Editor’s Note: I first noticed Coach Stella on the NH Facebook page. I noticed that even though she did not comment often, her comments were usually in response to life’s situations our NH members were facing. Her replies to their questions were often deep and well thought out. I knew that I had to get to the woman behind the comments and what I discovered was amazing. Coach Stella is a woman who has a story and I am privileged to share it with you.
Thank you so much for your time. Could you tell us more about yourself?
My name is Stella Ekwenibe. I have lived, schooled and worked in all the zones in the country. I am a true Nigerian! Lol. I was born in Anambra State: I did my secondary school at Bauchi; got my Law degree from Rivers State University of Science and Technology. I thereafter proceeded to Lagos for my Law school. I had my coaching course in South Africa. My work experiences took off from Abia State, then Lagos, Delta, Edo and Abuja.
I have being moving from city to city since I was 10 years and half. The impact is huge; it made me a de-tribalised Nigerian. I have been living and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds, tribes and religion from a tender age.
What made you decide to be a coach? Did any event in your life trigger that?
My journey as a Life and Business Coach started in the early 1990s: Even before I got admission into the university. I cannot specifically recall how I became fascinated with Psychotherapy, but I recall telling everyone who cared to listen that I wished Nigerian universities offered that course. I wanted to become a psychotherapist but that desire soon died as I had no way of studying it back then and people who heard me fantasize about it made it all clearly known to me that there will be no job waiting for me even if I were to go for it…..how would I make a living out of that “oyibo” profession in Nigeria? They asked.
I soon “buried” it and proceeded to read Law. Looking at it now, if I could turn back the hand of time, I would have gone for psychology in place of Law degree. For coaching is mixed with a bit of psychological flavour. I had no one who understood me to guide me along that path as Psychology was also regarded as courses people read when they couldn’t get “better” professional courses to study.
Fast-forward to 2005: I had gone to sleep on a certain afternoon and heard the word “catalyst” in my dream. It was so audible that I woke up from my siesta. I couldn’t figure out where that came from, I remembered vividly what that word meant in my chemistry class back in secondary school but what has that got to do with my sleep? I went to dictionary and checked the word again. Suffice it to say that for a while I thought hard on what am supposed to be doing with my life along being an “agent of positive change” according to one of the dictionary meanings. Nothing came to my mind; soon after I “moved on”.
But certain things cannot be wished away, that “moving on” was only temporal. Years down the line I drifted through various jobs practicing my legal profession, working for different establishments, floating my own logistics company. My major driving force was to pay my bills. I knew something was amiss the moment I began to turn down certain job offers in spite of my financial predicament at a time; it then occurred to me that I was no longer in doubt as to what I do not want in life the quest was now to find out what I really do want.
As this and other realizations began to surface, coupled with the major setback I had experienced between 2010 and 2011 I knew I could no longer work to only earn a living but to do something I was deeply passionate about, with zeal and true dedication. It then dawned on me that the periods I was truly happy and fulfilled were the times I had added value to anyone’s life through insights and motivation. This quote “if you can’t figure out your PURPOSE’ figure out your PASSION. For your passion will lead you directly to your purpose”: Was what led to that revelation.
On a certain day in 2012, I was watching TV, a man named Mr Lanre Olusola was being interviewed and I saw the word ’life coach’ under his name. Something struck me at that word and I went to research on what it meant what I found out resonated with the word “catalyst” and relates to psychotherapy in many ways. I had come “HOME”!. The rest is history they say.
Can you tell us a bit about your coaching firm, Catalyctic Coaching and the sort of clients you work with?
The Firm name is driven from the word “CATALYST” as mentioned above. As a result of my personal and professional experiences in life, I am particularly passionate about working with Young professional women who feel hopeless, confused, overwhelmed with life and work: and the undervalued, vulnerable, unemployed, underemployed and derailed youth.
I am quite passionate about working with Young Adults (fresh graduates and Youth Corpers). I lost several years due to lack of direction and guidance: before admission to university, studying a “wrong” course and working jobs that stagnated and depressed me. If I could help a youth save some wasted years, I would have touched a life.
I help young people make important life decisions during their transition from School/Service year to the outside world; I aid them in discovering their purpose in life, I work with them to reconcile the conflicts between what they studied and what their passion is, and I help them align their innate abilities to their career choices.
My primary target group are Youth while my secondary target group are Professional Women. However I also work with other categories of people who need my service, but these two groups are my focus but must not be anyone younger than 25 years old unless they are through with university education.
What challenges do you face in your business with reference to the Nigerian environment and how do you handle those?
The challenges are enormous. Coaching is relatively new in Nigeria and many people are largely uninformed about the profession. I still get mistaken for a mentor or a counsellor.
Again; ours is a climate where people are reluctant to take responsibility for their action or inaction but would rather push the blame on spiritual manipulations. Coaching is very practical and for it to work, the person being coached must throw in their weight and take ownership of their progress. Also I have met people who fairly understand what I do but are reluctant to pay for the service.
My life experiences had adequately prepared me for this work and its challenges. I have been told I “wasted” money travelling out to study for this profession, that Nigerians do not need this service…..but in the end, It’s all about mindset and my faith in God; I believe in what I do, am very passionate about it and I know that part of the challenge is because people are usually sceptical in what they do not understand.
Fortunately, my public speaking usually give me the opportunity to bring what I do to the knowledge of the people. Who does not know what a football coach does? People only need to realise that there are other coaches aside Coach Keshi of the Super Eagles…..lol
Nigerians are quite private and do not like to talk about their lives much. How do you get strangers to open up to you? For that matter, how do you get clients? Do you think you are making a difference in their lives?
One of the differences between coaching and other human development processes is that Coaching is not interested in stories, the past or history of the client. It’s essentially holding goal-directed, future and solution- focused conversation with a FUNCTIONAL individual. It’s concerned with the present and the future. i.e. “Where a client is now and where they want to be”. coaching approach is very practical and systematic.
Be it as it may; the professional code of conduct as stipulated by ICF (International Coach Federation) states that everything said during coaching is strictly confidential. The truth is, if someone is genuinely tired of their state and desire a change or want more out of life, they will not wait for someone to “get them to open up”.
I get my exposure from my public speaking; I get clients from referrals and networking. Also some companies use coaching systems in their organisations, approaching such places are often without hitches.
For me, this is not just a job…. it’s a higher calling and yes I like to believe I am making a difference to my clients’ lives. Coaching is a high-leverage activity and clients can achieve remarkable progress toward their desired goals in no time if they are committed to the process. The beauty of this human improvement process is that the benefits are evident in a way that is measurable. It does not offer any instant fixes or miracles; but it emphasizes that sustained effort and commitment are required for results.
Can you paint scenarios for us when a person might require a life or business coach?
The job of a coach is to help people create positive change in their lives. For some people, the positive change may be personal goals such as uncovering their life purpose, enhancing their relationships, dealing with setbacks, managing their time effectively, maintaining work-life balance, stress reduction, achieving inner peace, managing life transitions (change management) or making important decisions during crisis situation etc.
While other clients may be more inclined towards professional or business goals such as leadership, starting a new business, expanding an existing business, handling career transitions, making career choices, improving their performances at work through personal development, discovering their innate ability and channelling it properly, dealing with work relationships etc In a nutshell coaching is about a CHANGE or a desire for more (IMPROVEMENT).
What is your chief motivation?
My belief in the process: coaching has been proven to have motivational, transformational and empowering effects on individuals. My motivation is mostly intrinsic; the financial reward is “Jara”. Honestly it’s such a blessing to be paid for what one enjoys doing. I was first the biggest beneficiary of this process. The beauty of coaching is that a coach also gets to coach him or herself! I use it all the time on myself.
Again I am motivated by the value I see this “gift” add to people’s lives. I particularly love coaching for the singular fact that a coach does not even take glory for his or her work. It’s a collaborative, non-judgmental partnership where the client is the boss. The process uses the client’s own motivations and strengths: My job is only to identify the skills and capabilities that are within the clients, and enable them to use those to the best of their ability in achieving their goals.
As an agent of change, I am only there to support a client, hold them accountable and challenge them to grow and do more than they think they can do
You are fairly active on Naija Housewives; what attracted you to the page and has it added in anyway to your business – in terms of new clients?
To be honest, I cannot recall when or how I came across your page but I do remember that reading the comments over time prompted me to start making my own contributions. Usually I am moved by either someone’s comment or post to share my opinion. As per if it has added to my business, the answer is a big NO….. Hopefully after this interview. (laughing).
I think Naija Housewives could do with a bit more traffic to the page. However I do like the fact that it’s a place one could come to read clean, respectful and decent posts/comments. Good job !