Dieter Wunderlich is an Ambassador and Leadership Coach at CoachHub with a 17 year career in international leadership. After a hotel manager apprenticeship, he studied business administration with a focus on sustainability management and later joined a management consultancy. After 11 informative years, Dieter decided to venture into the corporate world by joining ALDI SÜD (South). Here, as Director of Corporate Responsibility International, it was his responsibility to give the retail giant a more sustainable position. After 5 exciting years of thinking about how to inspire people for a better future, Dieter started his own business as a strengths and leadership coach. Today, Dieter is 49 years old and the proud father of a wonderful son. He grew up in a café, surrounded by cakes, the smell of fresh coffee and lively conversations. If he wanted to sum up his life journey and coaching vision in one word, it would be confidence.
CoachHub: Why did you decide to become a coach and how did you become a coach?
The “why” has several reasons. First of all, I knew in my early 40s that I didn’t want to go on like this. While there was a lot that was very good by conventional standards, a meaningful job, the opportunity to make a difference, great income; at the same time, I also felt that it wasn’t yet what I was really there for. On the other hand, I had begun to doubt what I was doing. I always wanted to make the world better, more beautiful, more sustainable, more peaceful, happier. But more and more often, I had the impression that I was bringing people across the street, almost against their will and forcing them to be happy. And forcing was not something I wanted to do. So I started to question myself. And this reflection process led to the realization that, surprisingly, I am not the bearer of all wisdom and strength and that it therefore makes much more sense for me to remind people of their own inner wisdom and strengths and to help activate it … and to enjoy what happens next. That was my path from consultant to coach.
And the “how” was like almost everything in life, it’s messy, adventurous, full of loss and insight, and very different from what I had planned. Best, you ask me the question again when we have more time and space for words…
CoachHub: What methods and coaching techniques do you use?
I am a certified Co-Active Coach and I bring everything I learned from this coaching school. And what you learn there are less methods and techniques and more the attitude as a coach. This includes, for example, the basic assumption that your coachee is whole and full of possibilities, ideas and resources that they can use to overcome the challenges in their life.
In keeping with this resource-based approach, I have also been certified by Gallup as a Strengths Coach. So, together with my coachees, I quite often use Gallup’s online strengths assessment CliftonStrengths (formerly: StrengthsFinder), as an additional source of information about talents, strengths, non-talents, needs and perception filters.
CoachHub: What is your personal coaching trademark? And what makes your coaching special?
Let me start with what I am not. I am not a repair coach. I don’t fix people so that they work again. If you expect good advice from me, you’ll be disappointed most of the time. At best, I am a good brainstorming partner or process consultant on how to come to a good decision. Repair coaching can make sense in certain situations and I’m sure there are good repair coaches out there. I’m certainly not one.
What I most certainly am, however, is a discovery and activation coach. So I don’t help “the ugly duckling” from the fairy tale to behave more duck-like, but instead I want them to ask themselves questions like, “Might I actually be a swan?” And if not that, then what? Connected with this is my deep conviction that everyone is better off, not only the swan, but also the ducks and the other animals, if the swan is allowed to be a swan. And following that, it is then a matter of helping the swan to develop as a swan. As a duck, the swan would not be fulfilled, happy, or successful.
Becoming more of who you actually are is therefore at the core of my coaching. My trademark is that of the strengths coach. I help people discover and use what they are naturally strong and great at.
CoachHub: What is your personal coaching approach?
My personal coaching approach is the strengths of glasses. I try to focus attention on what is good, what works, what is important, what feels right, true, alive and strong. The starting point for everything is the oasis and not the desert. Behind this is the conviction that you can only work with what is there and not with what should be there. There is always more than enough. And from this, I also conclude that coaching is less about becoming someone else and more about becoming more of who you are. Sustainable growth always takes place starting from the source in the center of the oasis. From there, one can face any challenge and overcome it in an authentic way.
CoachHub: What’s a good practice or piece of advice from your coaching that you also use frequently in your everyday life?
I think one of the biggest challenges is to keep reminding the swan that he or she is a swan. Nature has made it so that we keep doubting or just forgetting about being a swan.
What I do to keep reminding myself of who I am is to ask myself this question every morning,” How do I want to be today and what do I want to do today to make this day happy and successful for me?” Then I answer this question for myself by looking at my calendar. In this way, I already give the day a clear direction. And the next day I look at where I have landed, feel into my swan-ness, reorient myself and fly off again.
CoachHub: What do you think makes a good coach?
In my opinion, the decisive factor is the client’s point of view: what makes a good coach is that she succeeds in making her coachee feel that the collaboration is helpful. It is ideal if the coachee perceives positive changes in thinking, feeling and acting in the course of the coaching with regard to the coaching goals.
To increase the likelihood of coaching success and in general, what makes a good coach is good training and ongoing education, also coaching oneself with the goal of improving one’s own self-knowledge and craft. While you can’t guarantee coaching success as a coach, you can always work consistently to increase the likelihood of success.
CoachHub: What do you think are the essential skills to be a good leader today?
I think of something like human maturity. This is meant quite independently of age. I believe that a high degree of self-knowledge is very important in order to be able to lead well. For me, the central point is the realization that who you are is how you lead. If you don’t know who you are and what is important to you, then you are like a ship without a keel and a steering wheel.
Another step towards being a good leader is to take responsibility for who you are. And the next step, for me, would be for the leader to realize that good leadership involves two very different tasks, good management and good leadership.
A good manager is like a conductor, coordinating the individual differences (talents, strengths, values) of team members so that beautiful music is created together. For example, this includes each employee knowing exactly what he or she has to do, that each person can use their individual strengths every day, that they know he or she will be appreciated for excellent work and that they will continuously be given the opportunity to grow individually.
To be successful as a leader, it comes down to the opposite. Great leaders focus not on what makes us individually different, but on what we have in common. These include our needs for security, community, meaning and especially clarity and confidence. Recognizing this allows us to manage our fear of not knowing the future, which is common for us humans.
CoachHub: Why do you think coaching can help overcome blockages?
If we take blockage as a description for a situation in which the coachee initially sees no solution, then coaching helps to overcome blockages because it enables the coachee to develop an attitude (being) and a course of action (doing) that the coachee feels is right.
The exciting question, of course is, HOW to do this? In my coaching community, we often talk about how there are only two modes in which our brains operate. The self-sabotage mode and the mode of the wise. And the craft of coaching is really only about how to help the coachee as efficiently and effectively as possible to switch from the self-sabotage mode to the mode of the wise in the given situation. In the mode of the wise our brain works best and therefore we also find the individually best solutions in this mode.
CoachHub: Based on your experience, how do you know coaching is successful?
There are several indicators for this. The crucial one for me is that the coachee is satisfied with the coaching. Even better is when the coachee wants more coaching sessions because they enjoy the collaboration so much. And another indicator is when they are willing to give me a personal recommendation.
However, I believe the most important thing for a successful coaching collaboration is that the coach and the coachee agree at the beginning what success looks like. And then it continues to be important to talk about how the coaching is going as the sessions progress. This way, if the coachee wants changes, there is enough time to adjust the approach.
CoachHub: What do you think about digital coaching?
I always wanted to become an international coach and build a bridge between people from different backgrounds. My first training, Co-Active Coaching, originated in the USA. I had my oral certification exam as a coach together with a Singaporean. My examiners were a Spanish and an Israeli. There were 9 coaches from 6 countries in my class. My class teacher was from South Africa. This internationality meant that from the beginning I was used to coaching and being coached predominantly across long distances.
With CoachHub and digital coaching, an image was now added to the voice (from the phone) for me. So the jump from analog to digital coaching was not that big for me personally. I already knew from my own experience that it can work very well to build a coaching relationship even without being physically in the same place. For many of my colleagues, for whom face-to-face coaching is common, the switch to digital coaching is certainly a bit more challenging, but ultimately in most cases also just a matter of getting used to it.
For me, the biggest advantage in digital coaching is that it minimizes the time and travel required, thus reducing costs for everyone involved. And with the cost reduction, the benefits of coaching become accessible to more people.
CoachHub: What do you think are the benefits of CoachHub?
At CoachHub I met people with whom I was sure from the beginning that a very good, trusting collaboration would be possible. CoachHub solves the problem of the right coach and the right coachee finding each other, often better and more cost-effectively than if both parties set out to find each other on their own.
CoachHub: What trends are you seeing in the coaching space right now?
I don’t do any studies myself, but I think that the coaching market will continue to grow because more and more people will discover the benefits of coaching for themselves. And I think that companies will offer coaching to their employees more and more as a matter of course, because engaged employees are the biggest success factor for companies and coaching has a positive impact on employee engagement.
In terms of coaching topics, I perceive that with Corona and an increase of people working from home, the topic of mental health has become more important (overwork, not enough balance, not being able to rest, sleep disturbances, etc.). And I continue to feel, which I sincerely hope I’m not just imagining, that the question, “What’s important in life?” has become more important. I suspect that very few people simply want to return to the old normal, but are in the process of discovering a new normal for themselves.
CoachHub: In closing, do you have anything else you would like to add?
I would especially like to thank Melina Rüger, Christina Vasiliadis from the Coach Relations team for the great collaboration and the founders and managing directors Matti and Yannis for our conversations in connection with CoachHub’s values workshop. Thank you also to all other CoachHub colleagues and those of you I had the pleasure to coach. I learned a lot from you guys. Thank you for making me a CoachHub Ambassador. And thank you for creating CoachHub4Good. I love to support people who dedicate their lives to positive change to become more effective and successful through coaching. I wish CoachHub success, growth and the ability to keep the mission of democratizing coaching worldwide well in sight and to enjoy the accomplishments.