At one of the most challenging points of my life, a period when I felt that the foundations I had built a significant part of my reality upon came tumbling down from beneath my feet, I had the pleasure and good fortune of meeting someone who would inadvertently aid me to reclaim my balance. Enter Konstantina Kanaroglou, who has introduced the prestigious Coaches Training Institute’s (CTI, which is accredited by the International Coaching Federation) and their Co-Active Coaching (their own brand) method to Greece. This, after Kanaroglou went to a coaching workshop abroad and returned feeling so transformed and thrilled by the holistic and strategic approaches she had learned that she wanted not only to train as a coach herself but also to bring the entire coaching system to Greece.
Today, Kanaroglou runs Leadership Coaching, which offers coaching solutions through the Co-Active method to individuals (for personal development), companies (for corporate retreats and workshops), families (for business and family dynamics) and educational institutions (with seminars aimed at the educational staff, parents as well as kids).
Infused by her enthusiasm about Co-Active Coaching – something I liked the sound of especially because of its holistic base – and curious to take an avenue of positive and pragmatic problem-solving that I had not explored before, so I chose to try sessions with a certified coach in Athens. To be very honest, because coaching has boomed so much in Greece over the last decade, my opinion of it was not at its highest. As with everything else, when something that was unknown to a place is suddenly everywhere, and many of those involved vow to bring “life-changing effects” after having received minimal or iffy training and have near to no experience as instructors or organizers, I can’t help but question the validity and effectiveness of what’s on offer. This can be said for any other business as well, from yoga and watches to souvlaki.
Yet I was well prepared to give this particular – new, reliable and internationally-validated – form of coaching, which requires years of intensive study and practice on the part of the coach before any certification is handed out), a go. Karnaoglou kindly introduced me to certified coach Susanne Sideras, with whom I arranged to meet online once a week for just over one and a half months.
From our very first meeting, a more social chat to establish whether we had the right chemistry, I felt confident that I could trust, communicate with and learn from her. Sideras is a German who has lived in Switzerland, Australia, the US, Greece and Dubai over the past 20 years, returning to Greece since 2015. “Living and loving in different countries on various continents with all the new beginnings and challenges involved definitely had a huge impact on how I am today,” she says. …”Mind you I grew up in a Bavarian village- a very beautiful one but still a village. I always loved travelling, meeting people from different cultures, backgrounds, mindsets and I always loved (and still do) stories- life stories.”
As a coach, it’s essential not only to be culturally open and flexible, being able to communicate with people of all varieties, but also to have an experiential and clear understanding of some of life’s greatest challenges. “If there is one constant in my life it actually is change… Change and new beginnings. They excite me, bring a lot of joy once I’ve left my comfort zone- which can sometimes take a while.”
The result of our coaching sessions? Sideras managed through her sessions, to help me in a non-psychoanalytical way but rather, more like a wise, objective friend, to see through the emotional tornado of my situation at that time and develop a more structural, functional and assertive outlook. As the Co-Active Coaching method encourages, I was guided by her to build certain skills in how I processed my own emotions and ideas. For example, I was repetitively guided (until I finally started doing it automatically!) to say “I” when talking about something instead of “you” or “we” or “one” – essentially, owning my feelings. “One does not get frustrated when one feels let down…I get frustrated!” and so on. This is something I continue to practise today, many months after our coaching. Taking responsibility for how I feel, think and act is crucial and should not be pluralized!
Another important aspect of this coaching method is how the coach consistently reminds the coachee to connect with what’s going on physiologically and emotionally while they express ideas and feelings. The coach asks questions such as “where do you feel that right now, that sadness you mentioned?” or “what colour is the feeling you had for your friend, and how does it feel?”. Giving ideas, words, thoughts and feelings a texture, colour, location, feeling and even more serves to give them a more pronounced identity, and thus they are easier to examine, see, face, before you can decide what you want to do with them, how much they actually do or do not serve you and whether they are even real.
I ask Sideras what drew her to coaching: “One of the main things that drew me to coaching was that throughout my life I was always interested in people and their development. I felt there was so much to learn about myself by helping others. Since in my twenties I was drawn to yoga and spiritual development, so I’d had some tasters of how wonderfully blissful certain situations are once you are in touch with your true core and essence. I assume I wanted more of those for myself and others and knew that it always starts by going within and exploring your unique beliefs – especially about our self. Our thoughts create our reality and this I find so powerful. I believe we are all here for a reason and the world needs our specific gifts. I understand coaching as a wonderful opportunity to tap into your unique light and let it shine.”
We didn’t always have a specific topic to address. Most often than not we returned to the larger issues I was facing, but some days I literally felt I had nothing to say – until I was guided by Susanne in a seemingly “random” conversation brought out experiences or feelings that was affecting me but that I had unknowingly brushed under the carpet.
For example one day I told Susanne how upset I was after an interaction with a man who was giving out bracelets on the street. He offered me one and I said no thanks, but then persisted he was giving it to me as a gift, as a token of love and peace. I’d experienced this ‘trick’ before from gipsies practically forcing roses into my hand, but chose to idealistically believe him nonetheless. As he tied the bracelet around my wrist me he asked for money, and I cringed. I gave him the bracelet back, feeling not angry but heartbroken by humanity (I was having a bad day, OK?!) and told him what he was doing was horrible, and that he was acting like a liar and a thief. He started to swear and scream at me as I walked off, feeling devastated by the scene and what had caused it.
I talked to Susanne about the event a couple of days later, almost ashamed to have experienced it, and she warmly reminded me that I had done nothing but stand up for my value system and that sometimes that can yield unpleasant results, but that it’s important to have those values. “Whatever action I take or not is based on my values and belief system and has an impact on me and everybody around me,” she affirms.
“The co-active approach appealed to me since what is most in fundamental in co-active coaching is the relationship the coachee and coach are building and living in the time they “work” together,” she adds. “Co-active coaches believe everybody is naturally creative, resourceful and whole and that implies people are capable of finding their own answers, of choosing, of taking action, or showing up as they wish, or taking responsibility, of learning, or being and doing. As a coach, I am here to keep the agenda of and for the client, to be the accountability partner. It is proven that accountability helps to bring actions to fruition. I’m here to remind the coachee of their inner light and wisdom and help them re-discover it, even and especially in times when even the most resilient person only sees the high mountain in front of him/ her and feels challenged.
Adjustments to the rapport between a coach and coachee are always welcomed and necessary for a fruitful, trustworthy and honest relationship. This is an investment in time and energy for both, the coachee and the coach and it works best if both give their all. Sideras says “I personally do have a, like some clients say,: “no-nonsense but very caring approach”. I am trained to evoke transformation, ask to go deeper and deeper and will not forget the clients’ agenda at any given moment. Confidentiality is honoured at all times unless I sense any danger for the clients or other people’s life. I which case I am obliged to inform someone according to the ethical standards of the ICF (International Coach Federation), where I am a member and “monitored” for ongoing training for professional and personal development. Coaching focuses on the here and now and where the person wants to go. Of course, we are “products” of our past and have our packages and stories we carry with us, but in the coaching session, we are not delving deep into the past or not at all really. In coaching, we concentrate on what the impact of past experiences have on you in the here and now and what you want to do to move forward.”
Susanne coaches people in person, but works mainly online via Zoom or Skype with people in Greece and globally, in English or German. She’s had and has clients based in Greece, Portugal, the UK, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Canada and the US. I ask her whether in her experience, coaching can offer long-term solutions, and if so, in what ways. She decides to quote Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operations Officer at Facebook: “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”, and adds, “A change of mindset and the transformation that is happening in clients who start on their journey to a life with purpose and fulfilment is, of course, a long-term process, and is not reversible. It happens by creating awareness of one’s own power and leadership qualities, by exploring and reconnecting with your value system, which guides your every decision, your inner wisdom, your true essence. By reconnecting you with YOU.”