A lot of people think they need to be perfect before they put themselves out there. Marcia Reynolds realized mastering and trusting your emotions to allow yourself to just go and do something can be very powerful if you let it. Drawing on her corporate experience teaching communication skills and working with leaders, she built her coaching school and created a safe space for people to talk things through where they can show up as themselves. On today’s show, Marcia joins Michael Zipursky to talk about the self-transformation she made that empowered her to start her own business and become the person she is today.
I’m with Dr. Marcia Reynolds. Marcia, welcome.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
You have over 40 years of experience in cultural change and transformational leadership. You’ve spoken in 41 countries on six continents, reached over 100,000 or so people worldwide and you’ve published a whole bunch of books and you worked with clients like Stripe, Ernst &Young, Make-A-Wish Foundation and many others. You weren’t always doing that. Take us back to the early years. On your website, you talk about this experience of maybe where your interest in coaching and self-transformation began, which was when you were in jail at about twenty years of age. Take us back to that time and fill in some of the information as much as you’re comfortable with what got you into jail and what was going on in your life at that time?
The transformation was prior to that, it was all about me and what I wanted and what was my path in life. After was more about what can I do for others. That was the big thing. I was young. I was still a teenager. It was typical stuff like that. It wasn’t anything. I didn’t rob a bank or anything out of the ordinary, but it was fascinating for me because I have many degrees, but I always say that was my best degree. I learned about people that I didn’t know. I grew up in a fairly white middle-class neighborhood. Here I was in a world that was totally different. It opened my eyes to different people in the lives they lead and the privilege I have. That privilege has afforded me a wide perspective and an education and what they pointed out to me, my cellmates, things that I could do that they couldn’t.
How long were you there for?
Six months. Not a huge amount, but not overnight.
Long enough for some things to set in. You mentioned that prior to that experience, everything in your life was about you and where you want to take things. It shifted afterwards to more about what you could do for others. That’s interesting for me to hear because a lot of people, when you ask them about what drives them or what’s meaningful for them, they’ll say it’s about others. I do my work for others, but what drives them is what’s happening internally. It’s their goals, “I want to achieve this amount of wealth. I want to have this amount of impact. I want to do these things, cross this off my bucket list.” Tell me a little bit more about the real transformation maybe that showed up in your life afterwards or the thoughts that you were having that made that more real for you?
I look at being in jail as a near-death experience. There was a sense of if I don’t turn my life around, this is where I will be the rest of my life, but it wasn’t in there. It was the women who said, “Go out and make a difference and show people that you could walk this dark path, but still accomplish things in your life.” They were a true inspiration to me. The curiosity was people constantly ask me, “How did you walk out of that?” I was in there for drugs. I was an addict and I was able to walk away from that. There were a lot of people asking me, “How do you do it?” I was like, “I decided.” This one time, this woman said, “I’m not asking you for you to acknowledge you. I’m asking because I want to help my drug-addict son.” That’s when I realized I need to go research what happened? What changes? How can you change people’s minds and see the world differently? It launched me on the whole quest of learning. How do we learn about ourselves in the world in a different way? It was that woman that did that for me.
Was it one specific person in that scenario or were there many others that also made you think similar thoughts?
No. She was the trigger. I had not thought about it in that way. Of course, once she shifted my perspective, and this is one of the things I believe in coaching. When people reflect back to you what you said and ask you questions and you have a breakthrough moment, your brain changes forever. You can’t go back. She changed my brain with that. Once I shifted, I started to recognize that people were asking me about what I did, what I know, for them to help themselves and to help others. That’s when I realized even at a very young age, in my twenties, that I had some wisdom to share but also that I could research. I went on and got a second Master’s in Adult Learning and tried to figure out what goes on in the brain when we learn, when we change. It drove me into that deep desire to understand that so I could then turn around and share it with other people.
When did the transition happened for you between the research, education, additional degrees, business or commerce and being compensated for that knowledge and that research that you were diving deep into?
After I finished my first Master’s, I had to get a job. What drove me under commerce was I had to survive.
What was the first job that you had?One-on-one conversations have always been significant in changing people's minds. Click To Tweet
In a psychiatric hospital. I was the audiovisual coordinator. I was pushing around television sets, but the interesting thing, my boss decided to go get her Doctorate. She ran the training department for this hospital corporation and she said, “I think you can do this.” She dumped the whole department in my lap, which was another reason I said, “I have to go get another degree and figure out how to design good training.” My first assignment was management training. She launched me on a very significant path in my life. I always say I had an accidental career.
You now figure out, you go back to school, learn more, and then start to apply. When did you venture out onto your own and leave that place? Walk us through the steps from that point to you starting your own business.
After I got out of school, I thought I have things to share. I should start my own business. That was a disaster. I was too young. I didn’t have enough perspective. People wouldn’t hire me. I needed a job. I worked for the hospital and then the pay, though, wasn’t that great. They were making changes and I was not getting the promotions I wanted and got offered a job in high tech. This was in the mid-‘80s when computers were coming into play. In fact, I was a part of the whole first PCs that were out there. I know I’m aging myself, but I worked for a hardware company. I worked for semiconductor and I recognized that I needed to get the experience, not for credibility, but for me to understand what goes on in companies.
I worked in two tech companies and recognize I moved into leadership, but like my last company, I hit the glass ceiling. They said, “We’re not promoting you anymore.” There were no women above me. Most of my training was leadership communications to engineers, male engineers, which was a pretty good challenge. Those years I was greatly challenged. The second company, we turned the company around in three years from bankruptcy to the top IPO in the US and I was in charge in the cultural change. That gave me a huge amount of experience applied knowledge. Not just how you help individuals, but how you change a system. At the end of that, after we went public and I had plenty of money, although I left two years of unvested stock on the table, they were shocked.
I said, “I have things to do and you’re not giving me what I want.” That week I was leaving, I read this article about coaching. I said, “This is fascinating. I know my one-on-one conversations have always been significant in changing people’s minds.” Immediately, I looked into it. I signed up for a coaching school and the timing was right. I helped to create the International Coach Federation and help launch coaching into the world. It was meant to be. I remember I saw my boss two years after I left and he’s like, “Are you suffering?” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? I’m doing quite well.”
Marcia, talk us through this. You make this transition from working in high tech and so forth to now coaching. You’ve found this passion, this area of great interest, you work on developing, the ICF. How do you now go about and start to be a coach yourself and win clients? Can you take us through what those early days look like of you finding clients, landing business? What was that like for you?
I joined the coaching school in ‘95 and started my own business at that same time, so it’s not like it took me years. Coaches have to get out there and coach, but because I worked high tech for all these years, I had no fear of it. I was one of the first coaches to have a website. I also was into emotional intelligence and the government. Many agencies hired me because I was the only one online they could find other than Daniel Goleman.
To clarify, you are familiar with technology. You weren’t scared to essentially put something out there, even if it wasn’t perfect, and because of that, people started to find you because not many people were doing what you were doing. Maybe somebody back in those days, was digital typing and coaching, whatever it might be. There’s a good chance that your website would have come up or they found you through that way. Is that accurate?
All my companies were global. I always saw myself as a global marketplace. I wasn’t looking for a local business. Yes, people from all around the world for both emotional intelligence and coaching. I had the courage to step out and not do a website but say, “I do this. This is what I do hire me,” and they did.
Tell us more about that. When you say you had the courage to do that, what are you comparing that to? What do you see people doing where you go? Clearly, they don’t have that courage. They’re missing something. What was the difference between what you did and what you see people not doing? Where do you believe they can improve?
They think they need to be perfect or at least great before they put themselves out there. The founder of my coaching school who founded the ICF, in our first class said, “Go coach.” We’re like, “How can we coach? We haven’t had any training.” He said, “Go love them.” That’s when I realized creating a safe space for people to talk things through where they can show up as themselves and they may not be able to do that anywhere else was powerful. I got better at it every year. I trusted that I knew enough, but remember I had sixteen years of corporate experience and teaching communication skills, working with leaders, all of those life experiences. I thought I knew enough to get going. You got to pay your dues. I do believe that.
That resonates with a lot of people reading because many of the clients that reach out to us and come in our coaching programs and stuff, they’re coming from that place where they have a lot of executive or corporate experience or nonprofit, whatever it might be. They have the expertise, but now they’re looking at how do they build a successful consulting business or move it to a different level if they’ve already been consulting for a while. You’re right. One of the biggest things that hold people back is what’s between our two ears. It’s the mindset. It’s the, “I need to be perfect. I need to get it right. Maybe my message is off and I should wait to try and figure out how to do it better.” They’re not taking action. What have you found or what suggestions would you offer to somebody who is nodding their head? I see myself doing that where I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m not putting stuff out as much as I could, whether it’s an article or applying to speak virtually somewhere. Whatever it might be, what advice or suggestions might you offer them?
In my last book, my favorite line says, “They want you to be present more than they need you to be perfect.” Especially now, people are accepting so much of what’s not perfect online. Blog posts are all over the place. I do think you need to check your grammar and make it look somewhat professional, but they’re looking for wisdom. They’re looking for your care. They aren’t looking for your perfection.People want you to be present more than they need you to be perfect. Click To Tweet
Marcia, you’ve done a lot of work in creating trust and rapport in the workplace for the consultant that is reading this that wants to achieve and establish stronger rapport with new clients. What suggestion would you offer them and what are some of the best practices when it comes to building rapport with new clients? What are some things that you’ve done that you’ve seen work well or clients have done and so forth?
Being a trained certified coach has helped me not be a coach, but it helps me sell my business, helps me be a trainer. I’ve had to develop not my presence, but my curiosity. Many people go in thinking when they need to sell themselves that they need to tell people what they need and what they can offer instead of being curious. What’s going on with you? What’s your greatest challenge? What is it that, you’ve tried but you think is missing? What’s the greatest pain that you’re feeling now? How much is that costing you? You want to compare working with you and the cost savings, not just how they’re going to feel about it or the impact personally that they’ll have. Listening, reflecting and asking questions are critical when we’re meeting with clients in almost any interaction.
One thing that comes up quite often for people when they hear those types of questions and if they’ve just met somebody they go, “Those are personal questions.” At what stage do you think it’s appropriate to ask those deeper, meaningful questions? Is that only once somebody has engaged you and they’ve given you permission? If so, how do you ask for permission or are these the questions that even before somebody is paying you, before they become a client when you first meet them, you should be asking?
The idea that’s a fear and not a reality, that, “I can’t ask those questions.” It’s the emotion you bring to it. I call it compassionate and curiosity that I’m not grilling you and I’m not doing it because I want to figure out how to sell to you. They have to have a sense that you have sincere intent, that you are curious and want to know and you’re there to help them. If they feel that, they will appreciate that you have asked those questions instead of talking at them and they’re not hearing you in any way.
Is there anything that you do before? Let’s say you’ve identified someone that you feel you could help or they’ve identified you, whatever it might be. We’ll come to that around the marketing side, but before you have a conversation and whether that conversation would have been face-to-face, maybe now it’s through Zoom. Maybe it’s still face-to-face depending on where you live and so forth. What are you doing, if anything before you sit down to have that first conversation? Are there any materials or information or anything like that you provide to somebody before they become a client having that initial conversation with you?
There are two things. You said, “What do you do? What do you provide?” The research that I do is different than what I provide. I’m hired by companies to come in and work with their leaders or teach their leaders how to use coaching skills. I do take the time to research the company because I’ve made the mistake of not doing that.
What does that look like? When you say that you research the company, what’s your process for that? Is it going to their website? Is it reading Glassdoor reviews? What are you doing to better understand the companies before you start working with them?
I go to their website. I want to know who they are, what they do, what’s their market. What are they claiming? How long have they been in existence? The challenges they face aren’t going to be public that, I have to discover in the conversation.
What do companies typically bringing you in for? What are the main areas where you see that are top of mind for them they’re looking for help with?
That’s shifted a little bit. I said there are always those that need a pool of coaches for their top executives. That’s a staple. I also have been teaching leader as coach for 25 years. If they want to teach their leaders coaching skills, I have that. What’s changed is they’re recognizing that a one-day workshop isn’t going to do it. Now, they asked to create a coaching culture. How do we shift the organization so the mind and conversation shifts? I’ve been going in and consulting with them on cultural change. I work with generally the HR and talent development people. I even have an in-house certification program so they can get ICF certification.
They roll out and do the teaching. I will still coach their top people because the top people don’t want internal people. I’ll do some coaching, training, consulting and helping them shift their culture. I’ve got a couple of big companies waiting in the wings. It’s like, “We want to wait until we could do some of this live.” Probably it won’t be until 2021. It’s been amazing to me how it shifted to culture change, not just one-day training, which is great
Seeing that shift happening, have you changed anything in your business, in your business model, in your messaging and in your offerings as a result of that shift in the marketplace?
No. I’ve always offered that. I’ve had presentations and systems for years and I’ve done in-house certification programs for a number of big global corporations. It’s been there for a long time but rarely called on. Now they’re calling on it and it was like, “I got it. Here, I’ll send it to you.” Have I highlighted that in my website? I change my website frequently. The idea that people would create a website and let it sit it’s like every two years I hone the message. I determine who I am. With my book Coach the Person, Not the Problem I said, “I’m a coach’s coach.” That’s what I’m going to declare on my website. I’m not going to say I do leadership. They’ll get that. I shifted to focusing on coaching. It’s in the message but it’s not a highlighted service in that. “Call me to change your culture.” I just say, “I do this.”Asking questions is critical when we're meeting with clients and almost any interaction. Click To Tweet
Specifically the organizations that bring you in for those programs or to coach their top their top executives and people, how are you finding that business? Is it the same that you’re doing to have a conversation with them? Are they finding you and they’re coming to you? Take us a little bit into your marketing and sales of your business now.
I don’t do direct sales. I never have. I always said I market by visibility. I speak, not so much now except for online, but I’m doing a lot of webinars. I write books. The one I mentioned to you is my fourth book and it’s doing well around the world. I’m on the faculty of coaching schools in four countries. They promote me and I’m about to do this huge program, a six-month coaching program for thousands of coaches through WBECS, the World Business and Executive Coaching Summit. That already promoting the free master class is already getting people to email me and say, “I want to talk to you about this.” I put myself out in the world as an expert.
Most of that come from you reaching out. The different speaking engagements or the webinars, take us through that in a little bit more detail because I want to make it tangible for people because oftentimes that’s what people want as well. They want to be speaking in different places. They want to have their article published in a publication or featured in some association. They have that desire, but then they don’t necessarily connect the dots between the desire and getting that result. If we use the example, let’s say, a webinar, what are you doing when you go, “I want to get onto more webinars right now?” Given with COVID and everything uncertainty in the world, there aren’t a lot of live stages right now. What have you been doing to then get on to those webinars?
Mostly my book promotion.
What does that look like? Are you sending the book? Specifically, what are you doing?
I had a publicist for the book launch and we sent it out there, but also recognize I’m fairly well-known in the coaching world. ICF chapters are constantly asking me to speak for them. I accept all those free things to build the visibility. Whenever I see anything like HR.com or places where like, “We’re looking for this.” We started this with the concept of research. I am constantly researching and applying new information and new practices that excite people. You can’t recycle old stuff and definitely don’t use other people’s stuff. They know they’re going to get something cutting edge from me and that’s a lot of work, but it’s the way I’ve kept myself out there. You need to do that and be on top of things. I was teaching like how to coach through fear and uncertainty in January 2020. I wasn’t waiting until now. Recognize I’ve been teaching in China for years. They asked, “Can you do this webinar for us?” I had it and I repurposed it all over the place.
Before we wrap up, I love that your business and your mindset as well is global. That’s something that we share. We have clients all around the world. I feel more like a global citizen than I do a Canadian citizen to a degree. I’m wondering why is that for you. A lot of people default to, “I should focus on my local area, my own city, state or country.” Both you and we have fought beyond that. We’re looking beyond borders. In your case, Marcia, why did you end up and continue to this day focusing globally, not just in your local area?
The companies I worked for since 1985 traveled me. I’ve been traveling internationally for a lot of years. In my mind, when you said global citizen, I’ve always seen myself that way. The limitation wasn’t there. With the internet, who knows? I list where I’m at because of the time zone. Frankly, there’s not a lot of corporate headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona. When I looked at where’s my business, it wasn’t here anyway. I use the internet to put myself out there in a great, big way.
I want to make sure that people can learn more about you, your work and your books. Where’s the best place for them to go?
My website is Covisioning.com.
Marcia, thank you for coming on and sharing some of your wisdom, best practices and experience with us here.
Thank you. It was great conversation. I appreciated it.
- Dr. Marcia Reynolds
- Ernst &Young
- Make-A-Wish Foundation
- International Coach Federation
- Daniel Goleman
- Coach the Person, Not the Problem