After downsizing wiped out her $80K salary, Jane was having trouble finding work. Just released from jail, 22-year old Marie didn't know how she was going to provide for her four kids. Frustrated and frightened, both women needed "a hand up" to help them take charge of their lives and move forward.
Luckily, for Jane, Marie, and countless others from all walks of life, Taylor Hunt's dream had come true. She had dreamed of creating a nonprofit organization to bring the power of coaching to low-income women. And when she mentioned she had started A Hand UP Coaching during a teleclass. It sparked the interest of Michelle Payne. "I called Taylor and asked to be part of that dream," says Payne. "It all started from there." Started in February of 2001, Michelle jumped on board in April of that same year. A Hand UP Coaching is a non-profit program designed to help women establish and reach their own professional goals.
Gail Nape volunteered to coach for A Hand UP Coaching after hearing about it through her own coach. "I liked the idea of championing women," she says. "There were times in my life when I couldn't have afforded a coach, so I know how valuable a gift like this is. It would have eliminated my having to do it the hard way."
Nape says the challenges of working with participants in the program depend on where they are and what their experiences have been. "The most important point is initially, the clients don't know what to expect," she says. "They think I'm just going to give them a set of goals. I try to give us a chance to get to know and trust each other. I get them to trust me so they can learn what coaching is all about."
It didn't take long for Claudia McNeil to find that out herself. She was hoping to gain some insight into how to successfully switch jobs, when she signed up for A Hand UP Coaching. It became much more than that. "I was at a crossroad, and Gail asked me for my story," says McNeil. "I had dated a superior at work, and the relationship didn't work out. Soon afterwards, I was fired. I had to sell my house, and the only job I could find paid about a third of what I had made before. I began to ask myself a lot of questions about what I would do for the rest of my life.
"Gail showed me how to take responsibility for my own behavior and set boundaries with people. She taught me about envisioning what you want. Instead of just getting career coaching, I ended up learning life skills."
Nape says the reason they were successful was because McNeil put the ideas they talked about into practice. "It was a joyful experience to support her," says Nape. "She was willing to do everything we talked about. That made all the difference. We could have come up with all kinds of ideas, but without her follow through, nothing would have happened."
Commitment like McNeil's is key, says Payne. A Hand UP Coaching is serious about that personal investment. After potential clients fill out applications, a team of coaches reviews their materials to determine which candidates seem most likely to make that kind of commitment. Any participant who misses two sessions is dropped from the program. A Hand UP Coaching only accepts women who not only sincerely want to change their lives but who are also ready to do the work necessary to make that happen.
According to Payne, more than 80% of those clients who sign up with A Hand UP Coaching complete the program.
But client commitment is not the only reason for A Hand UP Coaching's success. It is the program's team of highly qualified and dedicated volunteer coaches that makes it work so well. Those who are interested in becoming volunteer coaches fill out applications and authorize background checks. In order to qualify, coaches must be students or graduates of accredited coaching schools, or they must be members of the International Coach Federation. Qualified coaches are then selected and approved to participate in A Hand UP Coaching's intensive orientation and training program.
Once they are assigned to a client, coaches stay in close contact with their clients. They conduct three 30-minute phone sessions per month for three months with each client. In addition, they fill out monthly progress reports. "Some of the clients have extreme challenges, and it's hard to avoid getting pulled into the drama," says Payne. "Coaches need to watch the boundaries between therapy and coaching. It's not easy to not get pulled into the drama."
Gail Nape has experienced those challenges firsthand and knows how important it is to keep the line between therapy and coaching clear. "I coached a woman who had a problem with drug addition, and during our time together she fell off the wagon," she says. "Our sessions were disrupted, and she started missing appointments. I recognized that she needed professional support for her problem. I told her to contact me if I could help her later, and I detached with love."
Despite the challenges, Nape says coaching for A Hand UP Coaching is a rewarding experience. "I like the sense that I'm giving something back and helping other women. You can see the results from week to week championing these women."
McNeil credits Nape with helping her change her attitude towards her job. "When I first started getting coaching, I hated my job. For me, the shift was my gaining a sense of purpose. It became a challenge to see how well I could do the job." Clearly, she met that challenge. McNeil was instrumental in her department meeting its sales goal for the first time in eighteen months. For her work, she received a great performance review and an excellent raise. "Now, I look forward to going to work, and I enjoy the people I work with," she says.
But those who run successful programs like A Hand UP Coaching know that it's impossible to do it all alone. Hunt and Payne work hand-in-hand with other organizations to reach women in need. Dress for Success, an organization that helps low income women buy clothing and accessories for the workplace that have been donated by a variety of organizations and agencies, and its Professional Women's Group extension, provides educational support.
"We teach women the skills they'll need in the workforce," says PWG facilitator Mary Ellen Romano. "That's where A Hand UP Coaching comes in. It opens doors so that women see what they can do with their lives." Romano saw for herself the difference that A Hand UP can make. "The profound effect coaching had on their outlook overwhelmed us," says Romano. "We saw their increased self-esteem and motivation. It was like the Cinderella's transformation from a kitchen drudge to a princess."
Payne says that this is what A Hand UP Coaching is all about--providing women with the resources that can make their lives just a little bit better. And when that happens, those women, in turn, make the lives of others better. "If they can each help one person, it's made a difference."
We can all get caught up in the drama of our own circumstances when life deals us challenging blows. But, with a helping hand, each and every one of us can pull ourselves up out of the mire and move forward. A Hand UP Coaching offers just that.
For more information about A Hand Up Coaching contact Michelle Payne at: Office: (916) 608-1812 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at http://www.ahuc.org.
Cardell Phillips is a freelance writer specializing in articles and features about entrepreneurs, success and personal development. His articles have appeared in magazines, newspapers and webzines.