Episode #1041: Severin Sorensen, executive coach and curator of the Arete Coach Podcast, and Tom Cuthbert, executive coach, Vistage Master Chair, and Chairman of Sandler Training, have an insightful discussion on Tom’s career journey to executive coaching, his passion for helping others, and his history in the technology industry. They discuss the importance of guarding your time, coaches’ heart of service, living a life of learning, how technology has advanced, and the importance of diversity. Join us in this high-impact conversation between Severin and Tom as we learn more about Tom’s philosophy of, “it’s not about me.”
About Tom Cuthbert
Tom Cuthbert is an executive coach, CEO coach, Vistage Master Chair, and Chairman of Sandler Training in San Antonio. Tom started his journey to executive coaching by first entering the restaurant industry where he found his passion for business. He then transitioned to the online advertising industry, where he became Founder and President of Adometry, an online marketing analytics platform which he later sold to Google. Today, he serves as a Vistage Master Chair, Chairman of Sandler Training in San Antonio, and a Chairman of the Sales City Group.
In his current practice, he coaches six business groups, made up of approximately 100 CEOs and business leaders in the San Antonio area. He spends over 1,000 hours per year coaching CEOs and helping countless business leaders push themselves and their businesses to their highest potential. Tom has received multiple Vistage awards including the 2021 Vistage Star Award, 2021 Vistage Southern Regional Chair of the Year Award, multiple Chair Excellence Awards, and the 2019 Pat Hyndman Award. Tom’s passion for helping others see what they can’t to achieve their highest potential has pushed him to great success in both the corporate and the executive coaching industries.
Tom’s journey to executive coaching
Tom started his journey to executive coaching with his career in the restaurant and entertainment industry. It was there he learned the ins-and-outs of business and realized his love for business and for people. Later, Tom transitioned into the technology industry with his company Adometry, which was later purchased by Google. Tom shares that his primary drive for answering the call to executive coaching was his desire to “give back to others.” This drive to help others has supported Tom’s highly successful executive coaching career.
“Letting go of the vine”
Tom built Adometry by first starting the Click Fraud Index. He shares that he “built the company to sell it” and for it to “be acquired by someone else.” Severin Sorensen applauds Tom’s strategy of surrounding yourself “with smart people.” Tom shares that he eventually stepped down as CEO and had a great transition because of his highly skilled leadership team.
Tom’s primary plan of action was to find his place and “to help [his team] to that finish line” of selling the software. Doing this required Tom to let “go of the vine” and let other team members “take over and run” with the organization’s goals. This allowed him to step back from Adometry with confidence that his team would succeed.
Some of Tom’s favorite quotes include “It can’t be about you. It has to be about them” and “If you don’t have an admin, you are an admin” from Jack Bailey. Tom uses these quotes when discussing sales strategies with salesmen and saleswomen. Instead of focusing on “products” or services, he encourages sales leaders to focus on their client “and what [they] can do for them and what results [they] can help them deliver to their team.” He also applies these quotes to his coaching practice.
Because of Jack Bailey’s quote on the importance of having an admin, Tom decided that he needed someone else to help him do more of what he is “really good at” and less of the administrative duties that previously took up his time. This inspired him to guard his time which has increased his effectiveness when helping others. Severin relates to Tom’s statement on the importance of the effective use of time. In Severin’s coaching practice, he has noticed that many young entrepreneurs tend to hold onto tasks they enjoy, that should really be allocated to others. Often, these tasks become a “growth limiter” for themselves and their business as the tasks they enjoy are the tasks that could be done more efficiently by someone else.
Asking the questions versus knowing the answers
When Tom started executive coaching, his perspective was that he knew “all the answers.” However, one of his first executive coaching clients was from an industry he had no experience in. When talking about this with his mentor, he learned that he didn’t have to know all the answers but instead ask questions and surface issues. Severin shares a quote from Peter Drucker that he believes not only applies to the consultant but to the coach as well. Peter Drucker is quoted as saying, “The Job of a consultant is not to go in to solve a problem. The job of consultants is to go in and ask questions to understand the root of the problem.”
Guarding your time
Tom manages six Vistage groups. To do this, he uses a flywheel inspired by Jim Collins. He also starts with “the end in mind.” This means that Tom identifies his goal and then works backward, finding ways to make that goal a reality. He also has a practice of planning far in advance and creating routine processes. This helps him have his tasks “come to” him each day. By doing this, he doesn’t waste time wondering what his next task will be. Ultimately, Tom guards his time so that he can achieve as much as possible while doing his best work. Severin in response shares a time management technique that he calls the “smitten” technique: Single Most Important Thing To Execute Next.
In response to Severin’s question about how technology and new developments in technology might impact the executive coaching industry, Tom shares that although technology has given executive coaches an advantage in the COVID-19 pandemic and decreased the geographic boundaries for coaches, it can often be a distraction. For his coaching practice, he ensures that he is distraction free by turning off notifications on his phone and watch.
The importance of diversity
In Tom’s coaching practice, 42% of executives are women. These women have also been awarded by the San Antonio Business Journal for their success as women in leadership. Tom states, “I think that’s a fantastic thing and I’m certainly proud of the women leaders that we have in our community and how they’ve impacted it… Diversity makes us all better…” Severin agrees with Tom’s perspective and states that, “diversity helps you understand and hear voice you’re not hearing… it’s so valuable.”
“Answering the ‘why’”
Tom’s advice to aspiring executive coaches is to answer Simon Sinek’s “why.” Tom shares that if your “why” is rooted in a desire to “make a lot of money,” because “you think you’ll be really good at it,” or “it’s something that fits your lifestyle,” you should reexamine why you want to be an executive coach. He says, “it’s not any of those things” and is instead “about the ability to influence and impact the lives of others for long periods of time… It’s personal.”
He also recommends that aspiring executive coaches check their own skill set. This means being a lifelong learner and continually learning, reading, and being open minded to new findings.
Lastly, he recommends that aspiring executive coaches examine who they want to influence and how they want to influence them. Tom’s own “why” for coaching is to “help others see what they’re not in order to achieve more than they imagined possible.” He states that “it’s not about recognition or money” but is instead about “focusing on helping people.”
Making the impossible possible
One of Tom’s best days ever as an executive coach was when a client of his told him that he had completed his goal of selling his business. Tom and this client had walked through a three and a half year journey of preparing his business to be sold. Tom shared that this is “just one example of the number of great days” of being an executive coach. Severin has also had these days where former members of his Vistage groups have called him after they have accomplished their goals. He shares that “it is so wonderful to help somebody understand the possible… you get to join in helping other people do great things…”
A life measured and a life of legacy
When asked how he will measure his life, Tom shares that he measures his life in the reflection of others and his impact on them. He explains that he looks at their success and celebrates it, taking that as part of his life purpose. Tom also measures his life by the legacy that he will leave behind. He wants to leave behind a legacy full of goals that is “meaningful and impactful” for “generations to come.”
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