We recently connected with Michele Woodward and have shared our conversation below.
Michele, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today What do you think Corporate America gets wrong in your industry?
Occasionally I run into corporate leaders who have a limited view about executive coaching. They either think executive coaching is only for those who don’t perform, or that it’s what you throw at a difficult employee so you don’t get sued when you fire them.
Of course, executive coaching is not about these sorts of situations.
Coaching is about taking performance to the next level. Of taking successful people and helping them become more successful.
Elite athletes have an entire team around them to support their performance. No one would fault Mikaela Shiffrin for having a strength coach, a gates coach, a mind-body coach… and, similarly, the executive who has a coach on their team will make better decisions faster, and find their flow more effectively.
Michele, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
I hung out my shingle as an executive coach in 2004, after working in politics, public policy and corporate life. Honestly, I figured out that coaching was the path for me after reading some magazine quiz: “What do you enjoy doing most?” My answer: Mentor, problem solve, and network. Oddly enough, this response led me to coaching and I’m really glad it did.
Most of my work is with clients in a confidential, one-on-one setting where I’m able to deeply partner with them as they move through work situations. I am “outside eyes”, or, as some clients say, “a second brain”. I work with people all over the world and love hearing about how things are in Brazil, or Australia, or Singapore. As a learner, that part is really fun for me.
I also get brought into organizations to facilitate high-stakes meetings. These can sometimes be tense and fraught, but I’ve found ways to lighten the mood so egos can take a back seat and work can get done.
I’m really proud when a client reaches out years after we’ve worked together and tells me a story that goes something like this: “Today I was in a meeting and it started to go one way, then I stepped up and did the thing we talked about years ago and had a totally different outcome. Your voice was in my head!” The truth is, the learning is in their head – and they have internalized a different way of doing things. A more successful way of doing things. An authentic way to do things.
And that is why I do what I do.
What do you think helped you build your reputation within your market?
My earliest intention for my business when I started it in 2004, was to create a 100% referral standard. I knew that I could never create a brand as impactful as Coca-Cola – but that I could have a thriving business based on the experiences of raving fans.
To build raving fans, I focused on delivering extraordinary results. I know – who doesn’t say that? But, when people have a great experience with an executive coach – they learn things, they try new things, they figure out who they are and what they want – and their life changes, well, that’s memorable. I endeavor to be reliable, insightful, trustworthy and capable for every person I work with. That builds a reputation better than any advertising budget might.
I’m glad to be 18 years down the road in this business and to be able to say that I am 100% referral (I will say that there are always one or two people who come to me after having seen something I wrote or something that I said that was quoted – and I love those people). I set a goal and have achieved it!
Has your business ever had a near-death moment? Would you mind sharing the story?
The first August I had my business – 2005 – total revenue for the month was $175. And I had the sinking feeling that perhaps my business plan was deeply, profoundly flawed. I took several days (had no work, so taking days was easy!) and rethought my approach and plan. I doubled down on networking and outreach, and lost any inhibition about tooting my own horn.
One important piece was creating excellent relationships with coaching peers. This worked for me in two ways – first, I developed trusting relationships where we could bounce ideas off one another and talk each other off the ledge when we needed it. But having intentional relationships with professional peers also allowed me to accept referrals from other coaches, and make them myself. When the work is not quite right for me, I happily refer it to someone who is a better fit. This open-handed approach has made a huge difference in the quality of my life and the flow of new work.
I also focused on people who are “Connectors”. These folks are happiest when they can connect people with people, people with things, and people with ideas. When I identify a Connector in my network, I make sure that person knows who I am and what I can do. When I think about all the clients who’ve come to me over the years via a referral from a Connector, I’ll tell you that it’s the majority of my business, and I’m extremely grateful to have those Connectors in my life.
I put these simple pieces in place that then allowed me to generate new, consistent client flow. And I never, ever have had a $175 month again. A terrible August in 2005 was quite a catalyst for action!
- Website: http://www.michelewoodward.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/micheletwoodward
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michele.woodward/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michelewoodward/