Startup Leadership Challenges: Why coaching and Balancing Masculine and Feminine Energy are essential
On today’s episode, Jon is joined by Andy Swindler, an entrepreneur turned purpose and leadership coach. Andy focuses on the inside out approach to help leaders bring love in every relationship they have. Join them as they talk about the benefits of having a coach and to see if you also need one to improve your career and life.
“One of the most consistent outcomes of coaching is building resiliency.”
2:18 - What is Lead from Love?
3:21 - Why you need a coach and what you’re missing out if you don’t have one?
9:00 - How to help people who resist getting a coach?
11:48 - The process of finding the right coach
19:56 - Andy’s coaching style
25:23 - Knowing your energy to control emotion
27:11 - Creative mindset vs. reactive mindset
28:05 - Why do you feel unsafe?
Connect with Andy:
Jon Voigt: Welcome to Agile Living, the entrepreneurs journey. The show dedicated to discovering how entrepreneurs and digital leaders are doing more with less. I'm Jon Voigt your host and CEO of Agility and we're on a journey across the country to learn from top digital entrepreneurs on how to live a more agile, adaptable, and fulfilling life. Thank you for joining me today and let's dive in.
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Jon Voigt: I'm very pleased to be joined by Andy Swindler. Andy and I go way back from when he led the company Aztec. Andy, you made the switch from CEO to coach, so why don't you tell our audience a bit more about yourself and where you're at right now.
Jon Voigt: Today we have Andy Swindler, founder of Lead From Love and he's here from Chicago and maybe he can tell us a little bit about himself.
Andy Swindler: Thanks, Jon. I'm so grateful to be joining you today. So, yeah I'm Andy Swindler, based in Chicago and my coaching practice is called Lead From Love and I help leaders bring love to every relationship in their lives and this has to start with each person falling in love with themselves. So this is an inside out approach. My areas of focus are on purpose and leadership development. You can call that conscious leadership development as well and I'm happy to talk more about all of that but that's the short version.
Jon Voigt: Awesome, awesome well thanks for joining. I know we just met up about a month ago when I was driving through Chicago and we were chatting about all sorts of things because we go way back but one of the things we really started to talk about was what you're in now which is coaching and you come from an IT background with a web company. Remember we tried to work together for a couple times and did all this other stuff which is really cool but I love to see that you got in this coaching way and that's really the topic of this podcast, why you need a coach and what you're missing out on if you don't have one.
Jon Voigt: I personally have a coach as well and it's a core, core belief that anyone without a coach is really missing out so maybe you could just start by telling your story of how you got in to coaching, do you ever coach yourself, what has it brought for you and where do you see it taking yourself?
Andy Swindler: Absolutely yeah. It's funny we met right when I was trying to sell part of my company because you more than anybody else I had met had actually built very similar technology, although frankly you had done a much better job of it.
Jon Voigt: Thank you, thank you.
Andy Swindler: Thanks, well your welcome and so I learned so much during that journey. When I owned by business I had it for 14 years and then through that journey where we met nobody trying to sell part of it and frankly the motivation to sell was because we were distressed and that's not the best place to be selling from. I learned so much along that journey and I had a couple different coaches along the way. It was funny I remember the first coach I hired, my very first assignment from her was to spend a whole week practicing saying no.
Jon Voigt: Interesting, it is a hard thing to do.
Andy Swindler: Yeah, I'm a bit of a people pleaser and I was just saying yes to everything and therefore really not having enough energy to do those things entirely well and even perhaps more importantly to take care of myself and so I think that really kicked off my interest in coaching and like I said, I have personally engaged with coaches on and off over the years and then I finally sold the whole company about a year and a half ago and I was actually pretty burned out. It was pretty rough there for awhile and-
Jon Voigt: It's a tough process going through that.
Andy Swindler: All of it is. And so I ended up going into coach training because I really enjoyed what I learned about the true purpose process, it was created by Tim Kelley and what was cool was I wanted to actually go through that process to learn my purpose and it would have cost about the same to hire a coach to take me through that, which is what I do now or to actually go through the coach training.
Andy Swindler: I thought, oh well why not get some coach training, some formal training. As an entrepreneur I actually didn't have a whole lot of formal training along the way, learned a lot of things the hard way. Which actually I suppose I don't want to just roll over that point, I mean that's a really important aspect of having a coach and what even what the value proposition is because yes there is a lot of things in life we must learn on our own and in our own way, and yet a coach can nurture us along, it can steer us toward lessons that are maybe a little more productive or efficient. Maybe put some guard rails to reduce the risk so we're not having to ... it took five years for me to recover from some of the mistakes I made in business and that's a long time so I think that's part of it.
Jon Voigt: But it allows you to share those experiences now, right? So you learn so much from bumping into those things or working with other people that are bumping into things.
Andy Swindler: No question, no question. When I coach now I think it's hard to say, it might be an equal mix of me pulling stories from my own past, and they're just those things because they were hard they're embedded pretty deeply so, those come up pretty naturally but then also the coach training I had and then I'm always pretty much always been a lifelong learner but I'm now pretty consistently engaged in at least two or three different training sessions of one kind or another and to answer your other question I have actually just in the last week reengaged with hiring a coach myself.
Andy Swindler: And I suppose there's lots of reasons why I sort of had gaps with working with a coach or not but if I had my way all the time I would always have a coach to your point.
Jon Voigt: Well that's an interesting thought because look at athletes, look at Olympic athletes. Look at all these sports and all these things, there's always been coaches. And it's just now that I see a huge movement in the business world and the personal life world where people are realizing a coach can be useful there as well. But the interesting thing is you went through a change in your career and your focus and I think that's probably related to why maybe you have a coach or gaps.
Jon Voigt: Because an athlete goes from one sport to another, they're going to have a different coach. That's more tailored to what they need at that point in their life.
Andy Swindler: That's very well said, it's certainly true for me. I've worked with a few different coaches and they have different specialties, they have different personalities, everything. One thing some of my colleagues have been coaching for 10, 20 years and I know some really I guess you could say high end executive coaches and what I've become aware of is 20 years ago there really wasn't an executive coaching market, per say.
Jon Voigt: Not at all, yeah.
Andy Swindler: This is really something, so I have so much respect for entering this market that exists even though I've picked a really really narrow niche around purpose and that's a very specific kind of coaching and soul work, I do appreciate the idea that I can go out, I don't have to explain to most people what a coach is or sort of why that might be valuable.
Jon Voigt: So what about some people that kind of feel like I can do it my own, I don't need someone to tell me how to do it, kind of that entrepreneur, I'm going to do this myself type of mentality, what do you say to that? Obviously you have to have a personality to accept information and content from a coach but how do we help people like that realize the benefits?
Andy Swindler: Well, sometimes they might just need to sort of fall down enough stairs on their own to realize that somebody would have helped them walk down those stairs. Or, thinking about the metaphor, maybe walk up the stairs. I would say a lot of coaching boils down to self-awareness, that's a lot of what conscious leadership is about and so that's just a good place for anybody to start, so if somebody's really resisting the idea of self improvement, then they're probably not very aware.
Andy Swindler: So there is an entry point. Somebody has to have some kind of awakening or something. For the work I do, it's really hard to connect with somebody if they haven't really invited me in, if they're not ready to do this kind of purpose work because I can't do that for them.
Jon Voigt: They've blocked up, they've shield.
Andy Swindler: I can't force them. Yeah, exactly. So it's interesting I work with a number of corporations who are really interested in purpose work and I'm very involved with conscious capitalism and to me that connection between individual purpose of a leader and the organizational purpose and the job in between serving both purposes, that's a lot of what drives me. I think that's one of the ways we can actually rehabilitate capitalism and increase the quality of people's lives, increase engagement.
Andy Swindler: Employee engagement which is as most people know I think by the numbers really quite poor, which also actually has the incredible impact of making businesses more profitable, healthier, everything else. So there's these win win win solutions out there, but there has to be an entry point. You know, in some cases a company has hired me, brought me in because they kind of have a problem with an employee and in some cases that's been successful and in other cases that's not exactly my sweet spot because if they really aren't inviting me in at a personal level, then yeah, like you said there are these barriers up and it may just not be the right fit.
Andy Swindler: But again like we were saying earlier there's so many different kinds of coaches, that might just not be the kind of deep soul work that they're ready for. They might need something before that.
Jon Voigt: Right, so with this big array of different coaches, if somebody does want a coach how do they go around the process of, they're kind of interviewing you or somebody, right? And how do you vet them? So what's the process that somebody should go through if they want to find a coach specific to them? Because there's tons of people out there, the prices vary, they're all over the place.
Jon Voigt: It can be very daunting to find the right coach. Do you have any ideas or recommendations of how somebody should vet that?
Andy Swindler: It is, yeah. If I was just going to cold out to the market to try and figure out what's going on, I would probably find it a little daunting. The flip side of the industry becoming mature, right is there are so many people out there. There's different certification programs which I appreciate because that's the natural maturity of the market. There's a group that I met recently, I haven't really trained with them or anything but I do like their approach. It's called CoachArya just the word Coach and then Arya.com and they have a really comprehensive training program for coaches and it gets into a lot of the kinds of things I work on.
Andy Swindler: Emotional intelligence and self awareness and conscious leadership and all that good stuff and there's this increasing I think acceptance of some of the spiritual elements. East meets west kind of thing where I think in western business for a long time those were kind of denied but they are in my opinion innately human and I think that's what we're seeing, businesses finally becoming, embracing a lot of the human aspects that have been asked to sort of be left at the door.
Andy Swindler: So, CoachArya one of the other things they have is essentially a matchmaking service with their coaches and part of their vision is to create a marketplace to try to solve one aspect of this problem that you're addressing which is gosh, how do I find a coach, there's so many out there. And there are other groups, I'm sure especially some of the certification bodies that I'm a little less familiar with that I think also have the ability for somebody to go on and find different coaches and apply for different coaches and things like that.
Andy Swindler: But really I would certainly recommend for anybody the first step should be a direct call or in person meeting because the energy between the coach and the person being coached, it's so important. I actually recently I had a conversation really not go very well because I had met somebody in person and she got really excited about everything I was offering even to the point of saying, oh I'm definitely hiring you and all of this but we actually hadn't really talked about a lot of the details including the really important details like the fee.
Andy Swindler: So I ended up addressing some of that over email and it really went south very quickly. So I guess my up to the minute lesson there is you know what? Just really try to have those discussions directly because this is a really sensitive area and the work I do intentionally provokes lots of emotional responses and things to really get to the core issues of how we move through the world, how we react to things and basically one of the most consistent outcomes of coaching is building resiliency.
Andy Swindler: Like how do we react to things? How long does it take us to recover if we're having an emotional reaction? Going into fight flight or flee kind of defensive response. All of our primitive programming that we're all carrying around that in the 21st century for a lot of us is less useful than it was several thousand years ago so I think that's what a lot of this stuff is getting at.
Jon Voigt: So I guess in that example, having somebody first off understand why they want a coach and what is the value of that to them, right? So if this girl knew exactly what she wanted and she put a dollar towards it and that could just be openly discussed and whether it's a dollar for coaching or a dollar for coaching and whatever needs to be paid for to actually overcome those hurdles, I think that's critical because you need to understand why you want a coach in the first place.
Jon Voigt: Is it to figure out your purpose? Is it to execute on your purpose? Is it to solve a very specific thing? In my mind, if you're in business and you have a very small little one off problem, that's not really meant for a coach, you can hire somebody for that. My view on a coach is somebody who comes in, is constantly on you, helping you to improve and either come up with your purpose or help you reach that purpose, that goal, that main thing you're reaching for.
Andy Swindler: Yeah, yeah. So in the true purpose process there's five stages and the first two stages are really about ego work and ego development and we believe in a partnership with ego and saying hey this is a fundamental part of being human and then going and doing the deeper work. And then at the very end we call it manifestation. Like let's actually develop a plan for you to live your purpose.
Andy Swindler: So to some extent I am addressing that but you raise a good point actually. One of my partners, Katy Martin, is a career coach and we have a partnership because say I'm, one of the common scenarios for me might be someone in transition. They're at a mid point in their career, they're between jobs, maybe they got laid off, wow their world's kind of in a bit of a tumult and they're trying to figure out what's going on.
Andy Swindler: And doing this deep journey with me can be a really, if they've got time and space for that, that can be a really good way to go. But there's a point where I'm not really excited about helping them look at he job market and edit their resume and even though I kind of can do those things, it's just not my focus and so I love that actually the market is so mature that there are all these coaches with different really specializations and I think, I love the idea of having all these colleagues and really referring.
Andy Swindler: Sometimes I'll meet somebody and realize oh, it's really not a good fit based on the personality or energy or even just what I offer or in this case I just mentioned, maybe they do go through my process and then what? Oh, you know what? They're going to need some help going through this other part of the process after that so I think both are on the table.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, and I like how you talk about process because I do find talking to a lot of coaches they have a process or a certain kind of step system that you kind of go through but I also find with the good coaches and coaching that's really valuable is that it's a complement between not just following a process but having somebody there who's beside you that can see things you can't see.
Jon Voigt: A lot of the times when I get my biggest value from my coach personally is my coach calls me out on something or says, do you realize you're doing this, or do you realize what you just said there? Because some times we need to step out and you know people talk about having business partners as being awesome because they get that double perspective and other people saying I don't want business partners because it can be very difficult. But a coach is almost like a business partner that, you're still in charge, but they can call you out without being, getting some animosity or some anger or whatnot going on.
Andy Swindler: Or even if there is some anger, an angry reaction they can approach that with love, they know where that's coming from.
Jon Voigt: Right, 100%. And so do you ever see, do you think that's a good mix where a coach can actually, I don't want to say be aggressive but be very very assertive in terms of their opinion on whether you're inline, offline, just totally blind to something. Is that something you are like? Is that something you've seen other coaches like? Because I think that's very valuable or can be valuable in the right scenario.
Andy Swindler: I think you're right, yeah. There are a couple of really important things you just brought up. One is this idea of process, you know. So true purpose is a good example. There is a framework with these five stages, but I don't think anybody is served by just sort of blindly following any kind of process. It is a lot of space in each of the stages for a deep, personal journey and all of that and I've definitely had clients show up one day and they're just like, in fact I make agreements.
Andy Swindler: Create a safe space, I have agreements going in at the beginning with a client.
Jon Voigt: A safety word?
Andy Swindler: Well one of the agreements is not doing your homework or not sort of doing whatever assignment or anything is actually not a reason to cancel a session because that can actually indicate a kind of resistance or something else going on that can be used in the moment. So that's a lot of what I'm looking for, literally is oh, how are you reacting to something? Did you get triggered?
Andy Swindler: Is there some part of you that doesn't want to do this work for some reason?
Jon Voigt: Even to the coaching, not just ...
Andy Swindler: Yeah, let's look at that part. That's something we can learn from. Now the other part you mentioned brings up I think a bit of a personality thing. I mean we could, it could be a whole other conversation we launch about masculine and feminine energy. I subscribe to the idea that we all have some element of both of those inside of us, not just about men and women and gender.
Andy Swindler: And I have, there's a process called [inaudible 00:22:03] leadership and I've actually been quantified as really high feminine energy. Which actually explains a lot, it even explains a lot about what happened in my business because I think that there were moments ... masculine energy could be defined as more pointed or decisive or things like that whereas feminine is more passionate and open and collaborative.
Andy Swindler: And there were times when things were really hard that masculine energy would have been more useful and I was still operating in a sort of an okay, team, well how are we going to solve this together kind of mode. And it's a challenging balance.
Andy Swindler: And I think my coaching style embraces the idea that I do have naturally a lot of that feminine energy, that compassionate space holding energy as much as I am also trying to actually balance those because ideally I think they're balanced. So I'm probably not the kind of coach who is always going to be poking somebody and being like ... I mean yes I will point out anything I notice and share that but a lot of my approach is more getting somebody to see it for themselves and there's a lot of different ways to do that. But the critical thing there and this also could launch into a whole philosophical discussion but ...
Andy Swindler: A lot of this stuff basically to me falls under the umbrella of human beings are fundamentally limited in our perception, in our perspectives. So -
Jon Voigt: For sure. We build off our own belief systems, right? And that defines our perspective.
Andy Swindler: And so hiring a coach I think to your point is an acknowledgement of that limitation and then asking for putting up a mirror and saying okay, I really want to know. I truly want to perform better, I truly want to have better relationship I truly want to show up differently in the world and be more bold and go take that trip or go build that business or go do that thing that I've been thinking about forever and what is holding me back from that? And putting up that mirror is the first step I think to really, truly seeing ourselves.
Jon Voigt: Right, right. That's awesome. I totally am so for coaching and the link I see linking it to being more agile, being more flexible, being more adaptable is kind of what you just said is that look back on yourself. Sometimes we don't realize we're doing something and we're just doing something because we're stuck in a rut or we're stubborn or we have some other emotional thing that's keeping us in some path and not allowing us to see that and change our path is making us rigid and making us locked in. So that's how I relate that having a coach has made me way more flexible.
Jon Voigt: I've had a coach now for probably three or four years and I'll make decisions or change direction much quicker because someone will give me multiple perspectives that I might not have thought about which will give me a little bit more courage to maybe make a shift in my direction or to try something that I never would have tried before because my perception would not have allowed me to look outside of that realm, and so it's just made me more flexible, more adaptable. How about yourself? Has going through the coaching training done that for you?
Jon Voigt: Have you seen that in people you've coached? Being able to take on more, adapt to a change easier because they had the support there? Any story there or any thought there?
Andy Swindler: Absolutely, that's really well said, John. My own personal work, I mean one of the things I like about true purpose is there's such an emphasis, for a coach to be certified there's an extraordinary emphasis on doing our own work. Because if we're going to show up and coach people that doesn't mean that we have kind of be untriggerable or not have emotions or anything, that's dehumanizing.
Andy Swindler: But it certainly means knowing as much as I possibly can about my energy and so when something is, when there is a tension in a session or something like that being able to really identify what's my energy and what is somebody else's energy? So certainly a lot of the things I've learned we go deep with what we would generally just refer to as parts work.
Andy Swindler: Dialogue, active imagination, things like that. And there are various practices I've learned that I do on a regular basis, every single week at least. And yes, the main thing I've noticed, the best measurement I have is around that resiliency, like how long ... if I'm triggered by something, a, am I aware of it in the moment and b how can I react in the moment?
Andy Swindler: And sometimes, I don't know, a deep trigger I might just need to excuse myself for a moment, and then how long does it really take me to recover? How long does it take me to get back to, and in some leadership areas, the leadership circle defines it this way and there's some really cool neuroscience to back this stuff up too, but basically the difference is between a creative mindset and a reactive mindset.
Andy Swindler: And when we're in that frontal lobe that's the creative center, and we're collaborative and we're jamming and we're doing all good stuff and then the reactive is when we've sunken down into our lower brain stem and that's the reptilian brain, that's the primitive sort of defensive safety mechanism. And a lot of the work we do celebrates this idea of our safety programming.
Andy Swindler: And what does it take to feel safe and to address that in a way that isn't just kind of an unconscious avoidance? I think that's how a lot of people operate, that's how I operated for a long long time.
Jon Voigt: Right. So is it a coach that actually makes people feel safe indirectly because you kind of feel you have someone there on your side?
Andy Swindler: I'd like to think to some extent the idea of having a companion is safety, although I don't think that's as powerful as the idea of feeling safe within ourselves. Really discovering what it is that makes us feel unsafe and then addressing that because in all likelihood and for the sake of this conversation I'm not going to branch off into the reality of the white man. I am more physically safe than other constituencies in America. Happy to talk about that some other time.
Andy Swindler: But just speaking for myself, there really aren't a lot of physical threats as I walk around my neighborhood or the world. And so there's this idea of okay why do I sometimes feel unsafe? Well that's because it's kind of bringing up all this emotional stuff, and wounding from my childhood and stuff like that.
Jon Voigt: Awesome, so if someone was going to go out and say I want to be more agile, make my life more livable, I really need a coach I need to get to my destination. What would be your one piece of advice that you could give somebody just to get started tomorrow? They're like I want to have a coach, other than reaching out to you obviously.
Jon Voigt: But how could they get started on that process? Would it be talking to people? Would it be googling? What type of information could you give people?
Andy Swindler: Certainly. The first thing is I would, to whatever extent they're equipped to do this, I would really sit down and with any relationship, why do I want to do this? Maybe it's a list, maybe there's this really specific challenge or problem in life. Maybe there's a big transition, like a career. Maybe a divorce or a relationship breakup. Some kind of catalyst.
Andy Swindler: And really just one way to do it is just go old fashioned sit down and write a list of why I want to do this. A little bit of journaling. Beyond that I would say yes certainly reach out to me. But as we discussed because this market has become more mature there's a good chance somebody you know has a coach and could make a recommendation.
Andy Swindler: And most coaches that I know will have that initial 30 minute, maybe 60 minute call just to connect and just to see. And I think if you can embrace a really, in mindfulness we would call it beginner's mind practice or attitude where it's just you know what? I'm just going to meet some people, I'm going to get some recommendations, I'm gonna get a sense of what's out there, who's out there, what is their personality, what is their approach, what's their background? Is it a business focus, is it kind of a life coach focus? There's so many different ways to go about it.
Andy Swindler: But I think just giving some patience, time, in a playful exploration of the market and getting recommendations from friends, that's probably where I would start.
Jon Voigt: Yeah, I love your point about the initial call and just see if there's a fit because I think if any coach comes up to any of the listers here and says I can coach you, I would run the other way. You have to meet the person first, or at least talk on the phone, let them know what you're trying to solve, see how they solve things, make sure there's chemistry there. Because if they're just selling, selling and they haven't aligned I don't think there's gonna be a good fit there. It really is a special fit I think.
Jon Voigt: If people want to find you or look up you where would they find you?
Andy Swindler: The website is leadfromlove.io, Lead from Love inside and out and my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. That's probably the easiest way to get in touch with me. I'm pretty responsive on the emails and I would be absolutely delighted to meet anybody who is listening and just have a casual chat just see what there is to see.
Jon Voigt: Awesome. Awesome. Well thanks so much Andy, I really appreciate you taking the time and hopefully the audience takes some cues from this, those ones out there with coaches, I think you know what we're all talking about here and those of you who don't have a coach yet, you've gotta get out there. You're really missing out, you're not looking at life possibly in the full spectrum and it really can bring a lot of brightness and perspectives to your life. So thank you Andy again, and we'll chat soon.
Andy Swindler: Thanks so much. Nice chatting with you.
Jon Voigt: Thanks a lot everyone for spending some time with us today. You've just taken the first step towards a more fulfilling life. To continue the journey, I'd love if you subscribed to my podcast. That way you won't miss out on the smallest little detail that can make the biggest difference in your life. You can also join our community on Facebook. We've just started a community there of digital leaders that want to do more with less. And all you have to do is go to Facebook and type in the search bar the Agile community and join the group there.
Jon Voigt: If you want to hear more about this topic or have a topic of your own, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. I love talking about this stuff and am happy to talk about it offline as well. So now let's get out there and make a difference by doing more with less. Until next week, this is John saying stay agile.