004: Successfully Changing Industries with Brigit Eichenberger

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Brigit Eichenberger: You know what? You can change industries, you can shift! You can absolutely turn your life around to do 180 degrees something different! And it’s going to be fantastic!

Fabian Luetzig: Welcome to the Global Campfire of Coaching, an ongoing discussion between Coaches, Coachees and anybody else interested in the Art and the Science of Coaching, spreading information and exchanging opinions so that we learn and grow together as a community. I’m your host Fabian Luetzig.

Sitting down at the Campfire with us today is Brigit Eichenberger. Brigit is an Erickson certified professional coach and NLP practitioner, recognized by the International Coach Federation as a Professional Certified Coach. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management and a Masters in Arts Administration from her hometown University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her career has taken her to the Hilton, Compass Group and Goldman Sachs, working internationally in the areas of Administration, Marketing, Operations and Communication. Brigit’s love for the performing arts made her change industry and enter the opera world, where she worked first in Germany and then in Switzerland as Head of Planning & Artistic Administration for the Zurich Opera.

Being an artist herself, Brigit understands both sides of an organization, the business and creative one. She enjoys bringing them together to create productive work environments. As a lifelong learner with a passion to service others, Brigit as a coach is dedicated to support professionals being successful facing adaptive changes and moving through transitions with a sustainable resourceful mindset.

She supports the growth of Erickson Coaching International by creating a corporate offering, bringing existing Erickson Programs online and setting up policies and procedures. She is also a Facilitator for the ‘Coaching Competencies for Leaders’ course that focuses on building confidence and competence in leaders that wish to develop their leadership skills through Solution-Focused communication and coaching.

Interview

Brigit Eichenberger: I first heard about coaching when I was taking an educational sabbatical from my previous job. I had a friend telling me, he suggested that I should look into it. He was saying “You’re already doing this. Isn’t that the right next thing to do?” So, I started to research on the internet and stumbled across “The Art & Science of Coaching” and that’s when I really started to learn more about what coaching is. That’s been 4 or 5 years ago now.

Fabian Luetzig: What was it that you were already doing that your friend picked up on?

Brigit Eichenberger: Apparently, I was already trying to help people having a better life or getting what they want and supporting them in whatever transition situation they were in. It is something that I always wanted to do, and I have a deep connection to being of service, helping people.

Fabian Luetzig: And I know you’ve been doing that in very interesting environments; you’ve had some very cool jobs before turning your eyes on coaching. Do you want to give us a little taste of what that was like?

Brigit Eichenberger: Sure, I’d love to! I started out in the hospitality industry where it’s all about service, all about having people, guests have a wonderful experience, supporting them, being of service, so that they have a great stay or a great party. So that lead me into the hospitality industry, and I worked for big hotel companies in various different areas. Then I decided I wanted to move over into the performing arts world, because I have a huge passion for singing and performing. I thought “I want to be part of that world. I don’t have to be on stage, but I want to support and make things happen backstage so that the performance actually happens!” That’s when I moved and changed industries and I joined an opera house and I got a Master’s in Arts Administration. Again, it was all about service and making things happen: connecting things, being of service, so that a performance in the end would run on stage and that people being actors, singers, directors, that they could do their job and they didn’t have to worry about what was going on backstage. Then I switched over, I noticed that working with people on a 1:1 basis was truly something I enjoyed; it was so impactful that I said: “You know what? I have to change again! Take everything that I’ve done, experienced and learned and take that into the coaching – the coaching I do now with clients on a 1:1 basis – to bring that in and be of service and have an impact, hopefully, with individual clients.

Fabian Luetzig: Explain a little more about that moment when you realized: The 1:1, that’s where it’s at for me, and coaching is the way to do it. What led you down that road?

Brigit Eichenberger: What led me down that road is that I was at one point at a moment in my career where I had achieved a position that I wanted to achieve. I’d reached the top of my mountain that I had set out to climb; I was there, and I noticed that it wasn’t really giving me everything. There was a certain level of fulfillment, but it wasn’t a complete level of fulfillment. I was asking myself at that point: “Is that it? Is that all? Why am I not completely fulfilled, what is missing?” That’s when I noticed that this human connection on a 1:1 basis was missing. That’s where I thought how I can have this 1:1 connection. If it’s only one person that I can support achieving their goals and living a (more) fulfilled life, then that truly is all that is important  to me, then I feel and know that I’m actually living my purpose; that’s when I made that connection, because I was then looking for a way how I could do that. That in the end led me to becoming a coach, because that it is a vehicle where you get tools and you get the framework of how to work with individuals impactfully

Fabian Luetzig: Alright, as you’ve shown you have a pretty unique background, even among coaches! How would you describe your style, your brand of coaching?

Brigit Eichenberger: I describe it as: I’m the coach for the leaders within a professional environment that is not the top executive and it is not the team member that has just started out. I want to service and support all the people that are in the middle. They have the pressure from the top, the pressure from the bottom, that might be project leaders, it might be supervisors, team leaders, department heads: all the people that are not necessarily focused on in an organization. I so resonate and understand them, because I’ve been there myself. I want to service international professionals in high-pressure environments that deal with so many different situations and people and environments that no training that is out there is really addressing. So that’s what I put myself out there for, to support these folks.

Fabian Luetzig:  What’s one of your favorite coaching success stories from the world of internationals in the high-pressure environments?

Brigit Eichenberger: Hm, there’s lots. Of course, I don’t want to betray any confidentiality of people that I’ve coached. That is one important aspect, that it’s private, personal and confidential. However, I know of one client, she doesn’t mind me sharing this story. I just love how it turned out! This was a client who came to me who was at the time, not sure where to go next. She was due for a promotion, she was within a corporate environment and she was debating if she should take the promotion, go for an MBA or whatever was the next step. What to do? In the end, after she’s finished the coaching sessions with me, she decided that none of that was actually what she wanted to do, but that she wanted to become a coach herself. I have to say I love that because it was all her own discovery and it was all her aligning with what is important to her; noticing and realizing: “You know what? Just because I’m in this environment now doesn’t mean that this is the right thing going forward.” She was discovering the courage and the confidence to say: “You know what? You can change industries, you can shift! You can absolutely turn your life around to do 180 degrees something different! And it’s going to be fantastic!” And she’s done that. That’s one of my favorite stories.

Fabian Luetzig: Wow! I love how you give her all the credit for it. You said it was all her doing, realizing that and recognizing that. I think – anecdotally, not that I have any sort of research on that – but I think a lot of coaches start out as clients and then realize “Hey, I could be on the other side of this! I really like the environment, I really like doing this!”

Brigit Eichenberger: Oh yes! This is one of the key points where I noticed this is fulfilling me; because after each session I feel completely energized. That is the way to know that you’re doing something that allows you to go into flow, that lets you forget time and it’s giving you energy instead of giving you a headache.

Fabian Luetzig: I’m so glad you said that, because I feel the exact same way! This is the first job I’ve ever had where, if I’m tired or I’m a little grumpy, I go to work and afterwards I’m refreshed, and I’m energized and I’m so happy.

Brigit Eichenberger: Yeah, exactly! For me it is both the 1:1 coaching and facilitating. That’s my second passion, which I’ve discovered. That’s the other thing I love: passing on the knowledge and empowering these leaders and these supervisors and give them the tools. Basically, teach the people how to fish and not just giving them the fish. That’s for me the ‘both … and …’. The 1:1 coaching, working with leaders, and the other one is facilitating and passing on the skills. It’s not rocket science, and everybody can learn it.

Fabian Luetzig: Even though it’s not rocket science, obviously sometimes there are some rough patches. What I’m getting at is: I’m wondering if you ever had a time where you doubted your abilities as a coach?

Brigit Eichenberger: I wouldn’t say that it was a specific moment. It was, I guess, when I first started, when I was in my coach training. Of course, there was this moment of: “Heavens, this is a lot of information! How am I going to learn all of this? How am I going to get this and really deliver it fluently? How am I able to use the techniques in a fluent and confident way and at the same time use my intuition and really, really allow the client or the coachee to have an absolute best experience? There was this moment, I guess, in my coach training in the first couple of weeks, where clearly it was like: “Okay, this is a lot of stuff!” But it is linked to the Stage of Learning, right? So, in that moment, it was really helpful that our facilitator shared with us: “Look, you’re at this point. First you don’t know what you don’t know. And at that point, you are at the stage where you know all the things you don’t know.” And that creates that doubt of whether I’m able to get all of this. How will it ever sound fluid and confident? That’s part of the process. What is really useful within the coach training that I did, is that you work on yourself as well while you go through the coach training. You’re applying all the things that are then afterwards meant for a session with a coachee. You’re also trying this out on yourself and that really supported me in understanding and saying ‘Yes!’ and getting the confirmation on the realization of ‘Hey, this works! I can trust the process! As long as I’m practicing enough, I know I will be able to do this.’

Fabian Luetzig: Let’s go for one of the big questions, are you ready?

Brigit Eichenberger: Bring it on!

Fabian Luetzig: How do you impact other people’s lives for the better?

Brigit Eichenberger: Good question! Well, I guess you would have to ask the others! You might have to ask my clients or the people that were in the classes that I facilitated. What I hope how I’m impacting their life in a positive way is that I encourage them to start to think and start to ask themselves questions. I hope that I can encourage them to open up and allow themselves to widen and broaden their horizon and to understand that whatever it is their transitioning through, there is no need for judgement. The really important question is: what do they want to do? And why do they want to do something? And I’m hoping that I can inspire that internal discovery and that internal honesty for people to ask these questions and then supporting them in finding the courage to do something about it.

Fabian Luetzig: And turning that important question of what you want around on you: how do you want that to be in the future? How do you want to develop that, meaning: How do you want to impact those people’s lives for the better in the future?

Brigit Eichenberger: I would like to continue, of course, having my coaching practice, working 1:1, because I believe it’s not in the masses. For me, it’s not important to say: “Ok, I have reached, or positively impacted, God knows how many 1000’s of people, that’s for me not the thing. What is important for me is, if I know that I was able to impact one person’s life positively, then, hey, I’m all good. That’s for me a big take, a big check mark.

As I’ve mentioned before, the other area where I love to have an impact is by facilitating coaching skills. So, the same target audience that I’m at service at, the international, professional leader, supervisor, project manager. To pass on, train, facilitate and teach them coaching skills so that they can use them. And then they can have an impact in their environment and generally in their life. If they want to use the skills with their family, within any setting, then they are actually multiplying the impact themselves. So that’s why being a facilitator is the other important component. That’s to me the ‘both… and…’. 1:1 and facilitating so people can actually go and be the change themselves.

Fabian Luetzig: As coaches, in our 1:1 sessions, we don’t usually give advice, right? Even though we might find ourselves wanting to… When that is the case, what is the advice that you find yourself wanting to give your clients most often? What do you hear a lot where you have an instinctive reaction of “I know what to do!”?

Brigit Eichenberger: I think what first has to be said is that this is something right at the beginning of your coach training journey that is the biggest challenge. How are you staying away from assuming that you have the answer? Because that’s simply not the case; you’re not the expert in your client’s life. But I completely understand what you mean. We’ve all had that internal thing of: “OMG, I know exactly what’s the right next best thing!” and wanting to tell you what I think is the best thing to do. Luckily, I have to say that through the practice that you sort of lose that urge, because you notice you’re there to hold the space and you can’t possibly have the right advice for your client.

But I guess the one advice that I would want to throw out there or that I’m tempted the most to give if I was ever to give one is: Trust yourself. Find that courage and trust yourself. Yeah, this is just sort of a statement rather than an advice. It is something that is so lightly said but so difficult to follow. It’s like these positive quotes that you read on all the different social media: “Forget the past! Move on! Trust yourself!” We all understand them on a mental basis. Rationally we say “Yes, of course, that makes total sense! Of course I trust myself, of course I love myself. Of course I don’t give up, or whatever it is”. But that’s not really useful, because how you’re going to do that is the crucial question in that moment. And that’s unique for everybody. For one of your clients, trusting himself/ herself has to be done in a different way than for somebody else. So, the ‘how are you able to do that’ is the important thing, not to throw out the sentence; because that’s really easy to do. What positive impact can come from that? To me, that’s something I would want to say: ‘trust yourself’, but I know that it wouldn’t serve anything, because the important question is ‘how?’. What questions can I ask my client that they are getting to trust themselves without actually having to say it? Because we’re discovering through me asking them questions that that’s what’s going to happen, and they discover themselves what it means for them to trust themselves. Long-winded answer, I’m sorry…

Fabian Luetzig:  No, no, I like it! I’m a big fan of stories, that was a good one! Let’s open the curtain on the next scene, that being: What is one tip that you wouldn’t give your clients but that you would give aspiring coaches?

Brigit Eichenberger: Practice, practice, practice!

Fabian Luetzig: Easy as that! Why is that so important?

Brigit Eichenberger: Because it relates again to the Four Stages of Learning. In order to achieve a level of what’s called ‘Unconscious Competence’, the only way to get there is to practice, practice, practice. You can compare it with riding a bike or learning how to drive, learning how to sing or being on stage. If you don’t practice, you’re never reaching that stage where you just do it. You get into flow because the technique and the technical skills, you have them down and that’s just automatic. That’s how our brain works. So if you practice, practice, practice, it will become automatic and then you are able to dance in the moment and have your intuition come on top of the technique and the technical skills and you can truly listen on a deep, deep level and have the ability to hold that space for your client perfectly and ask exactly the questions that they need to be asked in that moment. It becomes fluid. So: practice makes perfect!

Fabian Luetzig: How might you encourage somebody who rationally understands that practice makes perfect and who wants to get their 100 hours in order to get the ICF accreditation, but who is hesitant because they’re afraid to, I don’t know, make a fool out of themselves, not provide their first clients with the value they want to provide, who are not sure whether they have it all down. How to get that momentum started, how to get them over that threshold?

Brigit Eichenberger: I guess I would be curious and wanting to ask some questions in terms of what it is that they would want to create with the coaching. What is it they want to see themselves doing or being further down the line? So that it is really clear and that they start to create this image of them being a coach. Asking them to create that vision so that it is compelling and in line with their values and in line with what’s important to them; and to go from there. Step back and look at the big picture of where they want to be going and why. Allowing them to see, hear and sense the alignment of where they want to go. And then bringing it back down to ask some questions of what some steps might be that will support them to get there.

Fabian Luetzig: That sounds like our aspiring coach might profit very much from a coaching session.

Brigit Eichenberger: Oh, totally! We all need a coach! I have a coach!

Fabian Luetzig: Yup, so do I. What would you say makes a really, really good coach?

Brigit Eichenberger: For me, what makes a really good coach is the coach being able to stay in this neutral position. Holding the space. If I’m the client, the coach is holding the space, giving me the space, having the courage to allow …  for the silence … Because that’s the moment where I have time and space to think about what they’ve just asked me. It allows me to really look inside, allow for things to come up. If a coach goes into flow with my rhythm and asking questions, open-ended questions using all the tools, that he’s not giving any advice and leaves the space for me to think about it and answer, then that, I think, is really powerful.

So, on the contrary, what I don’t like or what I think makes a bad coach is if they’re asking lots of questions at once, what we call ‘stacking’ of questions and you literally don’t know what you’re going to answer. The speed, if you’re rushing you through, if you have the feeling that they have to catch a train and you have the feeling of “OMG, I have to answer and somehow give the ‘right’ answer”; or if the coach is judging or actually giving their judgement. That is something I’m really allergic to.

A good coach is no-advice-giving and is judgement free and has the courage to leave the silence and going with the space and the pacing of the client.

Fabian Luetzig: If we zoom out from the individual really, really good coach and we look at coaching as a whole, as an industry, if you will, what do you think we need more of in that industry?

Brigit Eichenberger: I think the coaching industry needs more coaches that are giving less advice and still more explanation of what good coaching is. Because of the fact that at this point coaching is not a regulated title, like a lawyer or a doctor, anybody and everybody can call themselves a coach, if they decide to do so. Yes, we have, luckily, the International Coach Federation, which is a governing body. If you are credentialed with them, that shows that you are following certain rules, ethics and core competencies. But I think overall there is still too many coaches out there that it’s not clear what they’re doing and I think the public or people in general still don’t understand what effective and positive coaching is all about. I’ve come across some coaching schools and techniques where there is a lot of advice-giving going on. For me, that’s not coaching. I believe the coaching industry could very well benefit from clear guidelines of saying: “This is coaching, and this is not coaching. This is how it differentiates from other styles of … other professions, maybe”

Fabian Luetzig: ‘Helping professions’, maybe?

Brigit Eichenberger: Yeah, exactly!

Fabian Luetzig: Yeah, that’s exactly one reason why I started the podcast in the first place; getting a discussion started on this. Maybe not come to a consensus, that’s maybe too much to ask, but exchanging opinions on “What is good coaching? What is not coaching, what is mentoring and what is something else?”

Brigit Eichenberger: Absolutely and I think that is so important. With coaching, if you’re a coach, comes great responsibility. Great responsibility. Because a client, a coachee, is trusting that you have their best interest at heart and that you’re not in it just to take their money or pull them over the table. I think that, unfortunately, there’s some people out there that might not have the best intention of their client at heart. To educate the general public of what they should expect in a coaching session to happen, that I think is really important. So, I appreciate you starting this effort and making people aware of “Look! This is coaching. This is not coaching and if you come across that an alarm bell should go off.” Talk to someone, shop around, have conversations with different coaches or with people that claim that they’re coaches and see what really, really will actually make a difference in their lives so that what they’re paying for is quality results that they’re getting and not “I’ve just spent a lot of money and nothing has come of it”. That’s not coaching. Coaching is very much present and future oriented. We’re always coaching ourselves out of a job, then we’re doing a good job!

Fabian Luetzig: Yep, that’s the goal! Let’s talk about one really positive example. Who is somebody, besides yourself, obviously, who people should follow or they should check out, because they would really get some value from that?

Brigit Eichenberger: Well I have to say, a lot of my fellow Erickson coaches. A lot of my colleagues that I’ve met in my coach training, that have established their own coach practice, they all have huge integrity, bring their own style, but really, really follow the Ericksonian principles. Anybody who has successfully completed and has achieved an ICF credential, for me, you’re in good hands.

Fabian Luetzig: Apart from that, what would be a good coaching resource, like a book for example, or a specific TED talk, or something of that nature, for the people listening right now?

Brigit Eichenberger: Well, you’re TED talk, maybe.

Fabian Luetzig: Ha, you know how to make yourself popular!

Brigit Eichenberger: Right? I have to say, I don’t have one specific book. I would rather say: Read lots! Depending on what your particular interest is, what is your niche that you want to go for, what is your industry, your ideal client and base it on that.

For example, for me, supporting people that are mostly in a corporate environment, I read more business-oriented books. I would say there isn’t one book that will make everything clear to you. It really depends on what the direction is you want to go in. Who is your client, what’s your industry? Then go and research what the important books and the people that have written books related to this niche, to this industry that you’re interested in. I of course read books also about the performing arts industry. My ‘love clients’ for lack of a better word are artists and singer. Yes, I’ve read books, but that wouldn’t be relevant necessarily for somebody else whose niche is gardeners.

I don’t think there is the one bright book out there. You have to identify who you resonate with, the style of writing you enjoy and then go and research and take it from there.

Fabian Luetzig: Got it. In the arena of corporate clients, though, what might have been one book that for you personally was really eye-opening or really helpful?

Brigit Eichenberger: There’s three, four, a couple of books that come to mind. One, clearly Steven R. Covey, which I’m sure everybody in the corporate world knows. Then there is Daniel Pink. There is Goleman, Emotional and Social Intelligence. Clearly, those are the ones for me that were musts. They’re very different, but they’re all very informative and for me very useful and I could say ‘yeah, they all add to my depth and to my knowledge and to my wider pool of knowledge’.

Fabian Luetzig: Cool, thank you. As we’re coming closer to the end of our talk for today, what’s the one thing you want listeners to take away?

Brigit Eichenberger: Go have the courage to sit in silence and ponder what the purpose of your life is! I know that sounds big. It is; however, I think it is a fun thing to do and very well worth your time. What is it that makes you tick, what is it that gets you into flow state? There is a million different ways of how you can live that, but first you have to go figure out what it is. What are some of the things that get you into flow state that fulfill you, that give you energy. Where you simply know “I’m living my purpose here.”

Fabian Luetzig: What is a project that you’re working on right now that you would like to shine a spotlight on here?

Brigit Eichenberger: I always have a couple of projects on the go. One of them that I’m really excited about and will be focusing on in 2019 is to create the second program for Erickson that is going even deeper in terms of giving leaders and managers and department heads tools and techniques to work with teams effectively. The first one, the first program that we’ve created that’s already out there, that’s the first step, it’s the first level. The second program that we’re going to create throughout 2019 is the follow-on and it really focuses on a team within a corporate environment. So that I’m super excited to be working on. It will focus on what does it mean to run a team in an AGILE way, it focuses on project management, it focuses on creating a team, it will focus on how to get a team in alignment, the productivity of a team. Also, to be able to be in these situations as a leader and with confidence and competence make a real impact.

Fabian Luetzig: So if somebody says “that’s exactly what I need!” – I know it’s hard to come up with estimates in this circumstance – but from when, more or less, they can get that and be a part of that?

Brigit Eichenberger: The first program, which is called ‘Coaching Competencies for Leaders’, they can already enroll in, that’s up and running. That’s the first step that they would take, is to go through the first program. The second program, the follow-up program, I estimate that that will be ready at the end of 2019 or at the beginning of 2020. So, it’s soon, soon, soon in a theater near you. The beauty about it is that it’s going to be online, so anybody and everybody in any country or location can join in. We always make sure that we are taking into consideration people’s busy schedules and that it will be manageable alongside your daily job and that it is feasible, and you can immediately apply whatever you learned and implement and live it. That is the key of what we’re focusing on. The first program, you can enroll right now if you go online to https://erickson.edu, you can join. For the second program, I’m thinking end of 2019, beginning of 2020

Fabian Luetzig: If you want to know a little bit more about ‘Coaching Competencies for Leaders’, you can listen to Episode 002 with Nancy, who also talked about it a little bit. And of course, go to the website, inform yourself about it. For the team component, is there a way for people to let you know that they’re interested so that you can keep them updated?

Brigit Eichenberger: Absolutely, people can write to me at brigit@erickson.edu or they can reach out by contacting Erickson, the main office, if they want to do it by phone, if they want to have a conversation. Absolutely!

Fabian Luetzig: How else can people link up with you, get in touch with you?

Brigit Eichenberger: On the various platforms, I guess, the usual forums. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Instagram, I’m on Facebook, the usual suspects. I have to say that I’m not continuously living on social media, because for me that is a way of connecting. But if people write to me, I guess, if you drop me a little message via LinkedIn, I definitely will see that and I will respond and that is the easiest way, I guess.

Fabian Luetzig: Alright, well, Brigit, thank you so much for showing up today and for being authentically you and sharing your view of the coaching world with us!

Brigit Eichenberger: Thank you very much! Thanks for having me, it’s a real pleasure! And great, great, great initiative, I really appreciate what you’re doing.