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Finding Purpose and Defining Values Through Coaching, with Sushil Cheema

Finding Purpose and Defining Values Through Coaching, with Sushil Cheema

We sit down with Sushil Cheema to discuss her journey into coaching and explore how setting visions that build cohesion among teams, especially in a remote environment, can help take the next step in your career. She also covers topics such as confidence issues that leaders may face, her experience as a solo-preneur, and the differences between coaching and therapy. Lastly, Sushil shares her insights on what makes a good coach and how to find one who fits your needs.


0:00:00.0 Maricella Herrera: Where leaders go, learning follows. Harvard Business School Executive Education offers more than 60 in-person and virtual programs. Learn more and apply at, that's


0:00:19.0 Megan Oliver: Welcome to the Ellevate Podcast, Conversations with Women Changing the Face of Business. And now your hosts, Maricella Herrera and Megan Oliver.

0:00:34.0 MH: Hi everyone, welcome to the Ellevate Podcast. I am here with Megan Oliver, my co-host, and I didn't even say who I am, I'm Maricella Herrera. [chuckle]

0:00:45.0 MO: Hi, Maricella. [chuckle]

0:00:47.0 MH: Clearly, I'm all over the place today.

0:00:49.0 MO: That's fine. It's... I get to say, "Hi, Maricella," like when I freaked you out in our one-on-one last week where... It was, because I had roommates walking in and out of their rooms, and I was trying to make it clear that I was going into a meeting. [chuckle] So I'm trying to be like, "Hey Maricella." But you were just like, "Why did you say my name? Am I in trouble? What's going on?" [chuckle]

0:01:06.0 MH: Yeah, it felt like when a parent calls you by your full name. [chuckle]

0:01:10.0 MO: Yeah. It's very... That's my mom, very, "Megan Elizabeth... " and I'm like, "Oh God! What did I do?"

0:01:17.0 MH: Well, it's also because it's... Our listeners won't know this, but most of the people at work call me M. So...

0:01:21.0 MO: Yes.

0:01:22.0 MH: So when I heard Maricella, not like, "Hey M," I was like, "Oh, [chuckle] what did I do?"

0:01:28.0 MO: Yeah, I call you M, we call you M, or in Slack, we just call you MH for your initials. You're MH in all of my notes. There's literally... I'm removing an article for you today, and just like, "Review MH's article."

0:01:41.0 MH: Yeah. So it's funny how we get used to how people call us. How has it been this week? What have you been up to? What have you been into?

0:01:52.0 MO: I have been into... All right. So we're gonna go way back. I talked a few weeks ago about rediscovering a childhood love, which was Toontown online. And this one was rediscovering a childhood love, but it was over the... It's been over the last few months, and it's just been fun. So basically, as a kid, I was very much an anime kid, loved it. I eventually fell out of it for a wide variety of reasons. I still keep... I still check on some of them, but there was always one couple, in particularly Naruto, which was one of my favorites. Sakura and Sasuke always wanted to get together, always, always, always. And... But eventually I fell out of the show, 'cause it's 500 billion episodes long. And... But I would check in on them and everything. And they eventually... They did eventually get together, which I was stunned by, and I was so happy.

0:02:39.1 MO: And they got married, and they had a kid, and I was like, "Yay!" Well, now they have the sequel show, which again, haven't really been watching, 'cause I haven't watched the show in 15 years. But it was announced that they were gonna do a manga version of a novel that they released about them just having a little adventure together, these two. And so I was like, "Well, now I wanna read that." So I've been reading. And then they did an anime adaptation of it too. So it's been such a bizarre experience reading Naruto again basically. And it's an absolute delight for anybody who happens to have watched this and maybe fell out of it, and you wanna just see this. If you ever wanna watch two characters that you love get together and end up fighting a bunch of dinosaurs for some reason, dinosaurs have never been a thing in Naruto, and they're just like, "We're just gonna have dinosaurs, and he's gonna have a pet velociraptor," and I was like, "What is going on?"

0:03:41.3 MH: Can I just say how much I love your... It's not melancholy, that's not the word I wanna say. It's lately, you've been bringing things back from your...

0:03:51.9 MO: Nostalgia?

0:03:53.0 MH: Nostalgia, that's the word, thank you. I really appreciate that.

0:04:00.5 MO: I've been debating this on the podcast, 'cause I was like, "I don't know if this is really... Do I really wanna say that this what I've been into?" But I'm like, "Yeah, I kinda do, because it's been really, really fun." And Sasuke was always my favorite character even after he turned evil, and that was part of the reason I stopped watching, 'cause I was like, "I don't wanna watch this any more. This is sad." And then eventually he turned good again, and he married the person I wanted him to marry, and he had a kid. And 10 out of 10, this was a very cute thing, they were holding hands in it. There's no romance in this manga. But normally in Naruto... And so then they... But this was just so cute. And then it... Whoever did the anime, there was one scene where he gives her a ring, and they had it be moonlit. And I was like, "This is so romantic. Normally, this show is not like this," but I was like, "I'm into this!" They said, "This is for the grown up people who read it as kids who wanna see some adult romance, who just wanna to see some people just have a very like, 'Here's a ring, hold on to this,' and then just holding hands by a pond in the starlit sky." And I'm like, "This is lovely."

0:05:14.3 MH: Very nice. [chuckle]

0:05:17.2 MO: So 10 out of 10.

0:05:19.3 MH: Well, I'm glad you're enjoying it.

0:05:21.0 MO: Yeah.

0:05:22.4 MH: I've kinda been into a different... In a very different mood, I think, than yours. Not nostalgia, definitely introspection. I've realized that since my toe injury... And I know, I'm sorry I keep talking about my toes. But I've been thinking a lot about my life and things and just what I wanna do, where I'm going. It might be the toes, it might be turning 40, it might just be... I don't know. But one thing that has been bringing me comfort as I'm going through this, this was a recommendation from Rebecca Spitzer, who's our VP of Product and Technology and one of the people who keeps me sane every day. She recommended We Can Do Hard Things, the podcast with Glennon Doyle and her wife, Abby Wambach, and her sister. And I've been so into it. I've been so, so, so into it. It's kind of like a warm blanket. [chuckle]

0:06:24.1 MH: But also really thoughtful. They have really incredible guests. They talk about topics that are relevant. The last one I listened to came out... By the time this comes out, it will be a few weeks, but it was on friendships and the power of friendships and how many... In the world now, there's a big aspect of importance put on romantic relationships, but we forget about friendships. And for a person like me who is single, it's... Yeah, friendships really are make or break, they really become your family, and sometimes we just need that. And it's... They have this conversation, they have the author of this book called Platonic, which is all about friendships. And it's... I just highly, highly recommend that episode, I highly recommend the show. They're... One thing that I truly admire is how open and authentic and truthful Glennon Doyle is. And it's... I just... She's become one of my favorite people to listen to, up there with Brené Brown.

0:07:44.5 MO: Well, I love that.

0:07:46.2 MH: So highly, highly recommend.

0:07:48.8 MO: Yeah, I'm never gonna stop trying to get Brené Brown on this podcast. If anybody listening has a connection to Brené Brown, let me know, 'cause I'm trying to get her.

0:07:58.3 MH: You know I would flip out. [chuckle]

0:08:00.5 MO: Oh yes, I know, that's why I want... I... Because as much as they want Brené Brown on the podcast, I actually more want your reaction to me telling you that I got Brené brown for the podcast.

0:08:12.5 MH: I'd flip out, I love Brené Brown and now Glennon Doyle.

0:08:17.0 MO: Yeah, yeah. I'll have to get that. Yeah. Yeah, it's funny you should mention a podcast, I... 'Cause I talked about my mental health issues last week. And one of the things that I've really been leaning on through it is also a podcast. I know I already did my what I'm into this week, so I'll make this one brief. But it's called Race Chaser with Alaska and Willam, which are two drag queens who both have been on Drag Race Alaska on Season 5 and All Stars 2 and Willam on Season 4. Just going through each of the episodes, every episode of RuPaul's Drag Race and just like cracking jokes, commenting on the looks, on the challenges, on everything, and just giving a lot of behind-the-scenes details of what actually happens behind the scenes on RuPaul's Drag Race.

0:09:01.6 MO: And I've listened to it before, but just listening to it again has... It's kind of been... I know you said, like listening to those podcasts that really helped you get through things, this is kind of taking my mind off of things, where it's just kind of lets me live in this fun land of just two drag queens just mouthing off about everything on RuPaul's Drag Race and everything drag and celebrating drag and celebrating that world. And ultimately, even when people don't do well, they're still just like, "Okay, but she's fierce, and I love her." And she... If you ever see her show, go ahead. And just really, really fun. So if anybody is a drag race fan and isn't listening to this, and is a... I'm a huge Alaska fan, and then also a really big Willam fan, but I'm especially a huge Alaska fan. I was rooting for her all the way through All Stars 2, and I was fully on team Alaska, was over the top, excited when she won. So really, really fun. And they just have a lot of fun with every episode.

0:10:08.4 MH: Yeah, sometimes need that, we need some of the... Take your mind off of things, and those are great.

0:10:16.5 MO: Yeah.

0:10:17.4 MH: Well, it's game. And I've never watched the show.

0:10:19.2 MO: I'm determined to get people to watch RuPaul's Drag Race who've ever watched it, 'cause I love watching Drag Race with people who've never watched Drag Race. Because I was introduced to it by... 'Cause almost everybody gets introduced to it by a friend. I was introduced to it by a friend, Edgar, in college, late college, like senior year of college. And that was when I tore through all of it. And I haven't kept up with the later seasons, the last several seasons I have not seen just 'cause they do so much Drag Race now, they do like an All Stars and a regular season every year now, and so it's hard to keep up with. But it is the most fun show on television. And it's just... It's so good.

0:11:06.3 MH: Yeah, I'll check it out. Well, if you're still here with us after all that, [chuckle] check out our interview today. I have a conversation with Sushil Cheema, she's an Executive Coach, we talk a lot about the coaching industry. We talk a lot about confidence and lots of interesting things. She's a big Ellevate member, supporter, chapter leader, and she's going to host next week's round table on practicing intentional delegation. So listen up. And if you want to meet her in the virtual land but in real time, join us for the round table.


0:11:53.0 MH: So I'm here with Sushil Cheema. How are you, Sushil?

0:11:57.9 Sushil Cheema: I'm doing very well, thank you. How are you?

0:12:03.0 MH: I'm doing great, it's sunny outside and nice. So... [chuckle]

0:12:07.5 SC: Good.

0:12:09.4 MH: I don't know. Getting into that feeling of maybe spring is around the corner.

0:12:15.9 SC: Hopefully yes.

0:12:16.2 MH: No, it's not. [chuckle]

0:12:17.4 SC: It's 80 degrees here in Florida. So... [chuckle]

0:12:21.2 MH: I'm jealous, it's definitely not that in New York.

0:12:23.9 SC: Got it. Got it. [chuckle]

0:12:25.9 MH: I like to start this podcast always by asking the big old question, just give me some personal background and tell me a little bit about you and kind of what led you to what you're doing now.

0:12:37.6 SC: Sure. So I'm first generation American, my family hails from India, but my parents both grew up in East Africa. I myself, born and raised in the US, grew up in Tampa, Florida and then moved to Manhattan for college and journalism school, both at Columbia University. I stayed in New York...

0:12:58.9 MH: Go Columbia!

0:13:00.3 SC: Yeah, I love Columbia.


0:13:03.6 SC: I stay... I went for college and grad school, so definitely love Colombia. I stayed in New York for 12 years, but then ultimately left in 2012 to return to Tampa to be closer to my family and also to escape the cold and city life.

0:13:17.2 MH: Get that.

0:13:18.2 SC: Yeah. But I spent the majority of my career in journalism and digital media, both as a reporter and editor. But I also have been a teacher and nearly became a lawyer. I do have my law degree, but I never took the bar exam or practiced. But my JD did come in handy as a manager and as a journalist. I got very interested in the coaching world mostly after I hired a coach of my own to sort through some very specific issues. And it may sound like a big exaggeration, but she quite frankly changed my life in just one conversation. We worked through a particularly challenging issue regarding a romantic relationship. And in doing so, she helped me see that I was having similar challenges in all my relationships, whether they be with family, with colleagues, with partners and with friends. And that one conversation, it was an hour and a half long, it completely transformed me and made me wanna learn more. And then my employer also hired an executive coach, and I got to see how working with a coach in the workplace had different kinds of impacts, but again similar ones at the same time, like relationship building is a huge one.

0:14:37.5 SC: So I started to train at first as a life coach but then took my training further so I could work as an executive coach. And that's what I do now. I'm also certified in emotional intelligence and take a very holistic approach to working with my clients, most of whom are C-suite executives or high-level directors in a range of industries.

0:15:00.5 MH: So I'm curious to go a little bit into this, because I talk to a lot of coaches. I... Between the podcast and our community, I know a lot of coaches, and I'm ashamed to say I've never asked this, but can you talk a little bit about the difference between a life coach and an executive coach and how those two may or may not relate?

0:15:23.6 SC: That is a really great question. So the interesting thing about the coaching world is... I'll be perfectly honest with you, it's kind of like the Wild West. Anybody can call themselves a coach, you don't have to go through a training program, you don't have to get certified. There is the International... The ICF, the International Coaching Federation, which it does help to get credentialed from, and I'm working towards my credentialing right now. But anybody can call themselves a coach and hang out their shingle and do their thing. So a life coach can also work with executives and help them through issues in the workplace. But executive coaches really specialize in working on leadership development.

0:16:12.9 SC: For example, I work on executive presence, communication skills, confidence-building, those relationships that are so crucial to helping with collaboration and just getting along in the workplace. So there can be some overlap, but there can also be differences. And at the same time, all that said, a lot of times I will ask clients like, "Let's look at this issue more holistically, let's take it out of the workplace. Where is it manifesting elsewhere in your life?" So say you're having a self-confidence issue, where are you maybe not advocating for yourself at home, with your partner, with your kids or with your parents? And then removing it from the workplace may be an opportunity to practice some of these skills without some of the stresses of the workplace, if that makes sense.

0:17:07.6 MH: Yeah. No, it completely makes sense. And have you found in the last few years... I just feel like in the last few years, the boundary between work and life has gotten even more blurred. And I don't know if you've found yourself going more into a kind of a hybrid world of life coach-executive coach. How has that change with... For people who... Life and work kind of now are in the same place and one on top of the other, how has that changed in your practice?

0:17:44.3 SC: That is such a great question, because self-care has become increasingly important in terms of time management and boundaries. And that goes for people who are not just executives, but at all levels, from entry-level employees, all the way up the chain. And when I talk about self-care, although I am also a certified meditation and yoga teacher, I talk about self-care beyond those kinds of activities. It includes time management, delegation, running effective and efficient meetings, just because it makes your life easier and everyone else's life easier. I have a lot of clients who are struggling with, "What do we do about return to work? What does remote look like? What does hybrid look like? How do we continue to build culture when not everyone's in the office or wants to come back to the office?" And quite frankly, nobody wants more meetings or forced socialization. So it... Yes, I would say that self-care is something... Is a big theme that it's coming up across the board, and forces that holistic approach.

0:19:01.1 MH: Right, yeah. I'm just talking from what I see in our community, and it does seem like there's so much more of thought on like how am I not getting burnt out, and how am I making sure I'm following my purpose, so to speak, or... Then I'm realizing that I'm much more than just my job and how I present myself in my job, but that's it's... That I'm a person, so to speak.

0:19:29.6 SC: Right. Yes. And that question and conversation has been at the forefront... Right, the purpose question, what do I really want to be doing? How do I really want to spend my time? And an exercise I often take clients through is setting up mission, vision, values for themselves, not just for a company, but for themselves, and also, if we wanna bring this back to the organizational context, individual teams, what is the purpose of this team that helps build cohesion within the team and then kind of helps you communicate with other departments who we are, what we do, what our rules are, especially that helps a lot in a remote environment in particular.

0:20:16.8 MH: This I love this so much. The idea of teams having their own purpose, their vision, their kind of mission, it makes so much sense to me, even in a small company like the one I lead, sometimes it's like, who's doing what, when, and if we would know these very clear, this is what we're about, this is our purpose. It might be easier. Can you help me understand how... 'Cause it does feel daunting on the personal level, like when I hear create your mission and your purpose and your value for yourself, I'm like, "Oh my God, how do I even start?"

0:20:56.7 SC: That... It's very difficult, and it is not something you can sit down and do in an hour or a day or even a week, it is something that evolves over time. I have a worksheet for people that... Honestly, it's an iteration that I've stopped using it at the moment, because I think it's set up in such a way where people feel like they should be able to do it in a day, but you really can't... So I think it's helpful to start with values, and Brené Brown has a really great list of values on her website.

0:21:30.7 MH: Oh yes.

0:21:35.1 SC: And she also encourages people to limit it to three, because once you get more than that, it starts to either be repetitive or it's just too much to incorporate, but I think about values, defining your values is foundational to the rest of it, to your vision and your mission, and it's something to sit with over time in your quiet time or when you have those sparks of inspiration, but really taking the time to define the values is the first step.

0:22:05.6 MH: Yeah, I love that I know exactly what list you're talking about, you know exactly what episode of her podcast that comes in and what part of her book... I'm a huge Brené Brown fan as listeners of this podcast, and people who have heard me speak in public will know, and I agree, that's a really good exercise, and the way I think, and I'd love to hear your thoughts, 'cause I sometimes talk about values in the context of your personal brand. And I'd love to hear what you think about how those are reflected, but when I came to realize what my values were or started at that point in time, 'cause I do believe that values change, one of the things that I had to listen to was that pit in my stomach of when I felt something bothered me, so I realized that I got extremely upset when I saw any injustice, and so that and reflecting on why that was kind of brought me more and more closer to understanding what my values were.

0:23:18.3 SC: I love that. I think I know about myself, and I'm gonna assume it's the same for a lot of people, that listening to your body is a difficult thing to do, we are so dissociated from our bodies these days, we don't move as much, especially in the last few years, we don't... We don't trust that gut instinct as much for whatever reasons. As I've gotten older, I learned too, and I'm still learning to listen to that voice inside, and I think that that just like you said, knowing or knowing and understanding your reactions, noting them, writing them down, reflecting on them is so important.

0:23:57.4 MH: So you talk about... You work with your clients and particularly with executives, who you think they have it, they have it figured out, but they're still working on confidence building, and I believe confidence is part of your personal brand on how you show up in your executive presence, so what is it that keeps us doubting ourselves or keeps us from having that confidence?

0:24:22.8 SC: I think a lot of it has to deal with fear of making a mistake, especially the higher you get on the chain of command or however you wanna put it. People forget that you're human. It's lonely at the top, that's that famous old adage. It's lonely at the top, and it's hard to have enough people around you sometimes to bounce things off of ideas off of... People feel like, "Oh, you're so experienced. You should know the answers." And quite frankly, nobody does, we're living in such an innovative time across industries, and... It's okay to try new things. Not everything is gonna work out just right. It's learning from your mistakes. And I grew up in a family of doctors, my father and sister are both doctors, and I always have to remind myself that what I do, no one's bleeding out on the operating room table, and of course, for doctors or other people, professionals where there's a lot more liability and whatnot, that's of course a concern, but for a lot of us mistakes, we don't wanna make those mistakes that are gonna lose a million dollars for the company or anything like that, but things like that do happen.

0:25:36.1 SC: And the important thing is to learn from them, and it goes back to just... I've been amazed more and more with the top level clients I work with, the CEOS and GMs, how many of them have expressed that the coaching has helped them because they have nobody to talk to, to bounce ideas off of, they don't have as much of a sounding board, and it's not really appropriate always for them to talk to their direct reports who may be high level C-Suite execs themselves or director level people themselves, the CEO is still the one in charge, so that can be a challenge, having that confidence.

0:26:19.9 MH: Yeah, there's so many things I want to follow up with on this because it seems like... And I wanna me... I'm gonna make a note because I'm gonna forget, the first one was you're talking about making mistakes and confidence, so would you say confidence then is born in some way out of resilience?

0:26:41.2 SC: I would. I do think it is because... I think it's a Japanese proverb, You Fall down seven times, get up eight, you have to keep going and you keep learning, and that is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful things about life and our reason for being here is to grow and learn from ourselves and our own experiences and from others, so yes, I do think that confidence is born out of resilience.

0:27:12.4 MH: Makes me think about how you hear about people who have been in sports when they were growing up, and a lot of what you learn is failure and how to deal with it. And how important that is in every aspect of your life?

0:27:30.3 SC: Yes, yes. And athletes are constantly training right, they have to constantly work and train to hone their skills, and they're so focused on what they do, I actually... I'm part of a group of coaches that meets once a month, and we... Part of our weekly or monthly meeting is to read a book, and we recently read a book about sports psychology, and talked about how that relates to coaching.

0:28:00.1 MH: It's funny 'cause when you are saying you deal with... When you talk to the C-suite executives, and it's not the same to be a CEO than to be a COO or some other role in the C-suite and... For me, personally, I know that that was the experience. I was the COO for a long time here, and yet I understand now the difference of how lonely it can feel being at the top top job, and how important it is to have people outside of my organization that I can talk to that know what it's like. Thankfully, I have Ellevate and that forum the basis of what we do is to do this to connect people to other people so that they have someone to talk to, but the interesting aspect of what you were saying is that it seems like that's the same case when you are a solopreneur and that's how I would categorize coaches, so it's interesting to me, and I don't know if I'm right, but you're on your own, right, so you really don't have anyone else, and then you mentioning you having this group of other coaches that you meet with, how has that influenced in your practice?

0:29:17.5 SC: It has been such a tremendous support because we talk anonymously about client challenges, we protect client privacy, we don't reveal names or organizations or anything like that, but you know, everyone runs into roadblocks and you need a sounding board sometimes like, have you seen this? How did you handle this? What would you suggest? And that even practical matters about how to run a business. You're right, I've always worked for someone else up until this point in my career, and just knowing what do I need to do this week in terms of balancing my schedule with marketing versus admin versus actual calls with clients, just getting that support is really helpful too.

0:30:12.2 MH: Yeah, it kind of is interesting when you think of the parallels, so you did at the beginning mention that coaching is like the Wild West.

0:30:21.3 SC: Yes.

0:30:21.8 MH: So I wanna go back to that. How do you know how to find a good coach?

0:30:27.6 SC: That is a great question. I always encourage people when they come to me, if they didn't know me from somewhere specific or don't know me personally, to interview a few people, and I'm always happy to refer them to a few other people or encourage or just encourage them in general, go find other people to talk to before you make the commitment, because if there is not that camaraderie or... What's the word I'm looking for? Like good...

0:30:56.8 MH: Like chemistry in a way?

0:31:00.8 SC: Chemistry. Yes the Good chemistry. Thank you. If there's not that good chemistry, it's not gonna work out, but at the same time, you may need someone who's going to challenge you, who's going to push you. And be open to that. So things to look out for really are... I always tell people ask about experience ask if it's important to you if they are ICF certified, if... Most people don't know to ask for that, or what that even means. But it is really good to know what kind of training did you get? If at the very least, have you been through a program... What does the process look like? Do you use any assessments, like I said, I'm most certified in emotional intelligence, and I run that assessment on everybody because it's a good foundational starting point.

0:31:56.8 SC: Ask of course, price points, payment, all of those things that are foundational to knowing what the process will look like, what does onboarding look like... That is something I've been finding in my own practice, just like starting a new job, you're making a commitment to work with somebody and be vulnerable, so make sure you really understand what the process is and what you're getting into.

0:32:20.9 MH: I had never thought about the onboarding...

0:32:23.2 SC: Yeah, I have an onboarding questionnaire, I call it a visioning questionnaire, which is more life coach kind of speak, but it asks everything from, tell me about where you are right now, what are your goals in this engagement, and where do you see yourself three to five years from now, what do you envision for yourself financially, career-wise, spiritually even because it gives me a sense, a better sense of who the person is and how they think and what they value.

0:32:57.1 MH: Now would you know if you even need a coach? [chuckle] I'm sorry, I'm like getting a lot of these thoughts also based just on therapy.

0:33:05.5 SC: That's great. I... No...

0:33:08.4 MH: It seems like there's so many parallels.

0:33:10.0 SC: They are really are. And I can talk about that too. What are the difference between... The differences between therapy and coaching. But to go back to your question, how do you know if you need a coach? I don't wanna say that nobody actually needs a coach, I think it's great to get coaching when you are, for example, in a state of transition, a lot of people are feeling a state of transition right now with COVID, and like we talked about redefining their values or their purpose. You might want coaching if you're in a new job or looking for a new job, it might look like career coaching, or it might look like life coaching, there are different types of coaches from everything for marital coaching to anything else. Within the organizational context, if you are struggling with relationships or people are finding you difficult to work with, or you're finding it difficult to work with other people, you might consider coaching because you'll see where your limitations are and how to better communicate. So one thing I do when organizations hire me, when I work with one of their managers or leaders is run 360 feedback, and when I do 360 feedback, I interview...

0:34:35.8 SC: They don't use anonymous forms, I actually interview people, so that means direct reports, colleagues and managers of the client and the client themselves to make a true 360, and that can help get a sense of how this person relates to other people versus how they see themselves, how they communicate, what are their strengths or challenges. So that's really helpful too.

0:35:08.8 MH: Yeah, it's funny, you said from the start, you're like, yeah, maybe not... You don't wanna say nobody needs a coach or that everyone needs a coach. I would very, very, very honestly say everyone needs a therapist.

0:35:22.4 SC: I think that therapy is very, very helpful, very very helpful. And they both have their place. So therapy, the difference is really this, if you think of it on a spectrum, first of all, coaches don't diagnose anything, they are there to help you set goals and work toward them. And therapists can do the same thing, and a lot of therapists are coaches as well, therapists... Again, if you go back to that spectrum, this is a very simplified way of explaining it, but therapists can help you get to zero to... From zero to 50, and then coaches take you from 50 to 100 and beyond.

0:36:05.1 MH: I like that analogy. I like that. That way of phrasing it. It makes it easier to understand. I'm gonna turn it around though. Well, actually no, I'm not gonna turn it around yet. I actually want to ask you about the emotional intelligence aspect that you work on or work with... Why did you choose that?

0:36:24.4 SC: I like that assessment because it's coachable in the sense that it's not fixed. Some assessments will say, "This is your personality, and you can't change it." The EQ is one that says, okay, for example, you have a low optimism score, that's an indication that we can coach you on how to shift your mindset so that you have a happier outlook towards life, so your score can actually change over time, and if you put in the effort, it will change, and so it's... Especially for clients who like to see that kind of data, it's very helpful. So that's one reason. Also to be perfectly upfront, it's one of the assessments that I found most helpful to me, and I do intend to get certified in some others along the way as clients request them. So for example, some organizations use the Hogan or the MBTI and will ask that you use that. I just haven't run into that just yet myself.

0:37:39.6 MH: So we talked a lot about how to find a good coach and what makes a good coach, but again, because it is like the wild, the wild west, and because you come from a different background and then went into this... What would you recommend to people who are looking for... Or looking into or thinking of going off on their own and starting something in this line of business?

0:38:04.4 SC: I definitely recommend working with a coach yourself to really understand what it is that coaching is all about, I also recommend knowing what your goals are, not only from a coaching engagement that you enter into yourself, but as a coach, why do you want to do it? What do you hope to gain from it? What is your purpose in pursuing it? If you think you're gonna make a lot of money right out of the gate, that's probably not gonna happen, but just like any other business, there's a learning curve, there's an investment, and what not.

0:38:43.0 SC: I've just seen so much stuff out there where... I don't wanna call them false promises, because maybe there are people making a lot of money out of the gate, but I think that there's this idea that anyone can be a coach, and it's... You'll go travel the world and sit on a beach while you talk to clients.

0:39:03.2 MH: Sounds lovely.

0:39:03.5 SC: I don't think... It does sound lovely, and you know what, I'm sure there are people doing it, but I think knowing there's more to it than that is really important. I have a professional liability insurance, for example, because there is liability with some of these things, my understanding is that most people never have to use it, but you do need to have it. So, like I said, yes, anybody can really become a coach there is... It's not necessarily a regulated profession, but as with anything, just know your goals and do your research, and I really do recommend training.

0:39:49.1 MH: And I think what you started with, which is also like experience at yourself, right get a coach and see on that. What it is like being on the other side is probably really important.

0:40:00.3 SC: That was really crucial to me also... You know talking one-on-one to people, even if they only take two clients a day, it's a lot, it's a lot of emotional investment, and you may, might get triggered or things might get stirred up based on what you hear, so knowing how to take care of yourself is really important here too, knowing how many clients is enough for one day. Last May, for example, I booked too many clients and had like five speaking engagements all in a week, and by the time it was over, I had no idea what day it was. And was completely exhausted.

0:40:43.4 MH: I was gonna say, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

0:40:44.7 SC: Yeah. And as an extreme introvert, myself being an extreme introvert, it took days to recover from that, so know your limits, and keep in mind that it's great to help people, but there are challenges with it as well.

0:41:03.0 MH: We've talked about your career change and kind of advice for people who are looking into that. But this does make sense. There are reasons why we change careers. We don't always have the best experience. What's the worst job you've ever had?

0:41:18.3 SC: So I've been really fortunate to have great job opportunities come my way, that doesn't mean they were all perfect, I really loved being a journalist and left for a lot of reasons to pursue other opportunities, of course, but I would say the most challenging situations have been when I have had a difficult time connecting with a manager, and sometimes it can be difficult to know what kind of professional development opportunities exist or what a career trajectory can look like, especially in a fast-paced, constantly changing industry like journalism. So the big thing I learned along the way was to have confidence to ask questions about those professional development opportunities and to advocate for myself.

0:42:08.2 SC: And on the flip side of that, I learned that as a manager, I should be sure to invest in my direct reports and even my colleagues to help them get where they want to go and to expose them to new opportunities, we can all get so busy at work, but investing in those relationships and helping uplift other people really is the most rewarding part of being part of a team.

0:42:34.2 MH: How did you invest or how do you still invest in people who you work around, because I got that question asked to me today in another podcast, and I was like, "Oh, that's a very good question."

0:42:46.6 SC: So I don't have direct reports right now, of course, but...

0:42:53.2 MH: Right, in the past.

0:42:54.9 SC: So I invest a lot of time volunteering to mentor people at my alma mater, aspiring journalists, and giving it to them straight, really about how challenging the journalism industry can be, what it really takes to be a reporter, giving them ideas about how to stand out from the crowd, whether that's creating an online portfolio or building up digital skills, a lot of people still wanna be traditional magazine writers and write long stories, but that is not where the jobs are quite frankly.

0:43:33.6 SC: So that's one way. And another way is when I was still at my last job, for example, just really having straight forward conversations with my direct reports about, where do you wanna go? I encouraged one person who was kind of plateauing and didn't really know what to ask for next, to look at job listings, I wasn't saying go apply for another job somewhere else, but go look at job listings and see what's out there that we might be missing at our company, maybe you can pitch something, maybe you can create a role for yourself. During the pandemic, for example, a lot of journalists that I knew were re-skilling to become UX designers or UX writers. And that's not for everybody, but I encourage people to look into that. Just see what it's all about.

0:44:27.2 MH: That's really great, both the fact that you're encouraging them to see what else is out there, and not necessarily like you said, to go get a new job, but what skills do you need to develop eventually in the future, you wanna get a new job, and also what skills are we missing currently in-house. I think it's a really good approach.

0:44:48.9 SC: Yeah.

0:44:50.4 MH: And to be fair, it sounds like you were coaching.

0:44:55.1 SC: Yes, there was a little bit of coaching there, being a manager is... There is a lot of coaching that goes into it, we get so caught up in the day-to-day, like I said, but part of a manager's job is to help their people grow, so... We have to find time to do that.

0:45:13.1 MH: Yeah, and I'd argue, that's your number one job really, when you have become a manager, you think it's about doing a bunch of different... I don't know, a bunch of different things and yeah, you do a bunch of different things, but in many ways is watching someone do your job in a worse way than you would do it, and helping them figure out how to do it in a much better way than you would do it.

0:45:34.5 SC: You know? It's funny you say that because a lot of times I tell new managers who are struggling or feel like they're struggling, keep in mind that nobody teaches you how to be a manager, very few people get actual hands-on training about what it means to be a manager, usually you just get a title and hopefully a pay raise, and all of a sudden you have people reporting to you and you have to figure it out, and so you've likely learned habits from your own managers, whether they're good or bad, and everyone's just trying to figure it out. So...

0:46:12.0 MH: Yeah. In my opinion, that is why a lot of... I'm very passionate about this topic, by the way, but in my opinion, that's why a lot of the culture within business is the way it is now, and it's so not necessarily the most human-friendly and it's because managers are the ones that can influence it the most and we're just thrown into the wild.

0:46:34.4 SC: Yeah, that makes sense.

0:46:37.7 MH: Yeah, well thank you, this has been great.

0:46:39.6 SC: Thank you, this has been a pleasure.

0:46:43.6 MH: Well, we're gonna do our little lightning round, so these are fun questions just to get to know you a little bit better. So if you could have any super power, what would it be?

0:46:56.1 SC: I would control the weather.

0:47:00.8 MH: That's actually a really good one. [laughter] And the first time I've heard that.

0:47:04.3 SC: Oh, good. Yeah.

0:47:06.5 MH: Favorite mythical creature?

0:47:07.5 SC: The Phoenix.

0:47:09.8 MH: I said that too when I was asked this.

0:47:11.1 SC: Oh really?

0:47:12.7 MH: Yeah. If your house caught on fire, what's the first object you would run to save?

0:47:21.7 SC: So I actually had an electrical fire in my condo that I rented a few years ago.

0:47:24.6 MH: Oh, no.

0:47:28.3 SC: Quite frankly, I didn't have a dog at the time, so I would grab the dog of course, and besides that and my purse with my keys and my phone, I would probably grab the pictures off the fridge of my parents of my fiance.

0:47:43.4 MH: Oh, I like that. The best piece of advice you've ever been given.

0:47:48.4 SC: Trust your intuition.

0:47:50.9 MH: That's a very good one. Does pineapple belong on pizza?

0:47:55.3 SC: It works for me. [laughter]

0:47:57.7 MH: I'm with you, I'm pro pineapple. And finally, what's one thought you'd want to leave with our listeners?

0:48:09.3 SC: Think less about what you are doing with your life and more about what you are creating.

0:48:16.2 MH: I like that. I like that. Thank you for that one. That definitely, it's a great way to end on.

0:48:26.4 SC: You're welcome.

0:48:26.8 MH: Well, this has been fun. Thank you so much. And it was a pleasure having you here.

0:48:32.3 SC: It was lovely. Thank you.


0:48:40.9 MH: And we are back. We are back. Sushil is very interesting. I think her journey was interesting, and I know a lot of people go into coaching or think about going into coaching, so my curiosity kind of led me into that realm of questions that I never get to ask, even though I know a lot of coaches.

0:49:03.8 MO: Yeah I know a lot of coaches too, but I think so often when I'm talking to coaches, they're so excited to coach because they love coaching that they like wanna get in to like, "Alright, what are you going through Megan? What are you... " They wanna help coach that you never really get to ask questions like, "Okay, why are you a coach? What brought you there? What's it like being a coach?" And so it was really cool to hear her go into the details of coaching behind the scenes.

0:49:29.2 MH: So like I said, next week, Sushil is going to be hosting our round table on delegation, so be sure to check it out. That's next week, Megan, what's going on this week?

0:49:43.2 MO: This week at the Ellevate round table, we are gonna be talking about, "Make standing out in a male-dominated field work for you" That's this Thursday, huge topic, very relevant I think. Tons and tons of our people at Ellevate, I've talked to so many people, whether it's at on Ellevate 101, if you're new to the Ellevate community, come join us at an on Ellevate 101 or our round table or our community circle, I have talked specifically about being in male-dominated industries.

0:50:08.8 MO: I know about a million of our podcast guests have talked about that, so if that speaks to you, please join us on Thursday, we don't have any community circles coming up, this is just kind of one of those weeks where none of them fall in, but we have seven of them run in a month, so definitely be sure to check out the website and check out our community circles and see what all is coming up. And then for in-person events, our Cincinnati chapter on Thursday is gonna be talking about putting strategy to your vision, our Los Angeles chapter, also on Thursday is gonna be having a happy hour. Our San Francisco chapter is gonna be continuing their courageous resilience series of events, this one about being intentional and energized for work, that's gonna be next Tuesday. And then next Wednesday, our New York chapter is gonna talk about how to unlock potential within yourself and your team by embracing equity, gonna be very, very big. And again, all of those are in-person events, and so if you really wanna get some in-person networking going, those are the places to go Cincinnati, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, and frankly, keep an eye out, our chapters are always posting new events, there could be new ones, by the time that this goes live, keep checking out our website for items. Just keep an eye on that page.

0:51:27.6 MH: Yeah and these are just the ones happening this week, if you go on the page, yes you'll see everything that's coming up, our chapters are hosting tons of events, I know you're mentioning one that's coming up this week in New York, but in a couple of weeks, we're hosting another one in New York...

0:51:43.9 MO: The big one.

0:51:45.6 MH: On March 15th, which is going to be our special event for International Women's Day, and I'll be moderating, which I'm very excited about, so also come and see me in person...

0:51:56.7 MO: Yes, coming and see you not just virtually, but in person, that'll be really big and... I can't wait for that one. I'm in the Slack channels that are all about planning those, and so even though I'm more on the marketing side, not on the planning side, just seeing what the product team and what the event teams have been cooking up... It's gonna be really cool.

0:52:17.9 MH: Yeah, it'll be fun. Yeah, well, let's celebrate some history. Do you wanna go first this time?

0:52:23.5 MO: Yeah, I will gladly go first, so our history makers this week, Manuela Roka Botey became Equatorial Guinea's first woman prime minister.

0:52:32.9 MH: Rose Christian Ossouka Raponda became the first female Vice President of Gabon.

0:52:40.5 MO: The top two ones today, very big, big deal. Both of them, Deborah Houser became the first woman superintendent of Middletown City Schools Board of Education.

0:52:51.0 MH: Cathy McMorris Rodgers became the first woman to lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

0:52:58.6 MO: Audrey Todd-Davis became the first woman captain of the Baxendale Volunteer Fire department.

0:53:04.6 MH: And Manpreet Monica Singh became the first female Sikh judge in the United states.

0:53:11.3 MO: Big deal. So congratulations all on all of those shatterings of history, if you wanna keep listening to women who are shattering history, be sure to follow us on social media as well as keep listening to the podcast. 'cause we do this every single week.

0:53:24.9 MH: Yap and it's one of the highlights, honestly, it's so much fun to see how we are the blazing trails.

0:53:34.7 MO: It's the most fun thing for me to research for this podcast every week, and be "Oh yes, I get to look up the... " I'm like making sure that I have everything all set for the podcast I'm like, "Oh, I still need to do the history makers, woohoo."

0:53:46.8 MH: And next week we'll be talking with Natalia Ball and Molly McAlister. It's a 2-in-1 interview. They are part of the Mars petcare family, so to speak. Natalia is the Global Chief Brand Officer at Royal Canin, and Dr. Molly McAlister is a Chief Medical Officer at Banfield Pet Hospital. We talk a lot about supporting parents coming back to work, they're great, actually, I had so much fun talking to them, and I'm sure when you listen to the interview... I'm not even gonna give any spoilers, when you listen to the interview, you will see why... I mean, I had a lot of fun talking to them.

0:54:31.3 MO: Yeah, I'm excited. We haven't had a dual interview in a while I think since we did the one on the report, the McKinsey report on women in the workplace, I don't think we got a dual episode since then.

0:54:44.4 MH: Yeah, it's been a while.

0:54:47.2 MO: Yeah, so that's always a really fun dynamic, I'm looking forward to that.

0:54:50.0 MH: So see you next week.


0:54:51.0 MO: See you next week.


0:54:58.1 MH: Join an exceptional peer group to sharpen your leadership skills and advance your career, Harvard business school executive education now offers in-person and virtual programs, learn more at that's

0:55:17.6 MO: That so much for listening to the Ellevate Podcast. If you like what you hear, you can subscribe. Give us five stars and share your review. You can learn all about Ellevate membership and all the great things that Ellevate Network is doing at our website, That's E-L-L-E-V-A-T-E network dot com, and special thanks to producer, Katharine Heller, she rocks. Thanks so much and join us next week.