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Coaching Personified

The power of coaching is fundamentally the unlocked, unchained power of human potential, and it was on full display during a weekend meeting of successful, standout advisors in, of all places, a Skagit Valley town called La Conner, Washington. 

The event was hosted by coach/business consultant Tracy Beckes (, featuring a cocktail party and dinner at her home, a group dinner at a local gourmet restaurant and a boat tour of some of the most scenic water in America, dotted with islands large and small, including the San Juans, with occasional views of the mountains dominating the Olympic Peninsula.  These outings, plus the downtime spent mostly in groups at breakfast and between events, provided terrific opportunities for conversation—and I found myself realizing, over and over again, that a small group of advisors are playing, and thinking, at a whole different level from the norm. 

The conversations ranged from exploring the actual power of words and declarations on ourselves and others (a huge issue for financial planners who seek to change client behavior) to creating powerful communities of clients and others who associate with this focused group of clients, to facilitating transition in clients’ lives by recognizing their shifting ability to function through trauma, to how clients are influenced by their parental upbringing in ways that may lead to self-sabotage or dysfunctional assumptions about how the world (and the investing world) works.  What is a true profession and how does (or should) it manifest in society?  What does success mean, and are we seeking it for the right reasons, or to compulsively address an inner void?

I also got a chance to hear the stories of people who I’ve known and admired for years.  Without getting into specifics, the stories all involved things that would surprise anyone who looked at the ultimately successful outcome: self-doubt, mistakes, long hours and, inevitably, no expectation that they would ever achieve what they have—in fact, the whole weekend was infused with a mild glow of wonder at how our stories had turned out not just all right in the end, but had a reached a place beyond the actual goals that people had originally been shooting for.

These are among the things that these people had in common, but the other thing was coaching.  Beckes had played a role in the lives of most of the attendees, listening to their stories, eliciting more clarity around their goals, providing guidance where there were blind spots.  But more than those things, she had given her coaching clients a consistent dose of two things: appreciation of their gifts beyond what they, themselves, were able to muster, and accountability to make the things happen in their lives that they, themselves, had committed to but could scarcely believe in without Beckes’ encouragement.

Human potential is a fragile thing; a volcanic force of nature that most of us can’t bring ourselves to face directly, much less actualize in full, and so it typically exists in latency, waiting for some accident or outside force to trigger an eruption of brilliance and success.  Seeing so much potential unlocked in so many people who consider themselves to be, at bottom, pretty ordinary made me realize the power of coaching—not as a thing in itself, but as a key that opens doors where there is incalculable treasure inside. 

And one thing more: that you, too, are in the business of helping people realize their potential.  Beckes is unusually skillful at appreciating the marvelous things that are locked behind all of our doors, and she knows how to draw them out in the open.  She is diligent and tactful about holding her clients accountable.  These are skills that I think most advisors could learn to apply along with their spreadsheets and fund analyses—and if what I saw on display in La Connor, WA is any indication, our society would be transformed if the profession decided to add skillful coaching to its service menu.