"Once upon a time" ..... and .... "They lived happily ever after." Ahhh... it's no wonder we love a good fairy tale, a story with great characters, a plot with a gripping dilemma, suspense, and everything works out perfectly in the end. But let's get real. How often does life work out perfectly, according to plans? I don't know about you but not so much in my real life.

When I began my first coaching course at ILCT, I was so excited to finally be acting on my dream to become an executive coach. I soon became doubly excited! It seemed my dream was turning out picture perfect - all falling into place as if scripted in a fairy tale. I learned that coaching and organizational culture were new topics at the large corporation I work for. My manager, Donna, encouraged me to share my ILCT coaching path with the newly appointed Senior Vice President (SVP).  I acted on her advice and was elated to learn the SVP was interested in creating a future coaching position within our department and that I would be a top contender.

Perfect! The timing .... perfect. The new role .... perfect. A coaching job potentially waiting right in my own company .... perfect!  Fast forward 6 months and a follow up conversation revealed the SVP had a very different definition of coaching and a very different perspective on the organizational and cultural needs in my company. It felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on me ... and my fairy tale dream! Now I would never have this coaching opportunity that seemed so perfect.

The next course I enrolled in was a series offered at ILCT on Resilience. "Wow" is my best one-word description of this excellent course taught by an incredible teacher, Catherine Morisset! One of the many life-changing lessons I learned through the resilience series is recognizing what Catherine calls "fairy-tale thinking". There is certainly nothing wrong with a dream. But my "all or nothing" thinking and my bent towards perfectionism was part of my fairy-tale thinking in this scenario. I learned how fairy tale thinking can be a dream killer! I learned a new way to define and assess resilience as well as practical, realistic ways to build resilience. I began to catch my fairy-tale thinking and re-frame it. I became aware of all of my energy sources and I started to develop personal resilience-building practices. Catherine taught ways to help clients see primary organizational issues, often lurking under another issue and how to be flexible and adjust approaches when working with executive clients.  I found that true resilience is easier to talk about than to build!  And maybe most profound was learning the critical need for me to walk my talk, build my own personal resilience, if I wanted to be effective in helping others and organizations.

Now back to my company scenario ....Catherine’s teaching on resilience had a powerful impact on me, especially as the perfect fairy-tale plan for coaching was crumbling before my eyes. Although the SVP had not budged on his perspective, change was on the horizon. Donna, recently promoted to department Vice President, recognized the organizational and cultural needs. And then Donna did something amazingly rare for someone in her position! She took the risk to be vulnerable and honest. She came to me and said, "I am not content with our departmental culture. Although I can't control the perception of cultural needs at the corporate level, I can impact our office. I know we have a problem.  I know it doesn’t feel right but I have no idea how to “fix it”. I see how excited you are about your coaching classes and all you are learning. Would you be willing to help me?" Once again, "Wow"! Donna invited me to help her plan a one-day, off-site retreat for our 75 person department in order to begin addressing culture within our office. We talked about how to create a safe, vulnerable environment for the retreat, and how critical it was for her to begin by being vulnerable and honest.  We focused on the importance of consistent, small, realistic behaviors to impact long-term cultural change. We discussed ways to give everyone a voice instead of trying to mandate a new culture, and how to retain her leadership role in the process.  I shared what I had learned about the critical need for management to walk their talk.  Donna came up with ways to do that, for example, committing to consistent and clear communication. We even addressed fairy-tale thinking and how to “keep it real” at the end of a day like this.

The retreat was very successful and this single event started the process of a cultural shift in our office! Donna and I continue to meet periodically to discuss progress and ideas and she welcomes feedback.  Amazing! Although different than I’d imagined, I have the opportunity to observe, practice and share new learning and impact my organization.

I don't have an official coaching position and my fairy-tale coaching job is not likely to become a reality with this particular company. However, I am moving forward each day and my coaching dream now has real-life expression ... which, as it turns out, is even better than a fairy tale!

Submitted by Anonymous ILCT Student

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