In this interview piece Animas Content Manager Sam Chambers speaks with Berlin-based coach-in-training Susanne Prahl about her interesting background and journey to coaching, her training experience so far and what she feels the future holds for her as a coach.
Sam: So Susanne thanks for sitting down with me, first of all tell me a bit about your background and what led to your interest in coaching.
Susanne: Well my background is that I’m a world traveller. I lived in Paris, I lived in Sarajevo, where I created a huge children’s event after the war to change their minds about the people that were living with them in the same country. So the drive behind it was around trying to abolish-racism among the youth after the war. There were 40,000 kids and I did it for 20 years, so it’s a huge event. I guess it’s like societal coaching, around a change of mindset, and a change of attitudes and actions.
My role mainly consisted of finding sponsors for such a big event, so it was all about finances and worries and I thought to myself, if I do such a great thing at the end of the day, I don’t want to have to worry for 300 days a year. So since people always seemed to enjoy talking to me, and they often say ‘ah talking to you changed my mind’ and having friends who are coaches say ‘why don’t you go into coaching?’ I mean the solution for what I did after ending my festival in Sarajevo was quite obvious to me, coaching!
Wow, that’s quite the journey! And so how did you find Animas?
I had a friend who started to send me links and emails informing me of various schools and classes I might wish to take, and things around the ICF etc. And it’s very funny, the day she sent me this email I’m on Facebook and I see this ad from Animas, and I saw ‘Hey, free introductory day in Berlin’ and I was like that’s my thing. I want to see the people, I want to feel them, I want to feel the spirit of it. I can’t get that from a video, or website landing page, it’s simply not the same. So I went to Marcus’ introductory day, and I guess I could say he is one of the main reasons I’m now a part of the Animas community.
And how was that introductory day with Marcus?
Oh Marcus is fantastic, in two minutes I just knew, this is my kind of thing. I will do this! Also I really liked the mixture of people that attended the day, I didn’t see myself in a German-German learning environment having been part of such an international community so that was another aspect that I really liked.
So, from there I joined the Diploma in Transformational coaching, and I’ve had two modules so far.
It’s so nice to hear that. I was present at the first ever Foundations weekend in Berlin actually and I remember how wonderfully diverse the group was, not just in creed, race, and nationality, but backgrounds and interests too. So it’s nice to hear that your group was the same.
It was just the same, and our group came to the first module and the first thing I said was “wow, people from all countries, backgrounds, mindsets” So I felt like a fish in water. It was brilliant, and our group created this Whatsapp group right from the first module, so we shared a lot around how to find practice clients, experiences, notes, whatever comes up, so it’s really helpful. We have even sorted social events for our group between modules to stay in touch.
So it’s wonderful to have joined a community, and not just a class.
I hear so many people comment on the community aspect. You have the wider Animas community, the Berlin community, then more intimate still you have your training group community too.
Absolutely, that’s the thing, from the first module I got home, and my fiancé asked about my day, and before I could open my mouth he said ‘you don’t have to speak I can see it all over your face!’ I said ‘yes! It’s right in my spirit, it’s the right mixture of people, everything just feels right about it.’
Robert for the first module was brilliant. Informative and entertaining, and it wasn’t like I was in a classroom, which I hated as a child, I was on stage somehow. It was like a performance, his use of narrative combined nicely with his energy, knowledge and enthusiasm. It was brilliantly engaging. And getting into actually coaching from the first module, I didn’t expect that at all. I’m a kinaesthetic learner, so it really is just perfect for me. I’m so enthusiastic about it!
I love to hear and see such enthusiasm from our coaches-in-training! And so, why did you choose Animas? I know you touched on a few bits, but was there anything else that resonated with you?
Well, one thing for me is that when you look at Animas, the design, how things are presented, it’s beautiful, and very modern. It’s not old-fashioned, and for me personally that’s great. I don’t like old-fashioned, I’ve been in the fashion industry before, I like design, I like thinking ahead and out of the box. It’s very attractive, the design and presentation and branding of it all.
And the way the coaching is approached, and always coming back to the thing that it’s a conversation around how to produce change, that’s great because I’ve always defined myself as a catalyst, even when I was a small girl because I just had the feeling that wherever I am, there will be change somehow. So I really love this!
How were you feeling before you joined, and what were you expecting?
Before I joined the Animas coaching course I had a look for other providers, but to be honest it took me maybe an hour. I didn’t like any of them, so it was more to clear my head and be rational as often you hear don’t go for the first thing you see. But no Animas was the one, I could just feel it in my gut.
I did not expect at all to get into real life coaching while I’m still training, let alone from the first module onwards, I didn’t expect that at all so was a big surprise for me, and now we have done the second module: Cognitions. In Foundations we were coaching classmates, from the second module my challenge was to find practice clients outside of the classroom. It wasn’t easy at first, but I actually used an app called neighbours where people ask about support or craftsmen, handymen etc. So I just put coaching on there, and I had 4 or 5 people get back to me. Which was amazing. And when after the first session they said “Wow I didn’t look at that at all from this angle before, my god, you made me really rethink my situation.” It was such a great, and rewarding feeling.
I know you’re two modules in, what have been some of the highlights on your journey so far?
The Animas community is really a big, big plus, which encourages me because many of us share similar doubts of course, we are all out there in the world saying ‘Hey I’m offering free coaching but I don’t have a diploma yet, I have two modules.’ So we all draw on each other for support and advice which is really useful, and it makes me feel much more relaxed.
I don’t feel judged and we are all sharing this learning journey. We all want to help people feel better about their lives and make changes. It’s nice to be part of such an impactful group of change-makers.
And to see the peoples faces change when they look at me during the coaching sessions is very rewarding. And to find out how many people are really in need of an opportunity to talk about their lives, because during that talk they realise what their real problems are. It’s not so much my questions, but the silence that is so helpful. I refrain from talking, and physically pull back. This is working very very well for me with my clients thus far.
And how is this experience changing things for you?
It’s a big moment!
There are lots of questions I have, challenges ahead, and things I don’t know, but for now I am focusing on myself. How do I feel about this? Does it give me satisfaction right now? If there’s no money right now I want to have more than just the learning, I want the satisfaction, and to feel good about it, and that’s really happening for me at the moment so that’s very very good.
Also its not 3 years of studying, it’s a timeframe, which is 5 modules and you can do them in 5 months so you can be qualified in maybe 6 or 7 months. I have a plan for 2020. I know I have my last module in May, and by the end of summer I will have passed the Diploma!
This is super exciting for me to think about it. And the word journey fits perfectly, because we are all on this amazing journey.
I feel like this journey of coaching and studying with Animas is very congruent with you.
Really it is, and now when I see my friends who said ‘go for it, you will be a great coach.’ they say wow you’ve changed. You’re blossoming, you’re always full of good spirit and energy. This is feedback I love to hear!
And have there been any challenges that you’ve overcome so far?
One of my initial fears was being very much alone on my journey during the time in between training modules but that didn’t happen at all. We were coaching each other and always connecting, sharing and talking.
That’s great to hear. And so how are you using your coaching skills currently and what are your future aspirations with your coaching?
For the moment I want to just coach as many people as possible, but in the back of my mind, for my future I would like to work with youth very much because of my background, but also because young people rarely have someone to talk to. It can be difficult to talk with parents let alone teacher figures, and often classmates might tease or make fun of them or gossip about it. I think among young people; children and teenagers, there’s a big need for coaching.
Also, having lived as a foreigner my entire life, I mean by 18 years old I was living in Paris and came back to Germany when I was 50, I know how it is to be a foreigner, and struggle with fitting in, or the language or the culture etc. So I will also explore working international community expats.
I would love to explore all sorts of avenues. I mean how many fluent french life coaches are there living in Berlin? There might be some, but there can’t be many, so that is another interesting route as there will undoubtedly be some french expats who might want coaching in French.
What do you see as possible now that you are on this journey?
I always believe everything is possible, I’m a wishful thinker. But I think through the tools I am learning through coach training with Animas will enable me to really become a great coach, and help to make the changes the client wants, and not the changes that we think the client wants, and this for me is the whole point of this training. It’s training us so that we are able to facilitate an outcome that is 100% what the client wants and not our own assumptions of what that thing might be.
I think it’s important to check in with who we are, where are we now? Where do we want to go? I feel I have always been quite grounded and positive in that there is always a way to find an outcome that we want, and I think this positive approach and mindset might even rub off onto some of those that I work with in the coaching space to help them to see that anything is possible. It is never impossible, just a challenge, and the question is how much time do we need to solve it.
Thank you so much for talking with me Susanne, and I hope you continue to enjoy your journey!
Interested in starting your own transformational journey? Why not book a spot on one of our free introductory days now?