The Power of Coaching: From a Dead End Idea to a New Perspective

Part One: An Idea at a Dead End 

Janai joined the CPA Incubator 4 weeks ago full of hope that this would be her chance to dedicate time and effort to think through an idea that she’d been carrying with her for months. More specifically, she’d been carrying this idea around ever since she read this inspiring editorial in Riverwise Magazine.

Could she build an energy company to model good practice in the energy industry? More broadly, could she build an energy company to demonstrate an alternative, values-driven model for running a business at scale?

Because she knew that business as usual meant creating businesses that do not prioritize the things that she and many other progressive-minded folks think they should:  using business as a tool to invest in communities and generate wealth for the many, at the same time minimizing the impact on the environment so that it can continue to sustain life.

As she started working through prompts and talking to folks about her idea, she was  inspired by the positive feedback she received about her “why”. She was also unsettled by some of the insightful, challenging, and important questions that she received about her “how”.

She had no choice but to reasonably conclude that she was not the right person to build an energy company – be it a company that generates power, manufactures parts in a larger supply chain for clean energy infrastructure, or something else. After all, without the technical know-how, she’d be best positioned to support the driver but not be the driver of that effort.

The idea that Janai started with was clearly at a dead end.

At this point, she was already behind on her homework. She had enough stuff in her life to do and she had no “what” to do for the Incubator. Finally, the entire dilemma had triggered long-held insecurities to resurface, prompting her to get all existential and stuff in her thinking.

Part Two: The Decision

The question was clear: Should she drop out of the Incubator? If she wasn’t going to do the business plan because she knew she couldn’t build the business, and if she wasn’t going to build the business because she hadn’t created a business plan for it, wouldn’t it be better to redirect her time and effort away from the Incubator towards something else?

Part Three: New Avenues Opened through Coaching

Janai opened up to her group about what she was grappling with during the week 4 call when they had their PIES check in. The group decided to use her decision as a case study for the decision making methodology from the prompt.

Whether they knew it or not, they followed these instructions from the prompt to a “t”:

“Take turns asking questions and invest in the powerful work of helping each other grow through coaching. Help one another dig deep into your decisions with impact, strategy, meaning and possibility. Use questions that open doors, uncover and create new avenues. Hold up a mirror to one another, to make sure that your solutions and decisions are solving the right problems or designing the future that you truly seek.” 

Janai’s major takeaways from the group coaching all relate to reframing her perspective:

  • There are more than two options on the table. When Janai framed the issue to the group, she stated that she saw her options as 1) Starting over with finding a new, yet-to-be determined idea for her Incubator project or 2) Leave the Incubator and focus on other things. As Juan Fransisco observed, there’s a third option, though: Continue to participate in the Incubator, deferring the outcome/implementation until later. In other words, Janai could continue to use the Incubator as a space to learn, share, and explore ideas. The ultimate end product of completing a business plan for a “what” could come later, if at all.
  • What’s the commitment? Carrie’s questions helped Janai understand that she was conflating multiple issues. Through conversation, it became clear that Janai had been equating her project, creating a business plan for starting an energy company, with a commitment to starting an energy company. However, as Carrie noted, completing the Incubator is not a commitment to start a business; Janai could choose to see it as a learning opportunity, which may or may not result in building a “what”.
  • Break apart the big, scary thing. Through conversation with the group, it also became clear that Janai’s questions about whether she belonged in the Incubator were the way she was framing leadership. Wasn’t the Incubator for leaders, people who were going to be out in front, building stuff? Was she a leader? As Michelle wisely noted, it’s ok to just put one foot in front of the other, deciding that I don’t have to decide in one go whether I’m a leader or not. Also, as Juan Fransisco noted, being a leader isn’t a static thing; people show up in different roles in different spaces. This is not a yes/no question. (*There were also insightful observations made about challenging dominant notions of leadership and individualism :)).
  • FOMO is real. While Janai stated that sunk costs were not a factor in her decision-making process, she expressed that FOMO was an important factor holding her back from leaving. The time that she’d already spent in the Incubator with #TeamMonday had been priceless. She anticipated that she would miss journeying with them, if she left the Incubator.

Part Four: Decision Reached

Janai  decided to remain in the Incubator. The questions and observations of her group members caused her to shift her perspective. And, as noted above, FOMO is real.

In the absence of her original “what”, Janai has decided to focus on the CPA model and what that could look like in Detroit. For better or for worse, this means she has lots of readings to catch up on. Thankfully, she’s part of a cohort of others to whom she can turn with questions along the way.


Author: Janai G.

There's something in me that makes me want to share my experiences and reflections with others. I write and I podcast because those are currently the tools of expression at my disposal. If there ever comes a day when I can channel my thoughts and feelings through art, music or something else, you'll see it on this blog, too.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: