Alpamayo - the evolution of my brand of coaching
It was a good few years ago now that I decided to set up my own leadership and development coaching company. I remember the moment I accessed the companies house website very clearly and was presented with the question ‘what is the name of your organisation?’ I had thought about what I wanted to call my company, yet the moment of commitment felt like being in the ‘get set’ position at the beginning of a race. So much anticipation, so much pent-up energy, with the naming of the company being the equivalent of the sounding of a starting gun.
My choice of ‘Alpamayo Coaching (Ltd)’ has all sorts of relevant symbolism for me (more on that later) and I felt that simply using the name was enough of an identity for me and my work. I felt no need to have a company logo. Over the years my experience has deepened and my coaching practice enriched through making connections between more than 350 very different coaching partnerships. Making connections between my personal and professional past and my coaching present has also been revealing and exciting. In fact, supporting people in making connections is a central part of my coaching partnerships. Connections between the different parts of their life, their different experiences, and the differences between them and others who co-exist in their ‘system’ are all explored in our conversations.
Now seemed like the right time to capture some of this sense of connectivity in a logo for Alpamayo Coaching. to go alongside the life experience and symbolism that were influential in picking the name in the first place. That life experience includes being lucky enough to trek around the Cordillera Blanca in northern Peru in 1995. It was a place of extraordinary beauty and tranquillity which rewarded the considerable physical effort of trekking at high altitude with views and shared experiences for myself and Derryn, all of which are etched into our memories. Alpamayo was at the centre of the experience; ever changing as we experienced it from the peaks and cols on the neighbouring mountains and it well justifies its reputation for being one of the most beautiful mountains of the world.
Mountains have a rather obvious symbolism when it comes to coaching, relating to setting and meeting a challenge. More meaningful for me is how we each have a metaphorical mountain on which to stand, made up of our unique life experiences, the values we hold dear, and the beliefs that we have formed. When we stand atop our mountain, we can survey the landscape around us in the same way as other people view the very same landscape from their unique peaks. While our shared landscape is the same, our perspective of it is different, as each person’s point of view is different. It is this difference that is both exciting and challenging to so many of the clients that I partner with in our coaching conversations. The repeating theme of the triangles, so strongly present in the repeating ‘A’s in Alpamayo, represent the presence of my client’s mountain and my mountain, their different positions in the landscape, the different perspectives they afford, and the possibilities that might be realised by exploring those differences.
As well as representing mountains the triangle shape has another close association with difference, one that forms a strong connection between my coaching present and my scientific past. A triangle shape, Δ, in the Greek alphabet is the capital form of the letter delta. In chemistry Δ signifies the difference in energy (for example) between the reactants and products of a chemical reaction. Including a symbol for difference in the logo is meaningful as it represents my belief that the richness of a coaching partnership is most often to be found in the exploration of difference in life experience between a coach and their client. So often this leads to a client really coming to understand what is important to them. Similarity might attract a client to a coach, affording the latter credibility perhaps. No bad thing, yet one that can lead to an outcome that is more transactional than transformational as a result of working in the secure, shared middle ground, rather than exploring the wild margins.
Δ also captures a sense of the difference between when I started coaching and where I am now. At the outset there was a degree of compliance with the norm of what a coaching approach should look like. Now, while still honouring standards, codes, and the absolute of ‘do no harm’, I find that I am at ease in drawing on my own unique style in all my coaching partnerships. The desire to continue my learning journey burns as strong as ever, and taking on new challenges is another dimension of difference that influences my coaching and my being.
The final aspect of Δ is the connection it makes between my present work and my time in academia. For years I had a facilitative approach to working with undergraduates in an educational sense, and with academic colleagues in a leadership sense. I did not recognise it at the time yet looking back the beginnings of my coaching journey started in all of those relationships, and I am hugely grateful for the experience they gave me. As Δ has significance in my time in academia, in my work as a coach, and in my enthusiasm for new challenges makes its symbolism and important part of the Alpamayo Coaching logo.
The name Alpamayo has always intrigued me. It has a rhythm when you speak it, almost a musicality afforded by its four syllables. The word itself is a portmanteau of the two Quechan words for earth and river, which are captured in the earthy orange and aqueous blue colours. I am not sure if those two words where ever supposed to be run together in terms of meaning. ‘Earth river’ has some ambiguity in suggesting both drought if interpreted as an empty watercourse, or the complete reverse if you think of it as a torrent of muddy waters.
I prefer to think of it as the two separate words and how they represent two of the four elements essential to life: earth and water. It seems fitting that they are represented by triangles in the alchemical symbols, albeit one balanced on its tip. This offers another connection, perhaps a more poetic one. While coaching is a process, its outcomes can feel like alchemy as the complexity of individuals, and the systems they live in, make complete rationalisation of past memories, present thoughts and feelings, and future intentions very difficult.