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

Where are you from?

Indianapolis, IN, USA

How has your background influenced your professional career?

I devour information and have a naturally curious mind. Studying psychology, organizational behavior, and leadership development became my passion. I am an avid reader and eternal student who is intrigued with behavior – and who loves helping people become more self-aware and make positive changes for themselves.

What inspired you to become a coach?

I learned deeply and broadly what coaching was when I got involved in sourcing external coaches and selecting/developing internal coaches in my last corporate role. I saw the power of one-on-one development at a time when I was becoming less satisfied with doing leadership development workshops and succession planning. Once I started studying and practicing coaching, I knew I had found the perfect way to blend and apply my business savvy, corporate experience, love of psychology, and leadership development focus in a much more effective way.

What is your philosophy about human change, learning, and development?

When we are dissatisfied enough with something in our present, we then accept the possibility of a better choice. Once we have hope that there is a way out, then we are open to change.

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?

A pretty typical coaching trap; I was trying to solve a problem for someone, offering advice, and doing the work to find resources for them. In the moment, that made me feel needed and smart. I soon learned that that kind of “help” was not so helpful and was easily discounted or ignored. Pretty egotistical as well to assume that my answers would fit well for a different, very unique person. Far harder to practice, but so much more effective, is giving the kind of help that allows the coaching client to find their own solution.

What are your strengths?

My decades of leadership development and working with the top executives of a huge, complex organization have strengthened my understanding of people, cultures, and leaders’ challenges. My coaching clients have also said that my nonjudgmental sense of humor about and compassion for shared human vulnerabilities, and my style of balancing supportive empathy and challenging push, are key strengths.

How do you leverage your strengths in your coaching work?

I coach best when I understand and respect the context of the leader’s culture, so I like to dig for information to help the client succeed and sustain the desired changes. When coaching, I deeply listen for opposites that may have someone stuck or close-minded: themes and inconsistencies, obstacles and past successes, fears and hopes, logic and emotion tugs, black and white thinking, etc. Reflecting back what I think I hear, and challenging the client to consider a different possibility, is one way I help clients discover new options for their thinking and behavior.

How do you practice what you preach as a coach?

When I find myself stuck in a negative pattern or I am just not happy with my own behavior in some way, I eventually think “Coach, coach thyself!” and invoke what I think a few other role model coaches would say to me, challenge me on, laugh at, etc. What truth do I need to hear? What flawed assumption did I make? What better choices do I have?

How has your coaching practice evolved over the years?

In my first few years of coaching, I primarily coached leaders in high-potential leadership development programs. Now I enjoy partnering with more challenging clients in complex situations: those skeptical of the need to change in spite of clear feedback, experiencing a rough role transition, suffering from a set back, leading with an unbalanced ego, stuck in their careers and unhappy. I love the unique challenge presented by clients to find a way to truly understand and empathize while pushing back respectfully and holding them accountable to their change goals.


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.