“The Ripple that Inspired a Thousand Positive Tsunamis”
Episode #1057: Learn about being a “ripple maker” who inspires tsunamis of positive change with Kevin McKeown, a CEO, Master Chair, Vistage Star Award winner, Executive Mentor, and Coach on this episode of the Arete Coach Podcast. During the episode, Kevin shares his journey to executive coaching, insights from “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, the “sacred cows” in executive coaching that should be reexamined, and how his entrepreneurial roots as a child have impacted him today.
About Kevin McKeown
Kevin McKeown is a Master Chair, Vistage Star Award winner, Chair Excellence Award winner, CEO, Executive Mentor, and Coach. Kevin has been with Vistage since 2015 and is a guide and facilitator for CEOs, presidents, founders, owners, key executives, advisors, and other business leaders in the Greater Seattle area. Currently, Kevin leads 5 Vistage groups including 2 CEO groups, 2 key executive groups, and 1 C-level group of trusted advisors. His Vistage group members lead companies that range in size from $5 million to $500 million.
Before entering the executive coaching industry, Kevin was a law clerk to a federal district court judge. Thereafter, Kevin entered the business sector and had much success furthering global trade as a leader at Mitsubishi International, and diversifying and extending the reach of another billion-dollar Japanese company. After other endeavors including building the world’s largest blog network, co-founding a startup, building and selling one of the first online department stores, and founding his own mentorship firm, McKeown LLC, he joined Vistage and has since received the Chair Excellency Award every year from 2017 through 2021. Kevin has a passion for being a ripple of change that starts a tsunami of positivity in the lives of others.
In Kevin’s childhood, he would sell Kool-Aid, lemonade, shovel snow, and mow lawns. He was also determined to win a prize through a school fundraiser and did so by being the first child to sell 100 candy bars. Severin explains that when examining entrepreneurial roots in childhood, he looks for three things: initiative, methodology, and organization. He recommends that everyone who is hiring talent look towards these elements to “find future leaders.” Severin’s statement reminds Kevin of an experience he had as a child, working to save money to travel and see his friend who had moved away. Kevin worked as a caddy and succeeded by showing up earlier than all the other kids. Overtime, Kevin saved up enough money to go on a trip by himself and see his friend. During this trip, he learned that he was “highly independent, very adventurous” and “always curious.” That specific trip inspired him to embrace the “serendipity” in his life.
Going through the fear
After deciding to transition from working with several large businesses to smaller sized businesses, Kevin shares that he was looking for “more immediacy.” He states, “I wanted more impact… I see peoples’ potential and I believe that I have an instinct for how to tease that out of them, and I wanted to pursue that.” He explains that when he left law, his family and friends thought that he was “nuts.” He explains that “it’s just kind of trusting your gut. Sometimes making a change is really scary, but part of what defines me is if I’m feeling fear, that’s not a red light. That’s not even a yellow light. That’s a go. Go through that fear.” By going through his fears, Kevin has been able to achieve great success in working with smaller businesses.
Kevin shares his takeaways from the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. He states, “I don’t think goals should be realistic… I think they should be just impossible to get…and you figure out a way.” From this book, he has learned that the process is more important than the goal. He shares the importance of picking a strategy, having KPIs, and focusing on daily habits.
Being a “ripple maker”
Kevin has a passion for being a “ripple maker.” He shares that he believes in the “goodness of people” and that “every person has superpowers.” He shares that in order to bring out those superpowers, sometimes all that is needed is “a little bit of nudge here a little bit of nudge there, [and] a little bit of a ripple.” One of the ways that he is a “ripple maker” for those he coaches is by “reminding them of their gifts.” In doing this, he is able to be a ripple maker that inspires great positive change in the lives of those he serves.
Overcoming imposter syndrome
When asked about a recent learning Kevin wishes he would have learned earlier, Kevin shares that he wishes he would have known more about “imposter syndrome.” He explains that he would always work extraordinarily hard, even in martial arts. However, he also did the same in his career. He states that “I was the guy working 70 hours a week and I wasn’t good at letting go. I wasn’t good at trusting myself… I wish somebody would have said, “Man, you don’t need to grind because that grind... that is what creates stress and that is what has an impact on your health.” Severin responds and shares his own story of working hard as a youth. However, he shares that although he worked hard, he was not efficient. Kevin asks what he learned from that time and Severin shares that he learned about his high level of energy. Kevin then asks how he can use that “energy to change how” he approaches his work today.
Reevaluating “sacred cows”
When asked what “sacred cows” in executive coaching should be reexamined, Kevin shares that he was told during his Vistage training that the “first 5 years” of being a chair is malpractice. He also explains that he was told he wouldn’t be able to have 2 groups launched in 18 months. Kevin explains that he believes that coaches should ask three types of questions: questions that drive performance, questions that shift mindset, and questions that move individuals past a limiting belief. Kevin states that as a coach, you should never “underestimate somebody’s potential” or “be the reason” why there is a “roadblock in their way.” In response, Severin shares his own similar experience and states that “you have to have the force of being and drive all the naysayers away.”
Business as an art
Kevin shares that his work is “passion, purpose” and “calling” and that through this, he has learned that “business is the most complex art form known to humans.” He explains that sometimes as you follow serendipity and take different directions, you will often go against the grain and leave others confused. However, he shares that you must still “trust yourself and you will get there.”
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