- Gallup Called to Coach Webcast Series
- Season 6, Episode 6
- Learn how to find your coaching niche and overcome obstacles from a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach who has done this.
On a recent Called to Coach, we spoke with Gallup-Certified Strengths coach Dr. Julie Wechsler.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I started working at IBM in Phoenix selling large computer systems where I learned two important things:
- What's keeping the customer up at night?
- No matter how good the technology is, the magic is always in the people
Then I took 10 years off to raise 4 children. When I came back to the workplace, I transitioned to training and education, fell in love with consulting and working with organizations. I then went back to school and got a master's degree in communications. This jump-started my second career; I set a new goal to work in higher education. Then, I pursued a Ph.D. in educational leadership, started working at Maricopa Community Colleges.
This was the beginning of my strengths experience, the president described herself as a strengths-based leader and she wanted to turn things around. We worked hard on building a culture of strengths, started with faculty and staff, then with students. The college success course was a great entry into strengths, also embedded in career services and advisement.
Why go back for the Ph.D.?
I went back for a Ph.D. because of my Input and Learner, I like to be able to justify what I'm talking about and people in that environment expect you to have those degrees. It took 5 years (the MS took 3 years).
Where did you do your strengths training and who were your course leaders?
In Omaha with Al Winseman and Curt Liesveld. I still stay connected with people in my class; it was truly a life-changing experience.
How does someone get started coaching at a community college?
You'll probably need a master's degree, if you want to be an instructor. But you can be a volunteer coach, start with the student services department to get yourself established. Get connections through working with tutoring companies.
What advice would you give coaches who aren't quite where they want to be yet? The opportunity isn't quite there now, so what's next?
- I lead with Strategic and I'm always thinking about what's next
- Imagine where you want to be, use the appreciative inquiry approach
- What do I want to be doing in 10 years? Then take baby steps to get there
- But sometimes you end up somewhere you don't expect and, voila, there's an opportunity
- In October 2016 I was diagnosed with breast cancer
- On the day of my first infusion I saw posters on the wall with women and sayings, one said "there was one woman who lifted up the others" and I thought, that's me, that's how I'm going to get through this
- I fired up my Relator, connected with others, encouraged them, got to know the nurses
- It provided me the opportunity to use what I knew about strengths, and I made the connection between strengths and well-being
- If people knew what their natural talents were, if they could really get in touch with how they best get things done and approach this in a way that was natural and empowering for them it would be great
- I'm healthy now
- I came out of that experience with my company Wellbeing Essentials
- I help people who have been through something big, whether there's a change, something they weren't expecting; there's an opportunity for me to do something else, how can I use my strengths to thrive
- My message is whether you're at IBM or at the Chamber of Commerce meeting or you're talking to a student or someone at your church, go deep, think about what you really care about, be authentic and share what you know because there's so much goodness in the work we do and people everywhere can benefit from it
We tell coaches to find their niche. You weren't planning on working in wellness but the opportunity presented itself, you were in the midst of it and it happened. How do you measure success in this area to know you're being effective?
- I developed a pre- and post-test survey before and after the 4 week program, 5 questions are about strengths; how did you feel before we started and then afterwards
- It gave people a way to say, that's behind me, who am I going forward, what have I got and how am I going to use it
- Strengths self-efficacy improved
- Some questions I ask:
- What are your goals?
- What is your time frame to reach them?
- How are you going to use your strengths to get there?
- Tell me how you will measure your success?
- What would it look like for you if had increased your physical wellbeing?
- 80% of my participants said they felt empowered to make a significant difference in their wellbeing; this also helps move my business forward
How have you worked the business side rather than staying nonprofit?
- It was hard to charge breast cancer survivors
- I did the workshops for free, but people who came out of them on fire were more interested in paying for more coaching
- My own preference is to give something away up front that has value and then people who want to continue the support, that's when the pay fits in
- I'm going to offer this for other groups of people -- whom I feel more comfortable charging, people who are retiring
- I'm also open to other opportunities
- No one is talking about wellbeing beyond diet and exercise
Why are we not talking more about strengths and wellbeing? What did you take away from Tom Matson's message at the last summit?
- His focus on engagement and wellbeing during his work with students
- We want to thrive, not just survive; that's the why and strengths is how we get there
- As coaches that's a good way to message what we do, it resonates with everyone
- Tom Rath was pretty moving at the last summit
- If you want to make a change, if you want to do something, if you're ready to branch out, do it now
- If you say you'll do it later, you probably won't
- I've tried to dial up Activator
What kind of things/programs did you do at the community college? What was helpful? What was the best of what you did?
- South Mountain College is in an urban area of Phoenix, 70% are first generation college students, it is federally designated as a minority and Hispanic-serving institution
- Students are not all "kids", a lot of re-entry adults, it's an opportunity to make a difference in a way I had never imagined
- The things that were most significant early on were just creating an awareness of strengths
- We painted the front of the student services building with images of strengths
- We branded ourselves as a strengths-based college
- Our first two years we focused on staff and faculty
- Provided an 8-hour educator session
- Learning about your strengths is still part of the onboarding experience
- Student success course is mandatory for all degree-seeking and transfer students; included strengths in it
- Embedding strengths into advising and career services
- There are now 4-5 certified strengths coaches
- Doing a great job on collecting outcomes of the work
How did they get so embedded in the organization? What was the magic of that?
- There was some resistance along the way, particularly with a new leader
- President started with her executive team, included strengths in meetings
- Those leaders then took it to their teams
- It became a movement, people started wearing shirts with their Top 5
- Became self-perpetuating
- The college adopted wellbeing as one of their values
What if someone isn't getting the institutional buy-in from the top?
- Try to find a champion somewhere, talk to people in counseling or student development or advisement
- Students are used to taking assessments in career services
- Do your homework so you can describe how strengths help students
What are some of your lessons learned as a coach?
- Great potential to add value wherever you are
- Find your passion and use it in what you know
- Gallup has almost unlimited resources to help you, don't overlook them; what are your favorites?
- The annual Learning Series
- Theme Thursday
- Called to Coach
- Resources online
- Wellbeing book -- be sure to read it!
- Connect with other coaches in your community
- I've been certified since 2014 and we've just started; 8 of us have met; we're on fire; our name is Aim to Impact; the Arizona Impact through Strengths Mastermind Group
- We've met twice and started out thinking we had little in common, but the opportunity to meet and talk with other people who speak the strengths language is huge
This is not about inspiration. This is not about "believing in yourself." This is about identifying and getting clear about your talent -- and then putting it to work.
Visit our store to browse our myriad products and learning opportunities for strengths-based development.
Julie Wechsler's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Strategic, Learner, Achiever, Relator and Discipline.
Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach Cheryl S. Pace contributed to this post.