In 1974 I was searching my mind, heart, and soul for the purpose of my life, when a colleague asked me if I could help him sort out some issues regarding his company. I had little to no experience with business and couldn’t imagine what value I could bring to his situation. I declined his invitation and continued my quest for meaning and relevance. He called two additional times and asked if I could help him. I was becoming mildly irritated and asked him, “Why are you calling me?” To wit he replied, “Because I trust you.” I protested, “But I don’t know anything.” He retorted, “That could come in handy!” I was dismayed and stated, “If you completely understand that I know nothing about your business, and you are willing to pay me to help you sort out some issues, then I accept!”
In October, 1974, we started the project and Lloyd became my first official coaching client. After a successful coaching assignment, he started sharing his amazing results with everyone he came in contact with…it sounded like, ”the woman who asked the incredibly powerful questions.” My phone started to ring off the hook. Before I knew it I was coaching people every day, more and more called, despite my protest, “I don’t know anything, but I will ask you questions and you will discover your own answers.” They didn’t care because the recommendation was so strong. In those days, I charged $35 for a 90-minute session. Within six months, clients started to ask if I could teach them how to ask those powerful questions in order to work more effectively with their patients, customers, and clients. The answer to their request was unclear to me since I was unaware of what I did in those sessions that was so profoundly helpful to people. I knew I helped them focus, determine what they wanted, and make clear choices, however, I had no idea how the combination of intention, skills, abilities, and the use of my energy created such extraordinary results. People used the word, “Gifted” to describe what I did, but like a prodigy, it came naturally to me, without effort or performance anxiety.
With the help of my friend, Kathy, we started to examine and analyze what I was doing. The most important aspect was that I was absolutely certain that I didn’t know the answers for anyone else. I also believed that each person possessed their own answers to all of their challenges, and I never presumed to know for anyone else what their choices or actions should be. This was the perfect starting place, and from there Kathy assessed everything I did with clients that worked. The initial behaviors were obvious and she immediately noticed that I easily suspended judgment, something Kathy said was not so easy to do. I didn’t know that setting aside judgments was challenging for others, and so we set out to find the root of judgmental behavior in order to unlock that mechanism. If I could suspend judgment, I imagined that it must be possible for others to do so, but we needed to determine how to unlock the judgmental mechanism? In addition to suspending judgment, we had to find a way to train people to not know the answer for others. Since this was a knee-jerk reaction, trained in many years of formal educational environments, we believed that it would take a concerted effort to reverse this behavior.
We thought that if an individual exhumed their own dreams, they might experience the process from the inside out and be more attuned to the fragility of the human psyche and emotions. In other
words, if they experienced the process of remembering their precious dreams, they might be more respectful of the dreams, wishes, and goals of others.
Actively listening was essential to the process, but how could you listen if your mind was busy chattering at you? We needed to find ways to help people silence the voices of their mind, at least temporarily, for an hour or so, so that the coach could listen closely and focus on what was being said. This focus of attention was critically important. We queried, ‘how could we get their attention off of themselves and 100% on to another person?’
Then there were those powerful questions that I asked that seemed to come out of thin air. When Kathy asked me how I found those questions, I commented that as I listened intently to their answers, the next question presented itself. If I were paying close attention to what was said, the “Clue” would surface and reveal itself to me. If my mind were elsewhere, I would surely miss it.
As we proceeded with the analysis of my behaviors that created a safe coaching environment, more elements started to surface.
Kathy noticed that I used the techniques of restating and recapping frequently. I was unaware of this, but acknowledged that I wanted to ensure that I understood what was communicated to me, and to confirm that we were both on the same page as we progressed. Although I didn’t want to be irritating to the client, I really wanted to make sure that I hadn’t missed something or lost the thread. Kathy commented that I never gave advice, and I shared with her that since I knew nothing about the client’s situation, it would have been presumptuous or arrogant of me to imagine that I had any advice that might be helpful. I commented, “Listening closely in a non-judgmental manner, reflecting back what I heard, asking questions that go deeper, and being very respectful of the client’s inner wishes, dreams, and fears just about summed it up.”
Kathy was also respectful when she requested to sit in on a session with a client and watch what I did to determine if there was more that I did that I was unaware of. I obtained permission from a client and Kathy watched silently in the corner, with her clipboard in hand.
After the session, she commented, “I have a whole new list of behaviors that I observed.” She continued to list the behaviors, of an “Unconscious Competent,” a person who is unaware of their extraordinary capabilities. Kathy commented, “You were sincerely interested and curious about your client’s situation, and you asked several times about their feelings regarding related items. You were very connected to the client and when the connection became shaky, you took it on yourself to repair any disconnection. There was an interesting blend of caring coupled with empowerment. You weren’t weak or mushy, nor were you pushy or forceful. You didn’t get shaken when feelings came to the surface, which was impressive, and although empathetic, you didn’t take on their feelings or get enmeshed in them. How did you do that?” she questioned.
Kathy continued to list the many behaviors that I demonstrated, and eventually we had a rather lengthy list. This was the first step in the process. Then I enlisted the help of a new colleague, Carol, who helped me design the first MMS Coach Training in 1974. Carol was the ideal associate because she was collaborative, curious, enthusiastic, and non-judgmental. We took the list from Kathy and set out on the mission…to design a training to teach people to coach their clients, patients, and customers in the same way I was coaching them.
This was our initial list of behaviors that an MMS Coach must display:
Coach connected with client
Clarified time and outcome expectations
Established a clear achievable objective
Was non-judgmental throughout
Asked about related feelings
Restated information naturally
Recapped at strategic moments
Acknowledged when confused or stuck
Asked clear and open-ended questions
Used “clues” to create questions
Used client’s choice of words
Acknowledged mirrors when helpful
Was sincerely interested
Focused attention on client
Was in flow
Coach took care of him/herself
Used heart and power energies
Closed sexual energy field
Took the client into fantasy or ideal outcome
Believed in the client’s ability
“Chauffeured” session effortlessly
Supported rather than directed
Was unattached to the outcome
It felt complete to both people
The “WOW” factor (magic)
The client made a choice
Brought the session to closure
Client left with an action plan
Client knew post session support options
We then formulated core values that we wanted enmeshed through the fabric of the training. They were:
Acceptance • Support • Causality
Awareness • Feedback • Letting go
Intention • Trust • Clarity
Creativity • Fairness • Empowerment
Encouragement • Balance • Listening
Setting Objectives • Inspiration • Completion
Now that the initial list was drafted, we set out on the mission to design the curriculum to train people in my method in practical decision/choice making.
Lynn Stewart volunteered to be trained as our experimental student. I felt that it would be a good idea to have an experiment before we officially offered it as a program. That way we could use trial and error to see what was the most effective way to produce the results. We created a tutorial situation twice per week that gave us real time feedback on what to do and what to avoid.
This is how Lynn described the process from her perspective in her own words:
I had just moved from New York to San Francisco. Having been successful in Public Relations and unearthing a desire for a new life, I came for a visit and discovered that Cherie had launched a new venture. I was enthusiastic to see what her inspiration had spawned.
While staying with Cherie in San Francisco, I watched various people enter and exit her home all day long. One after the other, they would go to her office and leave with a similar “glow.” Each one had come with a challenge, a conundrum that they were seeking and unable to find answers to on their own. Each one left with clarity and a feeling of excitement. I was intrigued.
At a certain moment I asked Cherie to do a session with me. I wanted an answer. I knew I could earn good money doing a variety of activities, but my nagging inner question was, “What are my passions, purpose, talents, and motivations that are uniquely mine? Am I here for something more important than marrying, procreating, producing, and consuming?” These questions haunted me.
In the session Cherie conducted with me, I discovered a desire to help people find their own answers in a specific area; that day, in a moment of clarity and truth, I declared my desire to start my own business, “The Inner View of Decorating;” I chose to conduct individual sessions in which people could discover their unique expression in their homes. I was astounded to discover that I found my own answer to this question; however, I realized that I couldn’t find it by myself. It was at that moment that I knew Cherie had invented an approach to decision/choice making that was really special.
I started telling people about my session and my proposed new profession. I created a draft for my brochure, and within a week I had booked my first client. It all came together rather magically without effort since it was the externalization of my inner truth…no need for motivation, very little need for management, and I was going to provide a service to help people be peaceful in their environments.
During that first session I felt as if I had done a good job, however, I had many questions and I suffered from an inner critic who would not let me rest. I called Cherie and asked, “Do you have inner doubts and fears? Do you have an inner critic who tells you how to sit, how to look concerned, and how to hold your clipboard? Do you have a relentless inner dialogue that chatters at you while the client is talking?” I queried. When she answered a singular “No,” I asked the quintessential question, “How do you quiet the voices of your mind so that you can listen to the client without being distracted?”
When Cherie told me she could teach me how to master all of these challenges, I spontaneously volunteered to be her first coaching student. I wanted to see if she was right…to find out if I could learn from my dear younger sister what she could teach me… the skill of being fully present for another, focusing all of my attention on the client, and letting go of my need for attention.
I noticed that when I was listening to the voices in my head about my posture, gestures, and the expression on my face, I couldn’t simultaneously listen to my client. Realizing that this was an issue, I knew I wanted to master the art of quieting the voices in my mind. At that moment I had no idea how to do that. If I were to seriously pursue this new dream career, I needed that skill! Additionally, I found I had a multitude of judgments not only about myself, but about my clients, and numerous other items. I discovered my judgments were in the way of me having a quiet mind. I had questions about what direction to take in the session, and I had no idea how to ask penetrating questions that were non-confrontational. I also wondered how far I should go without being too invasive, aggressive, or violating the client’s boundaries or personal space. I worried about having the next question ready, and the silences really intimidated me. I often doubted whether I was on track or had lost the essential direction of the session. In other sessions I felt out on a limb, unsure how to get back to the core concern. Sometimes the client took the lead and I felt like a bystander, ineffective and at other times way too dominant. I wasn’t sure how to gauge the balance between letting the client go for their own answers, which at times seemed way off track, or intervening with my own perceptions which I realized could be my projection, and inaccurate. In short, I noticed that I had difficulty ascertaining the boundary between my client and me, and didn’t know when to listen, when to speak, and when to provide guidance. There were moments that I dreaded when both of us would get stuck and just stare at each other. I seemed to have dozens of questions for Cherie and it appeared as if she knew the answers, which totally amazed me. She seemed to have this innate talent that she must have been born with that mystified me.
My biggest question was how I could get my own needs met so that I would sincerely want my client to achieve their goals. How could I support a client in breaking through their obstacles if I was stuck on the same challenges? And worse still, what if I was oblivious to the mirrored stuck areas? I wondered how I could ever do the brilliant work that I observed Cherie do. I asked her, “What if I don’t believe the client’s answers, should I tell them? Or worse, what if they have answers I don’t agree with? What should I do?”
These were all big challenges to me and seemed at the time insurmountable. Coaching was extremely daunting to me.
Do I need to be perfect before I coach?
I wondered if I had to be perfect, or have everything sorted out in my own life before I could start coaching another? If I was supporting someone in going beyond my beliefs for myself would my little “what about me!” voice surface in the conversation? Would I feel resentful if the client got what I wanted instead of me?
There were so many skills and abilities to learn I wasn’t sure I possessed the capability to actually do this in an authentic manner. I worried if I could be trained to get out of the way and empower the client to achieve their results… I was confused, doubtful, uncertain, and fearful that I would never be able to do this.
I asked Cherie if she would observe one of my sessions and give me feedback. She agreed, believing that this would be a great way to start our experiment, finding the best way to teach her method to others. At that first session, Cherie did not provide me with any observations, but rather asked me questions about what I did. Just like during the original coaching session, Cherie encouraged me to discover what was happening inside me and to magically self-correct. She taught me to focus my attention on the client, to take care of my own needs so that my own insecurities, judgments, good ideas, and suggestions would remain at bay as I listened curiously to the download of information.
In this way, I chose to be the first MMS trainee in the new world of coaching. The year was 1975.
The process worked well with Lynn coaching clients while I provided her feedback, and then her watching me coach, and asking me questions in private. We structured our “Coaching Tutorial” on a bi-weekly basis so we could continuously build on the foundation we had established. Lynn was an eager student who progressed rapidly and was hungry for the skill sets. She had little resistance and a lot of willingness. This tutorial provided the test case we needed for our design work. We also conducted a gap analysis. We established a starting point, an ending point, and then constructed the learning bridge between the two points. The bridge was made up of various modalities that helped people traverse the learning bridge: didactic, dyads, triads, experiential, large groups, small groups, sessions, and processes, with three types of feedback loops, specific reading assignments, reflection, journal writing, report writing, and practice, practice, practice.
More about the design process…
It became clear that the design needed to address cognitive and affective, content and process, behavior change and learning new skills and techniques. We were also defining a new career for people, one that hadn’t yet been invented. We needed to package it in such a way that didactic, group, and experiential learning could all be interwoven and each learning style could get their needs met. If a person was more cognitive, we needed to accommodate that learning style. If a person was more experiential, we needed to ensure that their needs would be attended to. We didn’t want to leave anyone behind. In addition to all of that, we wanted the group to be cohesive, supportive, and conducive to the learning environment. The blend of structure, and freedom was an important balance. The core competencies needed to be in place, but we wanted our MMS coaches to be their authentic selves, not clones or imitations.
A dance of context and content, let me explain…The context is the framework, the container that holds the parameters of the program. Within the context are the Ground Rules, the structure, the curriculum, the dates, times, schedule, rules of engagement, definitions of terms, even the venue…
The content is the “MMS Way to coach in order to support a person moving from not knowing to knowing, then making a choice regarding a specific item in their life.” The content is the syllabus, the beliefs, the actual information (data), the progression of information from broadest to most specific (Boot camp), the MMS way of approaching coaching as a profession, the feedback sessions, individual tutoring with our specified coaches, the MBTI, the chakras and energy work, how to conduct an introductory interview, how to take notes without looking, how to document, how to keep track of where a client is…and on and on…for 220 hours.
If you think of an Infinity design, this is how I saw the design of the first MMS Coach Training.
We would start with a wide funnel of welcoming participants, address expectations, tell them how to play the game, then how to succeed in the course, information on completing assignments on time, staying current with all the required tasks, sessions, journal reflections, processing, and self-development. We would be clear that if they followed the course and stayed within the time frames they would transit through the narrowest part of the infinity sign with successful results, coming out the other side with accomplishment, success, and energy.
If, however, they procrastinated, postponed, or got behind in their work, they would put themselves at risk. We would let them know, “If you do not take this course seriously, then you invite all of your personal demons to take the program with you. If you neglect to do the work that is required, in self-development, reflection, sessions, reading, journaling, support groups, cleaning the vessel, going deep with yourself, then the parts of you that you like least will show up with all the reasons and excuses to justify failing the course.” What became abundantly clear is that each participant brought all of their past experiences (baggage), successes and failures with them. The MMS Coach Training would bring up to the surface all of their issues with themselves, with other relationships, and with their ability to set a goal and make it happen. For this we needed to have individual facilitators for key points in the process, “Milestone Meetings,” and check-in moments. Participants needed support when they would go inside, isolate, and be visited by the voices in their minds.
Process and Sessions
Designing the classroom part of the process was challenging enough, but classroom practice and demonstration sessions only provided participants with a collection of superficial skills and it didn’t go deep enough for my standards.
Healing Old Wounds
I asked my student/colleague, Lynn Stewart, to help me sort out how we could get participants to heal their old wounds, unblock their resistance, and open them up to their authentic feelings. After all, we wanted authentic coaches, not mimicking robots. We wanted them to be able to recreate my “Ground of Being,” rather than merely imitating behaviors.
Lynn suggested referencing the Inner Negotiation Workshop (INW), which we started offering in August, 1975. The purpose of the INW is to help people silence the voices of their minds, and to love and trust themselves and their choices. It is a process-oriented program that goes deep if the person is ready and willing to take the journey. This seemed like the right solution. We would start the program with an INW, then in the middle, we would have another INW focused on coaching and process, and toward the end of the course, we would have a third one to complete the “housecleaning.” As we proceeded to design the course, it seemed clear that the purpose was to teach how to coach like Cherie. In order to do that, we needed to literally create space for them to heal the past, in processes designed by them. Again, if we were to maintain the integrity of the process, they would need to come up with their own answers. We could not tell them what process would work for them. They needed to derive their own way, with their own words, in their own style, at their own pace to create the imprint to duplicate the old experience and heal or erase it completely. This was the power that was exhibited in not knowing the answers for another.
The program is objective driven. Before the MMS Coach Training begins, each person has an intake with one of our professionals to determine if the program is right for them. In that Intake Interview their specific objectives for the program are established. While focusing on their individual objectives in the training, participants receive “messages” that guide them regarding what actions they must take. The “message” is an inner imperative that challenges each person to shift out of their comfort zone and take a risk. No one knows what the message is until it surfaces.
Sessions and processes are often linked. The message guides the individual in trusting their inner knowing. Taking a risk and honoring their truth center, rather than saving face, for most is a breakthrough in and of itself. Making a break from predictions, hurts, and disappointments from the past unleashes a world of possibilities. Participants who find themselves stuck usually need to do something different in order to make sure the future isn’t just like their past.
The struggle for many is between the rational, logical, and reasonable side which is fully developed and the intuitive, affective, and inner knowing which is underdeveloped.
The course, like a golf course, has intentional ups and downs, and the roller-coaster continues to grow higher with each fluctuation until there is a profound breakthrough to “Knowing” what each participant must do for their own self-development, which results in action (out of thinking/analytical function). That action or risk-taking gives rise to deeper self-development and discovery, which then opens the door to the profound experience that no one can never know for another, what is best for them…this results in the “Brilliant” session. That multiple series of breakthroughs are, in fact, a peak level experience (transcendence) that feels like “bliss.”
Having overcome the confusion (comparing oneself to other participants), doubt (why did I sign up for this course), uncertainty (will I ever get it right?), and fear (I am going to be the one who fails the program), to making the dream become a reality…becoming a certified MMS coach! While in that process, they found their authentic self and made it connectable, which enabled them to become a brilliant MMS coach. At the end they experience a huge amount of space (limitlessness), opening up again to the world, and releasing them back to their individual worlds as new people who have new abilities, skills, and a renewed sense of self.”
What transpired with Cherie and Lynn…
As the MMS Coach Training was birthed so too was the professional relationship of the two sisters.
As a result of her training, Lynn went on to work with Cherie in formulating the learning points, behavior changes, and the process breakthroughs that she experienced from their work.
She first joined Cherie as a Coach Training facilitator in the first two MMS Coach Trainings. Although she mastered the required skill sets for coaching, she felt a desire to participate in her own MMS Coach Training to gain the personal development experience of releasing the blocks from her past. Feeling that wounds from earlier times were a block to her clarity, she wanted the self-discovery component of the program. What she had witnessed in the first two trainings watching participants, she then wanted for herself. She registered for the third MMS Coach Training and claimed her right to receive all the support and attention she had extended to others.
As a result of her experience, she chose to sell her business, The Inner View of Decorating and join the MMS staff as a volunteer. Inspired by her own training, she chose to find her own place in the organization. She trained to registrar the Coach Training and then to coordinate the program as well. Within the first six months, she asked Cherie, her sister if she could invest in the organization.
Within the year, their business relationship was officially formed, and after successfully completing co-leading two MMS Coach Trainings, she stepped into leading first The Inner-Negotiation Workshop & then the MMS Coach Training.
Leading the organization…
Upon witnessing her dedication and tenacity, Cherie asked Lynn to step in and take over the leadership of the MMS organization. Lynn became CEO and retained that position until she moved to the Netherlands in 2004, where She became Director of the MMS Worldwide Institute; Lynn also teaches and trains MMS courses in Holland. She is a global citizen who lives in Amsterdam.
Cherie as the founder and Entrepreneur…
With Lynn running the organization, Cherie was freed to launch her writing career. She dedicated her time to teaching, training and curriculum design. She also wrote her first book in 1977, The New Species – A Vision of the Evolution of the Human Being.
Invitations were extended to bring the MMS philosophy, corporate programs, personal development, Coach Training, and process work to different parts of the US, and eventually, the world. She brought our Inner Negotiation Workshop from San Francisco to Aspen, Denver, Wyoming, Boston, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
MMS Coach Trainings were conducted in the Bay Area, Colorado and New York. Cherie worked with Fortune 500 companies and by the end 1988 she had documented the MMS body of knowledge, Intellectual Property and signed her next book contract for Negaholics – How to Recover from your Addiction to Negativity and Turn your Life Around.
She has gone on to write multiple (www.drcherie.com) bestselling books, teach and train on 4 continents, in over 30 countries, become an instrument-rated Pilot and most recently learned to read the Thai language. She continues to coach, teach and train worldwide with her husband, business & life partner Michael, and her sister, Lynn Stewart