Coaching through a psychoanalytically informed lens — how does a psychoanalytic perspective deepen the work and create lasting change? Rachel Blakeman explains how she applies a psychoanalytic understanding to her coaching work. Rachel tells the listener about her journey and how her own life experiences along with her diverse training influence the way she works. She goes on to talk about the universality of historically influenced blind spots — life experiences that continue to dictate how we view ourselves, others, and the world. Rachel helps leaders gain insight and develop awareness. By shedding light on blind spots, leaders can access more information, and have greater choices. Rachel is there to help flip the switch on for the metaphorical light bulb. This conversation is certainly one that will dive into your brain and give you some food for thought.
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Sam Jayanti [00:00:33] Rachel Blakeman is a psychoanalyst and coach working with a variety of entrepreneurs, executives, and CEOs. In her own words, she deals with all aspects of business, life, and their psychological underpinnings. Rachel, welcome to Ideamix radio. It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
Rachel Blakeman [00:00:51] Thank you so much for having me! I appreciate it.
Sam Jayanti [00:00:55] So, Rachel, you were very articulate about describing your own journey of how you came to coaching. And so I want to take a quick listen.
Rachel Blakeman [00:01:07] I work as a psychodynamic management consultant, an advisor person, and an executive coach, depending on my client’s needs as many ask. Yes. At times it’s very much like a woman. I’m very similar to her. I view all of my engagements through a psychologically informed lens. That means that I draw upon my clinical experience and expertise and human behavior to understand the psychological underpinnings of whatever situation that is presented. For example, I don’t simply identify new behaviors for leaders who are habitual allies and work on a deeper level, bringing about shifts that allow the leader to be different, not just behave differently. So to accomplish that, we have to understand first, that the history and ruins are the ways the current behavior served leaders because they did, and how and why they developed. Helping leaders benefit from real deep insights and positioning them not just to change behaviors but to become happier, more fulfilled leaders. It is what really drives me in my work.
Sam Jayanti [00:02:20] So, Rachel, we have coaches with lots of varied backgrounds. Not many have started a baby products company before they became a coach. And you’re a trained lawyer and you practiced law for some time. So tell us about that journey and that amalgam, which I think has so informed who you are as a coach and the work you do with your clients.
Rachel Blakeman [00:02:42] It does. I’ve always been someone who has needed to have used all parts of my brain and hasn’t been afraid to try new things and could do my own legal work for the baby products company. When I started it.
Sam Jayanti [00:03:00] It is a big cost saving for an entrepreneur.
Rachel Blakeman [00:03:02] It’s absolutely a huge cost saving, including I did the closing documents for the most part. I had their lawyer look over them, but it saved me a lot. Yeah. And it really just allowed me to use all of my different skills. I was seeing patients in private practice and then just jumped in without thinking so much, which is the opposite of what I needed and a little bit of a hit. The little impulsive hypocrite just did it and learned so much and had a wonderful experience.
Sam Jayanti [00:03:40] Fantastic! It’s so interesting that you really look at the psychological lens that anyone engaged in business that you work with. And this applies to anybody at every level, right? I mean, you happen to work with very senior-level people, but it is the underpinnings of their own psyche that inform how they behave, who they are, and the lens through that they come at things within the workplace. At what point did you realize how important that was?
Rachel Blakeman [00:04:22] Early on in my practice, in my work with patients, I was helping a lot of senior people in different capacities. And there was a pattern where the family dynamics and the historical influences replayed at work. And I came to an understanding, in essence, I think, from the dining room to the conference room or board room. And there were family dynamics that replayed interpersonally. There were ways that people had certain blind spots that were historically influenced or couldn’t manage conflict. And I realized how much was missing in terms of people having the data about themselves and others in order to really excel at what they were doing.
Sam Jayanti [00:05:20] It’s such an important awareness, right, for each individual to develop because it’s this process of talking about it with someone like you in a coaching context that really builds self-awareness of the baggage we all carry around, right from our childhoods, marriages, parenting, whatever it may be. But the things that it’s so essential to build self-awareness around, are to inform and adapt who we are as leaders, as managers, as members of a team, and in our personal lives. Right.
Rachel Blakeman [00:06:02] Yeah. It’s so interesting because when you grow up with a certain experience and family dynamic and certain friends, it really is impossible to have other information influencing you at a very early age. You pick out what’s important based on who your caregivers are. And then the rest of your life is viewed through that adjustment lens. And then someone else had completely different experiences and adjusted his or her own lens accordingly. And then you’re trying to engage and communicate and understand one another. And it’s no wonder that we actually get there, right?
Sam Jayanti [00:06:46] I mean, it’s so many ways we can be talking at cross-purposes so easily. Right, because of those different lenses. I want to take a quick look at here’s how you described who your clients are in terms of the individuals that you work with. Let’s take a quick listen.
Rachel Blakeman [00:07:05] How did I become the psychodynamic advisor and coach? I started as a corporate lawyer and went on to earn my master’s. I had this whirlwind period where I was training to be a psychoanalyst, seeing patients, and running a baby products company in tandem. After I sold my company, I had this moment where I just didn’t know what I wanted to do next, and a deep understanding of human behavior, legal background, and private practice. But I was missing the idea of what my next challenge could be. Then one night over drinks with the CEO’s friend. I’d been in my considerable four-year litigation within 24 hours. I could blab wine and probably showed that most who obstruct that no one had thought about the litigants as human beings. The suit was dropped the next day. And yes, I certainly got lucky, not just with the case, but I realized the magnitude of how impactful it would be for senior leaders to view all decisions and strategies through a psychologically informed lens. And so now I have the great honor of working with leaders in various capacities to do just that.
Sam Jayanti [00:08:25] Rachel, I loved what you said in your video about facilitating change as well as this feeling which, you know, doesn’t get talked about enough. Right. Which is that it is extremely lonely. It’s lonely not just at the top, but I think when you’re in a leadership role, wherever that is within the organization, because it isn’t so easy to have conversations with your colleagues or even friends necessarily. And your family members always have a limited perspective, right, on the challenges you’re facing through their lens. Through their lens. Exactly. So it’s it is a very lonely process. And I think. Tell us how you really act as a partner and an advisor and a sounding board for your clients.
Rachel Blakeman [00:09:19] Help. Initially, there’s a period of time where, of course, with anyone, you develop trust and develop a relationship. And as time goes on. People really look to me to have a different perspective on what they’re talking through, going through a decision. And it becomes a resource that really, as people say, is unmatched and not replicable by anyone within the company who has other motivations and it can have a different impact on them and a ripple effect that a leader doesn’t want to have. Yeah.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:04] And so do you have clients who just never want to leave you? I sense yes.
Rachel Blakeman [00:10:10] Yes. I mean, I have very, very long-term clients who see the value in continuing the conversation. And oftentimes I will meet with the senior… With other senior leaders in the company or organization or get called in to, you know, do discovery and focus groups and figure out what’s going on in the culture. And it allows me to look at so many different things that a traditional consultant might have an area of expertise which when you have an expertise in human behavior, it’s quite broad.
Sam Jayanti [00:10:48] Yeah. And gives you the necessary context in a way. Right, to coach that individual more effectively, but also understand the personalities and the dynamics involved that that individual is facing as the leader of a team or an organization.
Rachel Blakeman [00:11:04] Right. And get some feedback about that and leaders’ challenges from the perspective of people who work alongside them.
Sam Jayanti [00:11:13] Right! Do you ever find or what do you do? I’m sure you found this right. But what do you do in situations where you learn more about this context of the people around someone in a leadership role, how they’re feeling, what they’re saying about the culture, the leadership? Do you find I mean, people are sort of notoriously bad at self-reporting, right? People find this in software and user experience all the time. Do you find that your clients that they’re maybe not as accurate at self-reporting as you might have expected?
Rachel Blakeman [00:11:52] We have we all have blind spots here. So. There is that I think the people who tend to engage me unless it’s a mandated situation where there are you know…
Sam Jayanti [00:12:08] Probably been told…
Rachel Blakeman [00:12:09] Association. Right. They tend to be more interested in seeking feedback from others and learning about themselves. And so there’s usually less of a complete disconnect because they’ve been open to the feedback over time.
Sam Jayanti [00:12:25] Right. That absolutely makes sense. And they’ve come into the coaching process with a high degree of self-awareness, but an openness to that process. And so it isn’t, you know, they don’t take everything so personally or they’re not posturing in any way and it’s a safe space for them.
Rachel Blakeman [00:12:44] Usually, the things that are difficult for them to see now have been difficult their entire lives. And so there can be this moment of, Oh, that’s why I do X, Y, Z, and I’ve tried not to do it and I don’t want to do it. And yet there I am. You know, it’s almost automatic. Yeah. And to make that connection is really powerful.
Sam Jayanti [00:13:08] Totally makes a lot of sense. Here’s how you described, how you work with your clients. Let’s take a quick look.
Rachel Blakeman [00:13:18] Why do I work with senior leaders in an organization to get teams? Well, for one, I love it and I’m just incredibly lucky. I have the honor of being a trust and confidant, an advisor going to tens of thousands of people in Kent. And it is truly lonely at the top. I believe having a thought partner only interests the company and your success with whom you can discuss complex nuance decisions is crucial and often overlooked. I get to my part in helping to position a leader not only for personal and professional success with all that but also to make the best psychologically and smart decisions for the company’s greatest assets, its people. I can’t think of anything more rewarding.
Sam Jayanti [00:14:13] So I’m so glad you said it, Rachel, because no other coach likes to say this, but it’s something I think about all the time and I think lots of coaches, I imagine, think about this all the time, especially ones who are coaching executives and leaders. The woman on billions like Wendy will forever be imprinted in our imagination. And it’s such a great case in point of her understanding of people in terms of their blocks or the blocks to their performance or the blocks too. Their articulation of what they want and what they’re trying to achieve. And one of the things you talked about in describing how you work with your clients is. There’s awareness of a change that needs to be made. And then there’s embedding that changed the behavior so that it becomes a habit. Right. And there’s so much research now on how to embed habits and interesting books that you and I both read. But talk a little bit about how in the coaching context, you bring someone working with you from the awareness of that change to the practical tactical application of that change and then to it embedding as a habit.
Rachel Blakeman [00:15:37] So for me, I start with the. Okay, let’s talk about the behavior first. I’ve already had some background about family upbringing, important milestones, and struggles.
Sam Jayanti [00:15:53] Yeah. And how have you gathered that background? Through a sort of written process or they’ve articulated that conversation.
Rachel Blakeman [00:16:00] Conversation. You know, I will ask you to tell me about a dinner conversation. Yeah. Be so surprised by just a description of what were dinners like if you had them in your house where they like.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:14] So this sort of hearkens back to childhood. It’s like, tell me about a typical dining experience you had as a child, right?
Rachel Blakeman [00:16:20] And really, you just get all of the different dynamics. My sister talked over me. My dad was somewhere. We never had dinner. I was doing homework in my room. And you can imagine how those childhood experiences have informed people.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:39] Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:16:39] About their relationship style. Yeah. In general, but also at work.
Sam Jayanti [00:16:45] Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:16:45] And so once you have that, when people begin to share, well tell me about how it shows up, what, what happens for you. Right. What and you can really link it to another experience for the person. And all of a sudden it makes sense that they’re responding to somebody else in their lives or they developed an idea. Wasn’t that what you should do? I mean, anytime I hear should I know there’s some rule that someone told them, you know when you go.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:15] Way back then
Rachel Blakeman [00:17:16] Way up, right? Well, how do you know? You said it’s like I don’t know how I know. Like, I shouldn’t. I should.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:23] Yeah!
Rachel Blakeman [00:17:24] And it can be really so helpful because the person no longer needs that habit.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:31] Right?
Rachel Blakeman [00:17:31] They adopted that habit when it was useful to them with very different people and when they didn’t have a choice.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:38] Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:17:38] There were no other options. They were kids or younger and now, you know, they’re the CEO of a big company. They have all the choices in the world and they’re still engaged in a particular behavior or not, you know, or having a blind spot about something or avoiding, you know, letting someone go that really is underperforming.
Sam Jayanti [00:17:59] Right.
Rachel Blakeman [00:18:00] And it all goes back to what their experiences were. And so as they work through that and understand it, there are new habits forming, but it’s also the purpose of the behavior, isn’t there anymore because they get gain an understanding of responding to something else like, oh, I don’t have to do that. That’s what caused that.
Sam Jayanti [00:18:23] Yeah. And that moment of insight is so powerful. I that and right. I mean, I remember those moments when I’ve worked with coaches and they’re real discovery because they’re these sorts of innate behaviors that have become innate because of some experience in childhood that you’re just, you know, kind of default into and. It’s almost like someone finally telling you that you can flip the switch and not do that thing anymore. And, you know, there’s a different approach to handling those situations. Wonderful. Rachel, tell us. Too too, as we wrap up, is there a type of person, you know, we spend a lot of time at ideamix thinking about coachable clients, right? You spend a lot of time thinking about who’s coachable. I’m sure this is something that you assess when you meet new clients. Tell us your thoughts on Coach Ability.
Rachel Blakeman [00:19:22] So I really do believe that anyone interested is coachable.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:28] Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:19:28] I know there’s an understanding of that. And there’s the same thing in the psychoanalytic community as this person is analyzeable.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:37] Right.
Rachel Blakeman [00:19:38] And look, if someone’s really interested, are you going to come legally change everything about that person? Of course not. But.
Sam Jayanti [00:19:49] And neither would you want to know, right?
Rachel Blakeman [00:19:51] I mean, they’re you know, they’re where they are they’re admitting that they’re happy or not. You know, if they’re not happy, then there’s that motivation. But if someone’s willing to show up and engage in the conversations and develop insights about different situations, then they’re coachable. Something will happen in the interaction with you.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:17] Yeah!
Rachel Blakeman [00:20:18] That you can point out and say, so that’s it. What you just did right there is what? And then there’s oh like it’s not, they’re complaining. They’re, you know, it’s not true. It’s it. It just happened to us.
Sam Jayanti [00:20:33] Yeah. And that helps you. So you must sometimes find. Someone is that coachable and then don’t end up working with them. Right.
Rachel Blakeman [00:20:45] I don’t tend to have that experience. You know, it depends. There are some complicated dynamics where I get called in. Yeah. And usually, there are enough insights gained everywhere. Again, keep in mind when I’m going to get called in, if someone is a complete disaster and they’re not successful and I’m not, no one’s going to say.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:14] Like, let’s do the purge, all right? Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:21:17] Right. No one’s going to. But if you really listen to people and understand the underlying motivations and what brought them to where they are…
Sam Jayanti [00:21:27] Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:21:28] There’s usually something there that will shift the person once they understand it.
Sam Jayanti [00:21:36] That makes a lot of sense. Tell us. So what haven’t we covered? What would you like people to know about your style and your impact as a coach?
Rachel Blakeman [00:21:55] Why? I think. Do not make the assumption that coaches that there’s a particular type of coach or that there are types of coaches. But sometimes people think of coaches in like a rah kind of way or. Who can do it? And it’s far more complicated than that.
Sam Jayanti [00:22:18] Absolutely. Agree with you on that. Yeah.
Rachel Blakeman [00:22:20] And especially if you go deep under the surface in the dynamics, a lot can shift within the culture of the organization for the person. Yeah. And it really creates a whole new world of options.
Sam Jayanti [00:22:37] Yeah. It’s so true. And I think people’s understanding of coaching is, is on the increase. Right. We’re seeing a very strong, much stronger trend towards coaching coming out of the pandemic. Some of that is the workplace dynamics that the pandemic has caused directly. But the others are, I think, an awareness that coaching isn’t about remediation in the same way that people used to think about mental health as overall, there’s a problem and now we need to address it with a therapist. You know, it isn’t just geared towards problem-solving. It’s really geared towards helping people achieve their best selves and their best performance. Right, because we all have things developed throughout our lives that are pieces of baggage we carry around that hamper us, but also motivate us in different ways. And removing as many of those impediments as possible is all we can do to help ourselves and all that companies can do to help the people who work there.
Sam Jayanti [00:23:48] And I think now more so, even the way I work is going underneath and trying to find the root cause of a dynamic, sort of like, you know, if you put a Band-Aid on to cover it. Yeah, but if you investigate what initially caused the wound and really understand so that it’s not recurring, that’s what’s more helpful. And that there’s been a trend within organizations to really privilege the deep kind of change and value people’s happiness and yet more at the nuances as opposed to do this, do that like it has to look this way. And I think it’s going to continue more and more. And it’s a hugely positive trend.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:40] Absolutely. Well, we’re thrilled about that trend since this is what we do. And thank you so much for being here with us today.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:47] Thank you! I really appreciate it! This was fun and interesting.
Sam Jayanti [00:24:52] Thanks for listening today. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and while you’re there, please do review the show. We love hearing from you! So email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Instagram DM us. Our episode this week was produced by the incomparable Martin Milewski with music by the awesome Nashville-based singer-songwriter Doug Allen. You can learn more about Doug at DougAllenmusic.com.
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