Between the Red and Yellows

8th May, 2024

I was reminded of the power of community recently when a guy started deliberately targeting a number of female Coaches in my professional community, making inappropriate requests and demonstrating worryingly coercive behaviour.

His communication at first with each Coach seemed reasonable, but quickly escalated to having some very unhealthy power dynamics.  Happily this came to light after one Coach raised it in a whatsapp group.  Keen to maintain his confidentiality it was flagged as a peer to peer:  “ermmmm has anyone else experienced this kind of behaviour / request as I am feeling a bit squirly about it?”

Shockingly it turned out (from sharing initials only) that the same person had pursued 12 Coaches in our close network to varying degrees and more were being followed on socials daily (and still are).  There were clearly some significant psychological needs to address but Coaching was not the modality for this.  He was resistant to being signposted elsewhere and he struggled to hear that a polite no still means no, as a result he needed to be reminded that (just like a client) a professional has the right to work with who they choose.

A tricky situation for all – but why is it worth mentioning?

Well firstly 2 Coaches it turned out had actually spent time with him previously, they each shared that they felt very uncomfortable and unsafe and had swiftly ended the Coaching relationships.  They had been so keen to give him the benefit of the doubt that they had not listened to their guts until they were in a position that could have posed a significant risk.

Secondly had the third Coach not raised it in our whatsapp group others could have been at risk, since it turned out he had some upcoming Coaching scheduled with a fourth Coach.  She fortunately had already made the decision to cancel after he started making additional demands and the thought of working together was causing her anxiety.

This is of course not about single out one person… There is a message here though… We all know about personal safeguarding and contracting, these credentialled Coaches are after all people I admire for their professionalism.  And yet as creative change-makers we can all get a little complacent about our safety in an effort to understand and accomodate differing perspectives and not judge others.

Perhaps despite my best efforts he doesn’t really understand what Coaching is?

Maybe his request isn’t as fetish as it sounds?

Is this feeling of my boundaries being pushed about a lack of flexibility on my part?

Am I wrongly reading this situation?

Essentially if something is off, something is off, and we need to listen to our bodies on this.  Check their socials too, there could be some clues there!  We also need to remember we are not isolated.  I am so grateful to the Coach who raised this, whilst it wiped out a couple my days with phone calls to various Coaches to hear their experiences, we would never have seen the pattern of behaviour and scale of this.

The result for us was the creation of RED+ YELLOW a larger collective whatsapp group to allow us outdoor Coaches to stay safe and “swim between the red and yellows”.  It isn’t a group that is likely to ping often at all, since most boundary related scenarios are resolved immediately with clients… or…  as a result of Coach Supervision… BUT…  for the one time that something truly concerning arises, something we feel others should know about, this provides us with a place to raise red flags and gives a safety net for us to look out for each other.

In 15 years of professional Coaching out on the Coastline I have never felt unsafe with a client and for this I am grateful… so this situation of an individual targeting multiple Coaches, was a new one on me…

Whilst this was a male targeting females this is relevant to ALL practitioners who work on their own.  Find your community, who are the peers you can connect with to make sure you support each other and stay safe? Reach out to your professional bodies too, maybe they have networks you can connect with in this regard.

I hope you found this article a useful reminder to stay safe, listen to your gut and create community.  If you are seeking Coach Supervision to ensure your professional boundaries are supported feel free to reach out.

Image from RNLI

About Lizzi Larbalestier

Professional Blue Health Coach, mBIT and NLP trainer specialising in coastal coaching. Creating meaningful conversations, facilitating action and change for the results that you deserve. #bluehealthcoach #oceanempathy #bluemind