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The Coaching Connection: One to One or One to Many

In my first year as a business owner of ISH-Productions, one of my clients asked if I would consider coaching and mentoring their newly appointed Marketing Manager. I was flattered at his proposal and so I took on my first coaching engagement.

I’ll admit that, at first, I wasn’t sure if this was something I’d be able to do or do well enough. I had my doubts. Sure, I had led and managed individuals and teams both domestically and internationally over the course of my career, but I wasn’t sure how that would translate into one-on-one coaching.

One thing I did know about myself, though, is I love a challenge. It also helped [a lot] that my client believed and trusted that I could provide coaching and mentoring for their company’s first Marketing Manager.

That coaching engagement (which is still ongoing – she is now a Senior Director of Marketing) has opened up the sizable breadth of services that I now offer. Currently, my development services account for 30% of my billable work. That’s an impressive increase when you consider that I started at zero back in 2014.

So, what do I mean by development services? One-on-one coaching and workshops are my current focus.

Coaching one-on-one provides a window into how people work, what motivates them and where they find purpose. It requires a great deal of empathy and understanding. Most people that I coach are not marketers by trade, so I need to build a bond and rapport on a different level in order to help guide them to success. I do this by asking the right questions to lead them to find the right answers. I find ways to champion their strengths into setting goals and achieve them, as well as to help navigate missteps or failures.

Workshops, on the other hand, allow me to work with cohorts comprised of smart, talented individuals. I’ve seen the benefits of delivering workshops to people within the same role, department or team, as well as assembling a cross-functional group of people from different roles and responsibilities to create a team.

With each coaching session I conduct and each workshop I deliver, I’ve found that this body of work has helped me grow (and of course, develop) in several ways:
    1. I’ve become a better listener.
    I’m learning the right balance of when to talk and when to listen. More importantly, I’m tuning in to what they’re not saying.

    2. It sparked an insatiable quest for knowledge.
    Having to develop content for workshops challenges you to practice continuous learning. Luckily, there are no shortage of books to read that have aided in my evolution, TedTalks to watch, podcasts to listen to, or articles to explore. My personal goal each day is to learn something new and, in turn, pass it on.

    3. My communication and presentation skills improved.
    This has been one of the most significant gains for me. Every time I have to get in front of a group to deliver and facilitate a workshop it helps to ease my discomfort with public speaking and sharpen my ability to articulate thoughts and ideas verbally. I’ve experienced a higher level of comfort in communicating in one-on-ones as a result. I’m finding it easier to converse with anyone about any topic under the sun.

    4. It bolstered my creativity and resourcefulness.
    Thinking creatively and acting commercially comes naturally to me. That is, I thought they did until I had to develop my first couple of workshops. There’s nothing more daunting than looking at a blank PowerPoint slide and wondering how to make it meaningful. Self-doubt has tried to take over, but I’ve been resolute to rise to the challenges.

    Creating content and delivering workshops on a regular basis that is not only informative but equally engaging, is a challenge that I’ve come to appreciate. I’ve found that if I can incorporate a creative, interactive element, (which is why it’s a ‘workshop’ versus ‘speech’ or ‘talk’) I’m more impassioned about delivering it.

    5. I’m leveraging my top strengths.
    My dominant strengths from Clifton StrengthsFinder are: Individualization, which means I’m intrigued by the unique qualities of each person. And I have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively. My Relator strength means I enjoy close relationships with others. I also find deep satisfaction in working hard with others to achieve a goal, and as an Arranger, I can organize and be flexible. I like to figure out how all the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity.

    The combination of these strengths is intrinsically linked to my successes in one-on-one coaching and team development.

    In order for me to provide the highest-level coaching and team development with the utmost value to my clients, I continuously research, adapt and apply several tools, assessments, and resources, such as:

      I have found that to truly understand the essence of someone’s talents, personality, and emotional fortitude, you need to administer assessments. There are a wide range out there: Myers-Briggs, DiSC, etc. and each has its own unique value for getting to the bottom of what you need to know and how that knowledge can be applied. It really comes down to what you need to know, what you want others to learn about themselves, and how that can benefit them individually and as part of a wider group.

      The assessments I use most often are:
        StrengthsFinder is an online personal assessment test that outlines the user’s strengths introduced in the self-help book by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton.

        The strengths theory is that each individual possesses a certain number of fixed universal personal-character attributes, defined as “talent themes,” which, together, result in an individual’s tendency to develop certain skills more easily and excel in certain fields in a sustainable way.

        The authors claim that by identifying the individual strength of the members of the organization, its members can be utilized in more suiting positions, hence developing the required skills easily, helping to reduce turnover, improve employee morale, and the organization’s overall performance.

        I would add that it greatly helps in deciphering team dynamics and culture fit. As of this writing, I have administered and analyzed over a hundred Top 5 profiles and with each one I am amazed at how accurate it is. The assessment provides a solid foundation to work from when developing individuals and teams.

        Emotional Intelligence (often referred to as EQ) is a topic that is trending rapidly as people have become more self-aware and socially competent. Have you heard the expression, “It is far more important to have a high EQ than an IQ?”

        Simply put, you can be the smartest person in the room, but if you can’t manage your emotions and be able to navigate the emotions of others, your likelihood of success is greatly diminished. Decades of research point to emotional intelligence as the critical factor that sets star performers apart from the rest of the pack.

        I administer this appraisal less frequently, not because there isn’t value in it, but rather the amount of time and attention required to work with individuals on their scores and help them move towards improving it.
        The appraisal that I use is by Talent Smart. There are several out there to choose from but I’ve found this one fits my needs at a reasonable price.

        I also turn to Books, TedTalks, & Articles as a continual source of information. I often draw from one or more resources to develop content for coaching or workshops. On the other hand, I have taken a single book and created a series of workshops to give enough time and attention to understanding and applying the skills and techniques.

        Another valuable resource that I have when it comes to knowledge sharing or brainstorming is my partner in life and love, Jeff Mariola. I have yet to meet any one person that has amassed as much knowledge and wisdom as he has over the course of a four-decade-long career. He is a voracious reader and consumes information and knowledge at an enviable rate. More impressively, though, he not only archives the information, he also challenges himself to put it into practice. To hear some of his pearls wisdom ranging from philosophy to leadership to culture and everything in between, check out his vlog, Mojo Mondays.

        In case you are wondering what some of my favorite go-to’s are when it comes to books, TedTalks and articles, I have compiled a list for your perusal:

        Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
        Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
        Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
        Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
        Before Happiness by Shawn Achor
        Radical Candor by Kim Scott
        Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie
        Culture Trumps Everything by Gustavo Grodnitzky
        Start With Why Simon Sinek
        First Things First by Stephen Covey


        Brene Brown
        Simon Sinek
        Amy Cuddy
        Shawn Achor
        Margaret Heffernan


        I subscribe to or follow, a number of publications to glean insight and information on a regular basis. Some of my primary ones include Forbes, Inc. Fast Co., Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Brandingmag, HBR, WSJ, Business Insider, Adweek and more.

        Bringing It Full Circle

        Although I didn’t begin my business with the intention of focusing so much (or even at all) on developmental coaching, it’s now an integral part of what I bring to the table. Helping others to positively change has, in fact, changed me.

        What I’ve also learned is that understanding the needs, motives, and aspirations of others is not all that different than marketing best practices.

        For example, in marketing, you are driven to target customers that are most likely to buy your product, use your services, etc. This process involves creating a buyer persona by compiling an in-depth mixture of characteristics, behaviors, motivations, and inhibitors of what an ideal customer is based on data you have.

        Whereas, a buyer persona is a fictional representation, the methodology, and steps involved closely mirror that of real-life coaching, mentoring and development. Know thy person, gain results.

        Have any questions or ideas about personal and professional development? Share in the comments below!



        Michelle Mariola is founder & managing director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities as well as advancement through culture coaching, leadership development, workshopping, and team engagement exercised.

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