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Bridging the Gap Between the Research Community & Practitioners: An Interview with Severin Sorensen

Episode #1100: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, we celebrate the 100th episode by hosting an interview with Severin Sorensen, the host and curator of the Arete Coach Podcast. Severin shares his journey into executive coaching, insight from his Vistage Chair experience, the value of curiosity, and the importance of lifelong learning with guest host, Ozzie Gontang. During the episode, Severin and Ozzie discuss active listening, powerful quotes, the power of peer groups, coaching tools, and the “joy work” behind each episode of the Arete Coach Podcast. Join us as we celebrate 100 episodes of the Arete Coach Podcast, where we explore excellence in the art and science of executive coaching today.



About Severin Sorensen

Severin Sorensen is a serial entrepreneur and lifetime learner with a passionate curiosity for people and businesses. Severin is the CEO of ePraxis LLC, a premier level retained search firm that provides executive headhunting, talent selection, and executive coaching. In addition to finding top talent, Severin has provided over 7,500+ hours of paid executive coaching to entrepreneurs, CEOs, Presidents, and C-level executives. Severin is an ICF ACSTH Certified Executive Coach, Certified Organizational Development Coach, Certified Life Coach, and Certified Positive Intelligence® Coach. Severin is the founder/producer of a new podcast, Arete Coach, that explores the art and science of executive coaching with some of the industry's best coaches.


From 2010-2018 Severin was also a Vistage Chair where he coached three CEO and key executive groups. In 2011, Severin received the "Rookie of the Year Chair Award" from Vistage. Since 2013, Severin has added international speaking for Vistage, CEO conferences, executive peer groups, and corporations on the topic of identifying and hiring difference-making top talent.


After graduate school, Severin moved to Washington, DC, where he worked on security-related economic and public policy issues that included a brief stint in The White House, as a Special Assistant to the President, for George H. Bush (POTUS 41). In 1994, Severin founded Sparta Consulting Corp., and Sparta provided world-class physical security and safety related management consulting services for public and private sector entities. From 1994-2002, Severin managed HUD's Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design technical assistance and training program. In 2005, Severin sold Sparta to Westec Interactive (Digital Witness), which was subsequently acquired by Interface Security.


Severin, a native Californian, grew up in Salt Lake City, UT and graduated with honors from the University of Utah with Economics and Political Science degrees. He completed graduate studies in economics at King's College, Cambridge University (England), where he earned a M.Phil. degree in Economics. Severin has a great love and appreciation for sports, and while overseas, Severin rowed for the King's College Boat Club, and played basketball for the Cambridge University Basketball Team (1986-87).


Key highlights


Severin’s introduction to coaching

Timestamp 05:47


Severin’s journey to executive coaching stems from his time as an executive and Vistage member. Through his experience with Vistage, Severin was able to embrace his passion of learning from the experiences of others. Eventually, Severin was introduced to the idea of being a Vistage Chair and in 2010, he started his first peer group in Utah. Soon, his Vistage practice grew to three groups and he began to help other Vistage Chairs get their own peer groups started. Since then, Severin has maintained his passion for coaching and continued to invest in the lives of other executives through the Arete Coach Podcast, his own coaching practice, and international speaking engagements.

“If you’re gonna serve, why not serve well?”

Timestamp 16:49


In a discussion about Severin’s entrepreneurial spirit, Severin and Ozzie discuss the importance of “next level” research-based coaching. Severin shares insight from coaching research by Professor Anthony Grant and explains his own passion for being a “bridge” between the research community and practitioners. Severin believes that coaching is “all about serving” and states, “If you’re gonna serve, why not serve well and serve something that works?”


"If you’re gonna serve, why not serve well and serve something that works?" - Severin Sorensen

Uplifting others

Timestamp 30:45


When asked what his personal mantra or ‘True North’ is, Severin shares that it is to “seek to uplift others, be good, and do good.” Severin relates this to the Beatitudes from the Bible and also shares an additional mantra from Norma Rosenberg, “I like to edit out of my life those things that aren’t serving me.” Severin also shares a quote his grandparents would say in his youth: “money is only as good as the good that money can do.”


Active listening

Timestamp 36:03


In Severin’s thousands of hours of coaching, he has learned about the importance of having a “heightened sense of active listening.” He shares insight from Dr. Vikki Brock about active listening and its roots in acting and theater. Severin defines active listening as, “sensing those signals that don’t have a defined voice in the conscious mind yet… It’s that gnawing, it’s that wonderment, it’s the signal, it’s that curiosity, it’s that look, it’s the pause, it’s the breath, it’s the intonation, the difference.” He explains that active listening “has helped create some of the greatest coaching opportunities to help people go from where they are to something else.” Ozzie adds to the discussion by sharing that “in the word ‘listen’ is the word ‘silent.’”


“In the word ‘listen’ is the word ‘silent.'" - Ozzie Gontang

The coach’s tool bag

Timestamp 44:11


When discussing his coaching tools, Severin compares the tools of coaching to a “well-faceted diamond.” He explains that “each one of the facets creates the opportunity for light to come out and extrude in a different way. And each tool is designed to bring different light.” Severin uses a variety of tools in his coaching practice for a variety of purposes. Some of his tools include questions, stories, metaphors, wisdom walks, psychometric assessments (such as the DiSC profile or the Predictive Index), and emotional intelligence. Severin states that he encourages others to “just keep adding more tools. They add color, and dimension, almost like a Crayola box of crayons. You don’t use all the colors all the time, but sometimes that color is the right color for the time and it gets you into a great conversation.”


Failure as a teacher

Timestamp 56:20


Severin shares that “failure is a friend” and “schoolmaster.” In the face of failure, Severin prefers to “fail fast, fail cheap, and fail forward,” learning from and growing from the experience. In these learning experiences, Severin has learned the value of identifying goals, listening, and questioning. He shares a quote from Pat Hyndman, “you may not want a crisis, but pray for your first crisis because that’s when your group will come together.” In examining this quote, Severin adds that “we may do all we can to protect people from harm and protect them from hurt or work or other stuff, but sometimes it’s the work and the pain that’s going to be the teacher.”


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