Finding Fulfillment—Not Burnout—through Pro Bono Coaching
It’s easy to set goals at the beginning of a new year; it’s even easier to get one month into the year and feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Maybe one of your goals is to devote more time to pro bono coaching, but how to balance it all? We talked with coach Teodora Kamenova, PCC, about burnout, balance and pro bono coaching.
Coaching World: To get started, could you give us an overview of how you got started with pro bono coaching and the ICF Foundation?
Teodora Kamenova, PCC: It was like a dream come true. When I started full-time coaching back in 2012, I was coaching a myriad of types of clients. I have seen the value that volunteers can provide as I’ve worked for the U.S. Peace Corps for 16 years, and it was my turn to pay it forward. I became active in my local chapter, ICF Bulgaria. But there was a question in my mind: “What happens to all these people who need coaching and who could benefit from it but can’t afford it?” So, when I heard about what the ICF Foundation (ICFF) does, I thought, “Yeah, this is something that I’ve always thought is needed and I’d like to support.” I devoted time to work with local minority groups and coaching teenagers who cannot afford it. When I heard about ICFF and the Ignite project worldwide, it really aligned with what I felt in my heart is the biggest need—to work with educators.
CW: So, how do you manage all your pro bono work with your coaching business?
TK: In my opinion, it’s like a pendulum. It’s just a matter of being aligned with your own values, being authentic and true to yourself; and it’s a matter of perspective and choice. I don’t have a full-time job—I am a freelancer. So, I choose my projects and my clients, and I’m just open to opportunities. Of course, I can say no. But, so far, I haven’t had to. I believe money is the fastest way to say, “thank you,” but there are other ways to show appreciation. I feel I “get paid” just by paying it forward. On the business side of it, I don’t consider it free in the psychological sense because I know that they’re paying it forward, too. I, myself, choose to have a balance between pro bono and paid clients. In a way, it’s even less overwhelming and stressful when I coach pro bono—one doesn’t need to think of admin paperwork, bank transfers, etc., which could be energy draining and stressful.
CW: We just started a new year, so as you look into 2019, what advice would you give to other coaches who might be feeling burnt out or overwhelmed with their business and their pro bono coaching? What advice would you give to them? Do you have any tips or tricks?
TK: I no longer give advice; I can only speak for myself and what happens to me. Sometimes when I feel that I’m at the edge of burnout, I pause and remind myself that what’s happening to me now is something I’ve asked for in the past. So, I ask myself questions like “Why did I choose to do it? How much is enough? Who am I becoming?” I have my daily rituals so that I can check in with myself and be honest and aware. I have my yoga practice, full alignment and meditation. I also have a ritual of simply saying “thank you” each night. I started a journal lately, just to remember the small things that I’m thankful for. It’s not anything new, but again, it works for me.
CW: We have one last question: Tell us about one of your favorite pro bono coaching experiences?
TK: I mentioned that I also work with parents and children. So, I was with a first-grade kid who was supposed to be kicked out of school for bad behavior and aggression. So, I asked him a seemingly weird question, “If you imagine for a moment that you can be any animal for a day, what would you like to be and why?” And he just said,” I want to be a bat. Everybody looks at me, and they’re either running away from me or they’re scared or yelling. They see me as a bad creature, but this is how I am. I’m just with my head down, my legs up.” I spoke with the mom, and it seemed that the teacher and all the students were quite mean to him, labeling him as the black sheep, so to say, that was the problem. Fast forward to one year later, and he’s been transferred to another school where the teacher and the students really accepted him as he is, and everything is fine.
Teodora has over 20 years of experience as a professional interpreter and translator and 16 years of dedicated service with the U.S. Peace Corps in Bulgaria. Currently, Teodora is serving a second term as Director of Membership in the ICF Bulgaria Chapter. She is the project leader for the ICF Foundation’s Ignite initiative – Engaging Humanity Through Education. This initiative is a pro bono coaching program that focuses on The U.N. 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of Education. Teodora is an ICF PCC Credential-holder and has over six years of coaching experience as a “CommoUniquation” coach. She assists clients in finding the common ground in communicating with all people and respecting the unique in them. As a Communication Coach, her focus is on generational, diversity and cross-cultural issues individuals, teams, organizations or marginalized groups may have.