Roxana is the Founder of All Personal, a bespoke coaching agency, based in Canada. Her mission is to listen to your story and coach you in discovering and working out those skills that you need to boost, when and for what you need them. She empowers you to coach yourself and provides a safe space for conversation.
Did you ever think of your personal skills as being just like muscles? Can you imagine that all the skills we need to deal with Change, big or small, are already in us? In her recent TEDxChatham Kent Talk. Roxana takes us on a journey of conquering the big, frightening monster we often call Change; a journey where our hero discovers that everything she needs in this endeavor is closer at hand than she thought it was. And once she’s aware of that, Change is no longer the frightening monster to be feared, but rather the new adventure to embark on. Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, Roxana immigrated to Canada in March 2017. After being raised during communism until she was almost 13, when communism ended in 1989, she adapted to both being a teenager and being ‘free’ at the same time. She went to University to study foreign languages and literature, while working as a translator for a human rights organization, and teaching English private lessons to kids. Upon graduation, she started working at an international law firm, where she learned to adapt to ‘corporate culture’ in a country where that term was relatively new. Watch her TED Talk but first get to know a little more about Roxana by reading her interview below.
1. Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey?
I’m new to the entrepreneurial world – so new it still takes me some time to spell it, the word just seems so long. It started with an idea I had in the summer of 2016, which had been there for a while and then surfaced so that I realized I had it. I longed for doing more than I was doing in my role of learning & development professional. I had been in that role for 8 years, in which I designed and delivered many workshops of many kinds inside the company I was working for. I also spread my wings outside the firm and created connections with other people in the learning and HR world. I began to catch the taste of what it meant to actually share your skills with people who knew they needed what you could offer and who would share their skills in turn. As it always happens, once you can see colours, you never really want to go back to black and white, unless you have no other choice.
So the idea-side of my story started in Bucharest, Romania. The practical side began after my family and I moved to Canada. Three months into having been in Canada, I started my new online venture: personal skills coaching. Because I realized the future of learning is regular practice, not training. Because many of us have had an experience where going on a course only meant the beautiful beginning of the learning journey, which then ended too soon. Learning is achieved by practice – so I offer the exercises and practices to form and strengthen our skills muscles – from presenting and public speaking, to giving feedback and managing teams and self. I’m the next door coach at the ‘skills gym’ now, And I like it.
2. What are the challenges of building a coaching business?
The challenges, especially when you’re new to a country, are that you miss a big chunk of the network you should have to start the coaching business in the first place.
Coaching is primarily based on trust. Because it is a relationship, a very intimate one, where the coachee opens up to talk about the things they (think) are missing and which they don’t want to be missing anymore. It’s sharing a lot of personal stories, which the coach uses to enhance the learning journey and tailor it individually. I wouldn’t let myself be coached by someone I didn’t trust.
Luckily for me, we live in times where social media is a very powerful tool. Those who have known me for a while have stayed in touch and it’s so touching to see that, literally oceans apart, we are still so very closely connected. The fact that they still watch what I post and react to that has been a tremendous support – mentally and emotionally. For those who don’t know me personally, I have the chance of being as close as possible via videos, social media and real-time online meetings. It’s a chance others before us didn’t have, this borderless online world, and I’m not taking it for granted anymore!
So the number one challenge is building trust – because this, unlike many other things, will not, and cannot, happen overnight. It takes time, patience, hope and a lot of passion. And, once it’s there, a lot of maintenance. Once trust is in place, all other challenges are manageable: time, schedules, networking, financials, they all count, but don’t exist without trust in place.
3.What are skills muscles?
Our skills muscles are our internal resource of strength. I call them personal skills muscles because they vary from individual to individual. Let me give you an example.
Just as some of us are naturally good at singing, drawing or cooking, they can also be naturally good at presenting, or giving feedback or negotiating. These I call our strong skills muscles (or strengths, which is quite vague), the ones that we discover early on that we like using. It’s those skills that we use with ease, anytime, anywhere, because we know they benefit us big time.
Others may naturally be not inclined to draw or sing or dance, in the same way they are naturally not inclined to manage conflict, or speak in front of big groups. These I call our dormant skills muscles (or weaknesses, the more popular term which I don’t agree with). These are the muscles we kept asleep for a long time, most often because we were afraid to use them. Afraid of being judged by others or of making a fool of ourselves, usually because that’s what happened when we once, a long time ago, used them, and they didn’t benefit us at all, even worse, they made us look bad (again, most often, in our own head, not to others). It’s usually those muscles for which we use the phrase “oh, I don’t do speaking, I’m such a poor speaker” or “I keep myself away from conflicts, not my thing”. And it’s also usually that we do realize, deep down, how bad we’d need to use these asleep muscles and how much we’d benefit from doing that. It’s just that, after such a long sleep, we rarely even remember they’re there.
That’s the most rewarding part of my job – raise awareness of the fact that we do have our own skills muscles anyway – in different proportions, yes, some are stronger than others, yes, but they really are there and we can use them, if only we are willing to exercise them, in the same way we do with our body muscles. If you want to have stronger leg muscles, you train them, right? If not, they’re still there, helping you move around, but not very helpful when you have to run, for instance. The speaking muscle, for instance, is there for most of us. If we want to be a professional speaker, we train it. If not, it’s still there, helping us speak daily, but not necessarily helpful if we need to speak in front of a crowd.
I’ve got good news, though. It’s all about practice. Once we decide we want to use one ‘muscle’ or another, all we need to do is start practicing until we’re comfortable using it. Just as we don’t all have to be ballerinas so we can dance at our own wedding, in the same way we don’t have to be professional speakers to speak in a board room and be heard. We only need some practice.
4.Why is it important for entrepreneurs to know how to manage change?
That’s one of my favourite topics. Because we don’t realize it, but we do manage change on a daily basis, whether or not we are entrepreneurs, whether or not we realize we manage it, and whether or not we manage it well or not! We live in a world where we manage change by the minute, because the flux of information and events is so fast it’s almost intimidating. And then we think we can’t manage change, when, in fact, what we cannot manage is the fast pace of it. But well, we have no time to make the distinction!
I think for entrepreneurs the important thing is to know how to manage themselves. I believe there is no such thing as time or change management, as much as it is all about self-management. That’s why there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ recipe on time management, for instance. It’s widely known we all have our own internal clocks and that we function differently, of course. What works for me doesn’t work for you and the other way around. And that’s true for most of our other personal skills. Why? Because what happens usually is that we are not aware of what we do that helps us manage ourselves and what doesn’t. We are so caught up in the action, because we’re right in the middle of it, that we don’t have time to be observers, too. In a way, what coaching does is putting people in the observer spot so they are able to watch themselves in their own role – and become aware of their own thoughts, actions, emotions. Even more, watch their own skills at work. For entrepreneurs this is even more crucial, because they need their skills to help them 150% of the time.
So awareness – that’s the key. The more aware you are on what makes you ‘all personal’, the more you’re able to manage yourself – the rest comes with the territory.
5.What advice do you have for other women wanting to break into the coaching business?
I don’t have advice, because everyone knows what’s best for them. But I can share thoughts and experiences. So I’m sharing this quote by Winston Churchill: ‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.’ I think it’s high time we don’t take those quotes just as quotes, but realize they were said by real people who faced real challenges. And there’s a reason why I like this quote in its entirety, not just the ‘never give in’ part.
The number one enemy of starting anything is fear. You name your own fear, as you know what it is: of ridicule, judgement, failure, whatever the name and shape. But then, it doesn’t have to have that “overwhelming might’. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen, right? That’s one of my favourite questions, by the way. If you run, you’re a runner, if you speak, you’re a speaker. So if you coach, you’re a coach. But you have to do it to be it. Oh, and one more thing: how will you feel tomorrow if you don’t start it today?