There are many kindnesses that we must let ourselves learn over time, and one of these kindnesses is allowing vulnerability into our lives. Allowing vulnerability opens a new door of possibility in the various ways you interact with the world, and with this kindness, you attain a new degree of freedom. Joanna Davis, MCC has over a decade of experience as a certified coach. She joins Melanie Parish to talk about allowing vulnerability into your interactions with yourself and others. Together with Joanna and Melanie, attain this new freedom by allowing yourself to be vulnerable.
Listen to the podcast here:
Allowing Yourself To Be Vulnerable With Joanna Davis
I'm here with Joanna Davis, who's a Master Certified Coach and has over a decade of experience as a certified coach, is a senior faculty with Coach for Life and works in-house as a corporate life coach for a South Florida company of over 10,000 employees. She’s an ICF PCC assessor. She serves as a mentor coach for both ICF and ReciproCoach. She has a small private practice coaching corporate founders and facilitating leadership development. Her passions include compassion, the neuroscience of human behavior and trying to figure out her Basenjis. I'd love to welcome Joanna Davis while we talk about leadership and also experimenting in some interesting ways.
Joanna, I am excited to have you here.
Thank you. I am excited to be here.
I'd love to start by learning a little bit about what you do in the world, what work you do.
The work that I do all revolves around coaching. I'm an internal coach for a company here in South Florida and it's my “full-time job.” The things that I do in the world are I train life coaches for an ICF-HCTP school and that alphabet soup means it's the highest level of accreditation. I'm a senior faculty for them.
What's the ICF?
It’s the International Coaching Federation. I'm also a mentor coach for both the ICF and for ReciproCoach, which is another organization that supports coaches. I am a PCC assessor, which means that I listen to coaches who are presenting in order to receive a specific level of certification. I have a small boutique practice that works with the founders, top-level execs and organizations. For example, I've got an org up in DC that’s about 350 or so employees. I started working with the founder. She didn't know why she needed a coach. I didn't know why she needed a coach. We had a great conversation. I made her cry.
I did not mean to make her cry. That is not my goal in life. She realized why she needed a coach and it was one of those moments. She hired me. Six months later, she asked me to work with her top execs. I did some work with some of the employees in the company and they made the best places to work in about 1.5 years. It's this top-down that that goes inside out. It starts with the inside and works to the outside. I took a certification for Agile Coaching. Several years as a coach and I'm still getting certifications. I love it. I'm a lifelong learner. I took the certification in Agile. It is about transformation. The thing that people miss in their expectations is that it's not somebody else that's going to change. It's the inner work that creates the outer change.
I'm totally curious about combining agile coaching with executive coaching. Can you tease that out a little bit for us?
I would love to because agile started much more on the techie side. It's techie. What they found out was they would “install” agile. If you have someone that truly gets the transformative aspects and can get behind the mindset of the people that they're bringing it to, it works beautifully. If you install the functions of agile without the mindset of agile, it creates something different. That's what they call installing agile. You're putting a part in a car. It doesn't work the same. What happens is when you get agile in an organization, in a section, but you haven't taken it to other stakeholders, to the C-level, the C-Suite, the HR Department, people aren't working together.
That's where the transformational, the broad scope of agile coaching comes in at the executive level. If it's not at the executive level, if it doesn't come top-down, if there's a push bottom-up or if there's a push from a silo, which is what agile is trying not to have. When we start pushing into people's silos where they're protected and creating these changes, nobody asked for this. It's getting behind the mindset so that people can work together. That's what I love to do is work with mindset, find out what's driving the resistance to change. Finding out where we can work together and maybe what the misunderstandings were that created the resistance. I find more often than not, we're more alike than we are different.
What do you think the top three principles of agile are that you're applying to coaching?
I don't know that I can answer that question. The thing that comes to mind is the colors. There are these color bands that describe thought processes. Whether or not I'm extremely protective, everything is delineated. I'm looking for people to fit for function, fit for purpose, where job titles don't matter. That's why I drifted toward agile because I don't believe that job titles matter. It's, “Are we fit for purpose?” and that can be incredibly threatening. The thing that brought me to agile before anything else was I was reading the descriptions of what an agile coach is like and they said, “It's not for everybody. If you want to be popular, this isn't for you.” I went, “That's me.” One of the key components is to say things that are not popular and be okay doing it. I have had that as one of my innate gifts and talents forever. I remember eons ago when I was with AT&T in the ‘90s somebody telling me that I could tell someone to go to hell and they would smile and ask for directions because I made it sound like something to do.
I do think that you are incredibly talented at helping motivate people to move. How are you experimenting in your life?
That question is why I am on this interview and that question is also why it was for the first time I found myself nervous before an interview. I'm never nervous what this is about. There are a couple of places where I'm experimenting in my life. One of them is in my personal life and both of these are vulnerable. I don't think I could have had this discussion with anyone else. It’s like you are the only person I could have this discussion with. I want to acknowledge the space that you hold for experimentation.
It's that you make experimentation a fun place to play. I'm all about play and I'm all about fun. There are two places. One of them is learning more about what it means to love because society has this story about what love is. I realize I was brought up with a story about what love is. I don't even know what love is. I'm experimenting with what is love? What does it mean for me? I realize that for me, part of it is simply being present. This is the thing that I love about my executives that they don't know. It's simply their presence. It's not the doing. It's the being. A lot of men fall into this category where they don't get that their presence, simply being present and how do we be present?
I don't know if you know this, but Eliyahu Goldratt, who was an Israeli physicist, wrote a book called The Goal. He talked about bottlenecks. The Theory of Constraints is Goldratt. He always said that management attention was the biggest bottleneck in North American companies. You're highlighting that. It's fascinating. It's that thing about wisdom rises. Wisdom is wisdom no matter where you find it.
I did not know that cognitively. I'm like, “You have to send me the links.” You say that and I'm like, “That is such a great way to say it.”
What's the second way that you're experimenting?
That one probably has a lot to do with the first. I'm experimenting with a focus for my coaching practice. It’s not that my business executive coaching, all that stuff is going to go away. It's that there is a calling because I don't think anybody wakes up in the morning and goes, “Here's what I want to do.” I certainly didn't. My calling is to work with buyers and sellers in human trafficking. Where the essence of that comes from is the only way that I know that a person can stand to dehumanize someone else is if they have first been dehumanized. Human trafficking is one of the most, if not the most, dehumanizing things in our culture, in our society. It is taking away an individual's humanity. In order to do that, the person who is participating as either a buyer or seller must have first been in some fashion dehumanized, not present with themselves. I have never found anything more powerful than coaching to rehumanize the individual.
I'm curious about logistics. What does that look like?
It looks like confidentiality for my clients, but do I have clients now? I do not. Not to the best of my knowledge. Is that the first thing somebody is going to say to me? Probably not. They're probably going to come over through my executive coaching practice or another arm of my coaching practice. I coached an individual for three years before that individual felt safe enough with me to share that when this person was a child was dehumanized by family members. This person was beaten because this person was the oldest in the family, was made responsible for all the other siblings. There were many dehumanizing things. Misused sexually, it had their humanity taken away.
A few years into coaching, I had a point of self-compassion where they spontaneously in a coaching session, turned to their younger self with compassion and said, “You did the best you could.” Proceeded to tell me that this individual used to beat the younger kids because it was the only way this individual could get the noise to stop. I thought, “I've worked with people with sex addictions. I've worked with people with all kinds of histories and I don't go into their history. The history comes to the surface and then we figure out how to move forward with it.” This was part of her moving forward, part of turning back, looking at what had happened and saying, “I did the best I could. I can now forgive myself and walk forward in life without carrying that.”
That's presence. That's self-compassion. That is a form of love. I believe that all of the work that I do winds up in this wonderful thing all working together. I know that as I put it out there, I know it's not going to attract every buyer or seller human trafficking. People have to be ready for coaching for it to work. It's also going to be that the people that want to change because something inside them says there has to be a better way that when they need that safe space, it'll be there.
One of the experiments you're trying is to speak about being open to this coaching.
What I know is we speak things into existence. Everybody doesn't have to agree with me on that. No agreement required, but it is my truth. I know that I have spoken more things into existence. Some of the things I didn't want. Speaking my fears into existence, I've done that too. There's a quote, I believe it's Desmond Tutu who says, “We've got to stop pulling people out of the river and go upstream and find out why they're falling in.” It doesn't mean we have to stop pulling people out of the river. Keep pulling the people out of the river. Please keep pulling people out of that mess. The people that go in and work with the victims, please never stop. We've got to go upstream and find out why people are falling in. We've got to go upstream. I live here in South Florida, so Parkland is near me. That was the best he could because that was his best. If he could do better than that, he would have.
Can you clarify what you're speaking about now?
Part of it is also a belief that we're all doing our best.
You referred to an incident that I'm not sure everyone would know.
At Parkland, Florida, there is a school where a young man went in and killed I can't remember how many people. It was one of the many mass shootings we've had here in the US. It's the one that happens to be closest to our house. Not the closest, the other one was at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport, which is almost sight distance from my house. The helicopters were flying over my house when that happened. Mass shootings unfortunately in America are far more common. It goes back to human behavior. It goes back to we're all doing our best when this is the best we can do. The hard pause needs to happen. We find out what is making it so that this is the best. I believe that dehumanization is what makes it that way. Rehumanization, rehumanizing, bringing someone back to themselves I believe is the cure.
These are heavy topics and thoughts. You have a full life with lots of people in it that you support, teach and help in a variety of ways. You're in a helping profession. What do you do to care for yourself?
I run, swim, read. I have three dogs and three cats who give me unconditional love, warm baths, time in the ocean, time in the sun. There's a lot of things. I have a couple of coaches. I have had the same therapist for several years now. I started working with a migraine therapist. There are a lot of different things that I do to take care of myself. I have an alive relationship with my personal iteration of the divine. I call it Ralph. I'll tell people rather than referring to any specific religious order or something like that, which I don't have anymore. I'll say that I was talking to Ralph. In all of this heaviness, I can be lighthearted and that's where I live most of my life.
You also have this great life experience coaching or training coaches. If someone were thinking about hiring a coach, what's your best advice to them for how they choose someone to work with?
Please choose someone that you resonate with.
How do you know if you resonate?
There is a sense of being heard, of being understood, of safe space. Hire someone you feel safe with. Coaching doesn't have to dig deep, but it can. It has that potential. My experience with coaching is the deeper we go, the more wonderful the opportunities are, the bigger the experiments.
How long do you tend to work with your clients?
Most of my clients become lifelong clients. I shouldn't say that. As a corporate life coach, I can only work a specific amount of time with some people, but in the outside world, my clients tend to become lifelong clients because they're lifelong learners about themselves. The other thing in hiring a coach, please hire a credentialed coach that is trained. Make sure they've been trained through an accredited organization because the profession of coaching is self-regulated. We do not have, at least in the US, a governmental regulation so people can wake up on Tuesday and say, “I'm a coach.” I always ask about the background too.
It's always the advice I give as well for people hiring a coach. I don't care who you choose. Make sure they did the work, got training and got a credential because it's a checkbox. It does mean that they took their profession seriously.
Usually coaches that have been through training have some level of understanding that the client does have their own answers and being supported to find that answer is huge.
Where can people find you, Joanna?
JoannaDavis.com is in the process of being updated. That is the place to start.
It's been such a pleasure to have you on the show. I have enjoyed hearing about what you're up to, the vulnerability that you've shared with us. We all feel that vulnerability around experimenting. Thanks for sharing all of that.
I appreciate you for writing the book because my experience with my executives is that they know they're experimenting, but they often don't have a safe space to say that’s what they’re doing. How many people have done this stuff before?
Now, everybody's experimenting without a safety net. It's good to circle back around. I appreciate you coming on, giving us your time and your thoughts. Thanks.
I've enjoyed speaking with Joanna Davis. I'm fascinated by the combination of agile coaching and executive coaching. I included the agile manifesto in the Experimental Leader book because it's important when I talk about experimenting with thinking about how the agile manifesto informs part of emergent work. It's something that's a huge gift from the tech community to the rest of the world. I also think that it's quite interesting that we discussed the Theory of Constraints and how management attention is important in moving things forward. That attention means everything in facilitating change in organizations.
Finally, I am interested in the ways that Joanna is experimenting and how vulnerable it feels when you share the thought that you're doing something that you don't know the answer to. She talked about that vulnerability as she told us about her experimenting in her own life around love and the idea of coaching, buyers and sellers in sex trafficking. That vulnerability is true for all of us. This is a good example of how when we try something new, it feels tender and a little raw. We don't know what people will think. She was brave in talking about that. I enjoyed hearing her thoughts and her vulnerability. It was great to have you here. Go experiment.
Joanna Davis, MCC, has over a decade of experience as a certified coach, is Senior Faculty with Coach for Life (an ICF ACTP school), works in-house as a Corporate Life Coach for a South Florida company of 10,000+ employees, is an ICF PCC Assessor, serves as a Mentor Coach for both ICF and ReciproCoach, and has a small private practice coaching corporate founders and facilitating leadership development. Her passions include compassion, the neuroscience of human behavior, and trying to figure out her Basenji’s.
A public speaker, consultant, workshop leader, author, and Master Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation, from whom she received the Prism Award, Melanie is an expert in problem-solving, constraints management, operations, strategic hiring, and brand development.