Ep. 364: Becoming a Certified Life Coach with Lee Chaix McDonough

I'm so excited to introduce you to this week's guest on Pep Talks for Side Hustlers, Lee Chaix McDonough!

Lee Chaix McDonough is the CEO and Founder of Coach With Clarity, a training and education company for life and business coaches. She is also the host of the Coach with Clarity podcast and author of the #1 Amazon book, ACT On Your Business: Braving the storms of entrepreneurship and creating success through meaning, mindset, and mindfulness.

After over a decade as a clinical social worker and public health professional, Lee became credentialed as a coach through the International Coach Federation and now provides ICF-accredited continuing coach education for intuitive, heart-centered coaches. Her Coach with Clarity® framework fuses meaning, mindset, and mindfulness with grounded intuition and solid business strategy to help coaches and clients excel at entrepreneurship and transform their lives. Lee lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and her pug Phineas.

Push play to listen to this week's episode, or read the full transcript below!

Connect with Lee:

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 364 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to introduce you to today's guests, Lee, Shea McKenna. So Lee is the founder of Coach with Clarity, which is a training education company. Let me start over. I do not like how I did a couple of things there. Normally I don't start over, but no worries.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I

Shannon Mattern: Bumbled a couple of those words. Let me take a sip of coffee. Okay.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I have mine over there. I think I'm good for now, but yeah, no sip of water. That's a beautiful water cup too. I love that.

Shannon Mattern: It makes me feel it makes, makes me think of sunrise. I was going to say it's

Lee Chaix McDonough: Almost tropical. I love it. Yeah.

Shannon Mattern: Okay. So do over. All right. We will get started in 3, 2, 1.

Shannon Mattern: Welcome to episode 364 of Pep Talks for Side Hustlers. And I am so excited to introduce you to today's guest Lee Chaix McDonough. Lee is the CEO and founder of Coach with Clarity, a Training Education Company for Life and Business Coaches. And she's also the host of the Coach with Clarity podcast, which I had the opportunity to be a guest on it. It was awesome. And we'll link that up in the show notes. And she's also the author of the number one Amazon book ACT On Your Business, Braving the Storms of Entrepreneurship and Creating Success Through Meaning Mindset and Mindfulness Lee, thank you so much for being here. Can you share a little bit more with our listeners about you and what you do?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Absolutely. And Shannon, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be on your show. A long-time listener first-time guest. So as you mentioned, I run the Training Education Company for Life and Business Coaches. So I provide both initial certification programs, as well as continuing education programs. All of which are accredited by the International Coaching Federation. When I am not doing that type of group training, I do still work with a handful of one-on-one clients doing primarily business coaching and consultation. And then, of course, I do have a life outside of my business, which I highly encourage all business owners to have. And so when I'm not at work, I am hanging out with my husband, Patrick. We have two sons, Jack and Ben who are right in the throws of that middle school, early high school time period. So it's busy and very hormonal around our house right now. Which is why I also spend a lot of time on my Peloton. It's excellent stress relief. I love reading, writing, music, all things podcasting, and spending time outside when I can.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. And our paths crossed many, many years ago. But I want to dig a little bit deeper into your journey, why you created Coach with Clarity and how you got to where you are today. So can you kind of give me the backstory as to how you got here?

Lee Chaix McDonough: I would be happy to. So before I was a coach, I was, and still am, a licensed clinical social worker. So I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, like almost 20 years ago,

Shannon Mattern: I graduated almost 20 years ago too. Yeah.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And you're like, how is this possible? But I graduated with my Master's in social work and my Master of science in public health. So I spent almost 15 years as a social worker, a public health professional, and as a therapist. And during that time, my husband was in the Air Force. So we also traveled quite a bit after we both graduated from our respective programs. And I felt really lucky that for the most part, wherever the Air Force took us, I was able to find employment as a social worker. There were some licensing hiccups, but all in all, I was able to do the work that I loved. And then in 2015, when he got out of the Air Force and we moved back to the United States after spending four amazing years in Germany, I took a little time off to help my family with that transition because it was a big one, you know, moving from Europe to the U S moving from military to civilian life.

Lee Chaix McDonough: My husband purchased a dental practice in our town. He's a periodontist. And my kids essentially grew up in Europe. They were eight and six when we moved back. And so I just felt like my primary role needed to be managing that transition, which I did. And after about nine months, I started getting the professional itch, like I really wanted to return to work. And at the same time I had this clear sense that mental health was no longer where I was called to serve. I still wanted to show up and support other people. I still wanted to use all of those skills that I had honed over the previous 15 years. And yet I didn't necessarily want to go back into health care. I didn't want to be diagnosing and treating people. And while this was happening, my husband was going through that transition of being a new business owner.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And for him, it was really interesting because he was, and is, an extraordinary periodontist. Like as a clinician, he's the best. But he had never owned a business before. He'd never had to deal with managing staff and HR and payroll and everything that goes into running a business. And so there was this unique tension that happened for him. Whereas, you know, he was an expert in one area and a novice in another. And that was really challenging. And so I was observing him negotiate all of this. And I kept thinking to myself, there needs to be someone out there who can support him through this. You know, he doesn't need a therapist. He doesn't meet the criteria for any sort of mental health diagnosis. And yet wouldn't it be great if there were someone in his corner to help him just through this process.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And so I started doing some research. That's when I discovered coaching, business coaching and all of that. And it was like a light bulb went off and I thought, okay, I think this might be my next journey. And so I did a little more research. I completed a coach training program. I started my own coaching practice. And because of my background, I worked primarily with therapists and healthcare practitioners who were in private practice, did a lot of business coaching. The more I worked with them, the more they asked me, Hey, how'd you become a coach. Tell me about this coaching thing. Can you help me become a coach? And that's when I pivoted really into this training and education side of coaching, and that's what I do now. So it's kind of the long story about how I wound up where I am. And at the time it felt like there were lots of starts and stops and pitfalls and high points. And looking back, I see how everything connected to bring me right where I am today.

Shannon Mattern: Ooh. I want to dig more into those pitfalls and low points and parts where you feel like this isn't working and it's all falling apart. But before I ask you about that, I just want to acknowledge that, you know, it, I'm so glad there are people out there like you, because I think a lot of us who have a skill that we want to turn into a business that we're an expert in, and that we're really good at. And especially coming from corporate, especially when you're like very successful in corporate and you want to pivot. And I didn't realize that there was support out there for me. I just didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know that I needed it and I didn't know that I could have made it a lot easier on myself had I gotten that. Just so grateful to all you life and business coaches out there who really did create something for those of us who, like your husband, like you said, we don't need therapy. well, maybe we do! But...

Lee Chaix McDonough: That's another podcast episode!

Shannon Mattern: You really created this this way to support us. So just want to acknowledge you for that and thank you for that. But let's go back to like those early points or all these pieces where you're like this isn't working or whatever. Tell me about some of those challenges.

Lee Chaix McDonough: Yeah. So we're going to time travel back to 2016, which is when I started my business and when I completed my coach training program. And I suspect that's probably also around the time I first came across your work, because you were such an instrumental part of me getting my very first website up and running. Yeah, like seriously. When I think back to the origins of my business, you are very much a part of that story. You're a thread in that tapestry. And even today, almost six years later, although I generally work with other people on my website, I still have the foundational knowledge to go in and make some tweaks and so forth because of what I learned through everything that you've had to offer. So you're very much a part of that journey. And honestly, one of the highlights of it, because I felt so empowered and so accomplished after I got my website out in the world, and then I had my little virtual real estate that I could share with people.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And it really lent both visibility and credibility to my business. That being said, the first 18 months of my business were hard. I had never owned a business before either. I was doing lots of just-in-time on the job training and I made a lot of mistakes in doing so. I chose a logo and brand that didn't reflect me. It reflected what I thought I had to be in order to be successful. And of course I know now, the benefit of hindsight, that a surefire way to not be successful is to try to make yourself into something you're not. But I did. I shaped, shifted myself into this very corporate looking coach because I had the impression that if you're going to be successful in coaching, you're going to be a corporate or an executive coach. And so my logo was super corporate and the way I spoke and what I offered was super corporate. But that was not the work I wanted to be doing, nor is it really my personality. And so I did go through an identity crisis for a good portion of those early years. It wasn't until I felt safe enough to put myself out there, to embrace my strengths and gifts and really see those as my differentiating factor. That's when things started to change for me. And when I decided I don't want to show up in this way anymore, I want to show up as me and I want to serve the people I really dig and really care about. That was when everything started to take off.

Shannon Mattern: I can't wait to dig into that pivot a little bit more, but a couple of things that jumped out at me is that I love how you said I don't work on my own website anymore. So I am honored to be a part of your early story where you were able to like create that and be really empowered, because that's a big hurdle for a lot of people when they're first getting started. And there comes a time where it is time to not be that person anymore. And I love that over the past six years that you have really handed that off to other people who can do that for you so that you can do the things that you're here to do, and know what you're asking for, and know what you're getting and not have your hands tied or anything like that. So, I'm honored to have been a part of that. And I love that you're like, I am out of the DIY and onto paying people to do it for me.

Lee Chaix McDonough: Well, honestly, I loved working on my website. I still do. There's something satisfying about getting in there. But I also know that that is in no way my zone of genius. It became my zone of competence because of working with you. I don't even think I had excellent on that. But I do really appreciate knowing enough to know what I want and what to ask for. And then also knowing when to back out and say, yeah, this is better taken care of by someone who is an expert at this and who really loves it and has a passion for it.

Shannon Mattern: Absolutely. And then the other thing that you mentioned that I also went through was like, oh, I have to be this corporate buttoned up version wearing my work clothes for anybody to ever hire me as a web designer and totally just taking my personality and everything out of it and talking about 'we' and 'us' and acting like I was a company and not a person. And yeah, for me too, everything changed when I let that go. And so you mentioned feeling safe enough to be me, right? You felt safe enough to be me. What does that mean? What does that look like for you?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Hoo boy! That was a journey. That required me to take a stand on issues that were really important to me. It demanded that I be really clear on what I believe in and what I'm willing to fight for, what my core values are and how they influence the mission of my company and the vision of what I want to create. It means understanding that not everyone is going to like me, not everyone's going to agree with me and not everyone's going to want to work with me. And that is okay because I am not for everyone. And by not being for everyone, I am for the people who are specifically my people. There are numerous coach training programs out there. Many of them are wonderful. Some of them not so much. But I know that mine is outstanding for the people that align with my values and my vision.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And it's okay if not everybody out there is meant to be a Coach with Clarity. But some people are, and they're not going to know that unless I am bold and really speaking my truth, because then they're going to say, all right, she sees me, she gets me. This is who I want to work with. But it does require a willingness to put yourself out there. And with that comes the risk of being ridiculed, of being trolled, of being shamed. I've had that happen to me before. It's not fun. You can and do survive it. But there is some pain that happens when someone attacks you online. And it's hard. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. And yet at the end of the day, I ask myself the question, what am I willing to have in order to get what I want? And if what I want is to really deeply connect with other human beings and to support them in their journeys as coaches and business owners, if that is what I am on this earth to do, am I willing to have the discomfort that comes from being vulnerable?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Am I willing to have the occasional troll or naysayer pop up on my Insta feed and tell me I don't know what I'm talking about. Can I create space for both? And early in my business I think the answer was no, I wasn't ready to do that. It took a lot of internal work, coaching, all of that stuff, to really be ready to embrace both. And that's not a one-time thing either. At every juncture of my business, whether I've started a new program or I've launched a podcast or published a book, anytime you put yourself out there you're up-leveling. And you're going to face those same demons. And it requires revisiting, why am I doing this? Why does this matter? What am I willing to have in order to get what I want? And that's really what's guided me through.

Shannon Mattern: That is so powerful. And when you don't have the vision, my experience personally, is when I didn't have the vision and that it was all about, well, I just want to make this much money. Right? I just want to create financial security. I just want consistency. And when it was just about that I was way less willing to risk the negative, or not negative, but the the growth moments that will happen along the way. And when it became more about the vision and what I wanted for other people, I noticed that growth in my journey from solopreneur who's just trying to quit my corporate job and provide security for myself and my family through providing a service, to then growing into this next level of, oh, I have this bigger mission.

Shannon Mattern: When I started to see people like you say I was able to launch my business because of this training, I'm like, what? I didn't even grasp the impact that the Free 5-Day Website Challenge was really truly having. And so once I started to really own that and acknowledge it and accept it for what it was, then it was like, oh, this is bigger than just me. And then it became, okay, if someone wants to leave nasty comments on my Facebook ad, I get to get help dealing with that because I'm not going to pull back.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I think you said something really important just there, which is that you had to be willing to embrace and accept the impact you had in other people's lives, which is not always easy for people to do. To stand up and say, what I created has worth has value and it's serving other people and it's becomes bigger than me, but it is me. I am a part of that. And it's not always easy for some of us to really stand up and claim our power and say, yeah, this is me. This is what I believe in. This is what I can do. And just being willing to embrace that I think is such a powerful, powerful idea. When I think back over the course of my business, to those growth points and to those pivots, it really comes down to that question of, am I ready to embrace that power? Am I ready to say yes to whatever that next step is? And that's scary. Growth can be really scary. It has a way of just pinpointing every insecurity and every vulnerability we have. And yet that's also part of the process. I didn't know that when I started a business that it was going to be such an intensely personal process. I had no idea.

Shannon Mattern: I had no idea.

Lee Chaix McDonough: Yeah? Well, I'm glad I'm not alone. Because it is. If you choose the entrepreneurial path, it's not just about having a business and making money. And it's not just about serving other people. It's also about your own personal development and growth. And I think the business owners who have, not just the greatest amount of success, but who feel deeply fulfilled by their work, those are the entrepreneurs who are willing to do that inner work. Because I don't know if you can really feel fully fulfilled without that level of introspection and growth.

Shannon Mattern: I wholeheartedly agree with you. And like I said, I had no idea that I was on this personal development path that a traditional nine to five corporate job never would have.... I mean, it pushed on all the things but there wasn't that much at stake, right? It was like, oh, I'm still getting that paycheck, even though I feel the way I feel. So for me, it has been the most unexpected, most worthwhile, magical, worth it, worth every hard part all along the way. And I resisted support in the beginning. I still have that lone Wolf tendency right? Where I'm like, I don't need help. I've got this. But I resisted support in the beginning. And it is so much easier to do the hard thing when you know you have someone that you can be like, okay, and then this happened! Help! I'm freaking out because I got a negative comment on my Facebook ad! Help me! So it's just hard to go it alone. It really is. And so everything really changed for me when I started like getting mentorship and coaching and support.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I had a very similar experience. Because entrepreneurship can be really lonely. A lot of us are one woman, one person shops, at least when we start. And there is this idea that because it's just me, I have to wear all the hats and I can't ask for help. And then we grow and then hopefully we realize there are places where I can delegate and I can compensate people to help me in my business. And there are ways that I can get the emotional support as well, whether through a coach or a therapist or a mentor or a friend. But that's been such an important part of my journey as well. And the financial investments I've made in my business that have been accompanied by that level of support or community, those are the ones that have had a significant return on investment. And don't get me wrong. I think there are some wonderful courses and programs out there. I advocate learning and that type of development. But don't overlook how important that community aspect is as well, because that's where we can learn with and from each other. And, at least for me, that's what took my business to the next level.

Shannon Mattern: Oh I love it. So you're coaching. Let's go back to your timeline. You're coaching other business owners, healthcare professionals. When did you decide to start a certification program?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Yes. Okay. So that's certification program. That's kind of funny because I had several people asking me about it for a couple years. And I kept saying, oh, I don't know. Who am I to do a certification program? There's so many "official" certification programs out there already. What do I have to offer? So all that classic imposter syndrome stuff came up. And then, I'll be honest with you, we had such a necessary reckoning around race. Well, it's been happening for decades, but 2020 was a flash point for a lot of people. And I was paying really close attention to how some of these programs, including the one I graduated from, how they responded to that. And I was pretty disappointed that they weren't being clear about what their values were around diversity, equity and inclusion, that they were slow to condemn certain actions.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And then within the coaching industry as a whole, there can be some well-intentioned but really off the mark coaches, who are using mindset work as a way to Gaslight people who have experienced racial trauma or who have otherwise been marginalized. And I was getting really, really angry seeing this happen. And for me, that was kind of what led me to think, you know, just because there is this multi-million dollar coach training program that's been around for 20 years doesn't mean they're doing everything perfectly. They're screwing this up big time. So why am I letting them stand in the way of me putting myself out there as a boutique, but really specialized, training company. And so that's when I was like, I'm going to do this. I'm going to put together a certification program. It's going to meet all of ICS criteria so that I can get it accredited, which I did after the beta round.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And I'm going to be really clear about my own values of diversity, equity and inclusion. I'm not going to teach that material myself because I really believe that needs to come from a person of color or a person who has that lived experience. I brought someone in to do that training. But for me, that was really the impetus. And while I was doing my own certification program, I made sure that I was getting training and mentoring in issues around inclusion. Because, especially as a white woman, I have my lived experience and while I can empathize, I can never be in their shoes. And so it's even more important to me that I do the work. So that's really what led to the certification program. I always had this feeling like, I think I could do this, but what if? And then finally in 2020, I was like, there's no excuse anymore.

Shannon Mattern: That is so powerful. That is so powerful. And when you were talking earlier about being really clear on your core values, really being willing to stand for what you believe in no matter the consequences, because you know your in your integrity. And then also saying, oh, okay, I don't have to look to the established institutions to tell me what I can and can't do. Because actually, maybe, they're problematic. And we get to do it anyway?

Lee Chaix McDonough: And we get to amplify the voices of people who deserve to be heard. And so for me, that looked like working with the DEI coach, compensating trainers who came into my program to train within the certification program. It looked like putting my money where my mouth was. It looked like passing the mic so that I wasn't just the only voice in the room. And that also then modeled to my students what I hope they will do in their businesses as well. Because I think that's another part of when you are running a business, when you're a business owner and when you're visible, people look to you as a model. I mean, Shannon, I looked to you when I first started and that comes back to that what we were talking about before, about being willing to embrace your impact. There is a responsibility that comes with that as well. And so we have to be really clear about how are we operating our businesses, how are we living our lives? Are we modeling that which we want to see in the world? And I hope this doesn't sound too preachy, and please know, I have a lot of my own work still to do around this. This is constantly an area of development for me, but it's something that I feel like we really need to be talking about because it is that important.

Shannon Mattern: I totally agree with you. And, and I feel like every time I think, oh, I'm going to stop the podcast or, oh, I'm going to stop doing income reports, I'm like, no! Part of my thing is sharing the journey I have gone through along the way, every single month, and being fully transparent and reflecting on like, wow, that was some really unhealthy behavior that I realized I was engaging in last year when I was burning myself out and doing all these things. Because I do realize that if I'm doing certain things, whether they're successful or not, people may see those as successful things. And then if I'm not acknowledging like, oh, that didn't work or, oh, that was really harmful for me mentally or, oh, that worked really well and here's why, or, oh, this is how much that actually costs. I feel a very strong responsibility to just tell the whole story and not just the parts that make it look like I'm credible and have my shit together, for lack of a better term.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I really admire that about you. And I think that's so important. When we, as business owners, can be transparent in order to serve, that's what I think is really, really critical. And this is not curated, cultivated vulnerability. Like that's a whole 'nother thing and we all know what that looks like. No, this is, I am going to just give you the truth of what's going on in my business so that you can see what works, take what works for you, leave behind what doesn't, and also maybe learn from the mistakes or the decisions I made that in hindsight I wish I had not made.

Shannon Mattern: Yeah, absolutely. I really admire everything that you're doing and the work that you're doing. And, you know, just really taking a stand in the coaching space. And you mentioned earlier, when you were looking at programs, you're like, and I did my research and I did my research and I did my research. So someone listening to this podcast who is like, I want to start a life coaching or business coaching practice, I have been considering it for a while, how does someone do their research to find the program that is the best fit for them?

Lee Chaix McDonough: There's so many ways I could answer that question. And I am a researcher at heart. And so I'm like, oh, you could do this, you could do this. But I kind of want to start by acknowledging the elephant in the room, which is that to be a coach, you don't have to do any research. You don't have to get any training. You can start your business tomorrow and put yourself out there as a coach. This is what I call a self-regulated industry. I have heard people refer to coaching as an unregulated industry. I don't think that's fair because there are organizations, like the International Coaching Federation, that have a code of ethics, that have core competencies, that provide a level of oversight for their credentialed members. So I view it as a self-policing or self-regulated industry. So if you're even researching,' how do I become a coach?' that already tells me, okay, you do want to hold yourself to higher standards to ensure that the coaching you're providing is safe and appropriate for your clients.

Lee Chaix McDonough: So to do that, I would start by assessing what you already bring to the table. What's your past experience, education, training, expertise, formal and informal? How can that serve you as a coach? And then where are the gaps? Where are the areas where you feel like this is not something I have a lot of training or experience in? How can I seek support in that? Certainly a full-on ICF accredited coach training program is one avenue. It is not the only avenue out there. For some people, creating a self study program that involves courses and books and podcasts and workshops that might work for them. For others, maybe it's more of a continuing education track. So there are different paths that you can take. But at the end of the day, I strongly encourage everyone who is a coach or wants to be a coach to choose one of those paths. Make sure that you are engaging in some level of training and education, so that you're constantly improving your skills as a coach. And we're making sure that the people we serve are being served in a way that's safe, that's ethical, and that's going to help them achieve the results that they want.

Shannon Mattern: I love that you said anyone can become a coach. But if you're thinking about how to become a coach, you want to hold yourself to a higher standard. Because yes, we all want to make sure that we are bringing the best to our clients, right? And not doing them harm in the process. And I think that that's one of the things that I've struggled with when I'm like, oh, I teach web designers how to create profitable businesses. And people are like, oh, you're a coach for web designers. And I'm like, ah, but I don't have any formal coach training. And I don't feel like I can ethically or with integrity call myself a coach. I can walk you through this curriculum. I can help you with what's within my experience over blind spots and different things. And I can guide you through experiences that I have been through and take you a really long way. When it comes to actual coaching, I bring people in that are credentialed to help with the mindset and help with the things because that's not my experience. So I cannot, in good faith and in personal integrity feel that I can a)call myself a coach and b) coach people because I don't have the skillset to do that.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I really appreciate that Shannon. And that goes back to what we were talking about before about knowing our limits, knowing maybe we're competent, but not an expert and when to bring in that level of support. And I think when it comes to coaching, it's tricky. And this is maybe because it's a self-regulated industry, there's no one definition of what a coach is or what coaching is. And there are people out there who refer to themselves as a coach who maybe are truly salespeople. There are other people who call themselves a coach and a really more consultants or educators. And I'm not here to throw shade on anyone. But I will say that I have a very specific definition of what coaching is. And it is a dynamic, client-centered, co-creative process that involves partnership where the client is empowered to define and embody and explore their full expression of who they are.

Lee Chaix McDonough: So that's a pretty wide, all encompassing definition. But it does reflect the fact that we're talking about a partnership. So we're talking about there's some equality there of power. It's dynamic, which means it's changing and it's supposed to. It's not supposed to be a static, one size fits all process, but that is really responsive to what's going on in the moment. It centers the client's agenda, not the coach's agenda, but the client's, what the client wants to achieve. And the ultimate goal is to facilitate a level of development so that the client feels like I am really living, working, everything I'm doing, is at my fullest expression. Like this is who I am and why I'm on this world. And we can do that through a variety of different ways. We can do that through business coaching, relationship coaching, health coaching, life coaching. And I believe that really talented providers like you, you're doing that too in your own way. So there's overlap. And I think that's where that kind of gray zone comes in with 'am I a coach. Am I not?' And so I just want to acknowledge that. And again, I'm not here to say you can be a coach and you can't be. If you do this, you're not a coach. It's not about that. But it is about being really clear about the tools and approaches we use to serve our clients.

Shannon Mattern: So when you said there's an equality between the coach and the client, can you tell me more about that and what it looks like, and what it can look like when that's out of balance?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Yes. When we're in a coaching relationship, both parties, the coach and the client, bring their own skillset, their own lived experience. And when we combine those, there's a synergy that occurs and that's where we create really exciting opportunities for the client. And there's a mutual respect and understanding that as the coach, I'm the expert in the coaching process and as the client, you are the expert in you and your life experience and your business or whatever it is we're coaching about. You hold the expertise on that. My job is to create a container in which we can explore that, to ask the right questions, to shut up when necessary and to just ensure that the process keeps you at the center. I have seen times where that power dynamic has gotten out of balance where a coach might come in and be super directive, tell clients what to do, have a very specific agenda or a very specific process that every one of their clients has to go through.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And to me, that's really centering the coach and the coach's approach, not the client's. I've also seen cases where a client comes in and says, Hey, you're my coach and I'm paying you so you have to do what I tell you to do. And it's like, oh, that's not how that works either. So that's also why really spending time before you take someone on as a client to ensure that you're a good fit, that you have shared values, that you view the coaching relationship in similar terms. That can save a lot of heartache later. And I will say too, coming from the world of therapy, this has been really interesting as well, because when I was practicing as a therapist, I really thought I had an equal power dynamic with my clients.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I wanted that. I didn't want to be on a pedestal. And I know a lot of therapists out there want that too. The fact is though, because therapy is healthcare, and because of the way our society has created this medical model, the health care provider does retain a lot of power. And in mental health care, it's often the therapist who's creating the treatment plan, who's identifying the goals, who's structuring the session. And while they care very deeply about their clients, and there is room for partnership and exploration, there is always that undercurrent of I'm the therapist, I'm diagnosing you, I know best. And that was something that I understand when and why it's necessary, but it wasn't something I wanted to bring into my coaching work.

Shannon Mattern: I ask this question because I kind of wanted to explore what does an unhealthy coaching dynamic look like? How do we know, if we're listening to this podcast, if maybe we don't have the healthiest dynamic with our coach? Because I'm sure a lot of us, as we explore different mentorship opportunities, could potentially be looking to the coach to tell us if it's the right fit, where we don't feel super empowered to necessarily leave that relationship. And it's kind of that feeling of like, oh, I know what's best for you.

Lee Chaix McDonough: Absolutely. It's very patronizing. It's very patriarchal. And it's this idea that if you disagree with me, you are wrong. And I would say that would be a huge red flag. Well, in most relationships, but certainly our coaching relationship. I hope my clients, my students, my members feel free to push back. If they have a different opinion, if they have a different strategy, there is room in this container we've created to explore that. And that's also why as a coach, I don't lead with my thoughts, with my ideas, with my experiences. We start by helping the client explore their ideas. Now sometimes we get stuck and sometimes it may be appropriate for me to ask permission to share an idea. But again, I'm very clear. I'm asking permission when I share an idea. I always follow up and give the client the opportunity to reflect on it. What about that resonates with you? What about that doesn't feel good? It's always about ensuring that they feel safe to hold whatever beliefs, thoughts, opinions they have. And even if that means disagreeing with me, they can do that in a coaching relationship because we have that equal power dynamic.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, I love that. I love that. So I just wanted to kind of go back to some of the other challenges or breakthroughs or unexpected things that happened along your journey. Because I know everybody loves to see themselves in someone else's story, to be like, oh that happened to me. Oh, okay. There's still hope for me to make this work! So what are some of those kind of memorable pivotal moments that you experienced in your journey?

Lee Chaix McDonough: So the Coach with Clarity podcast is actually my second podcast. I started my first podcast a few years ago. It was called Work Your Inner Wisdom. I'm still really proud of it, where I figured out how to be a podcaster. But I was hiding in that podcast. I was not really stepping into my expertise as a coach and coach trainer. I was exploring issues of spirituality and the intersection of spirituality and entrepreneurship. It was a fun podcast. I really enjoyed it. But at no point was I saying, here's what I'm really good at. Here's what I can help you with. And so when I decided to end that podcast, that was a huge pivot point for me as well. I'd gotten about 30 some episodes in. On one hand, I was like, am I a failure for stopping my podcast? Am I quitting?

Lee Chaix McDonough: What does this say about me? Because I was making it mean something about me. But then on the other hand it was really an invitation to go deeper and to decide, how do I want to position myself? How do I want to be seen? And what do I want to be known for? And I don't think I would have gotten to the point I am now with Coach with Clarity had I not had that experience. And I've had that happen many times. I've had launches that haven't gone. I don't want to call them failures because I have taken so many good life lessons from each one, but they haven't gone. I've had clients say no. I've had groups not go the way I planned. And I think a lot of it comes down to how do we want to view those experiences? We can choose to view them as failures or we can choose to view them as experiments that didn't go as we hypothesized, but there's still data there. Really valuable data that we can mine and then apply the next time we experiment. And that idea of experimentation is really at the core of my business. And it's so freeing because it allows me to take risks and to try new things. And if it doesn't work, it's just data and it's not personal. It's not because I'm amazing or terrible. It's just this worked or it didn't.

Shannon Mattern: Every podcast episode, every interview, I get one of those nuggets from the conversation that was like, I needed to hear that today. And that's the one! Because I have totally been asking myself, as you said, am I a failure for stopping this? And that is something that I have been toying with in my business where I'm making the decision to close this program down, but then I'm not, but then I am, but then I'm not. And I keep going back and forth because what am I making it mean about me? And I'm coming to the conclusion, and I keep waffling on this, but I'm coming to the conclusion that like, yeah, what do I want to be known for? And is this what I want to be known for? I could make this work, right? I could continue the experiment and I could continue changing a variable and I could continue to do it. And I could keep going. And I'm sure with my persistence and just stick-to-itiveness and just sheer will of force, I could make it work. But is it what I want to do? And is it what I want to be known for? And am I doing it just so that I'm not defining myself as a failure?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Oh, that is the right question to ask. And not just for you, but for me, for everyone who's listening, we're human beings. We are here to evolve. We grow and we change. And so our businesses are going to grow and change and evolve right along with us. And everything has a season. And sometimes that season comes to an end and it has to end so that we can create something new. So the fact that we're having this question about, am I a failure? What does it say about me? It almost goes against the natural life cycle of, well, really anything, you know? We have birth, we flourish and then we kind of peak, and then we head into that kind of decay zone. But out of that decay, that's the soil for the next thing that wants to be created. So it's just about acknowledging where we are in that cycle.

Shannon Mattern: Beautiful, absolutely beautiful. I want to hear about your book. Tell me about your book.

Lee Chaix McDonough: Yes. So my book is called ACT On Your Business. And ACT, well, it's kind of a plan where, because we do want to be taking action in our businesses, and it refers to the type of therapy I was trained in. So it's called acceptance and commitment therapy or ACT for short. And so I love ACT. I used it as my primary approach when I was a therapist. It's so powerful, what it can do for certainly clients who are dealing with mental health disorders, but you don't have to have a mental health disorder to benefit from the principles of ACT. And in fact, when I was in training, my mentor even said, you cannot ask your clients to do this work if you are not willing to do it yourself.

Lee Chaix McDonough: And so I really did. I applied the principles to my own life, all during my traineeship. And it's one of those things where I look at my life and I see it as before ACT and after ACT, it was that powerful. And so in 2015, when we were moving back to the states and I was feeling kind of unmoored, and I didn't know what to do. I was literally unpacking a box and I came across some of my ACT materials. And I was like, Lee, you have the resources you need to ground yourself, to anchor yourself, and to decide where you want to go from there. And then, as I was starting my business and doing all of this work, I realized these principles are so applicable to business and specifically small businesses and entrepreneurship. And I didn't see anyone out there talking about meaning and mindset and mindfulness and that triad, which is integral to ACT.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I didn't see anyone really talking about it in that language in the business world. And so that's what inspired me to write the book, to take this evidence-based cognitive behavioral approach and put my spin on it so that it could support business owners and entrepreneurs. And so that was really where the book came from. And it's something that I really live every day. Everything in that book, every activity, every experience, that comes from me and my training and experience as an ACT practitioner. And much of my coaching work is anchored in ACT. Within the certification program I have a whole module about coaching from an ACT perspective. And so the book is really intended for small business owners. But the secret of the book is it's not really about business. It's really about defining your values, taking actions that are consistent with it, understanding how you relate to your thoughts and emotions influences how you show up in the world, and then understanding that bringing an intentionality into your work, that's the mindfulness piece, can really help you feel more grounded and fulfilled. And so that's really at the heart of the book.

Shannon Mattern: I love that. At the time this interview is going to come out, it's going to be about mid November that you guys are listening to it. And it sounds like the perfect time to kind of dive into that work and really get some clarity on who you are and how you want to be and how you want to live and what you want to do going into this next year. I don't know about you guys, but I have been feeling a little unmoored at times with everything that's been happening in the past, what 18 months, almost two years at this point. So I'll definitely link that up in the show notes. And I'm excited to dive into that because that sounds like my dream life, reading that and going through all of those exercises.

Shannon Mattern: So I have just a couple more questions for you before our time is up today. And the first one is, thinking back to when you were that newbie business owner to now you're coaching people who, I mean, I don't know if they're new, I would assume you coach some newer business owners. What would you say to someone who is just kind of struggling to get traction in their business? You know, they're in those beginning stages, they're like us probably doing all the things, not seeing the results that they want to see. What advice would you get to that person?

Lee Chaix McDonough: I would encourage them to get really clear on what matters most to them. Not just in their business, but really in their life. What are you willing to stand up for? And how can that influence the way you talk about your work? Because I think when we infuse our message with those core values, that's what connects us to the people who will be best served by us. So not being afraid to be really clear about what matters to you, and then weaving that into your messaging, your branding, your positioning that will open more doors than you can possibly imagine. So that would be number one. And the number two, getting back to what we said before, don't be afraid to ask for help. And in this capacity, especially if you're fairly new and you're trying to get traction, asking for help may be sending an email to your friends and family saying, I'm have this business.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I'm so excited. Here's who I help. Here's how it works. Who do you know that could benefit from this? That is such a simple, easy way to ask for help. And the positioning is not, Hey, will you work with me, but who do you know, that might be a good fit. Because people want to be helpful. They really do. So don't be afraid to ask for that help. But before you do be really clear about how you want to message that and how it connects to what you stand for and what really matters most to you.

Shannon Mattern: I love it. I love it. So the final question I have for you before we wrap up is what belief about yourself did you have to change to get to where you are today?

Lee Chaix McDonough: Wow. I adore that question so much. I had to really embrace the idea that it was safe for me to be powerful. I spent an entire year, I think it was 2017, an entire year exploring that single word power and what it meant. And initially I really shied away from that word. I thought power meant to have power over someone. And I just thought, well, that's not who I am. I help people. And I nurture and I love and I support. So for me, I had to really shift my own beliefs around what it meant to be a powerful person and a powerful business owner and how power can be used to serve and to help and to support. And that it doesn't have to be zero sum, that I can embrace my personal power and you can embrace your personal power and that doesn't pit us against each other. If anything, it just allows us both to flourish. So for me, I think that's really the number one belief I had to shift was what I believed around power and specifically whether it was safe and whether I was allowed to own my own power.

Shannon Mattern: Oh, that is so, so good! Lee, I could talk to you for another hour, but our time is up unfortunately. Can you let everybody know where they can go to connect with you, get the Coach with Clarity podcast, all the things in your world.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I would love to. And I just cannot thank you enough for having me on today. I could talk to you all day too. And I would love to talk to any of you listening who wants to connect more about coaching. So you can find me over at coachwithclarity.com. I'm also on Instagram at Coach With Clarity. When you're at the website, you can find my podcast there as well. And if you'd like to check out ACT On Your Business, my book, you can go to coachwithclarity.com/getthebook, and that'll take you straight to the Amazon page where you can get it in paperback or Kindle.

Shannon Mattern: Awesome. I will link up all of those in the show notes at shannonmattern.com/364. Lee, thank you so much for being here. It was such a pleasure talking to you.

Lee Chaix McDonough: I had a wonderful time. Thank you so much, Shannon.

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