Tales of people using a coaching approach to our climate problems.
Paula is a freelance facilitator and executive coach based in France, specialising in sustainability. She is currently completing the Coach Training Circle programme with us. Originally from Sweden, Paula works with global groups and teams in remote locations helping their transition to sustainability. She speaks three languages and recently graduated with an MA in Sustainable Leadership Development from the University of Cumbria. In her spare time, she is restoring an orchard and enjoying the mountains. Zoe Greenwood from our team spoke to her.
Zoe: How are you dealing with the current health crisis?
Paula: I am very lucky to be living in rural France – springtime is a wonderful season and trees are exploding with blossom. Each day I spend time being present in nature, and we have scaled up our ambitions for the vegetable garden this year. Staying in close contact with my friends and family, rationing time spent reading the news and a gin and tonic now and then! Finally, I’m frequently in touch with my Coach Training Circle network to share our experiences and perspectives – it is a very interesting time right now with rich potential for change.
Zoe: Tell us about your journey to becoming a coach and more recently, a climate change coach?
Paula: Ten years ago I was working in marketing for a people development charity when I realised that facilitating people’s development was much more interesting and worthwhile. I left my job as Head of Sales of Marketing and trained as an NLP coach. My first role as a coach was part of a leadership development programme, coaching senior managers 1:1, often at transition points of their careers or adjusting to a leadership role.
I see coaching as a relationship where humanist values, attentive listening and non-judgemental support has potential for huge impact on people. The leadership work was fascinating however, I was increasingly wanting to align my work with leadership that would serve the greater good – as opposed to profits of individual companies. So, in 2014, I began a Masters in Leadership for Sustainability at the University of Cumbria which, in turn led to me working as facilitator on sustainability leadership programmes with Earthwatch where we’d teach basic coaching skills to support people’s sustainability journeys.
For the past five years I’ve also coached senior managers who mentor conservation managers in Protected Areas as part of Earth Skills Network so my coaching has found a natural home with clients working within environmental sectors.
More recently I wanted to get back into the core of coaching work and make some investment into my own development, so as soon as I’d finished by Master’s degree, I started to look for ways to move forward. The Climate Change Coaches were made known to me by several different people – all of whom I respected, and this led me to sign up to the Coaching Circle – which I am hugely enjoying.
I have spent a lot of time over the years in the ‘problem space’ and so for me it is about stepping into my power as a coach; I see coaching for sustainability as action orientated and it helps clients uncover their resourcefulness in relation to climate rather than staying in a place of fear. They feel empowered to evolve their own leadership whether as formal role-holders or individual employees.
Zoe: What has been your greatest learning so far and tell us about your hopes for the future?
Paula: I am continually surprised by the shift that is possible within clients – increasing resourcefulness and sense of purpose. Because of the way the Coaching Circle is designed – with deep awareness and a coaching purpose underpinning it – I don’t feel concerned about coaching for Climate Change having an ‘agenda’ – we all work within a context, and there will always be an agenda, explicit or not. But of course, it’s important to step back and allow the client to design their own agenda and language.
I am learning as a coach the importance of offering to myself what I want to offer other people. Being part of the Circle gives me a creative space and time to develop – this is as useful as the thematic inputs. It takes you on a practical and thoughtful journey.
My hope for the future is that climate and the environment naturally comes to form a part of all our work and lives and that we are proactive with this. I also hope we don’t get so clouded by fear driven decision making as a society and so miss the chance to see what is showing up in terms of systemic fragility, as well as the strengths in our own ways of being and living. I hope we don’t fall into a mass orgy of consumption after the worst of Covid19 constraints are over. What are we learning right now that can equally be applied to handling climate change and living more sustainably I wonder?
Zoe: Finally, any tips for coaches looking to turn their attention towards climate and sustainability?
Paula: I would invite people to spend time unpacking their own motivation for doing this work and see what the overlap is between this work and where they are already working. What strengths and skills to you have that can be applied in the sustainability space and what do you need to develop? You need to feel confident that this is where you want to invest your energy and focus. Joining the Circle helps to facilitate these questions to oneself. You don’t need to be an expert on climate change, that is not what we as coaches are here for. Also, just do something now– we need everyone with us on this journey and it doesn’t need to be perfect.
Big thanks to Paula for taking the time to speak with us. You can reach Paula at https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulalernelius/