Tom Henschel – Intention, Attention, and Tension in Coaching | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

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Tom Henschel | Conversations with Coaches | Boxer Media

It was both an honor and a delight to welcome one of my first and best guests back onto the pod.

In today’s episode, Tom talks about his recent experiences with taking time away and how intention plays a critical role in making that possible. We also discuss how businesses and podcasts grow and evolve over the years, and how his own relationship with the ICF has also progressed since he began his work as a coach.

Beyond that, we explore the fascinating tension between what coaching IS…and what it ISN’T, and how that plays out in the coaching industry.

And for the cherry on top, Tom also shares the executive coaching community he leads through the LA chapter of the ICF, with links below to find out more.

Tom has been coaching senior corporate leaders for more than 30 years, helping to soften disruptive executives and amplify the look and sound of leadership…which also happens to be the name of his podcast, now in its 15th year.

He’s a Senior Executive Coach on the rosters of many coaching consortiums nationwide, being an active member of the International Coach Federation (ICF) and the Association of Talent Development (ATD) which, in 2010, awarded him with their Lifetime Award for continuing contributions to the fields of training and development.

To learn more about Tom:

Other Links:
ICF Los Angeles Chapter
Executive Coaching Special Interest Group

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Kevin Stafford 0:00
Hello, everyone and welcome to another episode of the conversations with coaches podcast. I’m your host, Kevin and I am absolutely delighted to have another returning guest one of my favorite guests, one of my first guests we were we were chatting before I hit record that it’s been nearly two years since we last talked, which seems both like yesterday and an eternity somehow, but you know, time What are you gonna do? Anyway? I have Tom Henschel back with me. And in case you forgotten him, which could be understandable. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches and people I’ve talked to Tom, but let me reacquaint you with Tom before we jump back into an already delightful conversation. Tom has been coaching senior corporate leaders for more than 30 years, helping to soften disruptive executives and amplify the look and sound of leadership, which just so happens to be the name of his podcast now in its 15th year, I believe, yes, decade and a half Goodness, goodness, I love it. He’s a senior executive coach on the rosters of many coaching consortiums nationwide, being an active member of the international coaching Federation, of course, the ICF, and the Association of talent development, which in 2010, awarded him with their lifetime award for continuing contributions to the field of training and development. Tom, it is delightful to talk with you again. We chatted for about a good solid 10 minutes before I hit record. And yeah, I’m just delighted to chat with you. Again, I love how quickly we get to the good stuff. And it’s just a delight to see your face again. It’s good to see you.

Tom Henschel 1:28
Same here. I’m glad to be back. Thanks. So we

Kevin Stafford 1:31
are already touched on probably a half dozen different podcast episodes worth of of subjects. So I’m going to start by asking you about about your 2023. What that’s looked like, what that how it was planned to look how it ended up looking. And also how that has reminded you or at least how that brought up in our conversation other times in your life and how your business has evolved over the years and decades.

Tom Henschel 2:00
Yeah, so we you and I are recording this in April of 2023. So we finished January, February, and March, I worked in January in February, I met my daughter and her husband in New Zealand for 30 days of an amazing trip. And I flew back at the beginning of March and almost immediately went literally from the plane to an operating room and had some surgery, and then had almost a month of recovery. So out of the first quarter of 2023. I’ve only worked for one month. And and that was bizarre, you know, that was just weird. And in 2022, I worked for 10 months, intentionally and earned the same as 12 months, the prior year. And I wouldn’t I like to do that. I mean, wouldn’t that be great right to work for 10 months and earn 12 months worth? And like, that would be great. So yeah, it’s an interesting, different way for me to think about my business. I’ve never thought about my business that way.

Kevin Stafford 3:06
You think about like, you say it’s your business. And it’s one of those things where you really did you put in the work. And there’s a lot of work to it, there’s a lot of investment that I wear gets thrown around a lot. And I think appropriately because you really are putting putting your time your energy, like really your life’s essence into building a business that’s going to like, you know, grow your impact and connect you with other people in the world around you. And it’s there’s a lot of work to be had there. And I like hands instead of butts, like butts just find that answer better. And your business can and maybe even should, if it’s indeed what you want evolve into something where, you know, I don’t have to be here all the time. If I go, if I if I leave for five minutes, the lights aren’t going to shut down and everything’s gonna go away. And a puff like your business can evolve to a place where things like, you know, I’m going to take some time or I’m going to, I’m going to spend some time on some other pursuits, or I’m gonna spend some time with family that can and possibly should happen as your business grows.

Tom Henschel 4:01
Well, one of the things that I said to someone recently is like, Look, I’m a coach, my clients don’t have emergencies. They don’t have to talk to me, like on the 15th of the month. So to give myself permission last year to give myself permission to work 10 months was a challenge. I’ve never, I’ve never taken 30 day vacation before, before last year. Yeah. And when I did, and the world did not come to an end. I thought maybe I could do this with intention. And so it was a real different reimagining of what was possible. And I’m grateful I’m grateful that I’m at a place you know, in my business that it is self sustaining. I think 10 years ago, I probably couldn’t have taken a 30 day vacation and been okay at the end of the year on my profit and loss statement.

Kevin Stafford 4:52
And that’s I think you hit on another another I word that I think is incredibly important here and that’s intention. Like you took that time with intention, and by doing that you were able to really understand what it was going to take what your what is my business have to look like for it to run without me? Not entirely without you, like steal your business. But what does this look like if I can step away for a little while, and everything still runs smooth, and at the end of the year, the books look the same as they’ve always looked or better. And that’s, that’s intention.

Tom Henschel 5:19
Yeah. And listen, when I was raising my girls, and, you know, working harder, and my, you know, I wasn’t as confident in my earnings, that it was going to really be there. At the end of the year, I was lucky to take, you know, a two week vacation once a year. So to take 30 days, twice a year, you know, that’s quite an evolution for me, and, you know, in many ways that my business will sustain it, but also that I can give myself permission to do it. Mm hmm.

Kevin Stafford 5:48
There you go. Maybe that may be the single hardest hurdle, obviously, intentionality and structuring your business in such a way that you can be you’re not, you’re not at the central hub, you’re not the hub with all the spokes kind of radiating out of out from you. There’s that but there’s also the giving yourself permission, I’m so glad you mentioned them brought that up, because that’s so challenging for so many of the coaches I get to talk to, and I imagine any entrepreneur or person who has started or run a run a business where just you’re constantly feeding into feeding yourself into the success of this business and success of this endeavor, you’re giving it your all because it matters to you, you care about it, you’re passionate about it. Ideally, it’s, it’s great, you love being this passionate about the things that you do. But that can that can interfere with or at least kind of like, cause you to lose track of the fact that you give yourself permission to do these things. And to kind of flip the polarity on that and give yourself the permission to step away, as you’ve been giving yourself the permission to step into for so long over and over again, that’s, I think that’s something that we don’t Well, I think we do, I don’t know if we talked enough about that, that permission structure, and how to how to how to interact with it as our business grows and evolves. And as we grow and evolve.

Tom Henschel 7:01
Two quick thoughts. Number one, my business is old enough now that I could look ahead when I knew I was going to, for example, take my first 30 days off in 2022. And I knew what I had to do to make the business work while I was gone. So I have a team, you know, my podcast went on without me. I don’t mean that really. But like I had prepped it, I pre loaded it. That was one way of giving myself permission was I had to do all the work to get myself out of here. And that was good that I knew my business that well. Another thing you know, I mentor a lot of other coaches. And one of the things that I’m aware of is coaches are really good at coaching, they’re not always good at business. Not always good at, you know that things that freaked them out around marketing, or funnels or client management and all that kind of business stuff. So that’s something else to where I feel like I’ve learned my business so well by, you know, driving the boat up on the rocks a couple of times, and reviving anyway and all that, that I really, I’ve learned how to run my business by, you know, again, people who taught me and being a good observer and just learning that I could do that. But the idea of coaches running their business, not just being good coaches, I think that’s something that often I think coaches are challenged with, because, for example, a lot of coaches are intuitive. And, you know, they’re wired up with their EQ, but that doesn’t mean that they’re good with numbers, or organization, or tracking systems. And that’s a challenge, I think for a lot of coaches. And again, luckily, I had help so that I could do it.

Kevin Stafford 8:39
There even I’ve talked to a number of them coaches that specialize in in transitions like that, where you get, you get to a point where you’re really good at this thing that you do, whether it’s your coach or whether you’re like an engineer, or you’re a programmer, or you’re in in your in your in some for your HR, you’re in marketing, your whatever it happens to be. And you begin to move through your career development, whether that’s starting your own business or moving up to a position of leadership in an already established business. And suddenly the skill set that you were executing on it, you’ve gotten great at I’m a fantastic coach, I’m an I’m an excellent engineer. And then you move into these positions that require different skill sets in order to be successful, like leadership, like how to operate a business from from the numbers perspective, from the you know, cashflow perspective, from the workflow perspective, from the managing of a team are managing multiple teams with different purposes that all serve the same business. those skill sets require some development and which is exactly where a coach is, is just so so so valuable. And it can be very difficult to understand that, you know, I’ve gotten here through the skills I’ve developed over time, I’ve become an excellent coach. And now I’m also not only a coach, I’m also running a coaching business and realizing that that’s a different like set of responsibilities and requires a different skill set. That’s where you know You find a lot of coaches kind of struggling and stumbling. And then eventually realizing, I need a team, I need some help, I need to write help to kind of help me get along with this, I need to also kind of develop my alternative skill sets and get good enough at this. So I can recognize the talent in a team member or in a team that I want to hire that I want to bring in, that will help my business continue to grow. And let me continue to do the things that I love. Like let me still be a coach who runs a coaching business, not someone who runs a coaching business that used to be or sometimes is still a coach, because that’s it can take up so much of your time and your energy running the business itself that it becomes it takes you away from what you want to do in the first place. That’s it’s such a tricky, tricky labyrinth to navigate.

Tom Henschel 10:41
And finding the people who are going to educate you, I find that ICF often is a really great resource for other coaches who, yeah, there are certain people, especially the people in the Los Angeles chapter, where I’m a member, there, people there who end up on the board, who are really good at running their own businesses, and so they can help run the chapter. And they’re often very generous around helping people think about systems or sharing, oh, this is the software I use, or, Oh, I have a great accountant or whatever it is. So again, that community of coaches, often, you know, by nature, we’re helpers we like to help each other to that’s, that’s been a great resource. I’ve been lucky that

Kevin Stafford 11:24
way. Yeah, that’s, that’s something I mean, ICF, like anybody who’s been coaching or is thinking about coaching for very long you the ICF is the is one of the first things you think of, and many coaches are members of the ICF in some standing, and there are plenty of them that aren’t or who are members of other coaching Federation’s or coaching organizations, and I don’t at least hear on this podcast. I don’t know if I talked enough about that. And the importance of that, that community, that network of like minded people who have who have lived and worked and sweated in the same areas that you have, or in just like, you know, like the Venn diagram barely overlaps, but you’re still coaches and the the way the the resources you have available when you are a member of something like the ICF. It’s just, I mean, just just what you mentioned, right? There is invaluable to a coach who’s struggling to navigate those early days, or even that mid those middle days of developing their coaching business. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of what an organization like the ICF has to offer. I think,

Tom Henschel 12:25
well listen, if I can do a little I, it’s not even self promotion, I want to offer it up to other coaches, which is on. I have been leading for six years now of virtual special interest group about executive coaching. And we meet six times a year, and there’s usually about 40 people on the call. And we get together for 90 minutes, six times a year. And it’s self LED. We don’t have speakers come and talk to us. We talk to each other. And it’s been a wonderful community and more than anything else, that’s what it’s been people have found business partners there, they’ve found mentors there. They’ve learned there, they’ve all kinds of things have happened in that group. Just because of that idea of collaborative community and self learning and self teaching. It’s been great. It’s been really great.

Kevin Stafford 13:14
I’m gonna have to have you send me the link to that if that’s if that’s an open if there are openings in that community, I’ll make sure that gets into the show notes, because I know there are some executive coaches, plenty of them that listen to this podcast that might be interested in something like that.

Tom Henschel 13:25
Oh, yeah. Well, in in general, the Los Angeles chapter has become a global leader in offering tons of education. So teleclasses, and special interest groups, and my goodness, I mean, so people are looking for community and coach education. There’s all different kinds. So yeah, sure. I’m happy to send you the link. Yeah.

Kevin Stafford 13:46
It’s I like the rising tide raises all boats get it out there now. So there was one thing that you You teased me with you You were you were gonna tell me before I hit record that you wanted to like you wanted to kind of either pick my brain on or see what I thought about it. And I’m I told you to stop because I wanted you to surprise me. So I don’t know what you’re about to ask or what what subject you’re about to bring up. But I’m gonna go ahead and prompt you now. What is that thing that you wanted to maybe talk with me about?

Tom Henschel 14:09
Interestingly enough, it’s about ICF.

Kevin Stafford 14:12
Really. So anyway,

Tom Henschel 14:15
so I’ve been coaching more than 30 years. ICF is not 30 years old. When I started coaching ICF didn’t exist, there was no certification process. And the group that I actually started coaching with, we were trying to figure out what corporate coaching actually was and how to get our corporate clients to understand it. So we felt like ground breakers. There were other people doing it at the same time, but it wasn’t even called coaching in those days. It was, you know, would you work one on one with one of our leaders kind of thing. So I never did an ICF training also ICF started and it’s focused, mostly most of the coaches because I checked them out. Most of them in those days were life coaches. So I went in and they kind of they were nice people, but they weren’t my people. That wasn’t my community. Yeah, and so I never got ICF certified. But at a certain point, when ICF profile here in Los Angeles had changed, I joined the organization, I’ve become a leader in the organization. And I am not ICF certified. And here’s the question that I have that I think is interesting. And I talk about this with my ICF friends all the time, which is the way ICF trains their coaches, and the fundamental belief that every client has the answer in him or herself, that we as coaches are meant to be guides by the side, but we’re not supposed to teach, we’re not supposed to consult, we’re not supposed to do training, I get that. But it doesn’t work in executive coaching. Does not work in executive coaching. In executive coaching, I’m given, first of all, I’m given a bunch of money, but I’m given a set of goals, like take this person from point A, and get them to point D, in six months, go, and we’re gonna measure you. And it’s like, if I, I mean, there’s a part of it, because if they could have figured it out on their own, they probably would have these are smart men and women, right at a pretty senior level, they’re going to need at some point, they’re going to need some consulting training models, they’re going to need something that ICF would listen to that session and say that is not good. And so I think it’s an interesting tension for executive coaches, around how you get trained in ICF. And what actually works with your clients to keep the corporate contract working? And I think it’s an interesting problem.

Kevin Stafford 16:40
I do I do. And I like I like you’re using the word tension to identify it, because tension is not inherently good or bad tension is actually how a lot of things get done, sometimes. So I think identifying that it’s tension, and then talking about it and thinking about it, and having discussions about it before assigning anything like good or bad, or yes, it’s coaching, or no, it’s not coaching, I think that’s important, because I think it’s a good, very, very good and very important area to explore, as I’m thinking about it, because, and this, I ended up talking sort of in adjacent areas on this subject quite a bit, especially with in with executive coaches, but with a lot of other coaches too, because there’s, there tends to be a sort of hybridization or combination that a lot of coaches use where they have, they have like structures and blueprints and systems that they can run that will get you from point A to point B, or C or D, depending on what your goals are, like, you know, exit planning strategy, or, you know, just business building systems. And it’s through a coaching is within a coaching structure. And so there is there’s a provided structure that really is it’s, it’s a little bit more than guidance, it’s sort of a roadmap. And it’s hybridized, with like, with the coach being the guide on the journey, and also providing the map, so to speak. I’m kind of like, you know, butchering this analogy here. And I encounter that quite a bit. And I think we are in an interesting time, because of how coaching has exploded and is still evolving to where coaches, do, they do some consulting most coaches do, or they occasionally like, they will insert something that’s a little bit more tangible, especially specially in the corporate environment where, where data analytics, results driven, you know, very hard timelines are more than norm. They’re more the status quo. And a coach has to serve those in the context of the work that they’re doing for that organization, while also maintaining their, their their intrinsic role as guide or guide on the side, which I like. I like that rhyme. And so I think I think there is a very interesting tension there. In fact, that’s something again, like I said, that comes up without me thinking about it as a tension. I ended up having conversations about it a lot through this podcast, when I’m asking people’s like, so how do you do what you do? And why do you do it the way that you do it, and you know, sometimes it’s pure guidance. It’s pure, you know, some guide on the side, which is still the heart, it’s still the bread and butter, the meat and potatoes of coaching. But there are plenty of coaches who have very specialized areas of work that they work in, that they they they bring a system, they come with a blueprint, and there’s a there’s a timeline where it’s like we’ll go from, we’ll get you from here to there, and 90 days or from here to there and half a year, whatever it happens to be. And it’s really about which I think what I’m about to say is sort of representative of the heart of coaching even as it might not be defined as coaching by someone like the ICF. There is a commitment to helping people get from where they are to where they want to be, and providing the energy and the guidance or whatever it takes really, to help people in that journey. And I think that that service that that desire to serve, to be of service is at the heart of every coach even As some of their techniques might not be defined as coaching, I think that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s where that’s what I’m able to say what I’m able to think right now, about that tension. i This is a fascinating subject, I feel like I can I can think on this for hours and days and, and obviously talk about it for even longer.

Tom Henschel 20:17
Well, I’m gonna guess that a lot of your coaches, you know, struggle with this in some way or another one of the places where it shows up for me, my my podcast, but look inside of leadership, they’re 20 minute episodes, and the first 10 minutes is a fictionalized coaching session, where literally, it’s like a little radio play. She said this, I said this, she said this, I said this. And a lot of times coaches will reach out to me go, I’ve learned so much listening to you. And I think, Oh, my God, I hope not because I would never coach like that. Because you know, it’s 10 minutes. And it’s got to be, you know, it’s not, it’s not always great coaching. It’s a good story, and a nice little piece of drama. But there’s a lesson in and I’m trying to teach something to the listeners. And I think I hope people aren’t taking that as, like, a good coaching practice, because there is so much teaching in it. And I do a lot less teaching now than I used to, I ask a lot more questions now than I used to. And that’s the ICF influence on me. But I still am aware, I just did it the other day with somebody where I said, Look, I have to take off my coaching hat for a second, I’m gonna put my consulting down, there’s something I think you would benefit from knowing. And she was like, oh, good teach me. And she made me do it twice. She was like, I really want to get this, this is fantastic. And I was teaching and I just thought, you know, if some ICF auditor were listening to me, they would kick me out. And I just think it’s all just fascinating.

Kevin Stafford 21:44
It really is. And that’s like, it’s, I’m a I was gonna say I’m of two minds about this. But it is still the same mind because on the one hand, I find that the rigor of defining what coaching is, I think it’s important to have a lot of attention, some eyes on that and to have some standardization, I think that really helps not just legitimize but also grow coaching not not only as a as a business, but also just as something that people are aware of that has value in their personal and professional development. And I get a little concerned when the when the letter of the law begins to supersede the spirit of the law, so to speak.

Tom Henschel 22:21
Yes. And I am aware that a lot of people who want to be helpers, like people who want to be therapists, often come with their own wounds. And if those wounds aren’t addressed, and if you aren’t trained how to keep your wounds out of the room, you often can hurt other people, although your intentions are good. And I’ve met those people at ICF, where they’re clearly very junior, and they cannot get out of their own way yet. And they’re not quite ready to be coaches. And that’s where I go ICF training is fantastic, because they’re going to help people with a bunch of tools that say, You’re it’s not about you, is not about you and stay out of it. And I think there are a lot of people, a lot of people who they were whatever they were in their prior life, and they will now want to be a coach, they need that training. And so I think it’s great. I want to be clear, I’m not bashing ICF. I think RIA I just think this is a really interesting problem for coaches to grapple with.

Kevin Stafford 23:23
Yeah, very much so. And it’s funny, as you were talking, I was thinking about how it’s almost like, it feels almost like an intrinsic struggle, because your journey begins, or at least your coaching journey begins with, I want to help. And then you by learning how to coach, you learn how to remove the AI, which that’s far easier said than done. That’s the work of a lifetime. Quite right. Great.

Tom Henschel 23:49
Yes. Great to start with,

Kevin Stafford 23:51
I want to help and then you get help removing the eye from the equation and being of service. It’s this is a meaty, meaty subject. I like this a lot because I this is something I don’t get to talk about. Enough. This is I’m so I’m so glad I made you hold it in reserve because I was like, Oh, this is this is great. This is one of them as one of the core questions of coaching I feel like as a as a as a as a as a model for for human development anyway. Oh, man. Okay, I gotta get you out of here. I just looked up at the Zoom clock because you fascinated you titillated my mind, and my heart and my spirit. And now I’m looking at the time and I’m like, I lost track of you. So thank you for being on the show. Again. If it wasn’t already certain, it’s more than certain now I’m going to be having you back on. Probably. Because these kinds of conversations I feel like are a demonstration. Sort of like you know, not quite to scale model of what coaching conversation could be like are exploratory conversations could be like, that’s one thing I wanted to mention too. When you were talking about sometimes you go through those little 10 minute, quote unquote, off fictional coaching sessions, and how it’s like, you have to be careful not to ever confuse the model for the journey itself, or the map for the journey itself. The map is the map because it’s meant to be small, it’s meant to be a guide, and you can have topography on it. And you can, you can see on the map, where the hill goes up and the hill goes down. That’s not the path. That’s the map. And so you have to never lose sight of that like I like I like thinking about that but and that’s maybe that’s something we can talk about more and explore more next time. That’s I’m just I’m so like, I so don’t want to let you go because I’m so enjoying this conversation. But before I let you go, which I’m going to do, I promise, where can people find out more about you? Where can people connect with you learn more about the podcast, learn more about your business, start a conversation, where should i Where should I send people

Tom Henschel 25:49
I run a company called a central communications and our website is essential calm with two M’s dot com.

Kevin Stafford 25:57
Easy peasy. I love it. I’ll show notes, obviously. And then also, I’ll remind you don’t forget to send me that link to that a bet executive coaching community meetings I would love I would love to to help more people find that.

Tom Henschel 26:09
Yes, I would welcome them being there. So thanks,

Kevin Stafford 26:13
Tom. I’m just gonna say that one more time. Thank you. I’m just I’m filled with gratitude and also lots of interesting thoughts. So I’m going to have to, I’m gonna have to journal on and think on for a while and talk about with with you again and with other coaches, too, and I’m gonna start bringing this up.

Tom Henschel 26:29
Well, I look forward to it. Thank you, ex. Thank you. It’s great to be with you again.

Kevin Stafford 26:33
And to the audience listening I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I certainly did. If you enjoyed it half as much as I did, then you’re having a great day. So thank you for being here. Thank you for listening and we will talk to you again very soon.

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