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Co-Active Coaching

an interview with Scott Reiniger

With a long career as a television and theatre director, producer/writer, acting coach and actor, Scott Reiniger is also a CPCC (Certified Professional Co-Active Coach) and serves as a communication and media coach to creative professionals, attorneys and people in the public eye.

"All of my clients, in and out of arts and entertainment, have one thing in common," Reiniger notes. "They  are all very creative, compelling people – whether they're artists or not. They're very independent thinkers who desire to make changes and experience fulfillment in a way that is authentic to who they are.

"Goals for our working together and our coaching relationship are designed specifically for each client. For some, their agenda is what they really want in their whole life including their career, for others it is knowing, trusting and stepping into their creative voice or moving a project forward, realizing a vision, changing careers, and creating balance in their life. The bottom line for most is what they want to see show up in their life.

"It is, of course, confidential and works well in today's world since it is over the phone and happens weekly after an initial meeting."

"For example," he continues, "the focus with the writers and actors I'm working with is not only on their career, but on who they are as artists, where they are and want to be, where they're feeling boxed-in, and how to balance that with making the living they are accustomed to making.

"Creating clarity on their circumstances, how to stay creative and grounded in their life, what to say 'yes' to and what to say 'no' to, are key to our coaching relationship because their lives are very full.

"I feel for and know what it's like for creative people on the roller coaster of arts and entertainment, which is volatile and confusing for their identity. There are many things coming at them, many influences from other people, many other opinions and agendas, so it's a matter of getting down to what choices work for them in their own way, which choices feel really alive and which will they commit to.

"On the flip side, for example, if a client makes a choice that isn't in line with his or her values, but does so consciously for a bigger purpose, then they know why they are doing it, so it's not arbitrary.

"Choosing, saying yes and saying no, gives them a sense of being in charge of their life, rather than just rebounding from it."

Reiniger explains that he doesn't necessarily give clients career advice: "I can make suggestions with their permission. And all the decisions are totally theirs. It's not like being a consultant, who may give someone advice, a plan or a list of things to do - which is very valuable to be sure.

"Because it's Co-Active Coaching, a partnership, a collaboration, what happens is they look at their choices, and make decisions based on what is really compelling to them.

"As a result, they are more likely to follow through since the decision is totally theirs and not the result of something I have told them to do. My only agenda is to serve theirs. We work with what's possible and how.

"Clarity, choice and accountability are a big part of coaching."

Reiniger trained as a Professional and Personal Coach in a two year certification program at the Coaches Training Institute in Northern California, and notes there are very concrete skills to help clients. "It's a very specific coaching model, but not a philosophy," he says. "It's built on the premise that, we believe that our clients are creative, resourceful and whole and don't need to be `fixed'. That they have all the answers. They may not see them, but they have them.

"There is no greater expert on a client's life than the client themself. While working with a client I keep an eye on their overall sense of fulfillment, balance and process.

"Their process is who they are being and how they are experiencing their life in the present rather than 'waiting for opening night.' So they can experience and enjoy the ride as well."

A minimum commitment for a client is three months, but the coaching relationship often lasts much longer than six months.

The clarification of thinking and values for clients happens in many ways. "A lot of things stand in people's way, because we're all human," Reiniger points out. "I have a coach myself.

"A gremlin, or inner critic, or whatever you want to call it, steps on what really makes us alive, what our values are.

"It can really confuse us with messages like, 'That's no good. That won't work. You're faking it. Who cares. Who wants to listen to you?' Or things like, 'I should do this, I should not do that.'

"It can get us all spun around. It can squash a person's creative voice, and their belief in their voice. People have this to a greater or lesser degree. So the coaching gets down to very core things, like uncovering what a person's life purpose really is, and their key values.

"Not their morals, but the values that are intrinsic to who they are, that make them feel really alive.

"Coaching also looks at what stands in the way of that, what is stepping on that and how to move forward. So coaching has a lot to do with how you apply that in your life."

Insight is "great," he agrees, but says the question is, "How do you actually put it in your life? Action steps for clients can get very specific, and are designed around what their primary focus is.

"The primary focus of the coaching relationship is designed with each client from the get-go. It's not some cookie-cutter approach, though there are some very specific skills.

"Let's say someone's 'gremlin' is acting up and they feel stuck or confused. Or they're depressed. But this is not therapy, which goes into the 'why' of the past. Coaching is all about the present and the future, about what's possible and how.

"The 'how' piece is what you do, how you apply it and put it into your life. One of the early things we do is to identify the gremlin. I'll work with a client to actually bring their gremlin out in the open, which is a lot of fun for people, since I make it game. Also, I keep an eye on whether the gremlin is active during our weekly sessions.

"What we do is look at what the gremlin is, what it looks like or sounds like. For some people it's a feeling, a sense. Some draw a picture of it and write down what the gremlin says.

"Let's say someone is writing a script or story, and the gremlin acts up and says that it's a bad idea, or they shouldn't do this, and chatters endlessly...what I'll do is actually notice it right then and ask the client 'Is that the gremlin talking?'

"I know that's not who the client really is, because early on we do a lot of work about who they really are, what their core values are and the strength of their creativity.

"An activity I have some clients do is to consciously notice their gremlin during the week. There are a lot of ways to do this, and we design that in a way that will work with each client; it's different for each person. To consciously notice what the gremlin is saying to you, and record it - write it down. It's a matter of choosing to be conscious about it, then doing something about it.

"That's the next step, how you manage it. Because a gremlin can have a big grip on us.

"When my gremlin starts acting up, and I feel confused or stuck about something, or it will start talking to me and say, 'Don't do that; nobody wants to hear about that; that's not very interesting,' or whatever - I actually talk to my gremlin out loud when I'm in the car: I'll say playfully, 'Well, thank you very much for the advice. I know who you are, and you can go away now.'

"One of my clients carries a little doll around, as her gremlin. Now, it is a bit of a game, but actually it's very helpful. When her gremlin starts to act up, she gives the doll 'time out' and puts it away in a jar with a bunch of marbles and pops the lid on it. She also carries another doll around in her car, and when it starts to act up, she gives it 'time out' on the roof of her car while she's going down the freeway at sixty.

"How that client manages her gremlin works for her. That may not work for somebody else. But one thing it does is ignite her humor, and it lightens everything up, and the gremlin just disappears.

"These become an activities, assignments I give clients, and then I check in with them about it. Because the gremlins always come back, it's a matter of getting into a habit of noticing and managing."

Reiniger confirms that this idea of gremlins applies to people in any field. "Everyone's human," he notes. "I have clients not only in arts and entertainment, but in other fields as well. One is a management consultant, writes business plans for corporations, and she's a highly creative person. Another client is an attorney, but again, a very independent thinking kind of human being.

"Today, our lives are so fast, and there's so much coming at us that we need to sort out. Coaching is a way to have clarity and structure every week to keep moving forward. It's like having a partner who is your advocate and fully committed you and what you want.

"It's not like going to a weekend workshop, and that's the end of it.

"What's exciting is that I get to work with who the person really is and to speak the truth. I'll tell a client, 'If it looks like you're going to make a choice that is totally against your values, against who you are, I'm not going to step over that.'

"That's what they pay me for: to be very candid, honest, and very direct with them, as I expect the same from them. Which is great, since we agree to this we truly create a partnership.

"People who are creative artists tend to be highly curious and sensitive people who feel intensely. The experience of low self-esteem, or gremlins having a grip on them or whatever, can be huge. Not that the rest of the population doesn't have those feelings. It's a price of being human.

"We all want to be acknowledged and be who we really are. Coaching is a very safe stage for that.

"We also deal a lot with the client's perspectives on situations, because we can get stuck in certain perspectives. After looking at other possible perspectives, it then becomes very practical when I ask a client to choose and then commit to a particular perspective that's really alive to them. We develop planning, action and accountability out of that.

"For my clients there is a lot of learning about how they operate, what makes them tick and what works best for them," he finds. "It's very exciting. They blow me away, because of how resourceful they are and what shows up in their lives.

"It's kind of beautiful to watch."

 

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  Scott Reiniger's site : The InVision Group

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