We’re excited to introduce you to the always interesting and insightful Denise Waters. We hope you’ll enjoy our conversation with Denise below.
Denise , looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Let’s start with the story of your mission. What should we know?
About twenty years ago, I switched industries. I went from being a marketing and communications professional with a young up and coming wireless company to being a teacher. My husband was serving in Iraq and with two young boys I found that it was important that I find a career where I could serve.
I’ve spent the last two decades in education–from rural Washington state to urban Phoenix from a classroom teacher to a principal coach, a counselor to network administrator. I continue to grow my skills and find the places where my heart is fulfilled but continue to find that even in education it is hard to serve.
What lights me up as an educator is any work that we do around Social and Emotional learning–I love to hear a student or teacher’s story, needs, areas where they need help and I lean in to help. I spent a year with a group of teachers studying trauma informed care and have honed my skills with so much training in this area.
In 2019, a former student took his own life and I was able to lean in with all his former classmates and the community and I saw first hand what a huge difference it makes when you have connection in a community. We were able to wrap around his family, the high school students and the community at large. At that point, I started to look for places where I could use my skills to really focus on building community. It wasn’t the first time we would lose a student and I know it won’t be the last but it was critical for my own mental health that I find a way to contribute directly.
Last year I got involved with a non-profit called Only7Seconds. It is our mission to end loneliness through intentional connection. I developed a schools and youth curriculum for teachers and leaders to use with students in grades 6-12. This work started when our Executive Director’s brother was ill and no one reached out to him. His mom wondered–how long does it take to show someone that you care, that you are thinking about them. Since then we have launched in a dozen schools and have plans to build out programs for K-5 students, families, young adults and teams.
What was apparent to me in doing the work and development for Only7Seconds is that there is a greater need for connection across all areas and not just in schools. There are many organizations working to end loneliness but many are not doing it in a way that reaches out to individuals and builds skills.
I have launched Connection Coaching to do just that–provide life coaching, workshops, content and retreats that help people build the relationships in their lives that help them to feel connected and to thrive. A big motivation for me has been to build adult relationships with my children and I can help others to do the same. I provide a lot of research, tools and practice because this is an area that we have not focused on in traditional education settings.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
At my core I am an educator. Even when I was launching a brand across the country, my time was spent on building relationships and teaching about our company. When I moved to the actual education sector two decades ago my focus was always on building relationships to help students and teachers connect to the content that we were learning.
So today I provide one on one coaching, online content, workshops and retreats for people looking to build better connections in their lives. I write curriculum for a non-profit working to end loneliness and I work with individuals and organizations who want to do the same either at scale or in their own lives.
The life coaching industry is big and my contribution in the space is that I’m focused on connection. I believe it is what drives us to be better humans and what brings joy into our lives. I think of my self as an advocate for connection and an activist in a way that when the world is more connected we will be more kind to each other.
I’m so very proud of the relationships that I have built over time, I have people who come back to me to seek guidance and direction even years after we have worked together. I build skills in people that they can use to better their lives and I see them doing the coaching work in their own lives and there is no greater gift than spreading connection in the world.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
When I think about resilience, I see many times in my career where I have demonstrated resilience but to think about how I built my resilience is really interesting to me. When we were a young married couple with two little boys my husband deployed to Iraq for 18 months. He left when we had a two year old and a 2 week old.
What was difficult is how isolated we were during that time. I lived about 45 away from our closest friends, my family was out of state and his family felt the deployment too personally to help. During the time he was gone I worked, parented, lived but all in a fog. There are things I did that I look back on now and think they were dark and sad. I tried to build a community of others like me but we were spread all over the state of Washington so it was good but. not great. I found a small group that could relate but essentially I was on my own.
When he came home from that first deployment it was rough. He was struggling, not only from now having PTSD, but also because he had missed so much time with the boys. We made a family decision to relocate even farther away from our friends. While it was a great decision from the stand point that he could work and not feel triggered each day, it was even more isolating.
But then comes the good part, we double downed on how important our family was to us. We focused on our relationship and we grew into a pretty badass family. At the time we knew that the four of us were the people that we most wanted to be around and building those relationships was going to be key to us thriving. So we did it and it worked. Later we added another son and went through another deployment and now two additional big moves, and our family of five is our rock, our foundation and it shows me that the work we did when we felt broken build our internal strength so we could be resilient.
Today we face hurdles and challenges together, I know when things are hard, I have the family to regroup with and we absolutely feel better when we are five. It isn’t always giggles and smiles when we are together but I think that resilience is more than happiness. I think resilience is knowing that you are going to get through things and having skills and tools you can use to do just that–for me it is focusing on the five, on communicating, on sharing our feelings, of leaning into hard things and knowing that the hard isn’t permanent.
Can you tell us about a time you’ve had to pivot?
There have been many opportunities for pivoting–when I was in retail and moved from stores to corporate, from operations to marketing, and then when I moved from industry to education and from the classroom to leadership, from one district to another and now into a non-profit world and launching a business of my own. The bigger pivots seem more concrete because you can anticipate that there is going to be change and ready yourself for it. It is the smaller pivots or the ones that you don’t anticipate that often come with a little more angst.
The ones that come to mind for me right now are about my sons and how I/we parent them. It was really easy when we had one–you focus your energy there and they get as much of you as you can give. When we added the second one we focused on ensuring that their relationship was strong. You go from being everything to almost a third wheel. I remember the first time our middle son woke up from a nap and wanted his brother more than me. That was a trip! But exactly what we had said we wanted.
Which gets me to the pivot we are living through–our two oldest are mostly out in the world on their own at this point at 21 and 19. They are the best of friends, but their relationship is changing and they use us as a sounding board for some of the frustrations they have with each other. It is easy to try to solve the issues for them because we have been doing that for a long time as parents, but because we are focused on building adult relationships with them I have to really take a step back and listen more than anything and then ask questions. I am not the fixer for them but more of a coach so they can build the relationships they want. It is funny how that is the exact work that I choose to do and how naturally it comes with other people and how it is something I have to think about each and every time I talk to the boys!
Within the pivot is also having a 13 year old and recognizing that his relationship with his brothers and us is unique to him, we can’t just fall back into what we know about having had two other 13 year olds, we have to adjust to having just one at home in a new state while we are doing different work than when his brothers were that age.
The beauty of thinking, talking and working on these relationships and how they are changing is to be able to really get specific about how it is impacting everything in our lives. I have more time for the coaching business because I have older kids, we have more alone time together as a couple or even as just the 3 of us. We also get to witness our children figuring out their lives and to reflect on what we would have done differently or what we still want to do differently.
- Website: www.connection-coaching.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/connectioncoaching_/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/connection-coaching-az/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/MermaidPrncipal