sue mcleod master coach

Sue McLeod has over 10 years of experience as a coach, executive coach, coach instructor (trainer), mentor coach, and assessor. She believes that all coaches have the potential to be masterful. When coaches use the skills from their coach training, are aware of what gets in their way, and engage in practice and reflection about their work, they can tap into their best coaching self. Sue's coach training programs, retreats and mentor coaching provide safe spaces for coaches to be open and honest about the challenges they face, and motivation and support to overcome those challenges.

Sue holds a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF), and a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC) credential from the Coaches Training Institute (CTI). She is a faculty member for Georgetown University's Leadership Coaching Certificate Program, and teaches the Coaching Master Class (an online coach training program on the ICF Coaching Competencies). Sue is a frequent facilitator for ICF New England live events held in Portland, Maine, and is a PCC assessor for the ICF.

Sue lives in Maine and enjoys knitting, hiking, boating, and gardening. She volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust. In addition to her coach training, she does consulting work in public education, board development and facilitation for non-profits, and is a wedding officiant.

Coaching Presence: Are you with your client right NOW!

A Mentor Coaching Story


I was listening to a coaching recording, getting ready to give the coach feedback to support his development as a coach. “So far, so good”, I thought. Bob (not his real name) was asking open-ended and curious questions, he and the client were working on a clear coaching topic, and he seemed fully engaged in the conversation. 

As I continued listening, I noticed a subtle shift in Bob’s coaching. At the beginning, he seemed slightly behind the client, asking questions about what she had said a few seconds earlier and missing what she had just said. Not a big concern, but I started to be curious.  A little later, he was very connected to the client and focused on what she was sharing in the moment.  “Better”, I thought, but now I was curious to know what had changed for the coach.  In the last section, as the conversation shifted to designing action, Bob’s coaching shifted again. Now he was ahead of the client, expressing his ideas for her future and pushing her forward, while she was still clearly pondering the present moment and exploring what she was learning. 

 
 
Now I was truly curious - not about the client - but about the coach. What was going on  to cause Bob’s focus to shift so dramatically as the coaching conversation progressed?
 

When was the last time someone listened to your coaching
with curiosity
about you? 
 
When we coach, we’re in a private conversation with the client. All the focus is on the client.  So who is paying attention to the coach? Who is listening objectively, being curious about the choices the coach is making, and noticing patterns or subtle shifts in the coach’s language, emotions, and presence?
 
Without that objective view, how can we learn what we’re doing well, what we’re missing, and how we can continue to improve our coaching?  Relying on our client isn’t enough. Remember our clients aren’t experts in coaching. Relying on our own impressions of our coaching isn’t enough. We all have blind spots and selective memory.  And even additional coach training isn’t always enough. New knowledge about coaching or adding new coaching tools doesn’t always help us improve our day-to-day coaching.
 
Mentor Coaching fills that role. As defined by the ICF, Mentor Coaching is coaching on your coaching, based on actual recordings of you coaching a real client.  Your mentor coach listens to your coaching, makes note of what you’re doing well, and notices opportunities you missed, and patterns and habits you’ve developed. Then, in a coach-like conversation, gives you feedback and helps you to see where and how you can improve your coaching.
 

I like to think of a Mentor Coach as your “personal trainer”. Your Mentor Coach stands besides you, watching and listening, reminding you to do your best, encouraging you try something new, exploring what you need to push beyond your self-imposed limits.
 

Oh - and what about Bob?  In our Mentor Coaching discussion, I shared what I had noticed and we talked about what was happening for him during that session. At the beginning of the session, he was taking notes and this caused him to lag behind the client. In the middle, he relaxed and stopped taking notes.  Without thepen in his hand, he connected to the client and what she was saying. Near the end, he got excited about what was possible for his client. He disconnected and tried to pull her into his vision of the future. After our conversation, he saw that he could be a better coach by putting away the pen and paper, and setting aside his own excitement to stay connected to the client.  “Ahhh. Much better”, I thought.

 

If you're ready to look closely at your coaching, Mentor Coaching might be just right for you. Learn more here.

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The Gift of Fog

 

Fog is an integral part of the Maine landscape. It rolls in from the ocean covering the coast. It creeps down the rivers to cover the towns, like Bath, that live on their banks.
 
I've found that fog has an emotional and energetic impact on me.  As my distance vision blurs, so does my future thinking. The past and future disappear.
 
As the sunlight decreases, so does my energy. It's a sense of time and space closing in, with the only option to focus on what is present at this space and in this moment.
 

I'm thankful for the gift of fog.

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The Intoxicating Scent of Lilacs

 

With spring comes new energy, more light, a little warmth (when you live in Maine, anyway!), and the promise of being out of the house and on the water.

 

 
This weekend spring really seemed to have arrived on the Maine Coast, with mild air, blue skies, fluffy white clouds!   
I found myself noticing the “firsts” of the season...
 
First row across the harbor in the dingy.
   First wiff of the intoxicating scent of lilacs.
      First trip around the yard with the weed whacker.
         First planting of the annuals that decorate our summer deck.
 
and.. best of all...
 

 

First Maine Lobster dinner!!!
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Can I get that for Free?

My daughter has enticed me to try “extreme coupon” shopping. For those of you not familiar, extreme couponers buy items that are on sale and have two or more coupons or rebates, looking for items that can be purchased for 70% or more off of the regular price.  Of course, the ultimate goal is .... FREE!
Here’s an example of how it works:
 
 
Rite-Aid is selling a brand of baby aspirin for $2.00 and offering a $1.00 rebate credited to your Rite-Aid Wellness card. In the newspaper, there’s a coupon for $1.00 off that same brand.  Final price???  Free!
 
A side effect of buying aspirin, toothpaste and shampoo this way is I frequently ask “Is there a way to get that for Free???” when making any purchase.
 
You're in luck!   I’ve found a Free deal for coaches who are renewing their credential.
 
Free Continuing Coach Education Units (CCEUs)
 
Self-Study CCEUs allow you to do your own studying, at your own pace, focused on what you want to learn. For Free!
 
Here’s how they work.
 
Do an activity, such as reading, writing, or research related to coaching. Track your time. Write a summary of what you did and how it contributed to your development as a coach.  Include your time in your recertification application as Self-Study CCEUs.
 
That’s it!
 
Quantities are limited and some restrictions apply.
 
Up to 16 Resource Development CCEUs can be Self-Study.
They can not be used for Core Competency CCEUs
 
You cannot count time spent coaching, mentoring or supervising as Self-Study.
 
The Fine Print.

 


Just like the shopping deals that change every week, the ICF changes the rules and requirements every so often!  I encourage all ICF coaches to double check the requirements a few months before they’re ready to renew.  Here’s the website to bookmark!  Individual Credentialing Renewal
Enjoy!
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The Big Question: Am I coaching or doing something else?

We all bring more than just coaching skills to our coaching conversations
 
Sally and Joan (not their real names) joined the PCC master class for a deeper dive into their coaching skills and competencies. After the usual logistics and introductions we jumped right into a conversation about the ICF Code of Ethics. It didn’t take too long for their big question to surface.  “I’m worried that someone will find out that my‘real’ coaching isn’t really coaching. I do coaching and I add in other things, based on my expertise and knowledge about the areas the client want to work on.  Am I really coaching or is this something else?”
We created the terms “pure coaching” and “hybrid coaching” to hold the distinction.  I was struck by the level of worry these coaches had that what they called “hybrid coaching” wasn’t acceptable.  I was concerned that their worry affected their coaching. Could they be as confident and bold in serving their clients if this was in the backs of their minds?
 
 
I was sure that alleviating that worry would help these coaches be the best they could be. Since I’m committed to coaching excellence, I also wanted to understand this question better. Were they really coaching, or did something need to change for their coaching to be aligned with the coaching competencies?
 
With our distinction between “pure” and “hybrid” coaching in hand, we focused in to understand this big questions, and to find ways to address their concerns.
 
What were they doing in their coaching sessions that was concerning to them?
    
They were using their expertise to frame their questions, provide new perspectives, and explicitly share information that was new to the client.
 
How were they doing this?
    
Sometimes they asked permission - “Can I share something that might be useful?” and sometimes they assumed permission because the client had hired them for that expertise. They offered what they knew, without insisting that the client believe it or use it.
 
 
Why were they doing this?
Because it fit, in the moment, with what the client was working on. Because they believed that it would serve the client at that time.
 
 
What would you say? Is this coaching, or something else?
 
As we worked through the competencies, we came to the following conclusions:
 
When offering your expertise to the client, it’s important to maintain your focus on serving the client and the client’s agenda. This expectation is woven into all of the PCC level coaching competencies. 
 
This means that what you share should be pertinent to the topic at hand. It also means that it’s presented in a way that serves the client’s continued growth, development, and ability to become self-sustaining.  My students talked about offering another perspective, not the “answer”. Even when teaching the client something new, they hold it as “just another perspective”. Allowing the client to choose what to do with the information reinforced their trust in the client - the she is able to integrate new information and make choices that serve her best.
 
There’s  also an Ethical question that arises. Is it “ethical” - that is, aligned with the ICF Code of Ethics and Professional Practices - to coach using our expertise and knowledge in this way?
 
As we read the Code of Ethics, we saw no prohibition on bringing what we know to the coaching. In fact, we noted that we train in different domains of coaching (leadership coaching, relationship coaching, etc.) and engage our client in these specialized coaching services. Of course, our clients would expect us to have perspectives on leadership if they’ve hired us to be leadership coaches!
 
What we saw is that ICF asks us to stay true to the following tenets:
  • Honor our agreements with our clients
  • Do not misrepresent our services or qualifications
 
What is your agreement with the client? What services are they expecting you to provide? 
The agreement should clearly state that you are providing specialized coaching and clarify what that means. Clients should expect that you will bring in your expertise and know how you will use that expertise in the coaching engagement.
 
Are you qualified to provide that expertise or perspective?
Think about your qualifications for sharing your knowledge with your client, including formal training, education, research, and real-life experience. If your client wanted only that expertise, would you be a qualified candidate to provide them? If you can say “yes” to that (and others would agree), offering that experience to your clients would be appropriate.  
 
In the End…
 
After looking at this big question through the lens of the coaching competencies, the students completed the class with less worry. They could see how they were coaching and using their expertise to serve their clients. That was a success in itself!  
 
They also committed to reviewing their agreements with their clients to make sure they were representing themselves and their coaching appropriately.  And, they made a longer-term commitment to pay attention to their motivations for sharing their expertise during coaching sessions, so that they were staying aligned with serving their clients in the moment.
 
As the instructor, I was impressed by the honesty and vulnerability that these coaches brought to their work in the class. Without that, we wouldn’t have learned as much as we did, and the impact on their coaching wouldn’t have been as great.
 
What’s your Big Question about your own coaching?
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