It was Maria’s first time to be coached online and one to one in her leadership growth. Maria lives in the US and I live in the Netherlands. She wasn’t sure what to expect from the coaching before signing up. She felt a bit uncertain about how the coaching and how I would be, but otherwise she was excited to have a coach for the first time. As her coach, I had the privilege to introduce Maria into the world of coaching.
I supported her with meaningful conversations, reflections and by holding the space for her to make some important decisions in her career. Read how Maria and I experienced working together in a coach-coachee relationship.

ICF definition of Coaching: partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential

Working as a Monitoring & Evaluation officer with an American NGO Maria’s focus is on peacebuilding and conflict transformation in countries all over the world. Her project-portfolio was loaded with projects in Sudan and her own coaching had immediate and indirect impact on her clients in Africa. Since corona, Maria is working from her home, what means that the only way for Maria to connect with others is via internet.

How we got engaged 

When Maria signed up to be matched by the Women Innovators and Leadership Development Network (WILD),  an organization that bridges between world-class coaches and nonprofit organizations to build capacity, she got in touch with three coaches. I was really happy to receive a call and hear that she had chosen me to be her coach.
As an independent coach I applied to provide coaching with EthicalCoach for a project with WILD to support women leaders, like Maria, to scale the impact of their work, and to thrive. Supporting woman leaders appealed to my own aspirations. And Maria engaged in the topics of women’s leadership as well as equity, diversity and inclusion in the global development sector and in particular in Sudan.
I like to tell you a bit more about EthicalCoach and WILD. These organizations envision a future by asking questions such as:

  • What if the highest levels of professional coaching became available to strengthen businesses, leaders of NGO’s and SME’s and improve lives for those in emerging markets and developing countries?
  • Can you imagine that coaching helps executives and woman leaders become stronger, more resilient and more creative to solve their problems?

Like other coachees in the WILD program, Maria’s goal was to develop her leadership skills. More specific, Maria expressed that she wanted to develop her work-identity and learn how to focus on some choices she had to make in her career.
Unexpectedly some important life events disrupted Maria’s learning process during the coaching, such as:

  • moving to live in another town
  • Transitioning from an advisory role with an NGO work culture to a very different consultancy work culture.
  •  Choosing the direction for her PhD study. It was important for her to choose from the heart.
  • And last but not least: the huge impact of Corona on her wellbeing.

This rollercoaster had a lot of impact but also accelerated growth of her personal leadership. As her coach I with-nessed all these events in our bi-weekly coaching sessions.

AHA moment

At the end of our coaching project, I asked Maria if she had experienced a big AHA moment. This is what she told me:
“Yes, I had a big AHA moment when working with you. I realized that sometimes the very things I set out to disrupt, I end up perpetuating. This because I did not step back to understand how the socialization and culture around me has recreated the cycles I seek to shift and change. In order to make a difference or do things differently, I needed to first personalize the experience. This means bringing my entire self to the work as well as remain intentional in the process. From there I developed a clear strategy for influencing and activating change”.
As a coach I had accompanied that AHA moment from nearby, when Maria became aware of the behavioral pattern that kept her away from realizing her dreams.


It was a real pleasure to coach Maria. We never had a dull moment. She is eloquent and brilliant in her speech, what turns a conversation with Maria into an enriching and pleasurable dialogue. Maria learned how to reflect and take responsibility for her personal choices and taking the steps to lead herself into a new direction. Her colleagues noticed that her style of conflict resolution had transformed. The coaching sessions had encouraged her to – step by step – incorporate useful habits into her everyday life, which has helped to her to better focus and anchor.


At the end of the coaching Maria gave me her testimonial: “The coaching sessions with Sonja are action-oriented. I developed new habits to better understand myself. I left every session having learned something new, whether it was about myself or a new technique to reflect or to use in reflection. I would recommend Sonja as a coach to anyone who is interested in growing as a leader. Her coaching allowed me to improve my way of showing up every day and in crucial situations, so I could make better choices. I cannot thank her enough for her coaching over the past 6 months – it was always the highlight of my week”  –  
Signed: Maria Selde, M&E Consultant. Guidehouse (from December 2020) and M&E Officer @Search for Common Ground (May-Nov 2020) –