By Anthony T. Eaton
I had the opportunity to sit down with my longtime friend Tim Kincaid to talk about how he became a coach and about coaching in general. Tim is a leadership coach and consultant specializing in strategic communications, change management and leadership development, and teaches numerous university courses.
Thanks for joining me, Tim. I appreciate it.
Yes. I was surprised, flattered, and pleased when you asked.
So, let’s start with you. What got you into coaching? Because you were really in the corporate arena for many, many years in your career.
Yes, my corporate-run was in public relations and communications, primarily in transportation, with American airlines. Back in two thousand eight, I left and took a package to launch an encore career and finish a doctorate. I had a dissertation that I wasn’t getting done working full time.
And so, the timing, the planets aligned, everything was good. It was an excellent bridge to what was next, and it was going to include coaching, getting trained certified, becoming the best coach I could be. But I also wanted to teach, do some consulting work, facilitating, and leadership development. And dreams do come true because all those things came to pass and more. It was a lot of hard work, and it’s been an interesting ride. How I got to coaching is like many of us who do this work; who are coaches? We feel like we’ve always been a coach. Growing up, I always seemed to get you’re a good listener, and you give great advice. That wasn’t coaching, but the underpinnings were there, and I liked it. It was fulfilling. People are fascinating, and I like helping.
I first heard of coaching probably in the late to mid-late nineties from two people who are now colleagues, mentors, and friends of mine. Both were leading men’s workshops, different ones, and they both introduced themselves, saying, “I am a life coach,” Something about that made me perk up; what’s that (life coach)? That’s intriguing. Say more about that. So I sat with that for a while because I ruminate on things.
It took a little while, and actually, my partner Larry hired David, his first coach in Dallas. He’s moved since, but he was a down space coach, and then I hired him later. It was sort of a test drive to see what is this about? I was working on some things, and it was so helpful.
I made two conclusions. One was that this works; there’s Something to this. I’d done therapy, mentoring, training, all those things, but this had a different vibe to it. And the other thing that occurred to me then was I want to do this, and I think I’d be good at it.
So, I worked with David as a coach, and then when I took the package, I found a training program that I wanted to do and got certification. I saw what the road was because if I was going to do it, I wanted it to be good; I wanted to be a professional coach and be the best I could be there. And so. That helped me sort of set things up.
I mentioned the doctoral program. I had a coach most of the way through that; I worked with two different coaches in that period, and one of them really helped me get through the dissertation part. That was a lonely dark time, and I had a difficult committee for the dissertation. It was so helpful having this kind person in my corner who was not attached, but he was there to help me and push through some limiting beliefs, unquestioned limiting beliefs, and assumptions that I made. That’s what coaches; are sort of the guide on the side. He didn’t tell me what to do, which is also a trademark of coaching.
I got to experience coaching from different people, in different ways, with different vibes to them. But there was a thread all the way through to me getting into a coach training and certification. I got certified, joined the international coaching Federation, and then later, when the Gay Coaches Alliance formed, I joined it.
I’ve had the same thing said to me; you’re a great listener. And I think that it’s a skill that you have to hone because you have to be present in time. Listening is a crucial element of coaching, dissecting or being introspective and looking for different things that are not always so evident to the person being coached; because we don’t see our own blind spots. I know that’s been true for me. While I’m not a professional coach in the same terms as you, in my career, I coach leaders all the time, and it’s always an effort trying to get them to explore different things that maybe they had not considered.
Yes. I think there’s a natural ability to it. And unlike anything, you develop it. I found that to be true back in corporate life. Before I even heard of coaching, I was coaching. I was working with executives, and I was kind of being the devil’s advocate. I was offering different perspectives on things and asking them, how do you think this will land with the employees, and often they hadn’t thought of that. And when they listened and thought about it, it often had good outcomes; and when they didn’t, I did my best. There is an element of coaching that is also a little bit of consulting, which is giving them advice. But some of the underpinnings are very similar in that way.
I would definitely agree. You mentioned that you’re a member of the Gay Coaches Alliance, and recently you took a more active role in the organization. Can you first tell us a bit about the Alliance and its purposes?
The Alliance is a group of men who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, queer. The central theme is we identify with men as being men and male. And we work with coaches or are helping professionals who use coaching as a key component of our work.
At present, about a hundred and twenty-five men belong from all over the world. This year, during COVID, we’ve been surprised that we’ve had several more men joining. Some of them are from Europe the UK, which is fantastic; this brings that global feel to it. We get together on a call once a month, a zoom call for members, and we can invite a guest also occasionally.
Then we have a virtual conference in the winter, and then in the spring, hopefully, we’re going to resume our face-to-face in-person conferences at our retreat center in upstate New York. Those are just amazing high-quality content, lots of coaching, presentations, and learning. So there’s a rigor to it.
It has a nice tribal feel to it. I guess if you could say it feels like coming home in a way that is kind of rare for gay folks. Even in the most welcoming, nurturing environments, you still feel sort of different, and that’s Something that this group can give members that others, I’ll say mainstream kinds of organizations don’t.
The Gay Coaches Alliance is a professional association of people who identify as GBTQ men. Members work as coaches or in allied helping professions, or use coaching as a key component of their work. “We aim to build a supportive global community through regular online and in-person events. Our events help to build community and provide continuing professional and personal development. We promote coaching as a method to help each other, and our clients, to have a greater impact on the world. We are a diverse group, drawn together by our sexuality and passion for coaching. We stay together to inspire, empower, develop, and support each other and our clients.”
That makes sense. I think that commonality with being coaches is one common element. Beyond that, there’s a connection, certainly where we share this common day-to-day experience than heterosexual counterparts don’t. They may understand to a degree, but you can’t know what unless you were in it and you live it. Would you agree?
I do, it’s a very diverse group, but they all have some shared, I guess affinities or characteristics when I go to other meetings, non-gay coaching meetings or any kind like that, I usually am one of the far as I know, few gay folks in the room.
And so I am distressed after years of practice, I’m scanning to see, you know, is it safe? And always a decision, do I come out or not? Or if I’m out already, how else can I be, or do I want to be, and a lot of that is my own internal stuff.
Those are sort of hardwired learned things that I don’t know if they ever go away, GCA was formed in 2005, and it was just kind of like what would happen if we were a group of, I think we’re five men who were all coaches, and they were at and together, and it was just, it started as an experiment. And then it grew slowly, and then we had a conference, and it grew a bunch more, and we had annual conferences, and there was just a real, I think a real need for that. We believe that gay men can be especially powerful coaches. Maybe it’s because of our sort of outsider quirkiness, and this painting us all with the same brush and not, not true I will say it just seems to be true.
I think there’s an element there. That shared experience that many of us have gone through allows us to often bring a different emotional connectedness to what we’re doing. Like you, I can’t be inside somebody else’s psyche, and I don’t want to paint everybody with the broad brush. I feel that my life experience has allowed me different kinds of empathy and understanding, especially of those who are similar because they have been maybe marginalized or have not had the same opportunity.
Well said. One of the underpinnings is that gay men can make for really great coaches for anyone, not just for other gay men. I think we are very good at observing too. Think about how we’ve spent a lifetime shape-shifting and hiding in plain sight. Even in welcoming environments, you still felt different. Is it okay to be this or that? And so your always sort of scanning the environment for threats, friendliness, friendly faces, whatever.
That’s a skill being a really good observer and very curious about what’s behind that, what’s the thing beneath the thing, as we say. We also believe that gay men significantly benefit from coaching. Again, the story comes up of feeling alone, growing up and into young adulthood, and not feeling like they had anybody in their corner. Many of us coach all kinds of people. Mine is mainly in the business realm and academia.
Our group is designed to get more gay men to become coaches but also get more coaching to gay men. If you go to our website, gay coaches.com, there’s a coach finder there. So we’ve been doing that for, for many years. It keeps growing and evolving and changing, and we’re not done yet.
We as gay men must have that opportunity to have a coach that can relate to that experience. I agree; even though things have changed so dramatically, they remain the same in many ways. Even when you work for an organization that says it promotes diversity and openness, the diversity of the organization still allows for the difference of opinion. And sometimes, that still doesn’t make it safe. I don’t fault anybody for how or why they develop their opinion or position, but you still run that risk of individuals who judge. Gay men have always been good at honing our gut instinct regarding the environment and getting a feel for it. Is this a place where I can be open, and to your point, to what degree can I be open?
Yeah. It started as a survival skill, and it continues. I’m not a young man anymore, and I’ve been out for many years. I’m pretty out, and I think that that suits me and my world. I feel safe, yet I still have to make instant decisions on what to do, you know?
I would agree. I think the landscape has changed in some regions of the country and then broader in the world. It’s still not as safe as it could be or shouldn’t be. But I’ll find myself still doing that. I mean, I’m 54, but there’s this piece of me that’s always conscious of, where am I? Who’s around. I’m not hiding who I am. I’m being more aware of who I am.
It’s impression management which is pretty useful in coaching, especially in the business environment for leaders who want to get ahead. In that way, sometimes it even becomes a kind of like, consulting helping them to manage the impressions they’re making and just being aware of how they’re seen and how they want to be seen.
I think perception is reality. We say that it shouldn’t matter, that your intention matters. And I do believe intention matters honestly, but I think that intention doesn’t change perception at the end of the day.
John Maxwell’s best definition ever. I think that leadership is influenced, and so you improve it. So that takes you away from being controlled. Where’s the gap? That’s where coaching is actually really good for articulating those things.
You’re also the president-elect of the international coach Federation of the North Texas chapter. Is that a post you actively went after or did they come after you and say, Hey Tim, will you lead us?
I had been on the board for several years there, various positions and committees and then positions, and I loved that. I love the people I got to know and coaches who are helping with this awesome professional group locally. It’s been good for my business, too, with referrals and partnering with people. I really enjoy them.
I was wrapping up, I think, my third year as secretary, which is an officer, but I’d had people asking me along the way, are you thinking about running for president sometime? And I said no several times until I started thinking about it and the timing was right. I was letting go of some things, and I was ready to try Something else, so I did; I volunteered to run for it and was elected.
We have around two hundred and thirty members, mostly in north Texas, but there’s some in other places. The pandemic has been sort of a leveling influence. We have people who are members who have moved, yet they stay active, and they come to the meetings virtually. We’re going to see if we can grow into that when we start meeting again in person, having a hybrid approach to have people from outside the area who don’t have to be physically with us.
After 25 years, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) has evolved to become the hub for all things coaching. We’re more than a membership organization for trained professional coaches – we’re bringing together, in one place, several key aspects of the growing industry. Discover the ICF ecosystem of six family organizations, created to better serve you on your journey to empower the world through coaching.
That was a great answer. You mentioned the pandemic that has changed the landscape in so many different ways for all of us. What I’ve heard from others that I’ve talked to who were in coaching roles is it’s also changed the landscape for them in some significant ways. How have you seen that effect?
We’ve been surprised that not only in the key coaches Alliance but our ICF chapter grew. We had more people joining, and we can come up with some theories on why that is. Not every chapter was that way, but a lot of us have enjoyed having more people coming.
If they’re external coaches, have their own practice, they’re small business owners. A lot of them lost clients because when the pandemic hit, companies stopped spending on discretionary kinds of things; coaching, among other things, was one of them.
I had one organization that stopped and didn’t come back, but I had other ones who tapped the brakes, and others just kept going. So it’s been a real mix of experiences for coaches. Most of us, especially the external ones who are our businesses, were already virtual. Most of mine is virtual. I love in-person, but studies have shown that it’s just as effective as in-person or by phone to be doing video calls. So they’re all equally useful as a coaching modality.
We talked about how this has impacted our practice at our meeting. It seemed like a lot of our clients were part of the great resignation thing. People are re-evaluating. Is this really what I want to do? Or am I valued here? Am I making enough? It was a very clarifying thing, and coaching is really good to help fine-tune and get clear life’s calling. Why are you here?
Both organizations are here to help people be better coaches, build their business, build themselves. And grow as individuals too. We’re all about that. So while it doesn’t appear like it’s had such a significant impact on my world, it has on our clients. One thing that is distinct about this is that we’re sort of removed as coaches. We may be familiar with what the client is doing or their industry, but it’s their life, their situation. We’re helping them come up with answers. With the pandemic, we’re impacted by that too. It wasn’t theoretical. We weren’t in an aquarium looking in; we were in the aquarium with them. It called on us to good self-management and doing our work. Coaches have coaches, and we work on our stuff. It was kind of interesting, the significant leveling influence of a pandemic.
I can certainly see that, again, it’s that commonality, it’s a shared experience, and we’re all going through it. Having that kind of empathy for this situation, helping people navigate that in terms of questioning, is this where you want to be, or where you want to be? How are you handling these situations? I’ve seen a mixed bag in terms of how it has affected individuals. One of the benefits is this virtual environment that allows people a little more flexibility. Maybe I want to have a coach, but I can’t take time off to see somebody in person because of my schedule, but I can certainly do Something like that virtually. We can have a virtual meeting, whether 30 minutes an hour or whatever. I think it makes it more accessible than it was before.
There are more platforms now, digital platforms that companies are offering; I’m on the coaching roster for a couple of companies with big coaching contracts with large organizations. Then have certified coaches that they’ve vetted who are on their roster, we deliver to the clients, whatever it is they’re looking for assessments or whatever, will we provide that? And. They have a digital platform, and they’re getting very slick and slick it in a good way. It makes it accessible the quality is good. You know, we’ve come a long way, and you’re right about it, making it more accessible, and it has also made it more acceptable. Suddenly there were a lot of companies saying, I’m not so sure about this. Off-site remote work, work from home. I don’t know when he had to do it, there was no choice, and it sort of forced it. And now, many companies are seeing the benefits of it. Lots of employees are also. And there are plenty of people who say I need to be around people.
Yes. I think you’re going to see a new landscape. Working from home is not for everybody. I recognize that as an HR professional. Some people need and want that structure. Some people want a hybrid; flexibility of sometimes I want to go into the office, sometimes I don’t. They need that change of environment. Others, and I count myself amongst them, don’t want the external distractions of being in a corporate environment. I don’t have the social need to be around other people in the work environment, which works out fine for me.
It’s interesting because I’ve seen a lot more companies are now posting remote jobs. So they have begun to realize that the work can get done. Going forward, we will see some studies that will show that there is perhaps even increased productivity amongst those who can do it.
We’ll see the opposite if you have a mismatch, but if you can match people to that environment, you will see your success.
My observation of the clients I work for in the corporate world all over North America and in all industries said, yeah, I got a couple of hours back in my day from commuting, but I’m working at least two more hours. There’s that missing sort of boundary transition they used to have between home and work. Coaching is pretty helpful for them to not only realize it’s kind of essential or it might be necessary to them, and they may want more of that and help them design.
I would agree. It’s a double-edged sword. A person can remove that stress of, oh, I have to face this hour commute each way. So losing an hour of any kind of life productivity because I’m sitting in traffic. The flip side of that, of course, is I am now working those extra hours at my job, and am I letting that stress me out? Or am I taking advantage of that time to focus on myself or my family or whatever it is and leveraging that in different ways?
Are they supporting me or expecting me to work more? And do I resent that? Some of the big resignations are seeing their employer and their policies in a different light.
Absolutely. I think the pandemic has undoubtedly put a focus on that. It’s one thing to have a company that says we’re all about our employees and people, and we care. But it’s the actions behind that. Are you living it, or is it just the mission statement on the wall?
As we wrap up here, what kind of advice would you give to somebody who says. I want to do this. I want to be a coach.
Some advice was you need to hire a coach, work with a professional coach and see what it’s like. You can also ask them questions. If you’re going to do this, first do no harm; get some training and get good training. Coaching is the wild west. There’s no regulation, no government oversight, or anything like that like there is with therapy or other things in the US. Anybody can say they’re a coach, and it’s okay. There are plenty of people out there with no training who are, I think, good coaches; they are probably fine. I believe others are not. And so buyer beware.
Work with a coach with some credentials at least belongs to the international coaching Federation. They’re the leader in bringing rigor, structure, and uniformity to coaching. Find a coach who is ICF certified and find a program for training that is recognized by ICF also because they’re lending their credibility to say this is the real deal.
Coach training is not rainbows and unicorns and Just all positive thinking. It is a rigorous coach training and certification program. Be willing to invest in yourself and know that the training and the journey are developmental. I wanted to learn to be a great coach, and I think I did, but the training itself was really powerful and developmental because when you come in the room with all these coaches, we’re not roleplaying; we are coaching on our own stuff. It was pretty transformational. So just be ready for that. That’s what I would recommend.
That’s great. I appreciate you giving me some time for us to talk about coaching. I think that this is just really awesome.
I love this. This is fun. I appreciate the opportunity today.
To learn more about Tim Kincaid and his business, visit his website at https://kincaidcoaching.com/
To learn more about the International Coaching Federation and Gay Coaches Alliance, visit their websites at https://thegaycoaches.com/alliance