Two inspirational women, who found each other during a coaching course and became close friends over the course of one year. They both started their own coaching company and now collaborate to conduct a series of workshops. One of the first possibilities to experience them in action was at the Fielfalt Femsemble in October. During their Impuls Workshop on Visibility, they taught around 25 women the importance to be more visible, in other words to be more authentic and present. We were lucky enough to interview them!
Dear Caro, Dear Steffi, could you introduce each other?
Caro: Steffi is an idea joggler, an extremely empathetic woman, who has a power to describe things in words. Besides, she owns her own coaching company: Soul Rebel Coaching, where she helps women to discover their potential.
Steffi: Caro is an amazing friend and woman. I really admire her, how she is able to combine being a mother and running her own company: Carolin Zahn Coaching. I love working with her, she is always ‚there‘, she is focused, caring and a good listener. It is hard to describe. Oh shit, you said I was good with words!
You both did not start your career as coaches. How did your careers develop? What was the clear moment that you decided to do something different?
Caro: My masters at university was focused on Management & Consulting. During one of the semesters the focus was on coaching and I had an amazing teacher. Since then I was fascinated, that was my clear moment. I started to read, had a coach myself and the more I talked about it with other people, the more people told me that I should coach myself. However, I started working in the banking sector. Slowly, I got the courage to start my business next to my full time job, and now I am working part time as a coach.
Steffi: I was studying Culture and Social Anthropology. I didn’t knew what to do afterwards, and was looking for a job for a long time. I knew I didn’t wanted to sit in front of a computer all day, but that I wanted to work with people. So when browsing the web, I suddenly found myself on coaching websites. I had no idea about coaching, but it attracted me and suddenly it all fell into place. I started an internship at Coaching Spirale, while also doing a course there. Now I am part time working for an educational institution, where I coach unemployed people to help them find a new career and recently started my own company next to it.
What tips would you give someone who is exactly at this point right now, considering to work part time or even quit their current job completely?
Steffi: I am still at this point. I get scared when I think about being 100% self-employed. That is how I know it is not the right time yet to quit my job completely. The key is not to think about all those things too early. At one point my business will be further developed, the uncertainty and doubts will become less. It is all part of the process of starting your own business, but it gets better with time. The moment that I will be more comfortable with the idea is the right time to be 100% self-employed.
Caro: It also helps to talk about your fears. Either with people that have been through the same thing, or just to friends and family. In the beginning I was hiding my plans from my boss to become self-employed, I wanted to be the good employee. However, that made me feel very uncomfortable in my job, so I told my boss. In the end it helped to improve my relationship with my manager as well.
Steffi: You made yourself visible!
Visibility was the topic of the Impuls Workshop that you gave at the Femsemble and the theme of your cooperation: Workshop Manufaktur. What do you mean with visibility? Are we not visible enough?
Steffi: We mean being visible as an individual, as a woman. Showing your ideas, your feelings and really be there. You can be visible everywhere. On a website, on social media, in a meeting, in a group of friends or when you are walking at the street. It is about allowing yourself to be really who you are. Many people talk out loud, but it is not really them talking. This creates issues. We feel disconnected to ourselves, are unhappy at work or in our relationship.
Being visible is about being authentic. Authenticity starts with stopping to think about what others think about you. For example, I was hesitating for a while to put up a website, because I was thinking what people might think about it. Authenticity and being visible means acting and living from the inside out, and less thinking about what others might think about you.
Caro: It is about being in touch with yourself and acting from there. If you are authentic, you are better connected to yourself. This helps you to set up boundaries. How much of myself do I put in this role? How much am I willing to be the good mother, how much the good wife, how much the good employee? You will know better what you want and what you would like to share with others.
Also it is much easier to be in touch with other people. If I would have not been visible and talk about my company, nobody would have asked me to do a speech on a conference next month. We have experienced that especially women have difficulty of speaking up, of showing themselves.
Steffi: If you are really visible, if you are really you, then people will like what is special about you and not what you pretend to be. You will be able to make better connections and open up possibilities that you did not had before!
So how do we become more visible?
Steffi: This is what we tried to do in short in the Impuls Workshop at the Femsemble. One of the first assignments was to look at yourself and know who you are. What scares you, what makes you feel ashamed, what are your believes about yourself that get in the way? When we talk about being visible, it is not just about showing yourself more on Facebook or a website, but also showing your fears to friends for example. This can be scary and you need to be aware what truly scares you in order to tackle it.
Caro: Of course you are vulnerable when you present the true you. A second important thing to know, is that getting hurt sometimes is fine. You will learn from this and it will bring you further. Even if you try to prevent getting hurt, it will happen eventually. So being prepared and trained in handling this feeling is actually a good thing.
Steffi: Yes exactly. Brené Brown is one of my favourite writers on the topic. She wrote a book called The Power of Vulnerability. If you show your vulnerability, you are vulnerable, but at the same time it can be a ground for new ideas. You can connect with other people, you gain respect. That is the third thing you should realize, that by being vulnerable you can gain so much more!
Caro: Fourthly, it is about daring and practicing. Dare to show a bit more of yourself little by little. Dare to be authentic! Whether that is online at Facebook, or when you speak up in a meeting does not really matter. Try being visible on a regular basis as you will not become more authentic overnight. This is something we are trying to do with our Workshop Manufaktur.
Steffi: A last factor is that women need to show more solidarity to each other. We need to allow others to have more success, be happy for their success and applaud them for it. It is important, especially among women, that we do not judge someone for being themselves.
Workshop Manufaktur…your new baby, how did you start this and what is it about?
Caro: The idea actually came from the Impuls Workshop that we were preparing. It was a lot fun, and we complemented each other very well. I have the business perspective and Steffi the social perspective. As the collaboration was so successful we thought we should do this more often.
Steffi: Together you can come up with so many new ideas. It is not only about sharing the amount of work, but also the worries and doubts. Also, if you are working with larger groups it is much better to be with two coaches.
Caro: The Impuls Workshop that we did for Fielfalt is a small version of what we will do with Workshop Manufaktur. We will dig deeper into the topic, and will provide participants with an E-book. Moreover, we will establish a Forum, where we will train with a fixed participant group to become more visible. About once a month we will get together and you will practice to become more authentic, to reflect on the last month and give you a place to show who you really are. In this way, it will go more naturally at a later moment.
Steffi: We will help you set your goals and together with the group applaud you for all your successes and support you in the missteps.
If you had to name a difference in your coaching approaches… what would it be?
Caro: I am more focused at business topics. My main coaching sessions are around helping people in their professional life and introducing new organizational forms in companies. New Work is a big Buzz word nowadays, which focuses on new ways of working together. Less hierarchical, more self-dependent, opening up salaries etc. It is not easy for companies and individuals to adapt to this. I help people to identify their authentic way to go about changes in their career. In the future I might enlarge the part of organizational consulting, but now my focus lies at individuals and teams.
Steffi: Although I can provide coaching around work & career as well, my focus lies more on getting women in touch with their inner strength and authenticity. For example my “Dare to be Angry” Workshop (Mut zu Wut), gives women a possibility to get angry. A feeling, that we often neglect and push a way. However, it can be very healthy to express anger and allow those feelings to be there.
Caro: Steffi is great in the whole feelings topic, I am more about work. In this way we complement each other perfectly. A future workshop will for example be about showing feelings at work.
You are both working part time. Caro, you just got a baby. On top of that you both started an own company! How do you switch off from work and relax?
Steffi: I went to the Hammam yesterday. I actually really had to learn how to relax. Go out for a walk, read a book. And really force myself to do this regularly and not continue working on things. You have to force yourself to do other things than work.
Caro: I learned to go with the baby flow. I felt a lot of pressure to be a good mother and continue developing my ideas at the same time. However, at one point my body striked. I felt like I was getting sick and then I realized that I should take my time to be with my baby or to enjoy watching a movie. This is extremely hard though, because I love to work. It went so far at one point that I wanted my baby to sleep, so that I could continue working. So I learned to go with the baby flow and relax when she needed me as her mom.
Lastly, what does it mean for you to dare something and what will you dare before the end of 2016?
Steffi: I dare to give these workshops, which is a real premier for me. I also dare to reach more people with my new website and I dare to fall in love! Haha, yes I dare to show myself in this interview!
Caro: I just got a baby less than two months ago, I believe that counts as something that I dared. Moreover, I got my first request to be a speaker at an event and I dared to take that opportunity!
Thank you for this great interview!