Tuesday, March 19, 2013
One of the biggest challenges for ICF New England (ICFNE) is helping our members get to know each other. It is a problem that raises its head during important events throughout the year – when we are in search of board member nominations, soliciting volunteers or when we are voting for the annual Coach of the Year Awards. At these times, when maximum participation is imperative, it is difficult to rouse significant response when our members don’t feel like they know the other people in their coaching community.
We seem to be up against a “barrier of perceived familiarity.” Although our members see each other at events throughout the year, they are not connecting on a community level. We have incorporated a variety of networking activities into our live events, engaged the community through social media, and invited members to participate as volunteers but still the barrier persists.
When we announce that it is time to vote for the annual Coach of the Year Awards, we inevitably receive requests for our membership list because they “don’t know anyone.” While our members may know each other better than they think, there remains this persistent barrier of perceived familiarity preventing a sense of community within our membership - until now.
Finally, we may have found the answer – not surprisingly – in serving others.
On December 6, 2012, 40 ICFNE coaches gathered in Boston at the Massachusetts Conference for Women to volunteer their coaching services to more than 200 conference attendees. As a Chapter, we saw this as a wonderful opportunity to place ICF on a public stage and reach out to the larger community. What we did not anticipate was the benefit experienced by the 40 coaches: how it fed their sense of belonging to ICFNE, and their sense of community with one another.
Attending coaches agreed to set aside personal marketing initiatives and instead represent the coaching industry as a whole. This meant that we were creating a cooperative environment rather than a competitive one; coaches were working together to help the conference attendees, not against each other in search of clients.
Our agreement with the Mass Conference for Women included a well-placed booth in the conference marketplace. Coaches took turns representing ICFNE at the booth and the cooperative environment we’d structured enabled them to work as a team and to connect and get to know each other.
When it was time to gather for the scheduled coaching event that afternoon, all 40 coaches emerged from various corners of the conference to take their places to do some speed coaching. It was really a wonderful thing to see: 40 coaches each sitting at their small tables, talking to each other, energy building. Close by, the coachees were in line, eager for the event to begin. There was no shortage of clients; we were originally scheduled to work with 200 women and managed to connect with 240 by the time all was said and done.
The post- event energy was powerful—and now there was a connection between all of the coaches.
Nothing describes the experience better than their direct the feedback immediately after the event:
“It was a highlight of my career and my life to be a part of this Fabulous 40 - to meet other coaches and connect so instantly and strongly." – Kim Ravida, CPC, ELI MP
“It was fabulous to get inspired about women finding their voices and then to have an opportunity to coach individuals doing exactly that!!” – Tracy Fitzpatrick, PCC
“I was honored to be one of the "fabulous 40." The Conference was energizing and inspiring--I was so glad to be able to attend. And, the "speed coaching" was meaningful and FUN.” – Lisa Kleitz CPCC, PCC
In the role of serving others, these 40 coaches stood together to represent the coaching industry through ICFNE and ICF Global. It is in that stance that they connected as a community. Unlike so many attempts during ICFNE events throughout recent years, we didn’t encourage the coaches to connect and meet each other; it simply happened.
During the annual ICFNE events where members are nominating, voting and volunteering, we are still going to need to provide a membership list to participants because they still don’t “know each other.” We have a large Chapter and that issue will not go away entirely. Even so, we are hopeful that the level of recognition and maybe even the level of participation in those events will increase.
The best feedback of all? 100 percent of the participating coaches indicated that they would like to participate in this event again next year. Now that we know what we’re getting into, it can only get better.
Suzan Czajkowski, M.A., ACC, is a Communication & Online Marketing Coach, working with entrepreneurs and small business owners to design and implement online marketing strategies that are customized to their specific business marketing goals. This work often includes developing and integrating WordPress websites, newsletters, blogs and social media. As a coach, Suzan’s goal is to help her clients understand and execute their own online marketing strategies effectively and efficiently. Suzan serves as V.P. of Marketing for ICF New England. You can find her at SuzanCz@mycommcoach.com or visit Suzan’s blog at http://mycommcoach.com.