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Nancy Conger: How Co-Active Coaching Teaches Gratitude and Humility

Posted on November 24, 2021
Nancy Conger

Many individuals have begun their coaching journey with the Co-Active Training Institute and gone on to achieve incredible things in their life and work. We always find it powerful and illuminating to put a spotlight on these individuals and learn about their experiences.

Nancy Conger first trained with CTI more than 20 years ago. After taking the five coach training courses and the certification course, she completed the leadership program and applied to become a faculty member. She has led a successful coaching business ever since. Nancy has connected with hundreds of people and helped them discover meaning and purpose in their lives.

Join us as we speak with Nancy about how her years of coaching taught her to be humble, grateful, and curious.


Hi Nancy! Tell us about your first encounter with the Co-Active Training Institute.

Back in 1997, I was already in private practice — before I had even heard of “coaching” or the Co-Active model. During this time, I believed I was the first to invent this career! I was calling it life consulting at the time, and I did have clients. I started my practice because I wanted to work with the full person.

I’d left a corporate job where I could legally touch only the work-related aspects of someone’s life. And I knew that wasn’t enough.

CTI came on my radar approximately a year into coaching. If my memory serves me correctly, it could have been an article in Psychology Today. I decided to take Fundamentals to see if CTI had anything to teach me. And by the end of the first day, I could see that Co-Active knew so much more than I did — so I chose to take everything that CTI offered!

So the moment you encountered the Co-Active model, you knew it could improve your coaching practice?

Oh yes! I was humbled by how the model was years, if not decades, ahead of me. So, I got on board as soon as I experienced it. I completed the entire program in the late 1990s and received certification in 2000. Following that, I completed the leadership program and applied to become a faculty member. I’ve had my private practice going since 1997, but thanks to the great training I received in the Co-Active model, I am much better at coaching now than when I “invented” it!

What was it about the Co-Active model that you hadn’t thought about in your practice?

That’s an excellent question. Before I steeped myself in the Co-Active model, I tended to ask lengthy, intelligent questions, proving to my clients how well I was listening and tracking and putting things together on their behalf.

Thanks to getting trained in the depth and beauty of the Co-Active approach, I now understand that a short “dumb” question is far superior to a long smart one. It’s more effective to be a curious, not-knowing coach than to be constantly showing how much you understand what a client is saying.

I got this learning by the end of day 1 of Fundamentals. It was clear that CTI had a lot to teach me.

I believe that part of the genius of the Co-Active model is that practically everyone who takes it is confronted with humility.

What started as humility for me in the late ’90s now feels like liberation.

You received your certification more than 20 years ago. What else have you pursued since then?

I ventured outside of the coaching world and did performance improvisation, which I thought I’d be great at but wasn’t! I’m just about adequate. I create a lot of art, and I’m a musician. I wrote a book called Sensuous Living: Expand Your Sensory Awareness 20 years ago. Since then, I have written and performed 3 one-woman theater shows. I believe I simply have an eclectic learning style.

What do you love the most about coaching?

It might sound arrogant, but I’m good at it! And it’s a fulfilling feeling, being at the peak of your ability. It’s incredibly enlivening.

For example, I might be irritable in the morning before work, then go to my coaching area, and come down after hours of working with clients with more energy and positivity than when I started. My husband is always surprised; he can’t believe I can work a full day and still have energy.

Coaching is enlivening and nourishing work for me.

What does coaching mean to you? How do you describe coaching in your own words?

In coaching there is no end to what is available. We are trained in so many skills and tools, and there is an infinity in any one of them! Take metaphor, for example. It’s mind-boggling how much exploration is possible, how many journeys I’ve taken with clients and adventures into their learning that I’ve had simply by employing metaphor. It has an unlimited number of applications when applied with full imagination and full bodiedness.

Coaching is improvisational, a reaction to what has just happened in the present, similar to musicians jamming and improvising in real time. There is a framework, the Co-Active model, that connects everything. Even so, you never know what the outcome will be, and that is what coaching is all about for me.

Coaching is similar to musicians jamming and improvising in real time.

What are the most common types of transformations you see in the people you coach?

My clients are happier, but more importantly, I believe they gain a clear sense of purpose. That is a very usual outcome. Many thoughtful people struggle with questions like what should I do right now? What am I supposed to do? There are simply too many options. So, focusing intensely on a sense of purpose provides them guidance to find a resonant path. Society has us look externally to figure out what we should do.

Coaching is more about who am I? What am I capable of? What am I for?

Any final thoughts?

I often have a rush of gratitude that I discovered Co-Active coaching because it has provided me with a deeply meaningful career for a long time. And that’s beautiful on the outside, but there’s an inside game as well. Being a Co-Active coach has me continually evolve as a person. That is the thing I am most grateful for.


The views expressed on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Co-Active Training Institute. Any solutions offered by the author are environment-specific and not part of the commercial solutions or support offered by the Co-Active Training Institute.

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