In the Spotlight: Benjamin Papa, J.D., M. Div.

Benjamin Papa1 - Where are you from, and how did you choose to live in Middle Tennessee?

I am from Knoxville and came to Nashville to go to college. I finished at Vanderbilt in 1995 and have been here ever since. 

2 - What is your professional background, and why did you become a coach?

I practiced law for 18 years, almost all in the area of family law with an emphasis on Collaborative Divorce. I became a Coach because I enjoyed helping people navigate and make good, grounded decisions and choices even in the midst of a great deal of conflict and complexity, but wanted to use those skills outside of the crisis context of divorce and in a role other than being someone's divorce attorney, which is limiting. 

3 - How did you choose your specialty area?

Leadership Coaching and Facilitation allows me to work with individual leaders and leadership teams on developing the "human" side of themselves in the context of their role as a business or organizational leader. I believe there is a lack of leadership in our culture right now, and I want to do what I can to support self-aware, high integrity, and resilient leaders. 

4 - What are the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of your career?

Since I am relatively new to coaching from practicing law, one of my current challenges is learning how to talk about how my background as a Collaborative Divorce attorney connects to my current work with leaders and teams. There is a clear connection there, but it's not always easy to explain in a 30 second elevator speech! 

The greatest reward of coaching is creating space for people to see things about themselves they have never seen before and then begin to move into a space of personal or professional development around what they are learning. Ultimately, it is about helping people access hope and joy. 

5 - What is something that most ICFTN members would be surprised to learn about you?

I had drinks with Julia Roberts (yes, the movie star!) when I was in law school.

6 - How do you enjoy spending your free time?

Reading, hiking, yoga, dinner with friends, and occasionally acting in plays.

It's About You. It's About Me.

It’s About You.  It’s About Me.
By Donna Yurdin, ICFTN President

Coaches have a unique relationship with clients. We can open the eyes and expand the perspective of clients but do not tell them what to do; we are not consultants. We listen and learn all about the person, their past, their motivations, their aspirations for the future but, we are not therapists. We honor where they have been, what they know and sometimes, admire how much more they know than we do.

Our March ICFTN program in Nashville will engage us about active listening and coaching presence. These are a bedrock for creating a successful coaching relationship, in establishing trust and intimacy. No matter how good you are at asking questions, there must be a willingness by the client to engage in coaching in order for you to be effective.  Trust won’t happen until the coach is listening and is present. But presence is not just about showing up.

Recently, I have been challenged by a young professional client who needed me to share more about myself, to be more transparent with her in order for her to trust me and engage in the coaching process. At first, I was taken aback but then realized that it took courage for her to ask more of me and that the barrier I normally erect between myself and a client was not going to work for her. I had to meet her where she needed me to be. Without showing my vulnerabilities, she was not willing to show me hers. Building a relationship with a client that allows them to let down their defenses, open up about their fears, be willing to admit weaknesses, requires the coach to do the same. 

Presence is more than just showing up. It is actively listening, showing respect to the client no matter what they reveal in order to establish trust. Agreeing with the client is not required. Acceptance of them as a human being is. We hope it is a mutual exchange of respect and acceptance.  But, if it isn’t, we have to remember that as coaches, we have the greater responsibility for being trusted.

How do you demonstrate acceptance? Are you 100% present with all your clients? What can and will you do to get better as a coach in co-creating your client relationships?

In addition to the March program, the chapter has also begun offering WBECS programs for added professional development.  If you attend the upcoming program on Narrative Coaching by Dr. David Drake, you may find these questions pertinent to his model and his use of design thinking in exploring professional identity and personal sense of self.  Enjoy and let’s continue to have this dialogue to get better as coaches.

Donna Yurdin, ICFTN President

Donna Yurdin