Transformational Life Coach, Mel Stahl is based in Hamburg, Germany and works with international clients all over the world. Here she talks to MumAbroad about her path to becoming a coach, the difference between coaching and therapy, and how coaching can help with adapting to life in a new country.
“It is so important to have trust in the coaching relationship and
be authentic with each other, this is when the magic happens!”
Yes, that’s a great way of putting it, my career path hasn’t been linear at all. I started out as a chef as I Ioved cooking with the idea of running my own restaurant. However, as much as I loved cooking and worked in some great restaurants I wanted time with friends at the weekend and to enjoy regular working hours that allowed me to take better care of my health! So I entered the “office world” as I like to call it. I worked for various companies in different roles such as an office manager for a housing developer, co-running a regional Sotheby’s office and ended up at a B2B PR & Marketing firm where I really enjoyed working in a team organising large events. All these various roles taught me so much. I guess looking back I always felt the need to find new challenges and always felt the need to try something new.
Then circumstances in my life changed when I turned 34 and I was given a great opportunity to travel to Australia. I guess I was trying to figure out where my path would lead me or what my purpose was. The universe seemed to have a better idea than me 🙂 I met a lovely German man and moved to Germany, not in my life plan at all 🙂 For many years I taught English and then I realised that I wanted to do more to help people and decided to change career again and low and behold that’s my journey to becoming a transformational coach. I think teaching is a great precursor to becoming a coach, so many skills I used in teaching are used in coaching.
Gosh, there are so many important skills we need but for me personally being truly present with a client is the most important skill. Letting go and trusting in the process, being in tune with the client and showing the client you are fully committed to them leads to a much deeper focus and awareness that builds trust and authenticity. It is so important to have trust in the coaching relationship and be authentic with each other, this is when the magic happens!
Active listening is another important key skill. We automatically think this just means listening carefully to the client. Still, active listening also involves noticing how a client says something, observing their body language and more importantly noticing what is “not” being said. This is a skill that again builds trust and brings authenticity into the coaching space.
Other important skills are being able to show empathy, being genuinely curious, and building trust and rapport. With the combination of all these skills I’ve mentioned, I believe a coach and client can work together in sync and get the best results from a coaching session.
I often describe coaching as therapeutic, but it is most definitely not therapy. Therapy is more likely to focus on specific events and situations that relate to the past. Coaching focuses on a client’s present situation and looks at ways a client can move forward in a positive way. For example, if a client is experiencing feelings of fear regarding making a career change or life change, the fear may well come from past experience. Still, in coaching, we look at what is happening now and what can the client change or do to handle the fear moving forward. So not delving too deeply into the past but always focusing on the future. I am a certified coach but I am not a therapist and it is really important to know this distinction so thank you for asking this question.
This is a great question as there are so many different labels for coaches these days. A traditional life coach is more likely to focus on a client’s goals and objectives and then work together to explore possible ways to achieve the goal, look at any potential barriers that might prevent the success of the goal and then help the client put a plan in place to reach the desired outcome for the goal.
A transformational coach approach is also focuses on a client’s goal or objective but we go much deeper and explore how the clients view their world, their self and their relationships. This means looking at their beliefs, values and use of language and what this reveals around their view of the world. As a transformational coach, I look at the stories a client has created in their lives and how this affects how they live. Using transformative coaching skills I explore questions around thoughts and feelings my clients are experiencing and notice their body language and other gestures that may provide an insight into what is going on for them in that given moment.
Transformational coaching can really help a client become much more self-aware and helps a client to see themselves in a new light. This deeper exploration coaching method really helps to facilitate profound change in a client’s life.
I moved to Germany 16 years ago and wish coaching had been available back then as I know how much it would have benefitted me. When you relocate to a country either alone, as a couple or family or you have moved to your partner’s country like I did, it is likely that you won’t know anyone to begin with and the language isn’t familiar. It is incredibly difficult to describe how out of place you feel, and although you may be really excited to start your new life there are many things to navigate that may leave you feeling lost, lonely and overwhelmed.
Working with a coach who truly understands what you are going through is the first big benefit as you have a space to unload your thoughts and feelings and you know that the coach can empathise and understand what you are going through. Having a coach to talk to who can provide useful tools and practical help as well as exploring ways to embrace your new life as an expat can be incredibly beneficial and alleviate the feelings of overwhelm and loneliness.
You will definitely become much more self-aware and by that I mean you gain new insights about yourself that will make you conscious of behaviour and thought patterns that may or may not be serving you well. You will learn to reflect on them and be able to understand why you react to certain situations the way you do and with this new knowledge change or adapt your way of handling this situation in the future.
With these new insights, you will learn to use more creative ways to solve problems. You will be able to expand or even step out of your comfort zone. The most profound knowledge I have gained from becoming a transformational coach is recognising my emotions and learning to observe and sit with them, emotional intelligence opens lots of doors to a better understanding of yourself. Emotions we experience can be so powerful but often we can’t find the exact word to describe them.
In a nutshell, becoming more self-aware of who you really are will empower you to fulfil your potential and this will impact your whole life in such a positive way. You will see that you have the answers inside of you, as your coach I am there to support you and help you see through new lenses.
Every client I have worked with describes me as very warm and empathetic so I will take their word for it. 🙂 I’m a heart-centred coach but I am also not afraid to challenge my clients’ thoughts and beliefs in a sensitive way and when appropriate use much-needed humour.
I also have a creative spirit in me and love it when clients bring up metaphors or use of phrases for example “ a mountain to climb”. This is such a powerful way to talk about a situation and lots of insights can be gained from digging deep into a visual or metaphor.
I am fun to work with as I feel it’s very important that a client enjoys working on themselves even if sometimes it feels hard. I provide a very safe and confidential space and greet all my clients with a warm and big smile. I like to start sessions with some deep breathing to bring a client into their coaching space. The most important thing for me is that my clients and I trust each other implicitly and so providing an open and honest coaching space is a must for me. When a client feels comfortable enough to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with me then I know I am providing the right coaching space for them.