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This interview with Cecilia Carter– an Executive Coach with AIIR Consulting – was conducted and condensed by Brianna Rafferty.

Where are you from?
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Although I have lived many places, I consider myself a midwestern girl at heart.

How has your background influenced your professional career?
As a first generation college graduate, I was raised believing that education was the passport to opportunity and equality and that I had a responsibility to lift others along the way. I purposely chose jobs that allowed me to impact my communities and the lives of its residents.

What is your philosophy about human change, learning, and development?
Given access to the right environment and materials, people can overcome initial fears about change and break through barriers that hold them back. My youngest daughter has dyslexia. Watching children who learn differently overcome their fears, adapt and grow tells me there are infinite ways to ways to develop talent and diverse leaders.

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?
Throughout my career, I have successfully mentored others. When I first began coaching, I slipped into “mentor” mode, telling the client how to accomplish the outcome they were seeking. I realized it immediately and knew I needed to strengthen my ability to ask empowering questions and remain neutral. I had to learn detached involvement and allow my client to create their  own “ah-ha” moment.

What are your strengths?
I am a people person. I love helping people get what the they want out of life. I have a natural ability to listen with empathy and be both nurturing and tough while holding the client’s agenda.

How do you leverage your strengths in your coaching work?
Listening upfront to understand why clients need my help and what they want to accomplish. I share stories where appropriate to build rapport and help them feel comfortable trusting me. I also remain authentic in my conversation and questioning.

How do you practice what you preach as a coach?
We are all teachers and students. I learn from my clients. I also seek coaching to stay in touch with my own personal challenges.

How has your coaching practice evolved over the years?
I have increased the use of psychometric tools and assessments, but the real advantage is my breadth and depth of business and personal experiences that add the “secret sauce” for my clients.

What advice do you have for clients in maximizing the success of their coaching engagements?
It is simple. I call it human effort. Clients should always be ready with their work done. If they are committed to the engagement then we will see results.

What are the top 5 skills and competencies a leader needs to be successful in today’s globalized business environment? 
Leaders need to have the following skills:
1. Transparency and communication skills. These are required to establish the next two critical skills;
2. Trust and authenticity. Gone are the days where authoritarian styles were widely accepted.
3. The ability to set vision and strategy and engage others
4. Align the work with the strategy. Teams must understand how their work is relevant and leaders must provide this connection.
5. Demonstrate values.

This VUCA world requires the ability to synthesize information, people and processes to maximize effectiveness while sustaining balance and respect for people. In most cases we have many generations, ethnicities, races, genders etc in our teams. The diversity of these teams cannot be leveraged for innovation if a leader can’t work through their own unconscious bias, increase awareness of their personal leadership style and shift when necessary.

Do you believe there is value in using telepresence technology in your coaching engagements? 
AIIR’s intersection of technology and coaching is a game changer. It allows us to customize flexible solutions that enhance engagement. I recently coached a senior executive who wanted the initial meetings in person to establish the relationship. The remaining sessions were held via telepresence allowing us to accommodate the client’s travel schedule but stay on track with our development goals. This flexibility also increased the client’s ability to coach deeper levels in the organization thereby increasing overall team effectiveness.

Each month, Brianna Rafferty 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.