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  • Liz Cruz

Discovering My "Why": My Queer Leadership Coaching Journey

Do you know your "why"?


Have you ever thought you would end up in one career, only to pivot and take a different turn along the way?


Me too, multiple times.


Or did you think your career journey would be linear?


I gave up on this one a LONG time ago, but once upon a time, I for sure knew what I was going to do (remind me to tell you sometime about a much younger Liz’s big plans for what I was going to do with my degree in Modern Dance).


I get how it feels to think you’re stuck in a role and can’t do much about it.


And I’ve grappled with imposter feelings on more than one occasion.


But facing those challenges brought me to the fulfilling work I do today– coaching queer leaders like you.


I recently wrote a series of essays as part of an application for a leadership development opportunity to advance my leadership. The prompts got me thinking about why I got into coaching, and I thought sharing some thoughts would help you get to know me better, too.


So in this blog, you’ll get to learn about the background I bring to coaching, and more about my “why.” And then I’ll invite you to share your “why” at the end. [1]


Maybe your career journey sounds a little like mine. Or maybe you have totally different experiences. Either way, I hope my story helps you get in touch with your “why.”


Come see how I got to where I’m at now, and if you can relate to some of my career struggles, transitions, and transformations.



Why did I get into coaching?


When I talk with queer leaders like you, I’m often asked about why I became a coach.


And of course, I have my go-to elevator speech. But I wanna expand on it a little more here.


I spent a lot of my early career at odds with myself. I was really active within my local queer weirdo community. I loved working on art projects and events where I could foster a community focused on inclusion, self-exploration, and radical liberation.


But I also felt conflicteda lot. I spent almost two decades within the cis-heteropatriarchal white supremacy culture of the corporate world. I eventually got burnt out after all those years of competition and dehumanization.


I knew I had to find a way to bring my deep heart connection with my LGBTQIA+ community to my professional life, too.

When I was able to recognize that I needed to align my personal and professional lives, I decided to start my formal training as a coach. (I had been coaching leaders in my Learning & Development roles for a while but wanted to level up my skill and pursue certification through the International Coaching Federation.) [2]


And although it seems so clear now that I’d want to pursue queer leadership coaching, I actually had no idea what type of coaching I’d do at first.


I thought maybe I’d be a creative coach for artists.

Or maybe I’d do relationship coaching for ethical non-monogamists.

Or perhaps I’d do something entirely different…but what?


Then the last day of the last weekend of my coach training program, a bunch of us were standing around, sharing our plans for our coaching work.


When it was my turn, before I had time to think about it, my response just came out. I said,


“I’m going to be a leadership coach, focused entirely on working with queer leaders.”

As soon as I said it, I knew that it was true - that holding space to explore what queer leadership can be is the highest and best use of my time, energy, and gifts.


Supporting queer leaders like you is my ‘why’. Helping you find radical confidence is my motivation. Choosing to work with the LGBTQIA+ community has been transformative for me.


There’s so much I love about the work I get to do now.


I’ll tell you more about that, next.



Why do I love being a coach?


Where do I even start with this one? There are countless reasons I feel grateful to have transitioned my career to focus on working with queer leaders.


The first that comes to mind is that I’m finally able to piece together all the experience that I have.


Over the course of my career, I’ve been:

  • A team leader. I’ve led small teams of 2-3, and massive teams of 60-80.

  • A discipline-jumper. I worked in customer service leadership for years, bounced over to marketing & community relations, then to training and leadership development.

  • A learner, creator, and facilitator. When I moved into the leadership development world, I knew I was home. I have spent the last decade (plus) nerding out about leadership, emotional intelligence, and much more.

I'm joyful that I can use those roles with you as part of my coaching practice.


I also feel a sense of responsibility to share what I know with you. That’s because it can be challenging to navigate stigmatization at work. And I know from my coaching clients and my own experience that LGBTQIA+ leaders are often left out in the professional world. [3]


I have had access to professional development – a LOT of it – so why wouldn’t I want to share it freely?

It feels incredible to show queer leaders like you how to use the tools I’ve learned about to help them define what leadership can look like.


As a queer leader, I know what it’s like to feel isolated. I understand the lack of access to the right resources. I’ve had that feeling of uncertainty many times before, too. And I’ve also struggled with seeing myself as a leader.


Those feelings are a huge part of my "why." It’s because of them that I want to support more queer leaders like you. Being able to help you through your leadership challenges is seriously a gift.


Working with queer leaders has helped me transform my leadership, too.

As a coach for queer leaders, I get to be boldly anti-capitalist and anti-racist. I can willingly speak my truth to power. And that used to be hard for me while I was still working in the corporate space.


I also get to work with powerful queer folks who are wanting to do more authentic leadership in corporate and nonprofit jobs. I get the honor of creating power with my clients in the work that we do.


I’ve asked myself “What is the great work of my life?” pretty often.


And I’m able to say that my coaching practice is really an embodiment of the togetherness of my career and my personal life.


Curious about what my day as a coach is like? I’ll share some insight on that next.



What does a typical day of coaching look like?


I know a lot of people love the “day in the life” videos you see on Instagram or TikTok. But for me, none of my days look the same. That’s another reason I’m grateful for the work I do.


Some of my days are back-to-back with coaching sessions.


On other days I’m more project-focused. I can spend hours talking with my amazing assistant, Allison, about my coaching offerings and what wild idea we should pursue next.


And sometimes I get to travel and facilitate on-site day-long (or week-long!) staff workshops with a colleague.


So my days can vary a lot. But all my work is in support of queer leaders like you.


I’m focused on:

  • Helping you build radical confidence

  • Disrupting dominant-culture norms (‘cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist capitalism’ can be a mouthful, so just know that’s what I mean when I say ‘dominant culture’)

  • Fully using the gifts of your queer identities and experiences to inform your most authentic leadership practices

Those are all part of my core values as a coach.


Keeping my "why" in mind allows me to show up for myself and my clients each day in the ways that feel most authentic and true to me.



Takeaway


I hope my story helps give you a fuller picture of what I’m all about.


Being able to share it with you feels great because I’m proud of the work I’ve done to get to this point.


And I’m so glad to tell you more because you are part of my "why." All queer leaders are.


I can’t wait to hear more about your "why" in the comments. 💜



Links to References

[1]https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29496432-find-your-why

[2]https://coachingfederation.org/coaching-education

[3]https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsoc.2023.1108085/full

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