The Link Between Life and Business Coaching

Karen Neumann is a graduate psychologist and Master Certified Coach (ICF). Her wide-ranging expertise derives from several thousand coaching sessions with several hundred coachees, during which she worked with executives and decision-makers on career planning, purpose and motivation issues, and the maintenance of productivity. She sees herself as a sparring partner, feedback provider and source of stimuli. Her coachees come from (global) enterprises, scientific institutions and creative backgrounds. Sometimes, Karen provides executives with career support over many years. She works internationally and acts in cooperation with the International Coach Federation (ICF) as a mentor for coaches.

Tell us a little bit about the correlation between life and business coaching for executives?

The distinction between business coaching and life coaching is initially a mere description of which area of life prompted consulting a coach. But in the end, it is always about the same individual and his/her personality, abilities, patterns and characteristics and their consequences in life.

A coaching focus that only aims at the ”what”, for example,”to learn more constructive conflict handling strategies“, may of course result in short-term successes and have a supportive effect. A coaching focus that also includes the “who”, i.e., provides the coachee with the opportunity to learn more about, or understand, him-/herself more thoroughly, will have a much more sustainable effect. For example: To understand at which point in life a certain conflict avoidance strategy evolved and why this strategy helped back then to tackle certain difficult situations in life is important for the change process. If I can see clearly that something that brought success in the past will not help me to succeed today, it is more likely that I will shape my life and career more closely in accordance with my personality. And it reduces the risk of failing in the course of my career.

Why are they both important for executives?

Especially when coaching executives it is important to reflect on both business and life aspects in order to support clients to stay productive and to avoid the loss of joy and meaningfulness in their jobs. Quite often, careers can be sustained in the long-term only if there is an underlying successful life.

Which are the core issues which may be worked at in a coaching process in order to support the professional and personal development of executives?

From the perspective of many years as a sparring partner for executives and top executives the following subjects matter most:

  • Understanding your inner concern

Only too often we are led to believe that careers unfold coincidentally. The achievement of a prominent position is attributed rather to luck than seen as a natural consequence of the underlying intrinsic motivation and earlier decisions. Many executives know their mission i.e., what they really want to do, and this ideally matches the mission of the company. Behind such a mission you will always find an inner concern i.e., something that ultimately drives us and creates real passion. Deeper contemplation reveals that this inner concern usually emerges already during childhood. Quite often it runs like a common thread through life from there on. For example, this might be an affinity for weather phenomena curious to others, for biographies of inventors, for aesthetics, for profit-maximising etc. The inner concern is often described with words like “I always felt good when I…” or “it has always fascinated me how…”. Subconsciously, the inner concern surfaces in the course of our professional career and because we are used to its being present, we do not recognise it as something special.

Executives who are aware of their inner concern can more easily perfect their skills, arrive at flows, fill others with motivation and enthusiasm. In the decisive moment, they are able to convince by using the right words. They know the key to success!

A coach can provide support in revealing the inner concern and help to transform the inner concern in accordance with the relevant career level.

  • Knowing your own life issues and fears

In the course of a career, the psyche of executives encounters many challenges. A prominent position means that connection and belonging cannot be experienced that easily anymore. High expectations and pressure to succeed evoke fears of failure which were deemed to have been left behind long ago. This includes the “impostor phenomenon” i.e., the fear of exposure because, in reality, one might not be as brilliant as others are made to believe. A stable mind, however, shields from inner conflicts and inhibitions. By working with a coach the irrational fears can be understood and handled which reduces their limiting power. By purposefully building mental resources and strategies reducing stress the mind is strengthened, thus avoiding it becoming a trap in challenging situations.

  • Learning strategic self-reflection

In the unique composition of an individual with all his/her personality traits, values and motivations, there are many skills beneficial to executives in a business environment. If that were not the case, there would not be a successful career. A point can arise in careers at which the preferred skills no longer produce the previous success. The available options are increased by practised strategic self-reflection, and these options can be accurately directed and employed for more success. That is not to be confused with manipulative behaviour which is aimed at abusively making use of others. Strategic self-reflection facilitates the conscious decision against a usually preferred course of action in favour of a more effective option in the specific situation.

What are your top tips on developing personally and professionally simultaneously? 

  • Find out what your inner concern is. Stop regularly to check whether you are still following your inner concern or have deviated from it. Consciously weigh up your next steps.
  • Look around: Form a community of kindred spirits, at your or a higher career level, experts in the field, inspiring individuals who, like you, want to achieve something, and devote a little time each day to maintaining that network. The mutual exchange is beneficial, inspires and provides belonging.
  • Keep your mindset flexible. Do not stop learning. Continue to learn not only in your own industry but in other areas. Take ideas from conversations and events and learn from the exchange.
  • Take care of your mental health. Seek support in dealing with fears and inner obstacles.
  • Especially in challenging situations, ask yourself in strategic self-reflection which aspects of your personality can support you in taking action and which may, perhaps, be unhelpful. Then review your behaviour strategies.

How can this be achieved realistically and effectively?

A very important aspect is maintaining contact with others – sparring partners, mentors, advisors, coaches, role models and kindred spirits. The higher the career level, the more lonely it becomes. Feedback becomes less frequent. The risk of “falsely assessing a situation“ and relying on power rather than trust increases. Regular exchange and a community of kindred spirits facilitate important feedback and help to open doors as well as in times of crisis.

If these thoughts strike a chord with you, please contact Karen at

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