Cultural Change: How Can you Make it Happen

What was the passion that engaged you to become a coach? Is that passion still as alive as it once was? In this new column, which will appear regularly in the Coaching World under the title “Transformations,” I will be giving examples of coaches who are clear about their calling, and who are using it for transformation. As you read their stories, I invite you to think about how you yourself might make greater contributions.

The coaching profession has powerful tools to create change, and I would like to challenge us to use these tools more in our communities and cultures. Let’s question our usual way of doing business and find ways to be more inclusive and diverse. Let’s find ways to give more from the heart of ourselves, and create business models based on contribution. Let’s assume we can give freely AND make a great living.

For several years, I trained inmates in a federal correction facility to be coaches as part of the Time to Change program ( I went there to “do good” for the inmates, but I was shocked by the transformation that happened to me. The inmates challenged me to offer all of myself, and to confront the hopelessness that I had been harboring all my life. They also challenged me to use my freedom to do what was most important to me.

The inmates had a program for youth at risk and needed more coaching skills. More important than the skills we taught them was the awakening of their vision and deep purpose. They discovered, even from behind bars, ways to make their vision and purpose real. For the first time in their lives, they understood that they mattered. And, through my giving to them, I experienced my own sense of purpose being filled.

The coaching training raised the inmates’ emotional intelligence, gave them connections across the usual race barriers in the prison, and improved their ability to create meaningful relationships with both those inside the prison and with their families on the outside. They started changing the culture of the prison from the inside.

This experience showed me that as soon as people are able to see and understand that they have something unique to offer, they simply start finding ways to offer it, regardless of their circumstances. Coaching is one of the most effective ways to awaken that individual contribution. Coaching is also one of the best ways to create support to use that contribution in the world. We need partnerships. We need to leverage our power as coaches and find better ways to empower the organizations and institutions that already exist.

I ask you to pause and notice: What change in your community or culture would you like to help create? What, specifically, can you do to help make it happen? What partnerships do you need to form so you are well supported in your effort?

Lynne Gilliland Garber ([email protected]) and Melanie Orndorff ([email protected]) are two people who felt called to engage their expertise to help bring about societal change. Lynne and Melanie are working with the Coaches Alliance for Social Action ([email protected]), a group of coaches committed to bringing social action and coaching together. Their project matches nonprofit leaders with coaches, who then offer reduced-fee or pro-bono coaching to these leaders. These women saw a need, then put their talents to work to create the opportunity for coaches to give and for causes to receive.

This project is part of a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, which is supporting research into the links between coaching and philanthropy. To evaluate the efficacy of coaching in the nonprofit sector, the grant is funding coaching projects with three organizations: The Black Professional Coaches Alliance (; A Hand Up Coaching (; and Americoach.

I also am part of this project. In addition to exploring the needs of nonprofits, we are educating coaches about giving and nonprofits about coaching. We are creating a fertile field for this work to grow, in partnership.

Through these articles, I want to join in partnership with you to stimulate and support the unique contribution we all have to offer. We are never as powerful as when we are giving generously. And we give, not because we should, but because we’ve all been given gifts meant to be shared with the world. As we give, we also receive.

Written by Virginia Kellogg

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