Wright, Karen

Dr. Relly Nadler: Today we are sharing with you a special encore of our interview from September of 2011 with Karen Wright from Canada, a Master Certified Coach with ICF. She has coached some of Canada’s top business leaders and has helped individuals and teams from Fortune 500 companies manage change, increase productivity, integrate their personal and professional lives and achieve their own definition of success.

She is a nationally published columnist. She has a column Ask a Job Expert, also some things about being a balanced coach. She is a sought-after speaker. Karen founded Parachute Executive Coaching in 1996. Parachute is a Toronto based coaching and consulting firm built on the foundation of a successful corporate career in consumer packaged goods, marketing, and advertising.

She has been featured in many media areas including CTV News, CBS Radio, The Globe and the Mail, Talk Radio, Toronto Star, Kiplinger’s and in Computer World Magazine. She is very well-known and she’ll share her insights about being a better-balanced person on the job and on the home front.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Karen, welcome to the show.

Karen Wright:  I’m very pleased to be here. I’ve followed both of your work for a very long time, so I’m thrilled to be with you.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Well, thank you for that. We are delighted that you are taking time from your busy schedule to be with us.

Karen has had an MBA in marketing from the IB School, and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Western Ontario. She graduated from the world’s leading coach training organization, was one of the inaugural students in its sister program and is now a certified trainer for both organizations.

The first professional certified coach, we call it a PCC, in Canada, Karen is now one of an elite group of Master Certified Coaches. She is a past board member and founder of the Toronto Chapter of the International Coach Federation and recently she was appointed board member of the Coach Initiative. Karen is a leader in the field of corporate coaching. She focuses her coaching and speaking engagements on ways individuals can take more responsibility for their own happiness and how organizations can be basically a better place to work, which of course is going to increase that that happiness as well.

Core to her coaching philosophy is the belief that personal happiness and professional fulfillment can be achieved all at once. She practices what she preaches as the mother of two boys who are daily reminders of what is really important in our lives and obviously in her life.

Karen, let’s start off with this question: Who has influenced you and your career and if you have any examples you can share we would love to know more.

Karen Wright: There are, I think, three main categories of influencers in my life. There is one that I think influenced me personally more than anyone, was my maternal grandmother who was a very brave, very outrageous, very strong woman. She was someone that I was very, very close to from an early age. She was the fourth non-native woman in a mining camp when she and my grandfather moved there in the 30’s and learned a whole lot about how to survive in a mining camp back then. So she was a pretty cool woman.

She always said to me that she thought my life was a rich tapestry of choices, but that it was very, very complicated and that she didn’t envy me one bit. She said her life was a lot simpler because they didn’t have so many choices when she was growing up.

In my corporate career there were a couple of people that I worked for and with that were good mentors for me at the time and sort of guided me on my path through my corporate career and who have remained good friends and ended up being examples of what I think can be models of success for senior level executives. Those two people have been very important.

As I transitioned into coaching and saw some of the people who were blazing the trail back when I entered the field in the mid-90s, there were a couple of people that I look to. Marshall Goldsmith is one. Certainly, the two of you have been people I’ve been watching. Martin Seligman, in fact, I’m glad that you mentioned him, Cathy, because I was a student in the very first authentic happiness coaching cohort that he led. That work has influenced my coaching work significantly.

I’m lucky to have had quite a number of influencers over the course of my life and career.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Karen, that’s really exciting, especially coaching is a fairly new field and so for you being involved since the mid-90s and being in a leadership role you have, that’s just great. Tell us a little bit about going from a PCC, Professional Certified Coach, to an MCC, Master Certified Coach. Can you tell us the distinction of those two and how that differentiates you?

Karen Wright: I don’t know that there’s much of a style difference. Though I certainly think that the amount of experience required to achieve the MCC credential can definitely impact your style, it certainly has done me.

For me, the difference between a PCC and an MCC can be looked at from two perspectives. That of the client and then that of the coaching profession. So from a client perspective, my work is largely corporate and the people making the decisions about what coaches to bring into corporate organizations particularly at the very senior executive levels, often times and MCC is the first filter they will use. They won’t even look at a coach unless they have an MCC credential because they want to know that they are bringing in the very best. Not that an MCC is a guarantee, but it is certainly a great starting point to say this is an individual who has made a strong commitment to learning and a strong commitment to doing client work at a very intense level because there are a huge number of hours required to get the MCC.

The perspective from within the coaching profession, I felt strongly about pursuing the MCC because I believe that it is important that we continually progress our skills and continually invest in our knowledge and our expertise as coaches. I think that we, particularly those of us, as you both can attest I’m sure, that have been around the profession for a while have a responsibility to set an example and not get complacent at all, we need to be committed to our learning.

So for me, MCC just says that I am committed to learning, I’m committed to ongoing skill development and I am committed to contributing to the profession.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Karen, just a question on that in regards to corporations. All three of us are in that same space, in corporations and high-level Fortune 100 type companies. Are you seeing more requests, clarifications about your certification? I know I’m seeing that more, but more than maybe 4-5 years ago.

Kathy Wright: I am seeing that Relly, definitely. I’m also seeing that an awful lot of the very senior HR decision makers are taking coach training themselves. Sometimes it is because they know that sort of training will help them in their jobs, but they are also fairly open about the fact that it’s a long term plan for them as they exit their corporate roles to be able to move into the coaching space. A senior level HR person is probably fairly well equipped to do that from a skill and interest perspective.

I think they have, possibly, a couple of different agendas often times. At a minimum, the people I’m encountering at the very senior levels in HR who are the gate keepers, the people opening the doors or not, they are very well informed. So they know what they are getting when they are looking at a coach with a certain level of credential and in fact, most times they know an awful lot about the coach training programs. Sometimes they will even go so far as to say we want coaches from this program or that, or we won’t accept coaches from this program or that.

Yes, I think it’s a much more educated buyer out there.

Listen to the complete interview above.

Relly