Margaret Moore: Having fun at the intersection of technology, coaching science, and brain science

Welcome to another episode of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and request brief answers in return. Today’s participant has a remarkable path of success that began on a dairy farm north of Toronto and hasn’t reached its end yet. She’s the founder and CEO of Wellcoaches, which teaches coaching, a co-founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean Hospital, a treatment center affiliated with Harvard. She helped develop what led to the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she’s an adviser. Most recently, she’s the co-founder of the National Consortium for Credentialing Health and Wellness Coaches. Here’s my usual caution to folks playing at home: “10 Words” is a mindset, not a limit, so please, no counting. As a college pal used to say, “Let’s see you do it. Then spout off.”

I should mention: I am part way through an 18-week Wellcoaches course, so I’m about to interview not my teacher, but the boss of all my teachers, and if this doesn’t go well, it could definitely hurt my grade.

Margaret Moore, aka Coach Meg, Wellcoaches co-founderName Margaret Moore
Born when, where On a dairy farm in Lindsay, Ontario, on Christmas Eve, 1957. In fact, I’m 57, born in ’57."
Resides now Wellesley Mass.
A farm memory "I learned how to drive a tractor when I was about 8, and I loved driving around the garden. I still drive a stick shift to this day, although it’s getting harder and harder to find one."
Who was your first coach?  "My mother was a natural. She just had a knack for knowing what to say when you needed it."
A hobby or job that filled your teen years  "I played trombone and we had a jazz band, which was not typical back them, where I was. To this day, my favorite music is jazz."
Some wisdom you retain from that experience  "Jazz is about improvisation. It’s edgy, creative, not traditional, kind of modern. It’s collaborative, it’s team-based, and those are things I value a lot. "
What drives you?  "The dominant part of my personality is the achiever. The driver in my biotech career was that I really wanted to be part of the band that came up with new medicine, to treat human diseases, to deal with human suffering. Now that I’ve moved into the coaching domain, I’m focused on helping humans  grow, change, and thrive. I’m really curious of those. I push myself to grow and accomplish, and I really love to do that with other people."
A drawback of accomplishment  “Even vacation has a purpose, to lead you to recharge and achieve more. I’m less likely to be playing games, having fun, on a routine basis."
A secret of entrepreneurship  “You have to have a dream that you may be alone with. It has to come from a pretty deep place, because others around you, including your own spouse and friends, can be naysayers."
How did biotech become coaching?  That, I have to attribute to my husband. He was my biotech patent lawyer, when I helped found and launch a biotech company in Vancouver in 1995. We got very close, and he ultimately asked me to marry him and move to Wellesley, which is how I got here. Then I had to rethink what I was going to do next in my career. We were walking on the beach in Tofino, on the far west coast of Vancouver Island, and Paul being a patent lawyer, he said we were missing the dot-com boom. The web was about being one-to-many back then. And he said, what if the web was about one to one? This is long before online banking, where we had a dedicated account for a human being. Four days later, we left the hotel with the Wellcoaches name, a patent application for an online platform for one-to-one coaching — we did get the patent issued in 2008 — and a brief business plan. So it came out of looking at the web in a new way.
   "It also came out of recognizing that the vast majority of people are not taking care of their health. More than half of our health status is under our control. We rely heavily on our doctors and medicines and surgeries to fix things. But there’s a real gap in people’s abilities to take care of what they’ve got, what they can control. So I saw a need for a professional who could help people do that."
How often do you get to coach anymore?  "I’ve always got 3-4 clients at any one time. I treasure my time with my clients."
A good coach never...  "Assumes anything. A beginners' mind is very curious."
A good coach always...  “Creates a dynamic that leads a client to have an insight."
A principle of coaching completely applicable to everyday life  “I’m going to give two. To listen without any inner dialogue. The other is to set aside the need to fix, help, change. We all want others to be better, and that gets in the way. Because others need to figure it out for themselves."
Is wellness becoming passé as a term?  "In the dictionary, the definitions of health, or wellness, and or wellbeing are all the same. So we’re not talking about that being passé, we’re talking about the label. Certainly the positive psychology world has animated the word wellbeing[, although] "wellbeing coach” doesn’t roll off the tongue very well, so it’s a struggle. But wellbeing is a better concept.
    What I’ve found in dialog with the world around my book, “Organize Your Life, Organize Your Mind,” is that people are way more concerned with dealing with their chaotic, frenzied minds than the health of their hearts and lungs and limbs. I’m spending more time framing health, wellness, and wellbeing in terms of brain function and performance. If I can get up tomorrow and be more creative, more productive, and have more mental energy at the end of the day, wow!"
Something people don’t understand  “There is this disconnect where we badly want to find our own way, and we badly want to help people find their way. The two are in direct conflict. I think we’re not aware of how we have this dissonance. On the one hand we don’t want to be told what to do, and on the other hand we’re really happy to tell people what to do."
Something I should have asked you  "What’s my creative edge right now?"
What is it?  “First I want to say, I did not consider myself a creative until quite recently. It took a while to get there, a little late in life, but not too late. What I’m having a lot of fun with right now is the intersection of technology, coaching science, and brain science:  the web, mobile tools, habit-making. How do we help people coach themselves in daily life? How do we turn our devices into our coaches? Instead of having them distract us all day long, what if they became a machine that’s helping us get better, as opposed to being just more productive and have more?
Something you wish everyone would just get right  "To make time to let the mind wander, without goals — not reading e-mails, not talking to anybody. We’ve lost those moments. We have no downtime, and that’s where creativity happens.”

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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