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A look behind the scenes of an executive coach – An interview with Dr. Annelen Collatz
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A look behind the scenes of an executive coach – An interview with Dr. Annelen Collatz

Kinga Bartczak

In today’s FemalExperts Role Model Interview, I am pleased to welcome author and psychologist Dr. Annelen Collatz.

Dear Ms. Collatz, how nice that you want to introduce yourself to our FemalExperts community. They have many years of experience as a management coach and have thus gained many exciting insights for today’s working world. Would you like to give our community a little insight into your (professional) life so far?

At first glance, my life path is a bit crooked, and that’s exactly what has brought me to where I am today: I am a sought-after and recognized coach.

I grew up as a pastor’s daughter in the GDR and experienced repressive measures at an early age due to my parents’ political views. That made me strong in the aftermath and it taught me early on that I am different and don’t want to and can’t run with the mainstream. This is also my attitude to work today.In 1989, I first took my Abitur (high school diploma), but did not get a place at university because of my parents’ house. As a result, friends of my parents – also a pastor’s family – offered me to move in with them in Essen, and that’s exactly what I did.

In addition to earning a living, I took a holistic course to become a gymnastics teacher. I originally come from classical ballet, so the dream of becoming a dance therapist was close at hand. Afterwards I studied psychology. Actually, I wanted to go to the University of Cologne, where depth psychology was taught at that time. However, the Central Office for the Allocation of Study Places sent me to Bochum. This was also a good turn of events afterwards, because the Ruhr University in Bochum offered business psychology, which also interested me. So I studied both: business psychology and clinical psychology. During my studies, I completed a seven-month internship in Israel and gave seminars on international understanding between Germans, Israelis and Palestinians – a truly formative time for me.

Back at university, I took my diploma exams and worked for the Sodastream/ Sodaclub company at the same time. This is an Israeli company and I did the Germany-wide personnel selection together with an Israeli psychologist, where I learned a lot. Afterwards, I accepted a position as a research assistant at the RUB – in the test development project team. The Bochum Inventory for Job-Related Personality Development (BIP), a recognized personality instrument, was also developed there. I conducted feedback interviews on this procedure in addition to my doctoral work and found that psychological constitution was the most important area. So I decided to train as a clarification-oriented psychotherapist, because I wanted to learn how to get deep to the root of an issue, which is why previous, classical coaching trainings were not enough for me.

After adapting the approach for my coaching work over a few years, I found in 2012 that it didn’t work just before a competitive training session because it took too long. At that time I was working as a psychologist for the team “Deutschlandachter” of the national rowing team. So I trained as a hypnotherapist and combined the two schools in coaching, hesitantly at first, but increasingly convinced. And yet something was missing. I realized that I still couldn’t resolve all the issues in others this way, so I added an approach focused on epigenetics to my training and subsequently modified it. This is now referred to as “deepsolving.” I can dissolve beliefs that have been passed down through generations where they originated.

I now combine all three methods into one approach called Deep Work Coaching®.

You also deal with the topic of the narcissistic personality within your work. How do I know if I am dealing with a toxic or even narcissistic person?

As a coach who works primarily in the executive field, I often deal with people who generally pass for so-called narcissists. A difficult personality style, one would think, and not just since Trump & Co. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this, I would like to take up the cudgels for narcissists in the “non-negatively pointed area”, since one thing is most important: The strength of the expression. To this end, it is important to know that there is rare agreement in scientific psychology not to pigeonhole personality traits, but to view them as a continuum. In other words, people cannot be typed.

Thus, there are also variants of the narcissist with varying degrees of intensity – from mild to moderately strong associated with rather positive characteristics. Everything above that is often characterized by negative attributes. Rainer Sachse’s model features the so-called dual self-concept, which is used to explain the psychological components of the personality disorder. Double, because on the one hand it assigns the narcissist (by the way, m/f/d – everything is represented, even if from my experience there are more male ones) a strong self-confidence and self-assurance, but on the other hand he has great doubts about his own competence. Both feelings inhibit each other. The fear of not being good enough leads to exposing oneself to too much stress or to exploiting others, mostly employees or colleagues. In short: The negatively pointed narcissist becomes an energy vampire, towards himself and towards others. And here it’s a matter of taking care of yourself, of not letting yourself get too involved or too lulled.

The expression varies in activity. The narcissist, as he is often publicly and stereotypically viewed, usually means the one who exhibits the distinctly negative variety. If the light to medium-strong expression predominates, the positive characteristics tend to show themselves and small self-doubts, which run along like a second soundtrack in the background, provide the grounding. As a result, the person is able to move out of his or her comfort zone, dare to do new things, move forward, and at the same time also practice self-criticism. The latter helps to avoid overstepping the mark and getting into risky or overwhelming situations. A good combination, because it can be quite conducive to career advancement.

Basically, narcissistic personalities are always looking for recognition. And because they’ll do anything to get it, they’re more performance-oriented, risk-taking and persistent than others.

These are qualities that are cornerstones of success in our society and maybe that’s one reason why I really love working with these people. In my work, I support many narcissistic individuals in understanding and accepting themselves. I work out the individual assumptions that lead to an overly strong personality style, reduce or dissolve them, and thus get the narcissist to use his personality style as a great resource.

Executive Coaching with Dr. Annelen Collatz

How might people react when you work with a leader with clear narcissistic traits?

In short, praise a lot and package that authentically and criticism as Trojan horses. So sentences like, “They could do even better from my perspective if they included xy.” Thus, a criticism that triggers the recognition motive is well packaged.

As part of their work, they combine scientific and clinical expertise and apply it in a business context. Can you give us a concrete example here? How can our readers imagine your day-to-day work?

My daily work routine is quickly described: I have between 3 and 4 2-hour coaching sessions a day, sometimes even three. Between appointments, I have 30 minutes to clean up the room, wrap up the coaching session, and prepare for the upcoming appointment. Normally, the coachees come to me in my office in Essen – from all over Germany and Switzerland. It’s helpful to get some distance between yourself and the workplace if you want to face your own issues in depth.

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A coaching session starts with a brief update. Then we look at which topic is particularly relevant today. Through the clarification process, I first want to understand what exactly is behind it. Basically, I believe that just having an idea at the behavioral level is often not enough, because there are deep-seated blocks that prevent you from implementing something effectively. That’s why I like to work on the root of the evil. And the success with others proves me right. That makes me very satisfied.

You are primarily an executive coach, so you work with top managers/top executives. Are there differences here in terms of the personality, goals or challenges of this target group compared to professionals and managers?

I really like top managers and see them as normal people. They are very goal-oriented, motivated and are very quick in the head. I think that’s great. The personality is more often a bit more concise than others, otherwise they wouldn’t be where they are today either.

And finding a common time slot with her schedule and mine is more difficult. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.

In your work, you have additionally accompanied the German national rowing team since 2012 as a sports psychology expert. How does your work in this area differ from the economic context?

Honestly, little, with the exception of age. The rowers bring other issues , such as dual career or fear of competition and here you always work with an Olympic cycle in mind. The approach is otherwise the same.

In your latest book: “Finding Life Balance. Wege zu mehr Zufriedenheit in Beruf und Privatleben” (Ways to more satisfaction in work and private life), you specifically support your readers in dealing better with the demands of flexibility and the increasingly blurred boundary between work and private life as a result. How did this book idea come about?

I often work with coachees on these topics because I am very holistic in my approach. And so I thought, I want to write a book that everyone can use for themselves and which is still scientifically sound and at the same time written in an easily understandable way. Based on this book, each person can work on himself. Here, there are many exercises that serve self-reflection. First of all, I don’t need a coach for this – so it saves time and money in the first step ☺ And I have fun passing on my knowledge.

The professional world certainly still holds some exciting topics open, so I would like to ask you in conclusion: What other subject areas would you like to devote yourself to in the future?

I founded AC Campus 3 years ago. This is a training institute where I teach people to work as a coach/consultant/leader themselves using the coaching approach I have developed. In the next two years, I will diversify the training and adapt it even more specifically to individual target groups, such as trainers from the sports sector, clinical psychologists, sales people and others. I am noticing more and more how many are interested in the approach, whether for their own development or working with others or both. And I get to teach again – like I used to at university, which has always made me very happy. And here I can experience much more how the individual person develops over time.

Dear Ms. Collatz, thank you very much for this exciting insight into your field of work. It is truly inspiring to also look at the topics of work, life, personality and leadership from a scientific perspective. I look forward to new insights and exciting reads!

About the author

Kinga Bartczak berät, coacht und schreibt zu Female Empowerment, neuer Arbeitskultur, Organisationsentwicklung systemischen Coaching, und Personal Branding.

Zudem ist sie Geschäftsführerin der UnternehmerRebellen GmbH und Herausgeberin des FemalExperts Magazins.

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