**Note: Names and identifying details have been changed to preserve anonymity. All stories shared with permission.**
Gemma had recently assumed leadership of a mid-sized nonprofit. It was her first executive position after a few years of working in operations and management and, although she felt confident in her skills as a leader of her team, she felt a lack of confidence in meetings with potential funders. During a recent meeting, she reported feeling 'small' and 'not like herself,' wanting the approval of the funders. As a younger woman of color, she also mentioned that most of the funders she interacted with were older white men. She wanted coaching that would help her experience greater confidence and alignment in these conversations.
During our conversation, I asked Gemma how she would know if our session had been successful. She identified three factors: feeling more grounded before, during, and after funder conversations; a feeling of inner alignment during funder interactions; and a sense of joy in working with funders (something she experienced in her other leadership interactions).
With this in mind, we explored the power dynamics at play in conversations with funders versus those at play during other conversations. Through this exploration, we unpacked some unacknowledged dynamics around race, gender, and age. And when we followed those threads, we began to unravel internalized stories that had been present since childhood. The conversation expanded the scope of our work from a single situation to expose deeper roots. Gemma agreed that, in order to shift the dynamic at play with funders, we would need to hold that larger container.
With Gemma's permission, we moved into an interactive guided meditation. She reconnected with a moment during a recent meeting where she experienced feelings of being 'less than' and a lack of confidence. Then we brought in guidance from a powerful leader who appeared to her in the meditation. By watching this leader and guide navigate the conversation differently, Gemma was able to re-write the narrative of this moment and anchor a new way of being into her body. The key shift was witnessing how the dynamic changed when she entered the room with the knowledge that she had something to offer that the funders needed and not vice-versa.
During this process, Gemma reported feeling by turns exhilarated, a warmth moving through her body, nausea, and tears. Throughout, I helped her remain present and hold all of these sensations with compassion.
As we moved towards the end of the meditation, Gemma received a gift from her guide that would help her reconnect to this confidence and way of being as she moved into future conversations.
Following the meditation, we processed the experience and, based on what she had learned, Gemma developed a set of actions, a ritual, that she would engage with to help anchor a new approach to and mindset around funder meetings.
Immediately following the session, Gemma reported feeling a new sense of empowerment and knowledge surrounding her relationship with funders in her new position as executive leader. Two weeks later, she contacted me to say that she had had three meetings with funders and had felt a significant shift in her experience. Instead of feeling intimidated and as if she had something to prove, she felt grounded, confident, and secure in her knowledge that she brought value into the room.