Daniel Karlsson is a very special podcast guest for me, since he is one of my current clients. It’s special to have a client on the show because most of my clients have very personal things about their path to leadership that we work on, thus, it’s not everyone who is ready to be put in the spotlight and discuss very openly like Daniel. Currently, Daniel co-owns a project management consulting firm in Sweden called UNIK Partner. Their main goal is to add value to companies that need engaged and knowledgeable resources by providing business development services with deep technical knowledge. Daniel is a leader, both in his own company and at his clients during the assignments. He holds a PhD degree in chemistry and has project management experience from several industries, including IT and life science.
Our interview is a very raw conversation, since it involves both my and Daniel’s personal stories, reveals my methods of coaching and Daniel’s path of growth, and includes a lot of life experience from both of us. We discuss the challenges that he has as a leader and the journey of not being perfect, knowing your flaws and sharing how you are working on facing them.
One of the questions people can hear around is why one needs a coach. One can simply go to a manager or someone they know and explain what the situation is like, asking for a piece of advice. However, there’s a huge difference between having a conversation with your manager or a friend, and a coach who is not involved in any of your daily activities. As one of my previous guests on the show Jennifer Takagi puts it, “sometimes you need to have a conversation with someone whom you are not sleeping with or having lunch with”.
One of the biggest differences between talking to your manager and to a coach, Daniel says, is that he doesn’t need to prove anything to the coach. The coach is not going to decide the person’s future, manipulate his salary for the next few months and so there’s no reason to hide anything. Person can be fully open and no matter what the person says he will be right. Because it’s about and for the person only, and not about anything else: no distractions, no judgement, no need for coming up with a strategy of how to speak, only a wish to help.
Person doesn’t need to worry about a decrease in chances of getting promoted or getting a new assignment. What the coach creates is an open room with soft walls, where people can speak about whatever they want. This in its turn opens up new conversations and new insights, which can help you to see yourself from a different side, concentrate on the small personal unique gaps that you have and grow as an individual. Which otherwise would be difficult to have with the manager, because there are still filters that exist: “I need to look good”, “I cannot give the full story, it’s too dangerous, so I will just cover 80 or 95% because I still need advice, but I don’t want judgement”. As a side note here, Daniel has a great, open relationship with his manager who was also present during the interview and who laughed during this part of the conversation.
With a coach, you can be fully open, and you can say exactly what you think. Phrase it in a way that might surprise even yourself, but which, while speaking the thing out loud, might even help you to resolve the situation on your own.
Daniel says that in our coaching conversations, he tries and says things that he wouldn’t say to others, because there’s a trust and comfort established. And such practice with a coach makes him feel more comfortable in the real world, when he faces similar situations to what we discuss during our sessions.
I’ve worked with Daniel for three months so far, and it’s a pure pleasure to see his progress and development. Things that felt very uncomfortable for him when we started, are faced with courage and confidence these days. Conversations with team members that were dreaded before, are now taken with ease and mentioned to me as a matter of fact. I feel blessed to be able to work with Leaders like Daniel and support their development, because they then go and transform their workplaces, creating massive ripple effects in the society. Daniel says that leadership coaching should be normalized and he wishes it would become a common practice to have a coach, because the benefits he’s been noticing so far on his own skin are huge.
If you are interested in learning more about my and Daniels’s personal stories, how difficult it can be to be vulnerable and true to yourself while still being professional, you can listen to the whole episode here.
Stay tuned and be genius!