ICF Coaching World Interview with Beverley Wright

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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.”

Deep Roots
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.”

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