A Research Paper By RaShonna Amos, Life Coach, UNITED STATES
Early on in my ICA journey, I joined a Mentor Coaching session for the first time as an observer. The instructor didn’t join and there was a student named Juli Wenger that said, “let’s get some practice anyway” so I had my first opportunity to hear ICA students practice their coaching skills and give each other feedback. I saw Juli in other classes and could tell that she was open to learning and open to sharing her insight and expertise as well.
As I started reaching out to peer coaches, I had Juli in the back of my mind but I remembered that she was close to the end of her program. After some time, I decided to reach out and after our first conversation, I decided that I wanted to have Juli as a coach. Her Enneagram focus and passion for helping clients become themselves is something that I’ve benefited from over the past few months. Juli sees the threads and themes and is willing to call them out while lovingly supporting you to be who you set out to be.
When I thought about my approach for my final paper, I didn’t initially think about doing an interview but after speaking to several people and learning about their history, it has kept me intrigued and thankful to learn from both new and seasoned coaches. The remainder of this paper is a transcript of my interview with Juli and a summary of key takeaways from her coaching and personal journey.
Personal Coaching Journey Interview Transcript:
Shonna: Hi Juli! I would say welcome to the hot seat but that’s not what this is intended to be.
Juli: The tables have been turned.
Shonna: Thank you for allowing me to interview you. This is a great opportunity for me to learn more about Julibeyond what I already know, and I would love to start with who is Juli the Coach and when did you meet her?
Juli: Juli the Coach is Juli as her most authentic and powerful self. I was in real estate for 10 years and I didn’t meet Juli, the coach until about the end of that journey, or towards year nine when I completely burned out. I was anxious and I knew I wanted to do something that mattered. I had the thought that this cannot be all there is, this can’t be all I’m here for. So, I started the next phase of my journey and because I’d been coached for a few years, I had been doing the personal growth thing for a few years. But I really started exploring who I am and what is it that defines the essence of me. With that as a lens, then how does that require me to show up in life.
What’s interesting about Juli the coach is that it’s a label or it’s a job description. It’s an assignment, but it’s not my identity. I would define myself as being love, joy, strength, light, and grace. As a flow-through of that, when I look at my calling or my why statement or my passion, it’s about helping people find their fire and trust themselves to live their purpose, so they’re fulfilled and they’re creating impact and they’re living life as their whole selves. So that’s really the lens through which I found Juli, the Coach; how do I go about doing work that helps people find their fire, helps them learn to trust themselves and helps them get clarity on their purpose so they can live it? How do I go about helping them find fulfillment and create the impact that exists when we are our power and coaching was the best fit- the most aligned.
Shonna: That’s powerful. When were you introduced to coaching?
Juli: I hired my first coach about six years ago. My daughter, my first baby of my own was about a year old. I’d gone back to work. I was anxious. I didn’t want to be back at work. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing, and I happened to have lunch with a friend who had just become a coach.
In hindsight, based on what we’ve learned about coaching and what coaching actually is, she was more of a mentor/blend but she essentially said “can we work on some of your values, can we work on what it is that you are after, what the rules are that you’re living by”. After all, I’m sitting at this table essentially in tears because I just don’t know what to do with myself. So, I started a four-year journey with the same coach and transitioned just before I met Juli, the coach. There was a transition period that needed to happen, because eventually, we outgrow coaches, and eventually, things shift, and we need something different.
That’s beautiful, and that’s okay, and I think one of the risks we run when we stay too long if we’re not actively paying attention, is that we can create codependency. That’s what I saw show up in my relationship with my first coach and that’s a pattern of mine when I’m not my most powerful and when I’m not really healthy. I’ve learned to really watch for that and structure my business to be watching for that. But it was time for change and it was interesting because my next coach was the one that said to me, “Juli, you are a coach”. So, it’s interesting how people come into play at times that are divinely timed.
Shonna: When you heard “Juli, you are a coach”, what was your reaction?
Juli: I heard her, but my thought was “yeah, I don’t know”. It’s funny, because when I got into real estate, my husband said, “you should be a realtor” and I said, “yeah, I don’t think so”. I did it for 10 years and I was great at it. When she said that, I think for me, the tension was very much around.
Then, I was what I now call a recovering boundary-less person. So being able to hold space, for what I would have considered then to be other people’s problems was not something I felt like I could do. It’d be too heavy, it’d be too much too many feels, and that stuff can shift. I literally sat on the front deck with my husband having coffee this morning, because we’re working from home right now and I said to him“you know, I’ve got two clients that are fighting with each other and I’m not invested in it”. I’m not in that space in between. I can hold space for each of them, and then let it go. I can step out of a heavy session and let it go within minutes, instead of carrying it with me and worrying. So, the hesitancy for me was partially around that worry of just being bogged down in other people’s emotions. The other part of it was that I had attached my identity to my success in my career. So, I had to unwrap that one and detach from that one, to be able to really step forward.
Shonna: Unwrapping and detaching. What else did you do to step into the power of being a coach and believing that you are a coach?
Juli: I had to let go of a lot of people-pleasing. I had to let go of a lot of people. One of the things that were very obvious to me early on in that recovering from being boundary-less was how much of my value I attached to what I thought other people thought of me and how happy they were. So, I surrounded myself with clients, personal trainers, friends, all sorts of people that were not of any of their own wrongdoing. They were very much takers and I had taught them to treat me that way. I had attracted those people. I allowed it to be my reality. So, I had a lot of work to do in creating new boundaries, setting new expectations, firing clients, and letting people just exit not holding space for them in the same capacity I had.
That’s really difficult when that’s a lifelong pattern. Ultimately, our boundaries start with ourselves, and we have to filter that for ourselves and be in integrity with ourselves on it. So, there was a lot of that work. I had to let go of some perfectionism, I had to let go of tying my value to money, and income. I had success, I had reached the checkboxes of what success looks like, but I wasn’t happy. So, I had to redefine that. I had to start to allow myself to acknowledge my own needs. I started to allow myself to see value in myself, to be able to see myself as powerful or fierce because I didn’t really think that was okay. You know, you’re supposed to be a nice girl, you’re supposed to not be too much you’re supposed to like this commitment to not enough-ness. That is ultimately a choice. So, I had to choose enough.
Shonna: I’m fighting back emotion. All these things. This is why you get me. Thank you for sharing so openly. I could take a stab at answering this next question, but I want to hear from you. What is your coaching superpower?
Juli: This is fun because I’m sitting here going, “can I limit it to one?”. When I look back a couple of years ago, I would not have been able to own them at all. So, I would say one of my biggest superpowers in coaching is a safe space that I can be present and available and emotionally in tune and vulnerable enough personally and transparent enough in my own journey, that it creates this safety for people to show up authentically. For people to show up and share what’s really going on, for clients to spend time with me and talk about things they never told another human being requires a lot of safety and that’s really important to me.
One of my other superpowers that are part of my wiring and you know I love the Enneagram a lot, is being able to feel other people’s feels. There’s a level of intuition there that shows up and that is really helpful. I think it’s really linked to the safe space and holding space. I think my other superpower, though, is something I’ve learned to call tree shaking. So, as I’ve owned more of my own power, and as I’ve owned my own faith and what’s been placed in me and my calling, and all of that, there is a fierceness and a willingness to challenge people and to let them be uncomfortable.
That has always been in me, but I wasn’t comfortable with it until the last couple of years. I would think I was too loud or too obnoxious or need to tone it down, and then it would leak out. Then I really felt like I was too much. It was a confirming story. But now I’m learning to find more harmony in that calm, which I’ve also been told is a superpower. Within a coaching capacity, I think there are those two pieces of the spectrum that really pair nicely where I can come across really soft, nurturing, and hold that space, and then other times it’s like, “okay, we’re just gonna back up the truck and drop a hammer here” because that’s what is needed. Sometimes we need that pattern interrupt.
Shonna: So, it sounds like you understood coaching, you had a coach, and you had an established business before you started your ICA journey. Tell me how you decided to get certified and the why behind it.
Juli: I started ICA end of February in 2020. What prompted that for me was that I knew how to be a mentor and I knew how to teach, and I knew how to tell people what to do- but did I really have the qualifications and the skill sets that I needed to empower people too? So, for me, it was very much a legitimacy piece. I don’t want to just slap the coach on the door, I don’t want to jump into something without having the skills and the training to really be able to support people because I have seen the damage that can happen in coaching environments that are lacking training or that are too much telling, or where people don’t understand the difference between mentoring and coaching.
It was really important to me that I had the skills so that I wouldn’t do damage while I was trying to create a positive impact. Part of what drew me in with ICA was that they had an Enneagram module. The module wasn’t actually very intensive but I liked how holistic and flexible the program was. With having kids and running two businesses, that flexibility and online component were really important. I appreciated that when I was looking through programs, there’s a lot of programs that I would call more of “Woo” or programs that are super-specialized. But this one really was focused on giving you that broad skill set and what we call pure coaching format. You have the ability to turn it on to allow clients to self-discovery, and to understand that self-discovery is the most powerful way to create intrinsic motivation, which is how real change happens. You can’t push people into long sustainable change- into real transformational change. They have to find that inside themselves.
Shonna: You touched on this a little bit but what were some of your key takeaways or even things that you were surprised that you learned about coaching and influenced your style of coaching coming out of the ICA program?
Juli: One of the things that surprised me initially was the actual pure coaching structure. Because I hadn’t experienced that with my coaches. I came in with some preconceived expectations of what being a coach meant and that got challenged. Another thing that was very interesting for me was looking at questioning and what’s productive and what’s not.
In one class we were having this conversation, I remember, it was in one of Lorna’s classes, and Lorna is no bullshit. She was asking, what question we would ask. I said, “well, I’d asked her, where else is that showing up for her?”. She shared how that was a nonproductive questioning pattern that would actually take people backward and disempower them because they’re looking for other failures vs. having them say “okay this thing is showing up, well, what are you learning about yourself in that?” or “how would you take that learning and go future-facing with it?”. How would you create action out of that? What would you like to see change about that? What would it be like for you, if that changed?
That split between digging around in the past and bringing up old stuff and getting stuck there and re-experiencing pain vs. being future-facing and yes let’s acknowledge and honor these experiences, and then say, okay, well, now what? That was such an important piece of my journey and it was early- that was in March 2019. It made me realize that I didn’t even know what I didn’t know and that yes, I needed to be here and that I needed to invest in this and pay attention because otherwise, I’m going to default to whatever I’ve seen and that may actually be keeping people stuck, which is the opposite of what I want for them and what they want for themselves.
There’s one other piece there, actually- carrying people. Someone told me a while ago that carrying is care plus worry. Through this whole educational journey, I really learned how to leave my stuff at the door. In the program, that was something that I think they did a really beautiful job of continually reinforcing. It’s not yours, or it’s not about you. It’s not yours to own, it’s not yours to carry, is not yours to dictate, it’s not yours to tell, just let them go on their journey.
Shonna: Care plus worry, I think that is going to stick with me. What advice would you give to someone new to coaching or even to experienced coaches? What if they just came to you and said, Juli, I just need some guidance on how I can be the most impactful coach and be in service of my clients?
Juli: This is an interesting question because it’s essentially the same advice I think I would give to anyone that’s trying to create more impact. It’s to really come back to yourself first. This has been such a powerful piece of my journey. It’s so easy to get caught up in other people’s should for our business, our relationships, our families, our friendships, or interactions, our financial stability, or what kinds of hobbies we take on.
I had one of those conversations this morning. A new coach asked what they need to do and how they should go about finding people. How should he show up and how he can create an impact? I asked if he understands who he is? What your purpose is and why you have been placed on this Earth at an essential level- not as a job title. Coach is not my calling. Helping people find their fire and trust themselves and live their purpose- that’s my calling. When I have that clarity, and when other people have that clarity, then they can start to get really clear on the impact their here to make and reverse engineer that to create their coach business plan to create their client attraction plan.
The other piece of advice that I would give is to find someone to mentor you. Find someone whose map you can borrow. If you’re looking to shift your business or grow a new business, or you’re established, you’re new, but you want to do something different or you want to create more impact, you haven’t been in that new space yet and you don’t have a frame of reference for it. So, part of the work is determining if I want to do this all myself and figure it out, and in hindsight, I’ve done plenty of that. Or do I want to find someone who can be a guide for me and help me understand what they did and what worked and what didn’t work so I can leapfrog some of that stuff?
Shonna: That’s a perfect segue. You mentioned you had a coach before, and they were in that mentoring capacity for you. Who else has influenced you, or who else has poured into you and created a bridge for you?
Juli: So many people, I mean, people that I know and people that I don’t. Brene’ Brown is one of my heroes in life. Her work on vulnerability and shame resilience has been life-changing for me. Simon Sinek, and “Start with Why” was one of the first personal growth books I ever read and changed the trajectory of everything and continues to influence in some capacity, the work that I do. Andy Stanley, who is one of my favorite preachers from Georgia. There’s a personal piece and a business piece there because he does this leadership podcast and vision work and he is brilliant when it comes to business and being people first and building corporate culture. That’s had a huge impact on me, but also learning about my faith, which is a massive piece of my journey from someone who can break it down, so sustainably, and look at how being a Jesus follower will just make your life better.
Then there are so many people within the Enneagram community. That has been a pivotal piece of this whole journey. Understanding how am I wired and what does that tell me about my superpowers, my defensive mechanisms, and how does that accelerate my growth and the client’s growth? So, there are a few people, there’s Christopher Shorts, Morgan Khan, there are some of my teachers like Peter Hanrahan, hearing Enneagram tradition, and this whole community of humans in that space that have been very influential. Dr. Kristin Neff and her work on self-compassion have been super influential.
So, there’s this list of people and books and things that really spans. My coaches were an important part of my journey and my community was an important part of my journey, just calling me up and calling me out on my crap. That it’s, it’s tough to just pinpoint and say there’s this person, or this person, or that person that really changed the game for me, because it’s been an army of humans. Truly, it’s been such a massive collection of people that this is where my faith comes out that God has placed in my life when I’ve needed them to be sent out to find me when I’ve been struggling. The biggest inspiration is in the biggest influences via faith and really understanding who I’m put here to be and who’s I am.
Shonna: Juli, I’ve learned a lot and I appreciate your openness. The last question that I would love to ask you is what’s next for you? What’s possible for Juli and what can we expect from you in the future?
Juli: Oh, this is fun. What’s possible for me on a personal level is a lot more freedom. Continued freedom from the people-pleasing and the perfectionism game. My personal growth journey that I’m continuing is something that I’m really excited about. What I’m looking forward to in terms of the business and creating impact is a very focused core business that is very limited in terms of how many people so that we can go deep, and I can pour into them.
The space and capacity to write books, and speak on stages, continue the podcast, and potentially do something with this musical singing thing that God’s put in me that I know I’m supposed to do something with. So, what exactly that’s gonna look like, I have no idea.
It’s being unattached to the outcomes. But I see books and I see stages and I see continuing to create broader impact. It’s so fun to be able to own that and say I know those dreams have been put in me for a reason and they’re not about me but I get to go and do it and I get to go be light. I get to go and inspire people. I get to go be vulnerable and create a world that’s more empathetic, equitable, and compassionate where more people are living in their power.