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This interview with Dr. Marsha King – an Executive Coach with AIIR Consulting – was conducted and condensed by Candice Henderson.

Q: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and moved to the East Coast for most of my adult life. I now reside in Chicago, IL.

How has your background influenced your professional career?
I was raised on a horse farm in the Midwest. My siblings and I learned a strong work ethic very early in life. If we wanted anything, we had to find a way to work for it in order to have the money to pay for it. This has probably been the strongest influence on my professional life. It taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to work hard for it. I also use this in my coaching. Hard work and effort trump natural talent or intellect any day!

What inspired you to become a coach?
I started my career as a trainer. While I loved the experience, I felt something was missing. It was difficult to customize development to individuals and it was impossible to follow them back to their workplaces to provide support and accountability. This helped me to see that coaching was probably a better fit for me.

I have also been inspired by other coaches. I got my coaching certification at Georgetown University, which is where I really began to see myself as a coach and decided that I wanted to do it full-time eventually. Georgetown has amazing faculty with great coaching skills and a ton of real world experience. I will forever be grateful for that experience.

What is your philosophy about human change, learning, and development?
My philosophy about human change, learning and development is that we all change one way or another. Sometimes we change willingly and other times we change kicking and screaming. Personally, I prefer the first; but the second way is fine too, because in the end, most of us end up in a good place, better off than we were before. I often work with my clients to accept this change and to put intention behind it so that they are deliberate about how they change and where they end up.

When you first started out in your work as a coach, what was one of your biggest mistakes, and what did you learn from it?
I used to think I had to be an expert. I learned very quickly that it’s not about expertise, but rather, it’s about enabling people to change and develop through revelation. I love it when the light bulb goes off! This requires reflection and different ways of thinking. So I learned to let go of trying to be an expert and instead, give people the space and encouragement to think differently – and ultimately, see things differently.

What are your strengths?
I am great at helping people change their “input” so that they can change their “output.” In other words, if people don’t change their current method of thinking, they will consistently end up with the same result. But by helping others think differently, I can help them get a different, and potentially better result.

I am also confident in my own knowledge and willing to give advice if I feel that it will help. Some coaches stay away from this but I find that my clients really like it. I’m also not “wed” to my advice, but instead, I use it as a conversation starter. In the end, my goal is to support my clients in making good decisions that they are able to own and have learned from.

How do you leverage your strengths in your coaching work?
At the end of a coaching engagement, I give my clients different strategies for seeing life through different lenses. We then work to develop and personalize these strategies together.

How do you practice what you preach as a coach?
It is very difficult to self-coach so I have various coaches that I work with myself. Sometimes these are paid coaches that I hire. Others are friends who are also professional coaches, and we support one another in this way. I think it is very important to have people around you who can challenge your coaching and help you to become better. I love experiencing the different coaching styles and I find myself using my coaches’ approaches and strategies frequently.

How has your coaching practice evolved over the years?
I began my career working for a Leadership Development firm as a coach. I am grateful for this experience because it created in me a foundation based on solid, well-researched principles, helping me to balance the art and science of executive coaching.

What advice do you have for clients in maximizing the success of their coaching engagements?
Do not be a passive participant. Own your own development and aggressively work with your coach to become better. Be candid and open. Share your context, stories, successes, and fears. Most of all, recognize what a gift it is!


Each month, Candice Henderson talks with a member of the AIIR Global Coaching Alliance about the unique challenges of being a leader and coach. To learn more about the AIIR Global Coaching Alliance, click here.