I’ve been asked a few times why I’ve named my professional coaching business after a chair and there are a few reasons why I landed with ChairCo - the first being that my wife suggested it (which is the most important reason, naturally).
My wife, my two beautiful daughters, and I were headed to Augusta to visit her parents for Thanksgiving last year and it’s a pretty decent drive – about 2 hours and some change, depending on who’s driving (less with me, more with Sue). If one of us isn’t entirely knocked out and taking advantage of an open opportunity to nap, we’ll typically spend the time chatting about life and decompressing from the daily challenges that we both face.
This time though we chatted about our future and the directions that we seemed to be headed – I had just come out of a large contract relationship and was looking for the next big thing (as well as another source of revenue) and collectively we were reviewing my options.
I have always been blessed with having too many options but this time was different – we weren’t sure exactly where I needed to head next and what I needed to be spending my time doing. We discussed a number of different things before she finally chimed in and remarked how I should do that which I’m most passionate about: Coaching others.
She went on to share how I appeared “most alive” after an engagement and how it was something she’s seen me do for years, but never in a “professional” way, and never receiving compensation for it explicitly.
For me it was a passion of mine that had it’s own rewards already – it was so satisfying that I had never considered applying my entrepreneurial spirit toward it – it was a self-contained, enjoyable hobby and incredible give-back.
In fact, some of you have experienced this for yourselves as I’ve taken time out to visit with you (typically super-early in the morning), listening and hearing about your visions, dreams, and hopes that you’d like to accomplish. If there was an opportune moment I’d make a suggestion or two but otherwise I was there to listen and you were there to be heard.
I loved that – and I loved how it was casual, easy, and felt very comfortable. Again, I started doing this back in college – I just didn’t have the right words to call it “coaching” or anything of that nature. I called it “grabbing coffee” and “chatting” more than anything but the value was still the same.
(Interesting sidenote is that my wife also coaches other people as well and has done it for as long as I can remember as well. It’s one of the very few things we share in common!)
My wife then reminded me of one of my past keynotes at a conference where I used a chair for one of my more effective metaphors for perspective and change. She liked how I had challenged the audience to see something they typically would find ordinary and inane as an object of significant expression.
She said to me with a confidence that can only come from your spouse,
You should call it “Chair”… It’s your Chair Company.
I remember looking at her sideways, rolling it over in my head for a brief moment, and nodding. I liked the idea of how, with coaching, we can help others to see way beyond their current circumstances and seeing something significantly different.
And armed with this different perspective we can change the entire course of our very lives – what a fascinating by-product! A chair would be the perfect symbol of that change: Something that’s extra-ordinary turned extraordinary, just like me and you.
And so ChairCo was born. My wife even had enough gumption to have me say, explicitly, that it was “her idea” and she smiled politely and giggled a bit. Yes, it was her idea, not mine. I
Since piloting the concept and even completing a 4 week online acceleration course for those that want to experience some of my coaching virtually, I’ve had a blast digging into to what I ultimately feel is where I’ll spend an incredible amount of time, if not being one of my very few “life missions.”
I say that very cautiously because I know myself well enough to admit that Ive changed my personal trajectory a thousand times over but there’s something entirely different about this one this time.
So What About Chairs?
Ok, so I’ve spent a good deal talking about ChairCo from my wife’s perspective but what’s neat is that there is even more to it than that.
Here’s some really interesting facts about chairs in general:
- Until the 1600s, chairs were rare.
- The word chair itself dates only from the 1300.
- They were designed not to be comfortable but to impute authority. It was originally an article of dignity and state rather than ordinary use.
- Even now the person in charge of a meeting “chairs” it.
- A person in charge of a company is the “Chairman” of the board. This is interesting (and a bit odd) since it recalls the dining habits of medieval peasants.
- Endowed professorships are referred to as chairs.
- The best player in an orchestra or musical system can often have the title of “first chair” or “principle seat.”
- There are a near-infinite number of styles, approaches, designs related to engineering. There really isn’t a “one size fits all” version.
- You, like many people, just “know” when you’ve found a “good” chair – it’s comfortable, relaxing, and even may incite extreme levels of productivity. It’s mostly subjective and relatively indefensible. But, you don’t care (and neither do I). A good chair is a good chair, period.
All of these things (and more) reflect much of how I see professional coaching and “people acceleration” in general.
My desire is that everyone finds their place in life, where they should ultimately “sit,” and the best seat for themselves as it relates to the organizations they participate in (or manage) and also in their relationships as well. I want them to sit amongst the very best and that each person can fully appreciate and love their unique gifts, aptitudes, and styles of action and influence that make them who they are today.
Ultimately, I want each person to find their own place, their own own spot, and the so-called “seat” that was uniquely created just for them. I like engaging with universal questions like “I can’t seem to find the right spot.” and “I’m not sure where I sit with this organization and this person.” and “I’m looking for the right seat to fill.” and more.
Get it? The metaphor is infinitely applicable in nearly all directions and I even landed with 4 Core Pillars to ChairCo (like 4 legs on a chair) in terms of how I always seem to engage with my clients and those that I coach. It all seemed to just pull together, as natural as breathing.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you one final touchpoint that has helped guide my thinking as I approached the concept of professional coaching as a career and vocation – it surround the Parable of the Wedding Feast as found in Luke 14:
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.
But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’
Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Although there are a number of interpretations I will touch upon only one and how I specifically regard the responsibility of being a coach to others: I see my opportunity to invest in others as an honor, a unique invitation into their lives. They have requested my presence there, not the other way around and to sit among them is privilege enough! I was not the first to invest and certainly will not be the last and so order or priority or “places of honor” are of no importance. I am in a place of service, by invitation, and that is all!
I love my role as a professional coach for many and have loved the clarity that I’ve been able to gift to many as a result of our time together. But it definitely goes both ways as I receive clarity and confirmation that I’m doing great work every single time I get off that phone call (or skype) or leave that coffeeshop knowing that my time with them was precious, worthwhile, and effective.
Unfortunately, as a natural consequence of limited resources (namely time), the amount of seats to be filled in my schedule are limited but I’m always open to having a conversation to see what transpires!