Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Marcina Simons. She obtained her Masters of Science in Organization Development from Pepperdine University, California and has applied her knowledge to a variety of settings. She currently works as an HR Consultant where she performs executive coaching, strategic planning, and change management. She was previously employed as a Change Effectiveness Director, Sales & Accounts Operations Leader, and a Global Client Management Consultant. Throughout this Talent Talk you will learn more about executive coaching, organizational development, and useful tips for current graduate students.
TSL (Talent Science Lab): Please describe your current role, and what that role entails.
MS (Dr. Marcina Simons): I am currently an executive coach; the reality is that I do coaching and HR consulting—whether that is with the owners or team members. In Oklahoma I currently work with smaller companies and I do coaching with individuals and team-building with the management team. So, my job really varies from week to week and month to month.
TSL: What do you enjoy most about your profession?
MS: I recently put one team through the Extended DISC Profile, which is something similar to a Myers-Briggs, but this one focuses more on a person’s team-building skills and what they provide to the team. So, I think walking people through their own assessment and how they work as a team and where improvements could be made is what I enjoy. I really like to focus on people’s strengths and seeing the light bulbs go on, when people understand why others in their team behave in a certain way it is rewarding. People will start to realize why others get along better in a team and notice things they can start doing differently as a management team to improve the overall performance of an office.
TSL: What do you enjoy least about your profession?
MS: Billings and sending invoices! However, being an independent coach and consultant is challenging for me because I enjoy working as a team and going to an office. Working from home doesn’t work best for my personality; I am an extrovert so I want to be a part of a bigger team. I don’t want to have to sell myself every day, and if you’re independent you have to be good at this. You have to always be thinking about your pipeline in terms of client work, so that you pay the bills.
TSL: How did you get involved in executive coaching?
MS: It was something that evolved while I was at Hewitt Associates a few years ago. Within my role as an HR Generalist, I become a career coach, and then a change management consultant. Whether you are talking about an individual team or a large organization, for me it was all the same: here is the current state, here is the future state, how do you get there?. Over the past few years people sought me out. They heard I was good at coaching and either felt stuck in their career or had problems with a manager and didn’t know what to do or they didn’t know how to have those difficult conversations. People were seeking me out and I would help them come up with a plan, and it evolved into me coaching people for several hours a week informally. It wasn’t in my job description, but it just kind of happened.
TSL: Are there any specific qualities you think a person should possess to be a good executive coach?
MS: It is mostly listening and questioning. The ability to listen to what a person is saying, but also what they are failing to say and being able to read in between the lines is important. You must be able to unpack what a person is saying because as a coach, your job is to help them and you need to be able to understand where their energy is and what is on the top of their minds. I might come in with an agenda, but it could end up being irrelevant if there is something else happening in their life that they need to talk about. It is finding the balance between listening and asking the right questions. Those are the two key qualities that are needed.
TSL: As a coach, what is the typical length of time that you work with a client?
MS: It tends to be long-term. Some of it is based on sheer need; if they came in because they needed to have a difficult conversation with their boss about their career, that could be two sessions and then they no longer need my help. For those people, I usually knew them ahead of time, so it definitely made it easier because I already knew about their history. I typically like working with clients for a long-term setting, it is more meaningful for me.
TSL: Did you know executive coaching was the career you wanted while you were in graduate school?
MS: I thought executive coaching would allow me to go to school and work, but not be too taxing like a full-time job. However, there really isn’t enough work out there to just be an executive coach. I haven’t found enough coaching and consulting to keep me busy and pay the bills. My graduate program just confirmed for me that I would like to be more involved as a team and not an independent worker.
TSL: What is it about organizational development (OD) that interests you?
MS: Apparently I had been doing it for 20 years, but I just didn’t know it! As an HR Generalist and Consultant I was doing team-building, conflict-resolution, performance management, engagement, and leadership development, so a lot of things fall under OD. When I joined my graduate program and we discussed team building and team dynamics, I realized I was already doing all of this, I just didn’t know there was a name for it. I am also certified in LaMarsh, which is a change management model. Essentially, you are trying to get people to buy into whatever it is you’re changing. In past experiences, the companies I worked for were interested in new processes or new technology, my job was to work closely with the project team. The project team was creating the new process, new roles and responsibilities, and new technology; so while the project team was creating it, it was my job to get people to actually buy into it and use it. Otherwise, you end up with resistance.
TSL: In your experience, what is one of the most effective ways to achieve that buy-in?
MS: You start with, “Why?” The question you have to answer for people is, “Why do I have to change?” or, “Why can’t I keep doing what I’ve been doing?” You must build a business case for them and why the change must happen. Secondary, you must have strong sponsorship; it is important to have key leaders in place who are going to drive the initiative and support it. If people are resisting the change, they must be aware of the consequences.
TSL: Are there any specific experiences to which you attribute your success?
MS): Life! I don’t think there was one specific instance. I got involved in my 20s through HR where I was doing training and development, which taught me to think more practical and help people perform their jobs better. And then I became a training manager which gave me the opportunity to work alongside others who were good at it. I was able to watch others and learn from them, and even if they did something poorly it was a learning opportunity to not repeat their mistakes. I took a week long class on team building and then the LaMarsh change management certification--I’ve always had this knack for wanting to bring out the best in people. I like to focus on strengths and look for the win-win between the person and the business. It has truly been a journey.
TSL: Do you have any last pieces of advice you would like to offer to current graduate students?
MS: This may sound trite, but follow your heart. When time is flying by and you don’t want to stop work, that’s a sign. Versus, where you can feel time lagging and you dread doing it. If you can test out different careers—through internships, part-time jobs, projects, whatever it is, if you can get involved and gauge your excitement about that job that will help you decide if it is right for you. If you wake up in the morning excited to do work, it is the right career for you. Follow your heart!