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

Where are you from?
I grew up in a Wisconsin town with a population of about 2,500 people.

How has your background influenced your professional career?
Growing up in small, rural community was a bit isolating, but it gave me a strong foundation and I learned to appreciate the solitude of nature. I am grateful to be part of a large, close knit family grounded in love and respect. I look for the good in people and work from their strengths, knowing that if they take daily action toward their goals, they will succeed.

What inspired you to become a coach?
I felt called to serve others as a young child. I didn’t know what that would look like, but I knew I wanted to connect people to resources that would help them meet their goals. I pursued a master’s degree with coursework in adult learning, leadership, counseling and career development. When the profession of coaching surfaced, I was very excited and I immediately hired my own coach, completed training and became ICF certified.

What is your philosophy about human change, learning, and development?  Adult learning is a lifelong passion of mine. It is a privilege to see my clients make connections that lead to new insights resulting in change. The ongoing research around neuroplasticity showing that our brains continue to grow as we have new experiences is exciting. These findings, along with innovations in technology, gives me the tools needed to support the learning and development in the organizations I serve.

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 have learned that no matter how much I care about my client’s success, the work is not mine to do. If I find myself working harder than my client, it is time to pull back and check in to find out if coaching is the right next step. Clients will not be successful if I care more than they do about their goals.

What are your strengths?
Clients have told me that I bring a calm enthusiasm to my work. I am able to easily shift from project to project and client to client and bring my full attention to whomever I am with. Listening is a key skill I bring to my coaching – I listen to what clients say and listen for what they are not saying.

How do you leverage your strengths in your coaching work?
Because I look for the good, stay calm and focus on my clients’ successes no matter what comes up, I am able to sift through what they are saying and listen for what they already know but aren’t recognizing. When I help clients listen to themselves in this deep way, it creates “aha” moments that lead to breakthroughs for them. It is very exciting and rewarding to be with people when this happens.

How do you practice what you preach as a coach?
I love to learn and I know that wherever I am, there are really interesting people all around me. I love to hear other people’s’ stories. I seek out growth opportunities and invest in my learning constantly – scanning the environment for new ideas, attending conferences, and tapping into online resources.

How has your coaching practice evolved over the years?
I started out over 20 years ago with a focus on supporting clients with career change. I still do a bit of that work, but over the last decade I have become an expert in leadership development and team effectiveness. I really enjoy helping people become more engaged and satisfied in the workplace. I still use the same approach. I just help clients solve different problems.

What advice do you have for clients in
maximizing the success of their coaching engagements?
When you hire a coach, trust that s/he is by your side but know that you are the owner of your success. Slow down to reflect on what is working and what is not. Trust yourself and let go of what is not working. Be vulnerable and loop your team into what projects you are working on. You will inspire others and build better relationships when you share your experiences.

What are the top skills and competencies a leader needs to be successful in today’s globalized business environment? Why are those particular skills and competencies important?
Understanding your learning style and how to leverage information are both very important competencies for leaders. Not so long ago, a leader could become an expert in his or her field and build a whole career on that. Now, in order to be successful, leaders need to adapt, adjust and learn continuously. Leading continuous change is another competency that is most critical. Leaders no longer can depend upon a steady state. They need to be able to manage themselves and manage others through complex, changing conditions.

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.