’m in full alignment with you that, as a sector, we don’t do a good job of investing in people. And then we scratch our heads and we wonder why we don’t have the people we need and why we have such high attrition in our organizations and why people in the nonprofit sector work only 10 or 15 years and leave.
Deb Stallings (27m 5s):
And development directors work two years and then they’re gone.
Dolph Goldenburg (27m 9s):
Right. When I was a development director, I would sometimes go into my executive director’s office and say, “I need to have a conversation with you about the care and feeding of your development director.” It was a funny way to start the conversation. But there were some times that I had to say, “I’m not getting what I need to get you what you need.”
Deb Stallings (27m 38s):
That takes courage and a maturity that many people, especially young in their careers, just don’t have. I mean, that’s a gift you gave that executive director. But if we teach people earlier in their careers how to stand for themselves, how to know what they need, how to be nourished in their jobs, then I think it’s such a gift to our industry.
Dolph Goldenburg (28m 3s):
As I look back on that, at the time I was working for an executive director who felt very secure in who they were and was okay being in a place where they might be vulnerable. So, I might not do that with every executive director on the planet. But she was someone who I really could go in, start with that joke, and then have that hard conversation with. And I wouldn’t get absolutely everything I wanted, but I got enough so that I could do the work that was necessary.
Dolph Goldenburg (28m 52s):
Well, Deb, I just looked down at the clock. And I know that this has been a great conversation because we’re already 30 minutes in and we haven’t even done the off-the-map question.
So I’m going to zoom us through the off-the-map question here. I understand, Deb, that you, and apparently, the CIA spy, Julia Childs, have something in common and it’s not the CIA.
Deb Stallings (29m 10s):
It’s true. It’s not the CIA. She made much more of her training than I have, but we both went to cooking school in France. And I actually did go to the CIA cooking school in France. So you can say I’m from the CIA- the Culinary Institute of America.
Dolph Goldenburg (29m 28s):
I love it. So tell me about your cooking school experience.
Deb Stallings (29m 32s):
Oh, it was amazing. Last summer my partner and I went to the UK to meet up with friends in London. They were going to Bath, but I had been before and didn’t want to go. So I took the train through the channel and went to Paris for five days and enjoyed some of the most physically demanding days I have ever had. It was a ton of work. It was so fun to be in a purely experiential learning, like nothing I’d ever done before. Completely vulnerable, completely scared of the toked up chef at the CIA who’s trying to get me to curl the chocolate ribbons just right. It was wonderful. It was exhilarating.
Dolph Goldenburg (30m 26s):
So what cooking skill or what dish have you brought back that you still make?
Deb Stallings (30m 34s):
I have much better knife skills. I hardly ever cut the tip of my finger off anymore because I was taught to bend my fingers back as I’m chopping. So, I’ve particularly enjoyed that skill. I have not made croissants since I’ve been home, though. I kept thinking during COVID it would be my opportunity, but not yet.
Dolph Goldenburg (30m 55s):
So my husband and I were not in Paris, but we took a knife skills course at our local Cook Warehouse store. What a difference that made in my ability to prep! I actually know how to use a set of kitchen knives now and I can debone a chicken. I know how to cut something like 48 different types of vegetables and do it in a way that’s efficient and effective. Five days of that had to be such a great experience
Deb Stallings (31m 47s):
It was super fun. It was really great. I loved it. I can’t wait to go back. We’re actually going to Paris next year on our honeymoon. We’ll do a cooking class together.
Dolph Goldenburg (31m 56s):
So I will also share with you that my husband loves to cook and he’s the one that will have us do cooking classes as date nights. And at first I was somewhat resistant and reluctant, but I have actually learned to really enjoy them and I learned something. So yeah, that’d be a great honeymoon activity.
Deb Stallings (32m 15s):
Yeah, we’ve done that when we travel. We often take a cooking class and we love it.
Dolph Goldenburg (32m 19s):
That’s awesome. Deb, thank you so much for coming on today. This has been a great conversation. I am hoping that a lot of our guests have learned more about coaching. And if they’re finding themselves in a difficult spot and have been thinking about coaching, I’m hoping this gives them some ideas about what to look for in a coach and really what to expect out of. So thank you so much.
Deb Stallings (32m 42s):
My pleasure Dolph. Thank you.
Dolph Goldenburg (32m 44s):
Listeners, I need to make sure that you know how to get a hold of Deb Stallings, and it’s pretty simple. Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to go to debstallings.com. She is making an incredible offer for our listeners. The first three listeners that go to her website and register for a Co-Active discovery series will get it for free. And a coactive discovery series is three coaching sessions that will help you assess your satisfaction in different areas of your life and figure out where you want to make changes.
Dolph Goldenburg (33m 28s):
That’s an incredible offer. So, I hope you’re one of the first downloaders of this podcast and you go right there. But even if you waited a day, still go to debstallings.com and check out what she’s doing. Deb, thanks again for coming on.
Deb Stallings (33m 44s):
Thank you, Dolph. It was a real pleasure and I just appreciate so much what you do for the nonprofit community. You’re a real treasure.
Dolph Goldenburg (33m 53s):
Thank you. Listeners, if you are Googling flights to Paris in July, because we’re all hoping the pandemic is over by next July, keep on looking for those tickets on Delta and American, because you know that you can always go to successfulnonprofits.com and there you will get Deb Stallings’ URL.
Dolph Goldenburg (34m 32s):
Finally listeners, I just want to remind you that if you happen to be listening on an iPhone or an Android, you can use Siri or Okay Google to subscribe to this podcast. Literally all you have to do is say, “Hey, Siri, subscribe to the Successful Nonprofits® Podcast.” And if you have subscribed, then please go ahead and rate and review us on your streaming app of choice. That, listeners, is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your non-profit thrive in a competitive environment.
Dolph Goldenburg (35m 16s):
I am not an accountant or attorney and neither I nor the Goldenburg Group provide tax legal or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified, licensed professional about such matters
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