Teaching People to Believe in Themselves

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Mary Ellen Waltemire, founder of “One Step Closer Coaching,” enjoys helping people get to where they want to be

By Crystal Schelle

Leadership coach and facilitator Mary Ellen Waltemire said there’s a difference between the coaching she does and what a sports coach does.

Where a sports coach is looking to mold people into what he needs them to be, a leadership coach helps “people really figure out what they want to do.”

For more than a decade, Waltemire, 68, has been teaching others to do just that through her company One Step Closer Coaching — Excellence Through Coaching.

It’s a second career for Waltemire, who retired from the University of Maryland Extension Office as regional executive director in 2011. She was introduced to leadership coaching after attending a professional development course in the early 1990s. 

“I heard a speaker talk about having an executive coach,” Waltemire said. “She talked about how this person, as her coach, was able to help her get kind of unstuck and move to the next level.”

Waltemire’s interest was piqued, but she didn’t pursue it. When she decided to retire from the extension office, she knew that she didn’t want to stop working. She still thought about coaching and when a friend of hers went through a similar program, Waltemire thought it was time.

“Even before I retired from the University of Maryland Extension, I went through training and got my certification,” she said. “So, when I retired from the extension in 2011, I jumped right into coaching.”

There were elements about coaching that Waltemire felt were the right fit for her.

“I think because I really enjoy getting to know people and being willing and able to support them,” she said.

A good coach should be a good listener, she said. 

“Then being able to challenge people to step a little bit out of their comfort zone to get them where they need to
be,” she said.

When Waltemire first started coaching, she said people would say, “You’re going to tell me what to do and how to do it.” No, she said, that’s the job of a sports coach or consultant.

“When I think about coaching, I think about just helping people really figure out what it is they want to do and where they want to be because I believe that people know where they want to go,” she said. “Sometimes it just takes somebody who’s not related to them, or not a boss or supervisor or colleague, to really listen differently maybe than other people have listened to them before.”

Those who use her services are often at different levels in their careers. Some are mid-level leaders up to CEOs or “those kinds of individuals who are in leadership roles and want to do a little bit better job right now.”

She said sometimes people are promoted to leadership roles but have not been given the tools for the new position. 

“They’ve seen leaders, and they’ve experienced leaders, but they’ve not had much training,” she said. “I help those middle-level and upper-level leaders do a better job with what they want to do.”

Waltemire also works with people who have been newly promoted to leadership roles. 

“And they really don’t understand maybe the scope of what they could do from a leadership skill perspective,” she explained. 

In addition to individuals, Waltemire also works with nonprofits and small businesses from an organizational coaching perspective. 

“That’s where strategic planning, board development, and team building come in,” she said. 

When she’s not coaching, she’s teaching. Waltemire is an adjunct professor at Hagerstown Community College and teaches as part of the college’s Management Bootcamp. She leads classes in leadership skills and coaching for top performance.

Like any experience where the outcome is about change, Waltemire said those who decide on leadership coaching should be open to the experience and not come in thinking that coaches are going to give them the right answer.

“They should be willing to be open to the conversation, be willing to explore maybe options that they’ve not really thought about before,” she continued. “Just be willing to kind of put themselves out there and say, ‘This is kind of who I am. This is where I am now. And this is kind of where I want to be as we finish our coaching partnership.’”

In other words, Waltemire said, “people who are inquisitive, are willing to learn and willing to change.”

Another important aspect is accountability, she said. 

For instance, if during a coaching conversation, one of her coaches said they were going to do one, two, and three, but by the time they meet again only accomplished number one, that’s where accountability comes in. 

“We’re going to talk a little bit about what happened and what the plans were for items number two and item number three,” she said.

Holding their “coaches” accountable is key in leadership coaching. A coach holds the person accountable for what they say they’re going to do 

“That may be a little bit different than just a friend who you speak with or a spouse,” she said, “A lot of times those people don’t hold us as accountable as what a coach could do.”

The length of coaching conversations depends on the individual, she explained. She has coached some individuals for a couple of years, while others just need a few coaching conversations to work through what has been blocking them. 

“You know, sometimes people get stuck, and they just need that kind of one challenging conversation with me asking lots of questions about where they want to be and how they feel they’re gonna get there,” she said. “So, I help people develop a plan for getting to where they want to be as a coach, and not necessarily tell them what they want.”

Helping people get “unstuck” or times when they feel they’ve reached a plateau but really want to go further is one of the main reasons people come to see Waltemire. 

“I think sometimes it’s just helping people know that they can do whatever they put their mind to,” she said. “I’m a real firm believer that if you believe you can or you can’t, you’re actually right.”

Waltemire said she teaches them that they can do what they want by taking simple small steps whether that’s every day, every week, or every month, it depends on the individual. 

She said coaching is “helping them see their potential and helping them believe in themselves.” 

Find more about One Step Coaching, https://onestepclosercoaching.com.

Hagerstown Magazine