What’s my new year’s resolution for 2013? I want to coach the way Dava cooks. I had the privilege (and yes, it is a privilege) to eat Dava Melton’s food while at a workshop and retreat at the Bend of Ivy Lodge outside Asheville, North Carolina.
Simple, healthy and delicious, Dava’s food is made with exquisite attention to detail. Each muffin is cut in perfect quarters, each pumpkin seed or almond is toasted just right, each meal is a combination of color and texture and smell that lifts your spirits before you take the first bite.
Dava’s food is about choice. There’s something delicious for vegans, raw food eaters, those on a gluten free diet, those who want real protein (read chicken or fish), those who can’t wait for dessert. There’s more than enough of each dish for everyone, so you can eat to your heart’s content and know you’re not depriving someone else.
But best of all, Dava’s food is about love. One bite and you know Dava puts her heart and soul into her cooking. A brief conversation with her and you know she’s found her calling. She hums in the kitchen, she looks content. Her face lights up when you ask her about the menu. Eating Dava’s food not only nourishes the body, you can taste the love she puts in each dish and it nourishes the soul.
What does it mean to coach like Dava cooks? To me, it means giving myself enough space between each client to thoroughly prepare myself, to review my notes and think through where to begin, to center myself and relax so I can give my whole attention to my client. It means preparing myself so that I am completely grounded and calm and can meet the client wherever he or she is. It means I’m focusing on the outcomes of the coaching engagement and simultaneously responding to the client’s needs in the moment.
Coaching like Dava cooks means following up after each session. It means writing brief and clear notes for the client about what we discussed. It means making sure I keep any commitments I make to support the client and that I’m tracking where we ended up and anything I want to bring up next time.
Coaching like Dava cooks means that I do a good job of beginning and ending a coaching engagement. It means that I take the time to deeply listen to the client’s needs—not necessarily only to their presenting problem, but to their aspirations, dreams and fears—and that we use that data to craft clear and measurable outcomes. It means making sure that we are moving together to achieve those goals and at the same time the client is building their capacity to take on new challenges without a coach. It means ending the engagement with a plan of action the client can take to continue their growth.
Coaching like Dava cooks means I provide the physical and emotional space so the client can make the most out of any session. It means taking time at each session to let the client relax and focus and making sure we know where we’re headed before we begin. It means making sure each session adds value and the time is relaxed, but productive.
Coaching like Dava cooks means coaching with love and infusing the work with heart and soul. It means continually learning and getting better, it means enjoying each engagement and finding fun in the day to day. It means valuing each client for who they are as well as who they want to become.
Coaching like Dava cooks means I don’t take just any work that comes along. Is the client someone who wants to learn and grow or are they filling a square? Is the client someone who values good quality and the time and attention it takes to produce it? Does the client want a growth opportunity that will last for years or do they want a quick fix?
The right client is important. Because to coach like Dava cooks I have to take on fewer clients and that means I’ll have to charge a little more. But I think it will be worth it. Coaching like Dava cooks is all about quality—about personal attention, quality service, attending to details and working with heart. That’s what produces the best results.
Plum Cluverius, PCC is an executive coach with over 30 years experience in leadership and professional development. She lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.