Practitioner Diploma / “I was seeing the world differently through the conversations I had”

19th March by Lee Robertson

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Boasting nearly 25 years of professional trading experience, Steve Goldstein held a diverse range of roles within investment banking businesses. Making the transition to coaching in 2010, Steve talked to us about his experience of coach training on the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching with the AoEC, his work as an executive, team and performance coach and the release of his new book.

Prior to developing yourself as a coach, you enjoyed a hugely successful career working for over 20 years as an investment bank trader at firms including Credit Suisse, Commerzbank, and American Express. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I worked with coach Peter Burditt about 25 years ago and that process had an enormously positive impact on me. Then about 12 years ago I went back to him for some advice, and he planted the seed of becoming a coach in my head as a career prospect. I fell in love with the idea, and it took about five seconds for me to think that this was what I want to do! He put me in touch with the AoEC and the rest is history.

What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?

It was an immediate introduction and very practical immersion into what coaching is. I like to experience things and the programme was very experiential. From the opening exercises on day one right the way through to the finish, everything about it was experiential. That attracted me from the moment I first read about it, and it was exactly like that.

The negatives were not about the Practitioner Diploma itself but was more trying to shed some of my own beliefs and practices. You must lose and forget bad habits and your thoughts about how you should do something which is so deeply ingrained in you. The course was great for raising those factors and making you aware of them but there was no easy passage.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

My first one is to go to the AoEC! I did a lot of research such is my way before I do anything, and I was advised by Peter Burditt that this would be the best course for me.

I looked at different courses, but I thought this is what I want – an experiential approach rather than a theoretical one. I think that coaching is an experiential practice and the best way to learn is to be thrown into it. You learn a lot faster. I believe that the experiential approach taken by the AoEC and others makes the best courses. 

Also, be open minded and do the other things they say. They introduced me to co-coaching and that was a big part of my learning journey. I joined a brilliant co-coaching group which was run by the Association for Coaching who I am a big advocate of because they go much more into the grassroots and weeds of coaching.

Get as much practical experience with people as you can too. Also get a business coach to help you with setting up your business. That was a big turning point for me in moving my career forward as a coach.

Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?

The diploma introduced me to many methods and like many coaches, you usually start with the GROW model because it gives you a nice easy roadmap into it. But it also introduced me to Gestalt which was the direction I went in. The introduction to Gestalt in the programme was probably the most confusing and baffling thing, but I could see its power. I don’t think Gestalt is easily explainable, so I was left thinking wow, what was that? I went on my own journey because of that, and it has played a huge part in the development of me and the form of coaching I do.

It helped me uncover lots of aspects about myself that I was not aware of. It broke me out of the stupor I was in as you can become very fixed in your mindset about the way you do your job when you have been in an industry for 25 years and how you look at the world.

There was also a big impact from working with and being interactive with the other people on the course. There was a great diverse selection of participants, and you get introduced to different perspectives and ideas and people from different jobs and worlds. That made a mark on me because I was seeing the world differently through the conversations I had.

Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the diploma?

Part of the reason of going in the Gestalt direction was that I was using GROW for three or four years and I was struggling with it. It didn’t gel with me, so I studied other methods like Gestalt and that has been my style since. I like that way of exploring and opening other people’s worlds and of being part of that joint exploration.

It also led me to study some forms of therapy because I wanted to understand some of the challenges people were bringing because Gestalt has its roots in therapy. It takes you to certain places that maybe other forms of coaching don’t, and I felt I needed to have a deeper understanding of these worlds that were opening. I always go back to what I learned at the AoEC of keeping boundaries and making sure that I stay in the space as a coach and not a therapist and that I understand those areas where the overlaps are.   

You now work as an executive coach and have set up your own practice Alpha R Cubed; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

It is connected to my background as a trader although I do work with people outside of the financial sector. I do a lot of performance coaching with people in financial market, trading and investment roles and it is a very performance orientated occupation. That has been my focus, but it has also taken me into working with leaders in those businesses doing team coaching and other areas of finance such as private equity, private credit and more analytical functions.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach people around?

I focus on the coachee as a person. There is a quote which comes from mountaineering which is “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves”. I make it clear that I work very much on who they are and their engagement with the environment, situation and contacts they are involved with and how it comes back to impact them. I do a lot of work there, but also that exploration of the field, which is very much a Gestalt thing, really awakens them to that broader sense of understanding the much bigger picture and the terrain they are in.

I will describe how we will work together by telling them that we are going to take a cross section out of them, their world and life. We explore it together as if it were under a microscope and we get to look at it four-dimensionally. So, we look at it from the outside in, inside out, from their perspective and mine. Hopefully, they will get to see themselves in the context of their world and see it in a much richer, more granular sense. That gives them the chance to change, make them own it and do something with the coaching.

If I were to sum up my coaching, I would say that I am a letting go coach. We are working towards them letting go of old beliefs, insecurities, doubts, and failures and trying to release them from being in the grip of their ego so they can be the best of themselves in their roles and relationships.

Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that has had an impact on you?

I was out with two fellow coaches for dinner in my first few years of being a coach when I was really struggling to get my business going. I had done the Practitioner Diploma, I had had a lot of supervision, I had worked with a few clients that I had managed to find, but I was still having trouble getting going.

We did this little game around the dinner table where each of us wrote a piece of advice on a napkin for the other two people that we had observed about them, and thought would be useful to them. We put these in our pockets to read later.

Both independently said the same thing to me which was that I needed to forget about myself as a trader and think of myself as coach and to be a coach.

That was huge for me because I realised, I hadn’t let go of being a trader and I was still presenting myself to the world as a trader. That was my identity and as long as it was my identity, I was not making any inroads in my new career as a coach. No-one thought of me as a coach and if you don’t think of yourself as a coach, you are not going to sell as a coach.

It made me turn a corner and that not only impacted me, but it is a message I bring to the people I work with because they are all usually holding onto something else which is not real or now redundant.

You published your book – Mastering the Mental Game of Trading - in January 2024. What secrets or key aspects of coaching do you share with your readers?

I think if you were a coach and you read the book you would realise that the entire book is about coaching.

It is quite bizarre that I was writing a book as I was coaching. I would be coaching in the day and writing in the evening and weekends, so I was living the experience of being a coach and having real conversations which were informing what I was writing in the book.

Although I talk about mastering the game of trading, it would not be a great title if I called it ‘What I learned from trading from being a coach and how it can help you’. That is not a salesy title, but it is in a sense what the book is. It is about everything I have spoken about and making people aware of it, and they are all going through it. The key model that runs through the book is a framework taken from Gestalt psychotherapy – the cycle of experience – so the entire book in a way, is my experience of working as a coach with traders and the lessons from that.

What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?

It is helping people make changes in their lives, helping them to release and let things go. Sometimes after a session, I literally punch the air because it is why I do what I do.

I always remember a saying from John Whittington which is the coach’s job is not to be helpful, but useful and I try to bring that into my work.

Recently I worked with a client and said I didn’t think I was helping them because I didn’t feel it. They said: “Oh my god, you don’t realise how much you have helped me let go.” I asked them what change had happened in their job and situation and was told that it was totally different because they now had complete ownership of what they were doing and where they were going. They had choices ahead of them. So, even though you don’t see change from an external perspective, everything changed massively for them on the inside. I thought yeah, that is why we do what we do.

You don’t always necessarily see what the change is that you are bringing to someone. I have had this situation many times and I have wondered if it has really moved the needle forward for them. Then, you meet them later and their life has completely changed from going through the process. That is the part of being useful and not helpful. You are not there to rescue them or save them - you are there to bring them something they would not get from anywhere else.

Our deepest gratitude to Steve for sharing his personal journey and experience of coach training at the AoEC.