By Charlotte Morse

The Calling in Power and Culture Summit in Toronto in September was the most exciting conference I’ve been to in a long time. A community of 58 people came together to foster diversity, social equality, and social justice in the coaching profession. They came from Mexico, Canada and the US and were affiliated with more than a dozen coach training organizations. Leadership that Works (LTW) was well-represented with 9 faculty, 2 grads and 1 student.

Long before we got together, organizer Kathy Grosso put forward the objectives of the summit: to raise consciousness, experiment with new approaches to culture and power, and commit to real life, concrete actions that we can each take to change the face of coach education. A running theme of the summit was about “calling people in” to revolutionary conversations rather than using shame or blame to “call people out.”

A moving traditional opening ceremony led by First Nations elder, Whabagoonawakened hearts as she called in our ancestors. Early in the summit, the crowd applauded when Sharon Brown asked, “What stand will coach training organizations and coaches take for coaching as activism: coaching and training that equips coaches and their clients to be agents of social change?”

Sharon gave credit to Andrea Ranae, who developed a powerful curriculum for Coaching as Activism. The room fell silent when Sharon talked about the impact on her when she walked into Coaching for Transformation 11 years ago and saw only 4 other people who looked like her—none of them teachers. She asked all coach training organizations to really think about how what they offer could really speak to the realities of someone like her, a woman of African descent living in the US.

The willingness to collaborate across coaching schools was both heartening and productive. After LTW shared our work on developing new competencies, Eileen Blumenthal from CTI agreed to share how they ensure their programs are accessible to people living with disabilities. A coach trainer from Mexico, Verenice Hernandez, who was blind and did not speak English, asked for more heart connection and expressed a desire for closeness. A Pakistani woman, called us all into new conversations by asking us to use language that is not so US-centric. Several Canadian coaches inspired us to talk about “racialized groups” instead of “people of color,” a phrase that many people outside the US don’t use.

Faculty member Kim Fowler said, “The role LTW plays in bringing this work into the coaching field became even clearer, more obvious. There are at least a couple of other schools who touch on power, privilege, rank and culture. However, LTW has caused a tectonic shift in the field. It is palpable, and it is something we get to honor, as faculty and as a school. I was stunned and hopeful to see trainers from other coach training organizations who have nearly all-white faculty start to see the impact of white supremacy.”

When some folks expressed discomfort about the language used to explore colonization and racism, Demarra Gardner rocked the room when she took a stand, “When we think of white supremacy, we often think of malicious acts. Just because someone isn’t actively working against oppression, their unexamined perspectives are more than likely rooted in white supremacy. If we aren’t actively working in opposition to white supremacy, then we are perpetuating it.”

She went on to say, “We have to call white supremacy what it is. If we can’t call it what it is in this space, what chance do we have in uprooting it?”

Responding to the hunger for deeper awareness, Dewey Schott, convened the largest working group on Unpacking Whiteness. I could feel the infectious excitement from Dewey’s group as I was working at the next table on Developing Power and Privilege Competencies. Our group delved into LTW’s plan to support our students and faculty to expand our cultural humility. One of our group members, Fernando Lopez, asked a pivotal question, “How do we create competencies that don’t marginalize the right?” 

Michael Brazzel was acknowledged for many decades of work in the field of diversity and inclusion. He said, “For the most part, coach training organizations, graduate-school coach-education programs, ACTO, ICF, and the coaching profession as a whole are at a very early stage in addressing power, social inequality, privilege and violence based in social identity.” However, he went on to say, “I am hopeful that the work of the Summit community will continue, that more coaches and coach training organizations will join the community, and that systemic change will happen.” 

Halli MacNab, showed up as a force to be reckoned with. As the incumbent president for Association of Coach Training Organizations, she took on the charge to move the agenda of the summiteers forward at the systemic level, including the International Coach Federation. Halli said, “As human beings, our beliefs, biases and privilege are often invisible to us,  I believe that as coaches and coach educators, we are uniquely skilled and positioned to inspire and initiate the revolutionary changes to the dynamics of power, privilege, rank and culture that are so urgently needed in the world.”

Visioning with coach trainers from across North America, who realize that to truly make coaching appealing and available to people from all walks of life, requires us to make fundamental changes in how we train, was a thrill! I left believing we have what it takes to make a profound impact on the coaching world. —Kathleen Moore

Sharon Brown summed up her experience by saying, “It was truly exciting to witness the receptivity in other coach training organizations to the prospect of diversifying faculty, recruiting diverse student populations, increasing accessibility across the cultural and economic spectrum, embedding power, privilege, rank and culture into their curricula and competencies, working collaboratively across organizations, envisioning coaching as activism, and looking to LTW as trailblazers and a model of the way forward.” 

Right after the conference, Kim Fowler quoted Barbara Lee, the indomitable Congresswoman from Oakland, California who said, “But we will only succeed if we reject the growing pressure to retreat into cynicism and hopelessness.” We have a moral obligation to “stay woke,” take a stand and be active; challenging injustices and racism in our communities and fighting hatred and discrimination wherever it rises.” Kim went on to say, “And that’s the pressure LTW has put on the coaching field. We just need to support ourselves and our allies in staying woke for the sake of equity and humanity.”

For the first time, many of our LTW faculty got to meet Henry Wai, revered for his calm approach and tech support. We missed our colleagues from across the pond in India and Europe who were unable to attend, but we’ve heard from folks who are musing about how to create this type of summit so that it resonates with people in their part of the world. 

Kudos to the heavy lifters, the organizers of the summit from 8 training organizations, including Johnny Manzon-Santos, Kathy Grosso and Virginia Kellogg from LTW. Johnny says, “This level of grassroots, cross-school organizing, focused on such a critical and marginalized issue in our profession, was unprecedented and I found it consistently inspiring.”

For over two years, the organizers collaborated to create the vision, the design, and get the word out. Their seamless co-facilitation resulted in a provocative summit, with reverberations felt by all. And it’s not over. The 10 working groups set the intention for others to join as the work of the coach training community continues. Stay tuned because you can still be part of it all!