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Deborah Bellen makes it her business to keep hysterics out of the workplace.

“Once I got a call from a client who literally said: “I just left a meeting and I wanted to kill everyone.’ He was spewing with what went wrong and what was wrong with everyone.”

Bellen, 61, has coached a wide range of clients over the past two decades in other states, individuals as well as Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox PARC, Eli Lilly and Pfizer. In 2016 she co-founded the Coaching Collaborative and now is fostering relationships in her own backyard: Sonoma County.

In glasses, black pants and a black turtleneck, Bellen’s pragmatic chic is as sensible as her career paramedics.

“First I let my client vent,” Bellen recalled. “I asked him what happened. Then I asked him what really happened. We saw his judgments, assessments and opinions of other people were at the forefront and what they actually said was in the background.”

Bellen, who offers 911 coaching to established clients, said her client was glad he made the call.

“He told me ‘I could have ended my career but what I did instead was ask for clarification that could advance my career.’”

The business coach also once helped a frantic client who received a notice from the IRS.

“First I had her breathe and then send me a copy,” Bellen explained. “The IRS made a mistake. The client told me she was glad she called because otherwise she wouldn’t have slept or eaten.”

The business coach has many tools for getting others to open up. Sometimes they turn the tables on her. She was once asked “What’s your superpower?” It didn’t take long for Bellen to answer.

“Listening,” she said.

Bellen has learned that her superpower has a positive effect on her clients. They begin to listen to themselves.

“When I’m working with my clients I’m not listening for ‘how to fix it,’ ‘what is the right answer’ or ‘I know what you’re going to say.’ I listen as if I have never heard this conversation before, even if I have. I’ve discovered that when I listen this way most often the client hears the solution in their own speaking…”

Bellen believes that a balanced life is at the core of success; her motto is “accelerating your success and fulfillment.”

“Success can come at great cost,” Bellen explained. “Our bodies don’t distinguish between stress from a breakdown or stress from success. I have worked with many clients who are burned out, successful but... This is where fulfillment comes in. What is the value of success if your well-being or your connection with family and friends is decreased or lost? What is the value of success if you’re not proud of the service your business provides? For me, fulfillment is a key partner to success. Don’t get me wrong. Results are critical, too.”

Bellen said guiding clients to fulfillment sometimes means helping them get out of their own way.

“Having someone committed to your success, asking the right questions, can help you to discover what’s happening,” she said. “Once you crystallize what is happening, then you can make a more informed decision on next actions to take.”



Distance: 3.2 miles, 4.2 using Sky Lupine Trail switchbacks

Configuration: out-and-back

Elevation gain: 1,000 feet

Time: 30 minutes to an hour to the top

Difficulty: moderate to strenuous

Exposure: mostly open hillside with a few shady groves of oak and laurel

Dogs: allowed on leash

Maps: USGS Santa Rosa, park map, Maplets app

The hike: From the Kawana Terrace parking lot, head to the left of the water tanks onto the Eastern Route Trail, an old farm road. Following the road without diverting onto smaller trails will take hikers directly to the summit. The small oak-topped hill to the left at the hike’s beginning offers a nice picnic spot with a view for those short on time.

At 0.3 miles, the start of the hike’s two steep sections, those looking for an easier way to the top can take a right onto the single-track Sky Lupine trail, which crisscrosses the main trail. The Sky Lupine Trail ends where it rejoins the Eastern Route at the top of its two steepest sections, at about 1,000 foot elevation.

From here, the trail heads south along the mountain’s flank for a third of a mile in mixed oak and laurel shade before hitting a pair of switchbacks. Past the switchbacks, the trail heads south again for a quarter mile before sweeping east and up a rocky notch that delivers hikers onto the open summit area beyond an old freestone wall. In wet weather, the Sky Lupine Trail provides a less slippery descent past the main trail’s two steep areas.

Source: “Day Hikes Around Sonoma County” by Robert Stone (Day Hike Books)

The coach doesn’t shy away from clients described as “jerks” or “diamonds in the rough.” In fact she relishes these cases because, as she puts it, “I believe people can change.” Case in point: once Bellen was approached by the management of a company and asked to work with “an employee they referred to as a jerk (to put it nicely).”

Bellen said, “After working several sessions with this young man, he saw for himself how his interactions with others were inconsistent with the results he was committed to. He could also see that through his interactions with management he had lost their trust and would have to work to get it back and it would not happen overnight. He was willing and eager to do what was needed.”

Encouraging others appears to be part of Bellen’s DNA. She said she was born to nurture, but groomed to be tenacious. Her grandfather often said: “Can’t never did anything.” This adage encouraged her to become a dauntless gymnast, even though she’s blind in her right eye. She competed until she was 20, even after enduring a fall in which she broke three ribs, punctured a lung and suffered a concussion.

Bellen’s husband, Steve, said if he had one word to describe his wife it would be “generous.”

“This is who she is with her family, friends and work associates,” Steve said. “This has been true for me since we met 30 years ago.”

Bellen’s generosity marries well with her 911 coaching.

“Breakdowns, concerns and upsets won’t wait for a session to appear on the calendar,” she said. “If we can address it as it rises, it not only helps the client move forward faster, it also allows more particles of the breakdown or concern to be accessible because it hasn’t been swept under the rug or stepped over.”

After the triage of coaching, Bellen has a spiritual corner in her office where she regroups.

“It grounds me and reminds me nothing is wrong,” she said. “This (grounding) is actually what I do for my clients. Everything will work out. Every breakdown is an opportunity.”

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