I’m Denslow Brown, CAT co-founder. I am excited and committed about sharing coaching skills with organizers and other professionals who work one-on-one with individuals who are trying to live their best life. My own journey from Professional Organizer to Organizer Coach – and additional work as an ADHD Coach and Mentor Coach – explains how this became so important.
I started organizing with people in their homes and offices in 1974. I felt I’d found my true calling from the start. I still feel that way.
But almost 20 years into this beloved occupation I became heartsick. I was desperate to relieve a concerning dynamic with many of my clients.
Stepping Into My Clients’ Patterns
I slowly began to understand something unsettling about the nature of my work and client relationships. I could see myself as an enabler of stressed and too-full lives. Clients want life to be manageable. They would state that in different ways repeatedly. My solution was to clear out the backlog, create systems and explain the maintenance options.
But what clients really came to me with, whether they had the language for it or not – was an Opening for Change. Helping our clients change their behavior, competence, and confidence in managing their lives – that’s the ‘order’ they are really after. It was the lack of ‘organizing sustainability’ that felt so uncomfortable to me.
Finding an Answer
After a lot of searching, I found the beginning of an answer. It was coaching! What I learned at first wasn’t about using coaching as a tool of organizing, so I didn’t see its full potential for my clients. Once I found ADD coaching, I was able to connect the dots – and this is what I understood:
Coaching is a partnering communication process of awareness, action and learning. It speaks to our clients’ Openings for Change, by clarifying values, motivation and ‘what matters most.’ It’s both compassionate and challenging. It promotes big dreams and personal responsibility.
Coaching: the Yearned-for Mate Organizing has been Waiting for (Seriously!)
An organizer is perfectly placed to work with clients on the deeper/higher/bigger level that coaching facilitates. With coaching, an organizer can fully respond to the enormous hope that is just under the surface of a client’s organizing request.
When these two sets of skills are joined in service to a stuck or disorganized client, the complement brings greater results than working with one alone. An organizer coach empowers clients who struggle with chronic disorganization, ADD, too-busy lives, home-based businesses, situational stress, difficult transitions, or tremendous professional responsibilities.
Coaching is a habit builder …
A rock-meets-the-hard-place shape-shifter …
A life changer.
Coaching skills allow organizers to have frank conversations with clients about what’s really going on and what they know already. The client is supported to explore what they really want and tune into their inner compass. They learn to engage their motivation, experiment with perspective, and to shape and test actions and strategies. Finally, they are accountable to learn from those actions, however their effort plays out.
Teaching Coach Skills to Organizers
I started coach training in 1995. By 1997 I was in an 18-month ADD coach training program and applying my new skills to my organizing work. I was asked to join the training faculty as director of the practice lab. I kept up my coach training and earned my Master Certified Coach credential in 2005.
I developed strategies to ‘marry’ coaching and organizing and was eager to share with organizers. My I offered an NSGCD (National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization — now ICD, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization) telesession on coaching in 2001. My first NAPO (National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals) conference coaching session the following year.
I developed the first Coach Approach for Organizers training in 2006 in collaboration with ADD coach and Coach Training Institute graduate Cameron Gott who is still developing curriculum and teaching with Coach Approach. We designed a foundation training program in 2008.
We have polished our courses with comprehensive feedback from students. In 2015 we were granted Accredited Coach Training Program status from the International Coaching Federation. ICF sets rigorous standards for this highest recognition.
With the support of a Professional Advisory Board, I began evaluating and credentialing Certified Organizer Coaches (comparable to ICF’s Associate Certified Coach level) in 2009. We created the Institute for Applied Coaching as the arm of the business that administers credentials.
Starting in 2014, we added three new certifications (at ICF’s Professional Certified Coach level): Certified ADHD Organizer Coach, Certified Productivity Leadership Coach, and Professional Certified Organizer Coach. As of 2023, we have eight coaching credentials.
Along the way we opened our training to other kinds of professionals who work with individuals and so change our teaching title to Coach Approach Training. We also have a robust curriculum of advanced and elective courses for our graduates (whether they are going for a credential or not), for organizers trained as coaches outside of Coach Approach, as well as for ADHD and non-ADHD coaches who have been trained elsewhere.
CAT-IAC is leading and participating in an exciting shift in the culture of organizing, productivity, ADHD/neurodiversity – and coaching!