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A transformative journey: Inside Concordia’s professional coaching program

Through supervised practice, skill development, and self-reflection, faculty, mentors, and students alike undergo a transformative journey within Concordia’s Professional Goal-Centric Certified Coach (PGCC) program
May 1, 2024
By Giordano Cescutti

Coaching article - a hiker reaches for another hiker

In the busy supermarket, a young child squirms in her mother’s shopping cart, her squeal of frustration piercing the air as her plush doll takes a sudden dive to the linoleum floor. For many hurried corporate professionals gathering dinner ingredients after a long workday, the sequence might prompt a string of muttered expletives. But for Julie Fournier, this is the moment when her coaching mindset—one characterized by open-mindedness, curiosity, and non-judgement—kicks in.

“I pause and think ‘maybe this person had a rough day, maybe it isn’t their choice to bring their kid to the grocery store,’” Fournier says. “So, I look at them and smile to let them know, ‘I hear you, I see you.’”

This display of patience, empathy, and awareness was something Fournier, a marketing strategist and corporate coach at EY, honed over twelve months of intensive training in Concordia’s professional coaching program from 2019 to 2020. 

“If you truly want to serve your clients, you need to work on yourself first,” notes Fournier, who entered the program as a CrossFit coach looking to break into corporate coaching. “You need to look at yourself in the mirror and be brutally honest because to become a great coach you need to embody coaching.”

Accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) as a Level 2 program, Concordia’s professional coaching program exceeds the ICF’s requirement of 125 learning hours for certification. It offers foundational knowledge in coaching theory and practice, enabling students to function effectively in professional coaching relationships. Since its inception in 2006, over 500 aspiring coaches from diverse professional backgrounds have joined the program seeking the tools to promote positive change in themselves and others.

“If you move into coaching and fully engage, you will transform because you need to be looking at yourself all the time and clearing the way of all of your preconceived ideas and biases,” explains Jim Gavin, a certified master coach and licensed psychologist who co-founded the PGCC program with Dr. Madeleine Mcbrearty and serves as one of its instructors.

Just as coaching students undergo transformative journeys, the coaching industry has evolved since its official inauguration in North America in 1995, with the founding of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). Over its 30-year history, the ICF has set standards and ethics for the coaching profession. While theoretical and practical knowledge in the industry grows, the ICF’s core principles have remained consistent. Concordia’s PGCC program adheres to those core principles, while incorporating the industry’s latest evidence-based techniques. It uses a goal-focused approach to aiding clients in defining and moving toward achieving their personal and professional goals.

“It’s about building and accentuating strengths that clients already have and discovering ones that they didn't even know were there,” Gavin explains. “What this does is it brings to focus what’s working for the person to help them achieve their life’s objectives.” 

In guiding clients through moments of enlightening self-discovery, coaches, Gavin says, undergo their own transformation.

“Sometimes my clients will confront me with issues that wake me up, and as I listen carefully, I hear how nuanced their experience is and think ‘Wow, I never thought of that for myself,’ Gavin says. “I think that any coach who has been in this work for a while will say that their clients are their greatest teachers.”

Learning as a community

Inside Concordia’s coaching classroom, 30 individuals sit silently in a circle, deeply attuning themselves in preparation for an active listening exercise.

“The circle signifies that we’re working and learning as a community,” says Nicki Monahan, who graduated from Concordia’s professional coaching program in 2017 and now serves as a mentor. “It means that we’re accountable to one another for ensuring that we’re always improving, adhering to the ICF code of ethics, and committed to the ongoing professionalism and development of the field.”

Throughout the program, participants experience knowledge-building presentations and skill development exercises. These elements serve as the foundation for in-class practice sessions where they assume the roles of coach, client, and observer.

At this crucial juncture of the program, mentors like Monahan play a pivotal role in guiding aspiring coaches through reflective discussions. These conversations delve into their self-awareness, acquired knowledge, and areas requiring further development.

“The role of the mentor in this program is so critical,” says Monahan, who now has 10 years of coaching experience in private practice and 20 years in higher education settings. “I had great mentors who helped me identify the areas in which I shined but also those I needed to develop. Now, I want to help grow the profession by supporting emerging coaches in their development.”

The mentorship aspect of the program, combined with its skill development exercises, left a lasting impression on Monahan, who vividly recalls sitting in Concordia's coaching circle and observing Gavin engage in an active listening exercise.

“I was deeply moved by the power of attuned listening,” Monahan says. “One of the skills I’ve honed is listening with my whole being, not just with my ears or hands, but with my heart. That capacity to listen deeply has been transformative, and I carry that visual of Jim in my heart when I coach.” 

Growth Beyond Certification

To earn the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) designation, graduates of the program must successfully complete the ICF credentialing exam. But passing this exam doesn’t signify the end of each coach’s transformative journey. Graduating cohorts, including the 30 participants from 2009, often stay connected, meeting periodically to discuss their work and evolution.

“The students and mentors in this program are doing ‘next-gen’ on me,” Gavin says. “I think I’m pretty good at what I do, but I believe the people in this training will be better. And I think they will be the ones to serve the next generation of coaches in this field.”

For grads like Fournier, developing the coaching mindset has impacted much more than just her professional world.

“It changed the way I connect with my kids, with my husband, with my family, and with strangers,” Fournier says. “With this mindset, you don’t just do coaching, you are a coach. And I carry it with me everywhere I go.”


Apply now for Concordia’s Professional Goal-Centric Certified Coach program — Classes begin on September 7 (in-person) and October 18 (online).

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