Frances McIntosh – Intentional CoachingCaroline Laurenson
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
In this blog instalment we interview Frances McIntosh to find out more about her work as a coach and dietician. I first met Frances at the Tech Hub run by ONECodebase in Aberdeen. She is a woman of tremendous courage and I have learned so much from her. Frances introduced me to the work of Brené Brown, which we’ll talk about a bit more in this article. Read on to find out more about how Frances followed her passions and found a career that helps people to be the healthiest version of themselves that they can be.
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How did you get into working in dietetics and coaching?
It’s a pretty long story. I wanted to be a dietitian at the age of 15. I was in a home economics class – food and nutrition. We were learning about how vitamins could cure diseases and I was blown away by the concept of what we eat can heal or harm us. My school career advisor advised me against pursuing going to university as my math and chemistry was pretty poor. It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s and living in Louisiana that I was told a university degree would help our temporary immigration status become more permanent. It didn’t, but I didn’t know that at the time.
So after 3 months of trying to find my high school records, immunization records, and several other hoops I had to jump through I was accepted into the Dietetic program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. To ensure I completed the undergrad degree on schedule I tested out of many classes, and some semesters I took 21 to 24 credit hours. All this while raising three kids on my own in a country that I could only work on campus – a total of 20 hours at minimum wage. I sold my house to help fund my degree – international student rates – and to help support the four of us throughout the five years.
When I completed my degree and passed the national exam to become a dietitian – I had about 2 months to find an organization to hire me and sponsor my visa to stay in the U.S. This didn’t happen and I had two choices, leave the U.S. or go back to college until I could secure a work visa. One of my sons was in University, the other in his final year at high school, crucial educational times for them. I felt I couldn’t pull them out of school so I chose to go back to college until I secured a visa.
In 2013 I secured a business visa and was offered an established bariatric nutrition business. At the same time I was offered a job as a coach – even though I hadn’t worked or been trained (yet) as a coach. The coaching business offering me a job didn’t have any work for me at the time but offered to help fund my coach training and certification. I chose coaching! Little did I realize at the time that that was the missing link between nutrition counselling and client compliance. People want to get healthy, and coaching helps do it in a way that works for the client. Not a cookie cutter approach. Not telling what you should do – asking what one thing are you willing to change?
Whether it’s leadership, life, or health coaching the approach is the same. Listening to the client, asking open ended questions, listening intently to the responses, taking into account their tone, body language, facial expression, then asking more questions. I believe that everyone is creative, resourceful, and whole, they just need a little help uncovering what they are looking for.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is when people have the aha moment. When they realize getting promoted, losing weight, starting a business, whatever they are trying to achieve – whatever is holding them back – the resolution is and has always been within them. Sometimes it’s past experiences, sometimes it’s thought processes, sometimes it’s self confidence that’s been holding them back.
What does healthy ageing mean to you?
For me personally, I want to live physically, mentally, and emotionally well into old age. Without diseases, disability, and illnesses – to the best of my ability. To be able to do that I have to be intentional about the food I eat, my physical activity, my stressor, and relationships.
For others, to be the healthiest version of themselves that they can be.
You’ve worked with some amazing and diverse people, is there a person or project that sticks in your memory and why is that?
I have, and every one of them enriches me and helps me grow as a person, coach, and dietitian. Getting in-person feedback from Michael Hyatt to celebrate my wins as he highlighted to an audience of 500 my accomplishments of having articles by Forbes. Brené Brown coming in for a hug, while I’m thinking “I’m not a hugger…”
And often the most memorable are the people who randomly start a conversation with me in a store, in the street, or on a bus. In Lafayette, Louisiana I had a conversation with a woman who was wearing a cancer awareness t-shirt, at the check-out, which continued outside. She told me of her journey with cancer and how that one of her close friends had terminal cancer and she couldn’t bring herself to visit. She would drive to the friend’s house and sit outside for a bit, then drive away. She didn’t have the courage to go in. I got curious and asked her gentle questions about when she was in cancer treatment and if friends were distant, how that felt. She messaged me a week later saying she had visited her friend on the Wednesday after our conversation and her friend had died on the Friday. The courage people have in the face of difficulty blows me away.
How have you coped with the move to online networking and do you have any tips that would help people to nurture relationships in the digital world?
I’ve been working digitally since before I arrived back in Aberdeen. I was in Louisiana and my clients were based all over the U.S. Now I have clients and all over the world – so virtually is the best way to connect with them.
I did some online networking at the beginning of lockdown, but as a chronic introvert I prefer one on one conversations so that I can get to know the other person, their dreams, and their pain points.
As an introvert I’m a big people watcher and how we show up online. What’s distracting and what works. I make sure the light is at the front of me ensuring a clear view of my face when online. Making sure that I’m positioned in front of the camera with my face and body facing forward is a must, and no distracting background. I intentionally position my desk to provide the least distraction for viewers.
Do you have a favourite book, author, blogger or podcast?
As a certified facilitator of all Brené Brown’s work I obviously love her books, videos, Dare to Lead, and Unlocking Us podcasts. The video I’ve shared most often this week with clients, has been Simon Sinek’s Infinite and Finite Leaders interview. Michael Hyatt is also a favourite. He’s great at simplifying things we struggle with, like goal setting, productive meetings, and focusing.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like to ‘borrow’ a dog and walk. There’s a great app called ‘Borrow My Doggie.’ There’s all types of dogs on it. You ‘like’ a dog, the owner reaches out, you meet up and have a walk together. When the owner gets comfortable with you they let you take the dog out alone. It’s a great stress reliever. I like to work out (when the gyms are open) and cycle. Meeting up with friends, gardening, reading – I love learning new things.
What are your top tips for maintaining wellbeing?
Eat vegetables, drink water, stay within your ideal weight range, listen to your body – if you need a nap – take one. Choose an activity that you enjoy and do it regularly. Have one or two really close friends. Be kind to yourself and others.
What’s next for Intentional Coaching, do you have anything new that you’re working on?
I’m a bit of a dichotomy. I’m a chronic introvert, and, I embrace things that make me feel uncomfortable. This helps me model vulnerability and courage to my adult children, clients, and friends. I’m always growing and expanding my comfort zone and like to leave space to try new things. Like doing my first Instagram live interview, or short videos for organizations.
Every time I talk to Frances, I always feel I have something new to take away. She has such a good way of helping you to reflect and embrace your situation, good or bad. It’s about showing up with your whole self, showing vulnerability and “getting in the arena” as Brené Brown would say.
Some key takeaways from our discussion include:
- Coaching can be the key to your aha moment. Everyone is creative, resourceful, and whole, they just need a little help uncovering what they are looking for.
- Coaching is not telling you what you should do. But asking, what one thing are you willing to change?
- If you don’t have a dog, why not try borrowing one. It’s a great way to get out in the fresh air.
If you want to get in touch with Frances or would like to work with her you can get in touch over on her website: https://www.intentional-coaching.com/contact
Frances also writes for Forbes, click here to visit her Forbes profile and all her articles.
The resources from Brené Brown are amazing and well worth checking out, I know for me personally they have really helped me to show up as my true self and have more meaningful conversations about my feelings.
Frances’ reading list:
If you liked this post this is part of a series of interviews which you might also want to explore. Please check out our website for more technical advice and our Alexa tutorials on our Youtube channel. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to be notified when we have new posts and support material available.