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Executive Coaching Lessons from an HR & Management Consultant

Episode #1076: In this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, guest Mary O’Sullivan, a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Executive Coach, HR & Management Consultant, EQi-2.0 and EQ360 Practitioner, Speaker, and Author, shares her journey from corporate America to coaching, working for Raytheon and other industrial companies, insights from her books Ponderings of a Corporate Refugee and The Leader You Don’t Want to Be, the impact emotional experience can have on everyday performance, and pricing executive coaching services.

About Mary O’Sullivan

Mary O’Sullivan is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Executive Coach, HR & Management Consultant, EQi-2.0 and EQ360 Practitioner, Speaker, and Author. Through her company, Encore Executive Coaching and HR Consulting, Mary helps her clients improve their communication skills, demonstrate positive and assertive behavior, master their emotional intelligence, and address workplace harassment, diversity, and other moral issues. Before entering the consulting, training, and coaching industry, Mary held a variety of leadership positions in organizations such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric.

Mary is an International Coaching Federation (ICF) Professional Certified Coach (PCC) as well as a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner. Mary graduated from the University of Texas with a certificate in Executive and Professional Coaching. In 2015, she published her book Ponderings of a Corporate Refugee and in 2021, published The Leader You Don’t Want to Be. In addition to her publications, Mary’s work has also been published in Rhode Island News Today and Rhode Island Small Business Journal.

Along with her coaching, consulting, and publications, Mary is a public speaker with wiseHer where she helps women start, build, and grow their businesses and rise higher in their corporate careers. Through her work, Mary received Providence Business News’ Women in Business Honoree for Achievement in 2020 and an “Entrepreneurial Women to Watch” Award Honorary Mention by Rhode Island Small Business in 2016.

Key highlights

Being strategic

Timestamp 05:50

Reflecting on her early career with Raytheon, Mary shares that “a lot of success is based on who you know.” Because of this, she was strategic and made sure that she knew “people who were in decision-making positions” as mentors and advocates within Raytheon. She explains that “the greatest takeaway” for her was “how to solidify relationships with influencers, influential people that could make things happen” for her and her career. In light of these learnings, she recommends that individuals who are working to develop their career further should “form those alliances with influencers and also form some alliances with senior women.” She also explains that “women think that if they work really hard, that’s going to be their ticket to the C-Suite and that is not true.” Instead, she encourages working strategically beyond “the menial” tasks and strategic thinking to directly help their organization’s bottom line.

Finding the perfect mix between HR and Executive Coaching

Timestamp 19:22

In Mary’s coaching practice, she also serves her clients as an HR Consultant. She explains that in her coaching sessions, she will pause and say, “listen, I’m putting on my HR hat now, and here’s the way HR sees what you’re doing…” Because of her previous experience in HR, she can share with her clients the ins-and-outs of HR and how to use HR effectively within their organization. Mary then shared a story of a client who had a difficult employee who would refuse tasks for five years. In discussing this situation with her client, she was able to help them effectively use their HR department to solve the problem. As a coach, Mary will ask questions such as “what’s important to you about this employee, or how do you think you might best serve this employee?” As an HR consultant, Mary is able to get to the root of the challenge and give her clients direction from her own knowledge and experience.

Ponderings of a Corporate Refugee and The Leader You Don’t Want to Be

Timestamp 29:10

Mary has published two books: Ponderings of a Corporate Refugee and The Leader You Don’t Want to Be. In her book, Ponderings of a Corporate Refugee, Mary shares “the employee’s perspective of what happens in big corporations.” In her book, The Leader You Don’t Want to Be, Mary explains that the leaders who “show the most humanity and the most empathy and the most humility are the best leaders.” In this book, she shares stories of leaders “that missed the mark” and then provides “a solution” for “how they could have done better.” She takes insight from her practice and experience coaching and consulting for both of her books.

Pricing and presentation

Timestamp 42:14

When asked “what is a lesson you’ve learned recently that you wish you’d learned earlier on?,” Mary shares that she has learned to be “less hesitant about asking” for her price. She explains that, “if you want to be a professional, you have to present yourself as completely professional… the most important part of coaching is not to be afraid of being a professional.” Severin relates to this and states that “the market will tell you if your rate is too high” and that “when you know that you are adding value, you don’t have to discount.”

The future of executive coaching

Timestamp 44:37

In the future of executive coaching, Mary believes that “the coaching industry has to be better regulated.” She explains that there are “too many people out there… that don’t have any credentials” and that coaching should be “regulated by the States.” Severin adds to this and states that “in order for there to be malpractice, there need to be standards and there needs to be research-based work.” In terms of artificial intelligence, Mary believes that “AI is a poor substitute for a human being” however, “it might help as an adjunct to personal professional coaching.” She views AI as a potential enhancement, but not a replacement for the role of an executive coach.

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