This article was published in Coaching World Newsletter June 4, 2009. Coaching World is the official publication for the International Coach Federation (ICF), the largest coaching association with over 17,000 members globally.
Try to leave things better than you found them. That’s the adage Beverley Wright lives by. And the evidences is all around her.
Long before she discovered coaching, Beverley Wright, PCC, had a coach’s outlook on life. “I was always curious about people and was fascinated by what makes them tick,” says Wright, Sales Execution Executive for ibm.com Americas Talent Management and Development (TMD). “I was the care taker, always making sure people stayed connected.”
Wright, a Baby Boomer, joined IBM Corp in Dallas, 35 years ago March 4, 1974. Today she’s responsible for recruiting, education, training and professional development for a business unit of over 1,500 sales representatives at three contact sales centers in Atlanta, Dallas and Toronto.
Her fascination with people has taken her far in her various roles leading individuals and teams to success at IBM. Wright’s coach mentality and effervescent personality help her bring out the best in others, according to friends and colleagues.
“Beverley has set a tone of leadership that puts people first, sets up the management team to ‘serve’ their employees versus the other way around,” says co-worker of 15 years, Bruce Church, VP of Sector Sales, ibm.com. “She has helped identify and prepare many of the leaders across ibm.com North America and throughout the Dallas/Fort-Worth area. Bev has helped shape a viewpoint of how to empower our organization and community to be successful that is counterculture to the style many leaders felt necessary for success.”
Wright who majored in sociology in college joined IBM in the customer service/administration sector and has been a manager responsible for a business unit or team since 1988. She was the first to introduce coaching to her division of IBM nearly a decade ago and has gradually built a team of 14 internal coaches who currently work with over 120 first and second line managers.
“As a coach, she helped me have a vision for impact that was much greater than I would have developed myself. Just as importantly, she gave me insight to execute on this larger vision,” says Church.
As a result of Wright’s initiative, in 2005, ibm.com won the prestigious ICF International Prism Award for their highly successful coaching program. The same year, her division won the ICT Prism Award from the North Texas ICF Chapter. The Atlanta IBM division, which Wright oversees, is a finalist in this year’s Atlanta, Georgia Coach Association’s Prism Award contest.
Wright discovered coaching “by accident” through an interaction at a women’s luncheon in Dallas. She took the idea of becoming a coach herself to her manager and with IBM’s support, went on to graduate from Corporate Coach University International and The Coaching Training Institute and earned an ICF Credential.
She credits IBM for embracing her vision for coaching and equipping her to go forward with her own development as a coach, citing the company’s three-tiered values philosophy: “Dedication to every client’s success; innovation that matters to our company and the world; and trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.” Wright says her work as a coach naturally supports these ideas.
“I love that IBM has given me this opportunity,” she says. “They believe and invest in their people. They’ve invested a lot in me and I recognize that and it allows me to gain more skills and use those skills for the benefit of my company and coworkers.”
Wright grew up in what she describes as a very stable home environment with two parents and a younger sister in a close-knit African American neighborhood in Dallas. Her parents were entrepreneurs who, among other endeavors, owned and operated a successful barber and beauty shop that she and her sister, Sandra, still own today.
Having a solid foundation in family and community is what has made her who she is today, Wright says. Her coach’s outlook on life can be attributed to her mother, who taught her that you should always try to leave things better than you found them, people included. “People who know me, know my family.” says Wright.
“People at work knew my mother. She was a huge influence on my life and the person I’ve become.”
For Wright, life, is about one’s relationships with others, and those relationships, just like her with IBM, are deeply rooted and long lasting.
“Family and friends are the things that nourish your soul” says Wright who has been married to her husband, Nathan, for 41 years. They have two grown children whom they see regularly. Wright’s best friend is the first person she met in first grade. They still talk most Saturday mornings, she says.
The Wright Choice
Gifted with the entrepreneurial spirit of her parents, Wright began her own Executive Coaching business five years ago, suitably called the Wright Choice. Because of her role at IBM and active community involvement, Wright started seeing a lot of interest from people who wanted to know if she did outside coaching. Wright saw this as an opportunity to build her credibility outside her already established identity at ibm.com. Today she coaches on average two clients an evening, three evenings a week via telephone. It’s no surprise she considers leadership her niche.
“I really have a curiosity about leadership and the impact it has on a corporation, both negatively and positively” she says.
Client Jesse Burgess said Wright has helped him find his “authentic self” through coaching.
“She has been instrumental in helping me to understand my strengths and how I can use them to both my advantage and the advantage of my organization,” Burgess says. “When I came to her, I was having difficulty helping my team get to the next level of performance. Beverley was able to help me find a few small adjustments that I could make to my style of management that helped tremendously.”
According to Burgess, “Beverley ‘the Coach’ and Beverley ‘the person’ are identical. She is a caring, patient, and wise confidant. She is selfless in her dedication to make others better. She has an effervescent personality and a humble spirit, so it is no surprise that people gravitate towards her.”
Community And ICF Ties
While Wright’s specialty is working with leaders, she is regarded as a respected leader herself within her local ICF North Texas Chapter and the greater Dallas/Fort-Worth community. When she was the North Texas Chapter’s vice president of membership in 2006, she set up new systems that supported membership growth. Membership doubled that year under her leadership.
“I learned so much,” says Wright of her chapter involvement. “It stretched me in ways I thought I would never be stretched.” She went on to serve as the chapter president in 2008 and now serves on the global level as a trustee on the ICF Foundation Board.
“Beverley’s 30-plus years experience working for IBM in diverse areas of business gives her a rich background for coaching corporate and business professionals” said former ICF Board member Ginger Cockerham, MCC. “Her leadership in the North Texas Chapter has been an incredible gift to our chapter and has taken us to a new level of member participation and professionalism.”
Wright’s leadership skills and passion resonate throughout the Dallas community as well. She was honored in March by the Dallas Business Journal with a Minority Business Leader Award. For IBM, she serves on the Corporate Dallas Fort-Worth Diversity Council and has past board involvement in a long list of other community projects and organizations, including United Way of Dallas, African American Museum, and the Urban League, which saw record profits the year she co-chaired their major fundraiser.
One project particularly close to her heart is the Dallas Dinner Table (dallasdinnertable.com), an independent nonprofit which promotes multicultural dialogue and providers an opportunity to hear and to share diverse perspectives about the impact of race on the daily lives of Dallas residents.
During her first term as a board member on the Leadership Dallas Alumni Advisory Council (LDAAC), Wright stepped in to chair the Dallas Dinner Table’s transition from an LDAAC project to an independent nonprofit. After the transition, Dinner Table attracted 300 participants from across their community and has seen up to 1,200 attendees since.
“Dallas Dinner Table is making a positive impact on race relations in our community, one dinner at a time,” Wright says.
At this point in her life, Wright says she’s focused on her legacy, quoting Marian Wright Edelman’s book, Lanterns: “Be a good ancestor.”
It seems she has nothing to worry about in that area as she continues to leave things better than she finds them. “Bev’s impact continues to grow,” says Church. “Her work to develop leaders who focus on developing other leaders, continues to impact the broader IBM.”
For many, the new year season is a time for reflection. Whether this has been a challenging year or a glorious one, take stock of where you are and determine where you want to go. Companies do this in their annual budgets and planning processes. You can use that same type of assessment by viewing yourself as the CEO and the chief stockholder in your own company. In your company, you are the “every thing.” So, let’s call your company “Me, Incorporated.”
Terri Lonier, CEO of Working Solo, Inc., was quoted as saying, “In the future “the not-too-distant future” only two groups of people will be in the world of work: entrepreneurs and those who think like entrepreneurs.” The work world has changed, and we must change with it. We must embrace the fact that we are all one-person companies and understand that we are the CEO, the director of marketing, the finance manager and the employee of Me, Inc. Let’s take a closer look at what that might mean to our lives and careers.
If you are an entrepreneur, or you just think like one, before you open Me, Inc., you would conduct a market analysis to ensure that your product, YOU, is competitive in the marketplace.
What company’s name comes to mind if I say, “JUST DO IT?” What name springs to mind if I ask, “Which company has the golden arches?” Why do you know these companies by a simple phrase? You recognize their BRAND.
Me, Inc. has a brand, too. What is yours?
When people hear your name, what do they think of first? Ask yourself that question to start creating the brand that is you! You can build your brand and awareness of your brand in the career marketplace. Learn how to BE the BRAND, the LEADER you want to see.
When Scott Bedbury was senior vice president of Starbucks, he defined eight brand-building principles. Over the new few posts, I am sharing them, along with my comments, to assist you in enhancing or building your personal brand.
I’d love to hear from you. What makes your brand famous?
“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Martin Luther King Jr.
Change your thinking, change your choices, change your life. There is that word again – CHANGE. It is always there or just around the corner. I am returning to the topic of change because it is ever present. It is a consistent topic of conversation with friends, colleagues, clients and even casual acquaintances.
Deciding what needs to change may be the first order of business. Everything starts with the way we think.
I have two questions for you:
- How has the way you think impacted your life?
- Do you make time to think?
George Bernard Shaw said, “Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.” Thomas Watson Sr., the founder of IBM, used the word THINK as a one-word slogan when his company was growing. If he could get all of his employees to think about ways to improve the company and its products, he thought that was the key to innovation and business success.
Disciplined thinking can work for you if you want to make changes to generate more intentional choices in your life.
How does thinking play a part in your life?
“People cannot be managed. Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.” This quote is attributed to H. Ross Perot, founder of Electronic Data Systems and Perot Systems. Successful organizations and companies require inspiring leadership. Let’s take a look at the “coach approach” to leadership.
Leadership is a relationship between leaders and their employees. In a research survey conducted by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner for their book, “The Leadership Challenge,” the authors identified the characteristics that employees wanted in their leaders most often. Employees wanted leaders who are:
Did these make your list?
Successful companies need good management and leadership. One is not usually a substitute for the other. A coaching leader is a skilled people manager because he or she realizes that people are the most important asset a company can have. Walt Disney is quoted as saying, “Disney’s most important asset goes home every night.”
If you are a manager, consider these suggestions to increase your leadership quotient:
- Surround yourself with people different from yourself. If you only see the big picture, you will need some detail people on your team to ensure that important tasks don’t fall through the cracks. There is strength in diversity of skills and experiences.
- Create an environment that makes it easy for people to tell you the truth. When you are the leader, ignorance is not bliss! Your employees are closer to the front line with your customers and usually know what is and isn’t working. Ask them for their suggestions and listen to what they have to say.
Striving to be a coaching leader is critical to your leadership success. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo of top-down management. Make the choice to be a leader.
The pace of the business world has increased, and we often think we don’t have the time to focus on the people instead of the many urgent situations that demand our attention. That is the perfect time to realize that people are the reason that they call us leaders. No successful leader becomes successful alone. Those who use the “coach approach” to leadership reap the benefits of creating a legacy of leaders who keep the company strong for now and the future.
Are you happy? As the quote says, It can be difficult to achieve happiness in these rough and hectic times, but do you know what happiness looks like for you? It is not one size fits all. I am often asked what people want to work on when they engage a coach. The answer is varied, but it has some element of a pursuit of happiness in their personal and/or professional life. Here are some basic suggestions for you to consider if you, too, want to be happier:
1. DECIDE TO BE HAPPY.
This is not intended to be a flip statement. Take responsibility for your happiness and make a conscious decision to focus on situations, people and relationships that make you feel good about yourself and the world.
2. GET TO KNOW YOURSELF BETTER.
Write down your values and core beliefs. Check to ensure that your personal and professional goals are aligned with your values and core beliefs. If there is not alignment here, inner conflict will squeeze out happiness every time.
3. DON’T CONFUSE MATERIAL THINGS WITH SUCCESS.
True happiness has more to do with the quality of your thoughts and relationships than the size of your house, the car you drive or the labels in your clothes. A 1995 study, using surveys and daily observation by Diener and Fujita, showed the availability of material resources was nine times less important to happiness than the availability of “personal” resources such as friends and family.
4. ENJOY EVERY PLEASURE
Mother Nature is free for the observing, and happiness can be as simple as enjoying a beautiful sunrise or sunset while traveling to work or your child’s laugh. Don’t forget to focus on those moments of happiness, wallow in the feeling of joy. Happiness is not necessarily a steady constant state but may come in bursts of contentment, so be on the look out for it. When was the last time you laughed out loud for a good minute or two? Laughing can contribute to your overall happier outlook, so look for reasons to laugh.
5. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ABILITY TO HAVE A HAPPY LIFE.
Be your own cheering section. It is hard, if not impossible, to rise above your level of self-esteem. We constantly hear people talk about giving or getting a “vibe” from someone. When you don’t believe that you can or deserve to be happy, the “vibe” you share with others can help this become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
6. GIVE BACK OFTEN TO PEOPLE AND CAUSES THAT CALL YOU FORTH TO HELP SOMEONE.
Happiness usually requires that we feel needed. There is nothing more rewarding than helping someone else to be happy.
Those who have no fire within cannot warm others. ~ Bev Wright
It’s Monday morning and the weekend is over for most of us and it is time to go back to work. Are your employees looking forward to coming back to work for you? There is a quote that says, “People join companies and leave managers.” If you formally manage people as a part of your job responsibilities, this column may be of particular interest to you. I intended to write about something completely different for this issue but recently I have heard so many distressful stories about bosses that make the workplace more challenging than it has to be that I changed my focus. Let’s be clear, the purpose of any business is to generate profits. A business usually does that by filling a need that serves customers. Your employees service and touch your customers so it is in the best interest of a manager or business owner to have motivated, engaged and reasonably happy employees interacting with them. Have you gone to make a purchase and while the clerk is checking you out, they share their view of what a horrible place they work in and how they can’t wait to find an escape? Even worse, they ignore customers and spend their time sharing with their peers about their plight of working for uncaring bosses and companies that don’t expect much of them or invest in their training and development. Sound familiar? This is a symptom of workplace pain that has become too often the rule and not the exception. The antidote is to train managers and leaders to become effective in leading people. They might focus as much on the return on people (ROP) as they focus on the return on investment (ROI). The two things are very closely related. Extensive research has shown that the managers or leaders of organizations or companies create the environment, climate and culture. Managers can create a climate that encourages employees to offer ideas for new products, redefine processes that increase productivity and customer satisfaction and look for ways to grow company revenue. The climate can impact the bottom line profits of a company by a 28 percent factor…up or down. What company would not like to grow profit by even a fraction of that number?
What does it take to be a leader that creates a positive workplace climate? In their book, The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner identified four practices of exemplary leadership. They are:
- Model the Way
- Inspire a Shared Vision
- Challenge the Process
- Enable Other to Act
Terri* could easily picture the little girl sitting on the bench that she often saw in her dreams. She did not know the girl’s name but could clearly hear her voice reminding her of her shortcomings. She whispered that Terri was not smart enough, kind enough ,etc. As Terri and I discussed what this all meant during our session, she realized that the girl in the dream represented all the fears she had about not measuring up to the expectations of her father. She did not feel that she could ever be good enough for him. That fear was always just beneath the surface and affected her every waking moment. The amazing thing was that Terri was very successful in every single thing she attempted but she had always let the fear of possible failure loom over her like an ominous cloud. During our coaching partnership, she was able to face and manage her fears and stop letting them drive her life. The dreams about the little girl decreased and eventually stopped as she worked with her coach and a therapist to understand her fear and address it.
What are you afraid of? There are many ways to view fear. My favorite acronym for fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. We often allow fear to become a self fulfilling prophecy because we manufacture evidence to support what we think about ourselves. Being fearful is a choice that does not allow you to be the best you that is possible. Worry is an ally of fear.
My Mother used to say that we worry about things before they happen, when they happen and after they happen. She said we should wait until they happen and make one worry do. She offered sage advice that we should consider. Here are a few ideas that might help you handle your fears.
- Acknowledge your fears but don’t let them control you. A veteran coach friend of mine says, “It is ok to let fear go along for the ride, you just can’t let it drive.”
- Separate fact from fear-induced fiction. You can tell yourself something for so long that we start to believe it is factual when it is either totally or partially a figment of our active imagination. What we make up about a situation is often just that…made up and not based on any factual evidence.
- Practice looking for the positive about yourself and others. There is one line in the movie, Pretty Woman, where Julia Robert’s character says, “It is easier to believe the bad stuff.” We can overcome that syndrome with practice. The subconscious mind is a sponge that will believe whatever we feed it and will then help it to become true. Don’t feed it fear and failure or it believes that is what you want to be true and it will help you achieve your goals.
This quote on fear is often attributed to Nelson Mandela but it was actually from a book by Marianne Williamson. Choose to focus on your light instead of your fears. You are enough already.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Acknowledge your fear, put it in the backseat and keep driving towards your God-given brilliance.