Podcast Transcripts

Karen Wright, Executive Coach and Managing Director at Parachute Executive Coaching, on What Makes a Good Coach


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Colin Hunter 0:07
Hi folks, and welcome to another episode of the leadership tales Podcast. Today delighted to be joined by a lady who, when you work in our sector of coaching leadership, you will come across a name on a number of occasions, and I did a LinkedIn sprint with her. And when we were in that LinkedIn sprint, other people were recommending her and then found out that she’s got connections to Michael Bungay Stanier is a friend and a contact of mine. And there’s a piece in here about that she’s almost the same ways that coaches coach. She’s got a background and experience in coaching. She’s got very clear and concise opinions around coaching, which I love, and I share. And you’ll hear those today. But also, she’s got a story that’s well worth listening to and hearing. And there’s a particular piece when she gets into that around her second book, which really brought home to me something about the accidental alpha. And when you hear that story on here, the piece that a lot of us get into this space, and she talks on a gender side and when but I was resonating as we’re going through. So delighted that she was able to join us today; you will love the conversation, and you’ll love the lady. And here’s Karen Wright.
Colin Hunter 1:23
What I am fascinated about is that you’re one of the people who consistently gets recommended for me to talk to or for people who go on coaching. I am always fascinated about how that’s come about. So maybe just give a bit of an introduction about how you got into coaching and how that’s come about.
Karen Wright 1:38
Oh my Gosh. I got into coaching because there was a large hole where my corporate career used to be.
Colin Hunter 1:47
Karen Wright 1:47
So I had a career in consumer packaged goods marketing. At one point, a British colleague of mine actually referred to my career as a specialist in the grazing habits of the North American male because
Colin Hunter 2:00
Karen Wright 2:00
Over the course of my first sort of 10 or 12 years in consumer packaged goods, I had worked on chips and salty snacks, beer, chocolate bars, and chewing gum. So,
Colin Hunter 2:11
Yep, I’m there.
Karen Wright 2:13
Right, And so you know, that this particular British colleagues sort of connected the dots and said, Well, clearly you have a lane.
Colin Hunter 2:21
This is what is true. Not maybe your lane, you really want to go down? No, because that, you know, I’m going to get a bit feisty when I’m having at the moment. I’m giving up chocolate crisps or chips. And beer. So I’m giving up, and I am, you know, slightly grumpy. I think it’s as it goes through. Yeah. So
Karen Wright 2:36
Well, you know, I like to think I was in the joy business, frankly.
Colin Hunter 2:42
Karen Wright 2:42
But in any event, I was working for Frito Lay.
Colin Hunter 2:46
Yeah, okay,
Karen Wright 2:46
As I was leading all of their new product development, which I adored, and I had new product and new business development roles prior to that, this is perfect. It was a company that was really about fun and innovation and bringing sort of, you know, entertaining things into people’s lives. And it was part of Pepsi, is part of Pepsi. Such a big international network. And from the moment I started working at Frito, lay, I started lobbying for that international move, knowing that this was a company that could potentially send me to Paris to Hong Kong, to Johannesburg to the UK, whatever. So I was long and loud on that. And they came to the US, and they came to me one day, and they said, Well, congratulations. We have your international move. And I said, fantastic. Where am I going? And they said Dallas, Texas.
Colin Hunter 3:34
Karen Wright 3:34
That was my reaction. Exactly. And so I thought, not exactly, I understand it’s different. Not exactly the international move. I was contemplating. And the HR leader said, Look, that’s the head office; we really need you to go there and spend some time and build some relationships and get known. And then we can launch you out into the international system. So I said, Okay, sounds reasonable. So two years in Dallas was the plan, and you know, bigger, better things. The boss I was supposed to report to when I got to Texas got moved before I got there. So I landed in Texas with no anchor. Coincidentally, there was a tornado that killed nine people on that first day.
Colin Hunter 4:18
Karen Wright 4:19
So Lying in the fetal position on my temporary hotel room bed, like
Colin Hunter
Karen Wright 4:23
What have I done?
Colin Hunter 4:25
Karen Wright 4:25
It didn’t get better from there. I had four or five bosses in about eight months. And you know, no clear mandate, no one shepherding my career, no one to reach out to, to ask for help. And so finally, I just said, you know, I think we’re done. And by the way, while all this was happening, bad things were happening back at home. My mother had gotten quite ill. A good friend had gotten quite ill; my brother’s wife and my sister were both pregnant with their first children. You know, there were all kinds of things happening that kept telling me you probably shouldn’t be. That’s what Texas.
Colin Hunter 4:57
Nothing against Texas for anybody listening inTexas
Karen Wright 5:00
Nothing against Texas? No, I was totally fine. There were many, many great things. Just it just wasn’t working out. So I resigned, and they offered to move me back. I said, thanks. I think I did everything I could do in the Canadian business. So, you know, I think we’re done here. So I moved back, and there was this big, gaping hole. And while I sorted some of the family things, I was very open to what was next. Should I get another similar job? Should I do something different? And this thing called coaching started bubbling up?
Colin Hunter 5:25
Karen Wright 5:28
It was one of those things where, you know, an article comes one day. Oh, that’s interesting. An article shows up the next day. That’s right, you know, and when it happened three days in a row.

Colin Hunter 5:40
Something it’s like when your phone is listening to, and it keeps sending you adverts for certain things. It’s just like the
Karen Wright 5:46
Well, that’s what would be happening today. Right? This?
Colin Hunter 5:48
Karen Wright5:48
This is prior to our very frighteningly intelligent phones. But you know, you’re right. You know, when it happens that many times in a row, apparently out of the blue, it really seemed to be something that I needed to pay attention to. So
Colin Hunter 6:01
Karen Wright 6:01
Yeah, so I investigated training programs, there weren’t many choices at the time, but I chose one and jumped in and have never looked back.
Colin Hunter 6:10
That’s amazing. And because you are one of those people that you know, that people recommend you go to, I’m always fascinated because I am not a member of the ICF. Yep. Consciously, I went through a lot of people berating me along while saying, well, you’re coaching and not remember the ICF why you got to be accredited. And we had a lot of times where I was be sitting in pitches, and people say, so are you ICF qualified and said, Well, no, I’m not. And for me, it was my experience of going out there and finding that there are a lot of people who coach who, in my words, would say shouldn’t be coaching. Yep. Or we’re even we’re master coaches. And I was just fundamentally underwhelmed by the capability. So I’m always fascinated by the debate about what makes a good coach and what we should be looking for in there. So
Karen Wright 7:01
Well, I want to separate that question into at least a couple of parts. So early on, I opted to connect with the International Coach Federation because I wanted whatever came close to legitimization.
Colin Hunter 7:14
Karen Wright 7:14
I wanted some sort of credibility. And this very early stage, International Coach Federation was really the only game in town at the time. But what it was doing was creating enough of a presence that if people were researching coaching, they would find the International Coach Federation. And so I founded the chapter in my city, and you know, took a bit of a stand on Let if coaching is going to be a profession, let’s create it that way and put some discipline and structure around it and write a code of conduct. And I’ve got a set of ethical guidelines and said about agreeing, what is the coach and know whether one who ought to be called a coach. And so as a result, I participated in the formation of that the first version of the credentialing approach.
Colin Hunter 8:04
Nice. Yeah.
Karen Wright 8:05
And in by far, far, far from perfect, because, you know, amongst the many flaws in the coaching profession is the fact that what it takes to become an accredited program is pretty broad. And a lot of different kinds of coaching can qualify for that. So just because one has taken an accredited program doesn’t necessarily mean one is equipped to coach in particular arenas, folk or corporate, being a great example.
Colin Hunter 8:34
Karen Wright 8:34
They also know that this may be different now because I haven’t gone deep on researching coaching organizations or coach training schools lately, but for most of the time I’ve been in coaching, you didn’t have to get accepted into a coaching program, you could just sign up and pay your money.
Colin Hunter 8:50
Karen Wright 8:51
So without any pre-screening or filtering of who’s participating in the programs, and without any real criteria for graduation, other than completion, because for the further now, there are some programs that will actually not pass someone if they haven’t delivered against whatever the criteria are. But for the longest time, that wasn’t even true. So anybody could sign up, and anybody could graduate.
Colin Hunter 9:15
Karen Wright 9:16
Therefore, you didn’t really know what was coming out into the world. So I’ve always referred to the completion of an accredited coach training program as a useful first filter.
Colin Hunter 9:26
Good way of putting it. Yeah.
Karen Wright 9:28
So it’s like I would rather not go to a dentist who hasn’t gone to dentistry school.
Colin Hunter 9:33
Both are equally painful sometimes. Yeah,
Karen Wright 9:35
Well exactly. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s that they are a brilliantly qualified, technically adept dentist, nor are they necessarily the dentist for me.
Colin Hunter 9:47
Karen Wright 9:47
But at least I know that they did the, you know, put a stake in the ground. They committed some time they committed some attention and energy. Somebody else was looking at their skills to say, you know, we think this person knows what they’re doing. So that’s how I have regarded coach training, and I have the dirty little secret that I am no longer a member of the international coaching Federation.
Colin Hunter 10:07
Yeah, Okay
Karen Wright 10:07
I have not renewed my credential. The last time I was asked to, mostly because I’m at a point where really no one asks anymore.
Colin Hunter 10:16
Karen Wright 10:16
I mean,
Colin Hunter 10:17
Karen Wright 10:17
A client, so I distinguish between customer and client because my work is entirely corporate. So the customer, in my parlance, is the paying organization, and the client is the individual; no client has ever asked, and I mean, ever asked.
Colin Hunter 10:23
Karen Wright 10:32
About my training, hiring organizations ask because they need that first filter.
Colin Hunter 10:40
Yeah. Yeah
Karen Wright 10:40
They and the purchasing departments like to know that there are some qualifications and that sort of thing. So yeah, so you know, the ICF has never really done very much for non-US members in terms of certain benefits and the things that they say will come as a result of being a member. And often on through my coaching career, I have considered mentoring other coaches and offering programs to support the growth and development of other coaches. And anytime you’re going to do that, I think you should have the membership and the credential and all of that, but I’m no longer interested in doing that. So I’m just I’ve let it go.
Colin Hunter 11:18
Let it go. One sec at. I’m what I would say on the positive side is I think the ICF has changed. And I think internationally; I think it has got.
Karen Wright 11:27
Colin Hunter 11:27
Better. And I’ve got a lot of good college friends who would listen here and challenge me immediately and go, well, that’s just your bias Colin, because you like to give advice, you know, joking aside that, therefore, Michael Bungay Stanier, our mutual friends book about the advice trap.
Karen Wright 11:43
They advise trap. Yeah
Colin Hunter 11:44
And the blend of mentoring and coaching. So there’s a piece in here that I know that I’m sort of, you know, voting for from my side, but there’s, but I do think there’s a piece about love the way you put a customer and the clients. And I think it is about that chemistry between the coach and the coaches, So important.
Karen Wright 12:01
Well. That is hugely important. But there also needs to be clarity around the boundaries of coaching. So please don’t be treating mental illness and doing therapy.
Colin Hunter 12:09
Karen Wright 12:09
Ideally, don’t be giving advice. Now, I will say that incorporate coaching; one of the associates on my company’s team said long ago that executive and corporate coaching are more directives than the life coaching purists would have
Colin Hunter 12:24
Karen Wright 12:25
I really don’t like that. But sometimes, a corporate coaching client just wants to be given an idea. Not necessarily told what to do. But could you please just give me an idea to get me started because I’m up against something, and it’s quite pressing? So I think that there are some differences. So for me, I mean, the International Coach Federation has played a huge role; no question added value, no question. I’ve always believed that it tries to do too much for too many.
Colin Hunter 12:50
Okay. Interesting
Karen Wright 12:51
This is evident when you go to a conference and find there’s a huge life coaching stream and a very tiny corporate stream, you know, that sort of thing.
Colin Hunter 12:57
Karen Wright 12:58
So I don’t think the task they’ve set themselves up for is virtually impossible to complete successfully.
Colin Hunter 13:05
Yeah. And what I love about coaching, just the title of coaching, is this. So many of my clients and talking clients and customers in your language would be very keen to move into a coaching role, and many of them do without really fully understanding a lot of the time what it’s going to entail and what it’s going to take. So
Karen Wright 13:22
Colin Hunter 13:23
And I know I always think there’s this lovely, you know, Mr. I don’t know what the word is their tension between most organizations don’t coach. Yeah.
Karen Wright 13:31
Right. Yes
Colin Hunter 13:33
And then they want to get outside coach, whereas probably the biggest benefit would be to be inside and coaching.
Karen Wright 13:40
Well, and it’s that coaching culture coaching approach idea that very few organizations do really well that again, referencing our mutual friend Michael Bungay Stanier, his whole body of intellectual property is really focused on helping organizations shift how people lead and create a more coaching style culture, which, you know, you and I both know, is a more sustainable kind of capacity building approach to managing and leading,
Colin Hunter 14:08
Karen Wright 14:08
But it’s not perceived that way. It’s perceived as taking more time and therefore being problematic when things just need to get done. I should just tell them what to do because that’s the quickest way; well, if you tell them what to do, guess what happens next time they have a question.
Colin Hunter 14:20
Yeah. I mean, back, and I think it’s Casey Carter, you know, another person is in our connection, who has that lovely expression about the fast speedy rabbit. You know
Karen Wright 14:33
Colin Hunter 14:34
And include any of us. And including myself as a speedy rabbit. So when Michael said I could coach you in 10 minutes or less or teach you to coach, I was like, Yes, please.
Karen Wright 14:31
Colin Hunter 14:41
I want that similar so less. So, yeah. Speeding and speeding others
Karen Wright 14:44
And I know I’ve had lots of conversations with coaching providers, you know, bigger coaching companies that have a big intake process and a big sort of series of deep, deep, deep probing conversations that are the setup to an executive coaching engagement. And I have yet to meet a client who’s really interested in doing that, who really wants to create the space for that, at least not at the beginning. And so I think the quicker we can support a client to accelerate, you know, to try some different things to make some different choices to learn something to stand a little more strongly on their own two feet, I think that’s where we start to really build credibility and add value and gain trust.
Colin Hunter 15:31
Yeah, I agree. And you know, when I first got into coaching, it was the large organizations like most suspensions in the UK, you got to coach when you were in trouble. So you got to coach.
Karen Wright 15:42
Colin Hunter 15:42
Do, and it was either to move you out of the organization or to correct the fault rather than actually, for me, I can’t take on myself as the expression I use. So, I need somebody to come in and, you know, allow me to see some stuff that I couldn’t see for myself. Yeah,
Karen Wright 15:59
There’s a friend of mine named Charlie Gilkey. He’s a really interesting guy, he’s a productivity expert and has done a Ph.D. or close to it, and I think Buddhist philosophy or something, and he was a military logistics expert; you will really enjoy him on this podcast.
Colin Hunter 16:14
Karen Wright 16:14
But Charlie has an expression that I love, and I invoke often you can’t read the label from inside the jar.
Colin Hunter 16:21
I love that.
Karen Wright 16:23
And there is your coach.
Colin Hunter 16:26
Karen Wright 16:26
And so, I think that our job is to be outside the jar to bring that objectivity and to bring the willingness to challenge and all of that. So can’t tickle myself is really the same kind of idea.
Colin Hunter 16:4
Karen Wright 16:41
But with regard to the use of coaching as a corrective measure.
Colin Hunter 16:46
Karen Wright 16:46
And Since the very first moment I stepped into this profession, I have refused to do that work.
Colin Hunter 16:52
Karen Wright 16:52
I absolutely don’t agree that’s an appropriate use for a Coach; I know that the reputation of coaching has struggled because of that common application. But it’s just not money well spent for anybody; you know it almost never works.
Colin Hunter 17:07
Karen Wright 17:07
That would say the only times I’ve taken on something that looks like a corrective sort of coaching; it’s because there’s an executive sponsor who is an absolutely passionate advocate for that person.
Colin Hunter 17:19
Karen Wright 17:20
There was one client I worked with, I was a few years into building my practice as a coach, and I was hired by a VP who had a director who was their supply chain guy. And he was really, really rough with people of color, and you know, all sorts of really just a very, very difficult guy to kind of have in the organization culturally, and brilliant at what he was doing.
Colin Hunter 17:44
Karen Wright 17:44
BP was clear; I want him here. Even he has tremendous expertise and capability that we need. And there’s so much noise around his behavior with other people that it’s becoming impossible for me to keep him. So can we please figure out whether or not we can fix it because I really want him here? And if he makes changes, I will be out in front, you know, loud and proud, supporting and getting people to give him a second chance.
Colin Hunter 18:11
Karen Wright 18:11
So that’s a situation where I would take on something that feels corrective. In this case, it was a complete lack of awareness of the impact he was having.
Colin Hunter 18:20
Yeah. And what I love about that is when we were doing our original work for a project called PI two, which is our leadership model, and a lot of it was based on emotional intelligence. And I recruited somebody at the time whose husband and son both had Asperger’s. And she said, motional intelligence, I just I can’t get it because I live my life in a way where her husband and son just don’t recognize the terms or the analogy about emotional intelligence.
Karen Wright 18:46
Colin Hunter 18:26
And therefore, we moved a lot of our work to habits, practices, and habits, and they could see that if they did something, there was an impact in front of them on the allowance, so I think there’s a piece for me and I don’t know, I’d love your views on this. I think there’s a shift sometimes in the way that coaching is started; we’re starting to understand more about the brain, the spectrum, even in teaching my wife’s a teacher, and how that impacts coaching because, in theory, that could be seen as counseling, but I think sometimes it’s about you know, coaching to get better practices. Yeah.
Karen Wright 19:17
Yeah, I do. I think you have to really take a look at where the client is and what they’re capable of. Which doesn’t mean defaulting to their lowest level of capability, but it does mean stretching them in the context of where they can begin to stretch.
Colin Hunter 19:34
Karen Wright 19:34
And again, building that trust and, you know, growing some new muscles, right.
Colin Hunter 19:39
Karen Wright 19:39
You’ve got to cycle on to for the first day you get on a bike.
Colin Hunter 19:43
Yeah. Oh, my favorite mountain. We’re just talking about that. Won’t we get to go there? Yeah. Although there are a few people who do that, they go right on to start with.
Karen Wright 19:52
Yeah, we all know how that works out.
Colin Hunter 19:56
A wet rag if it was me on the side of the road, yeah. I would blame the bike. But yeah,
Karen Wright 20:02
of course,
Colin Hunter 20:03
Yeah. of course. So, where’s your coaching going? Because you said you haven’t, you know, ICF you left behind, and you’re moving towards a different journey. Where’s your journey going? Now? What are you doing?
Karen Wright 20:14
Well, let’s answer that in two buckets. So I have a company called parachute executive coaching, I have about a dozen coaches, and I tap my global network frequently. And I have positioned the company, so it plays in between the very large consulting companies and the independents who don’t necessarily have scale or process and that sort of thing. So we’re thriving, where we continue to grow, we have a steady stream of wonderful corporate business, we tend not to work with the very, very, very big companies because we do like to be in environments with a lot of receptiveness and a lot of nimbleness. We do a lot of work with start-ups. So, but yeah, a really fantastic team of coaches and a nice, diverse team. And we’re doing some great work. And we have a lot of fun. So we had a very funny moment; I have a monthly associate call. And we have a new associate on the team who fairly recently resigned from a big CEO job. And, you know, took a training course and became a coach and so on. And we were doing some work as a team on values, and in the particular framework that we were working with, this coach was confronted with the fact that humor was a strong value, but it didn’t appear to be very much of his lived experience. And reflection was that when he became, as his words, a high-end executive coach, he thought he needed to be serious. And so wasn’t trading on humor as much as he might have. And we’re all as a group is saying, but you’re a CEO. So you were more comfortable with humor as a CEO than you are as an executive coach. We are confused.
Colin Hunter 21:51
Yeah, it is fascinating
Karen Wright 21:55
I know. But it was also funny, because as he said that the whole group of us that 12 of us were looking at him saying, Have you met us? Because the banter in the joking and so on amongst the Associates is hilarious. We also work hard at learning from each other. And so, as a group, we are raising the bar of our collective knowledge and experience. And we brainstorm, we solve problems together, that sort of thing. So it’s a wonderful group of people. And excellent coaches. And my job increasingly is to feed them great work.
Colin Hunter 22:30
Karen Wright 22:30
Because I’m the one with the marketing background and comfortable with the new business conversations and been around long enough to have, you know, some good connections and a decent reputation, so, yeah, so the business continues, I still do one on one coaching.
Colin Hunter 22:47
Karen Wright 22:44
But the Beauty of having a dozen Associates is that when new business comes in, if I don’t feel like it’s a good fit for me, or if I don’t have the capacity, I know people that I can hand it off to so I get to pick and choose, which is the best possible place to be.
Colin Hunter 22:58
So What is your flavor? Then what do you love doing? Because I always? And I know it’s a difficult question. But what’s your flavor?
Karen Wright 23:05
No, actually, again, this Charlie Gilkey that I mentioned a minute ago, he and I were chatting a few years ago, and he asked me that same question, like, who were the clients that really light you up? And I thought for a minute, and my response was, I want to work with people who believe they’re up to something big in the world. Now, they might be leading a big organization; they might just have a big idea that they’re committed to and working on putting out into the world. But it’s that conviction that there’s something that I’m here to do.
Colin Hunter 23:33
Karen Wright 22:33
Important, and I won’t, you know, I won’t rest until I have got it done. I also must work with people who are, and this is we, as a company, have talked about this a lot. We are committed to working with leaders who are, first and foremost, committed to being good human beings.
Colin Hunter 23:50
Kate Wright 23:50
And for me, that also means they take care of themselves. They take care of the relationships and the people that they care about. And then they understand who they are in terms of business and leadership. So a bit of a longish answer, but people who believe they’re big in the world and people who really do want to be good humans,

Colin Hunter 24:07
Yeah, it’s interesting. And I think I filtered my answers to that question as we’ve gone through because I used to say I only want to work with people who want to do significant change in them.
Karen Wright 24:18
Colin Hunter 28:18
And are committed to it. Yeah. But actually, I’ve grown more and more to understand that actually, some of the people who don’t see that or don’t see their own potential are actually just as valuable and rewarding as a coach.
Karen Wright 24:32
Colin Hunter 24:32
Suddenly get them to explore stuff, and they’re going off and doing stuff. Yeah, you just think, whoa, okay.
Karen Wright 24:38
I know when the light bulb goes on, and then their potential just explodes. It’s so wonderful.
Colin Hunter 24:44
It is. I think that’s what feeds most of the people who that I talked to who want to come out and do coaching as they want that every day. I think the some of the pieces for me, sometimes it’s just about getting the balance of the work, and it’s a bit like saying, Well, my passion is cooking, so I’m going to become a chef, and then you get in the kitchen Then you go well, okay, I’m doing this seven days a week. No, this is not, you know, so it’s, it’s finding that balance and blend, isn’t it of the word.
Karen Wright 25:08
It is. And yeah, you and I both know people that have made that choice. And we were having a conversation with a writer, a friend of mine, who was a brilliant writer in the advertising sort of marketing communications realm. And I asked him about writing that great novel, and he said, Are you kidding?
Colin Hunter 25:22
Karen Wright 25:22
You know, I’m not the slightest bit interested in writing on evenings and weekends, which is too bad. It’s tragic.
Colin Hunter 25:27
Karen Wright 25:20
But I feel like, for me, coaching has never worked, like ever.
Colin Hunter 25:32
Karen Wright 25:32
And the reason I’m still in it so many years later it’s because I’m still fascinated by human beings, and I’m learning new things about people and about businesses and every day, so yeah, never been dull.
Colin Hunter 25:48
And we have been wrestling with new branding and peace. And one of the expressions we had was how to amplify the human and leadership we have, so was one of them. And, you know, that was, that really resonated for me, because I think a lot of the societal problems that are happening because of that, so we started to work it. And then I read a book, which was about the old blacks from New Zealand, and they talked about planting trees that you will never sit under. So I then discovered this some generational philosophy about, you know, these tribes that have seven generations of Native American Indians who have some generations philosophy. So I love that. So there’s a piece for me that we are getting down to, you know, to Jacqueline Novogratz’s piece, which is a manifesto for society and societal change. And I think we are getting there. And I think your human being is important in that, yeah,
Karen Wright 26:41
I think it’s non-negotiable. I think it has to be, and I think we’re increasingly seeing what happens when that’s not a priority when that’s not the moral code of the individual and, by extension, the organization. And it does start at the top; I believe you can create change from the middle and even from the bottom, but real change in an organization, and let’s face it, like it or not, companies and organizations are the engines. They just are. And unless they’re working, well, not much else really gets to thrive. So yes, I want to support start-ups and founders and small businesses and entrepreneurship and all of that. That’s critical and growing. But if our larger organizations aren’t working, and in fact, if people are unhappy and sick as a result of working in these large organizations, that’s a huge problem. And we have to fix that.
Colin Hunter 27:30
Yeah. And I love our friend Michael in his new book because there’s that beautiful part of the end, which is when he talks about his cleft palate and his operation, and there’s that moment that I’d never heard of this but the Japanese art of repairing pottery and how it’s more valuable than the, you know, the original I just, I love that concept because that’s what we do a lot of the times is this.
Karen Wright 27:54
Yeah, they kintsugi.
Colin Hunter 27:56
Kintsugi Yes,
Karen Wright 27:57
I made the name of my mathy informal name of my mastermind group. And we are Kintsugi.
Colin Hunter 28:04
Fantastic. Yeah, that’s for me is the exploration pieces. Also, as I got more and more into the podcasts and the work and the coaching I get every day, it’s almost I bring something from that, you know, whether it’s Casey Carter in his four levels of permission to chill and patient permission to feel the feels, etc. I love that. But I am crunching a lot of books and crunching a lot of thinking. And I wanted to come back to where your thinking is because you’ve written two books. Yeah, And you’re thinking about going to France. Again, we got that connection, lover friend,
Karen Wright 28:40
Colin Hunter 28:40
Think about your writing. Where’s it going? Are you writing? Where’s it been? Where’s it going? Maybe give the listeners?
Karen Wright 28:47
Oh my God. Well, the first book I wrote I credit again, Michael Bungay Stanier is becoming three years ago, as I was hemming and hawing about should I write a book? I don’t know; I think I’m supposed to because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re a coach, and you’re building professional services, business and brand, and so on. And Michael had a connection with a couple of women who were starting a new publishing imprint that was largely online-based. And, you know, he and I have been talking about this idea I had for a possible book that maybe one day, when my kids were a little older, I would maybe consider writing and connected me with this new publishing entity. And they said, Great, we like your idea. Can you have a first chapter to us by x date? And by the way, we’ll look at publishing it at X date. And I thought, well,
Colin Hunter 29:30
Karen Wright 29:30
I guess I better get it done. And really, it was only with that kind of deadline pressure that I got that first one done.
Colin Hunter 29:37
Karen Wright 29:37
Although the moral of that particular story of that time in my life was it’s probably not a good idea to get a divorce, renovate a house and write a book in the same year.
Colin Hunter 29:47
That’s an interesting combination, which came first.
Karen Wright 29:53
It was a bit much. It was a bit of a mess.
Colin Hunter 29:51
Karen Wright 29:56
Yeah, exactly. So, they’ve all bumped up against each other. So having gone that diamond, the first book is called the executive the 10-step system to great leadership performance, really a collection of the habits and practices that I had observed in the leaders I’ve worked with who managed to figure out that combination of health and happiness and success.
Colin Hunter 30:16
Okay. Nice
Karen Wright 30:16
And that’s really my stealth agenda with all of the clients I work with is to work with them to get to that place of health and happiness and success. Now, I often tell my associates that the companies don’t hire us to help their people be happy, but there’s no chance they’re going to be successful unless they’re happy.
Colin Hunter 30:36
I agree
Karen Wright 30:36
And happy unless they’re healthy.
Colin Hunter 30:38
Karen Wight 30:38
So right. So anyway, so that was the first book, and having got that done, it was fantastic, perfect. You know. Check that box, and move on.
Colin Hunter 30:48
You have that built separately
Karen Wright 30:51
Right. All the things. And then, as time wore on, so my personal story around what ended up being a divorce, the short version of it was that my kid’s Dad and I had been splitting things economically since the kids will since we first moved in together. And when the kids were 4,5,3. And for something like that young, he announced that he had invested all of his money and taken his business in a new direction, and it wasn’t working. And he didn’t have any money that month. So the next month or the month after that So, I was suddenly gifted with the full financial responsibility for a household that had been absolutely set up and designed to be a two-income venture.
Colin Hunter 31:40
Karen Wright 31:40
Plus, with young kids, I was carrying most of that load. And my coaching practice was, I guess, at this point, five years old, something like that. So still relatively new. It really felt like I was carrying a whole lot more than I felt comfortable with. And that was different than what I’d signed up for. And I was like, handling all of this, but also sort of processing how I felt about it. I coined this phrase, the accidental alpha. Because that’s what I felt like I am the alpha in all of this. I’m handling it all and making all the decisions. I’m, you know, carrying all the big responsibilities. But that was not the way I thought it was not what I signed up for. And the accidental piece of that was really the tension. You know, fine. I can be a rock star; I can earn money. I can do all the things, But I can’t do everything.
Colin Hunter 32:30
Karen Wright 32:30
And it was, but pretty much everything had landed on my shoulders. And so, and I love a good alliteration.
Colin Hunter 32:42
So, we’ll
Karen Wright 32:43
Any writer I know can say I relate to that.
Colin Hunter 32:44
Oh, I love it
Karen Wright 32:45
So anyway, so I coined this phrase, this accidental alpha, then I started playing with it, and I would talk to people about it. And anytime I mentioned that idea to another woman, nine times out of 10, I got a very rapid, Oh, my gosh, I totally get that. That’s me.
Colin Hunter 33:01
Karen Wright 33:01
And you know, sometimes it was a woman whose husband had passed quite suddenly and was, you know, left with the responsibility. Sometimes it was a woman who had never partnered but had always thought they might and was now realizing, oh, no, hang on, this might be the way it is forever. So, there are lots of ways people would end up in this accidental Alpha place. And so, you know, I’ve played with the idea, I experimented with some blogging, I, you know, talk to a few people that’s research played with it. But I kept putting it to the side, mostly because I was still in pain.
Colin Hunter 33:35
Karen Wright 33:35
Right. And so, one of my great mentors, Michael Port, who runs an organization called heroic public speaking, has often said, you shouldn’t be trying to heal your own pain from the stage.
Colin Hunter 33:48
Karen Wright 33:48
You’re going to take the stage; you don’t want the audience to be worried about you.
Colin Hunter 33:52
Karen Wright 33:52
So, you need to be coming from a place of progress or solution or healing or, you know, and so, I was still in this. And so, I didn’t find anything I might write about or create while I was in that place was going to be terribly useful or healthy. So, I kept putting it aside, but every once in a while, it would pop up. And then, I was in this public speaking program. And I was working on something very logically business-oriented, a talk that I was going to give that I figured would be great for all those leadership conferences.
Colin Hunter 34:23
Karen Wright 34:23
And the writing coach I was working with, I was delivering a portion of the speech and one of our little practice sessions, and she said, I’m not buying it. So, what do you mean you’re not buying? She said, I just don’t think you care about this topic.
Colin Hunter 34:36
Karen Wright 34:36
Well, I know you said, well, no, I really do care. It’s like, you know, my business depends on these sorts of things. And she’s like, yeah, fine. Sure. I get it. Your business is fine. What do you really want to talk about?
Colin Hunter 34:48
Yeah, I love it.
Karen Wright 34:48
And I shared this idea of the accidental alpha. And this was now a few years later; so much had changed and been resolved. And she helped me actually figure out how to talk about this accident. Alpha idea but with a coaching framework underneath it.
Colin Hunter 35:03
Karen Wright 35:03
Which made it feel of service. Right, it made me feel like I was bringing a solution to the world. So, in my little pandemic project in 2020, I wrote the accidental alpha woman, a guide to thrive in life feels overwhelming.
Colin Hunter 35:22
And can I just say, as a man of white heterosexual man on this, when you said accident, I’ll face sometimes feel that myself as well?
Karen Wright 35:30
I have male friends who have said the same thing.
Colin Hunter 35:32
Karen Wright 35:32
Yeah, I understand that it is absolutely not solely a female experience.
Colin Hunter 35:39
It’s uh, but it says something to me. And you know, I’m two sisters, mother raised us dad was a doctor, but either way, no two daughters, Wife, Daughters, even the dog female, you know, they just, it seems to be in and therefore. But I do find when I’ve had business partners, who’ve been male, they want to take the Alpha role. As a female, they’ve it’s been a tension between us. And I’ve sometimes taken that role without really wanting it. So, it’s an interesting and lovely framework. Another story.
Karen Wright 36:13
Thank you. Well, yes. And the alliteration. The framework that the book is built on is based on the word receive because, in my experience, the thing that would have helped me through some of my darkest times more readily would have been the ability to receive help, receive input, receive support, to receive intuitive messages from the universe to you know, and I tell a number of personal stories in the book. So, you know, you think about the first book very business-focused second book, personal with a coaching underpinning.
Colin Hunter 36:49
Karen Wright 36:49
If there’s a third, and I now have to consider that maybe there’s a third, it would be a much more personal reflection on what I’ve done with my life. So, I am a single parent of two men, who are 22 and 23. Now, they are happy, healthy, smart, strong, independent, well resourced, responsible, kind, loving human beings; they are wonderful. And they are on their own. Now, they both live on their own; they’re living their own lives, and they’re doing beautifully. And this gives me an opening an opportunity to make some choices about how I live my life, which to this point, I really haven’t had.
Colin Hunter37:31
Karen Wright 37:31
And the first thing I did was in August of 2021. Well, let me scroll back. There’s a long story attached to this, which I won’t bore you with, but just over a year ago, I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, living in Trump for most of my adult life, except for that little sojourn in Texas. So.
Colin Hunter 37:50
Yeah, I’m hearing the Dallas theme tune coming in there and then going back out and stuff out.
Karen Wright 37:55
I know. Really Dallas, you’re fine.
Colin Hunter 37:58
Yeah fine
Karan Wright 37:58
You are just not for me. And I made some great friends in Dallas, one of my very best friends I met when I was in Dallas, which we now regard as the reason I went there.
Colin Hunter 38:08
Yeah. Exactly. Serendipity.
Karen Wright 38:07
Yeah, exactly. So, you know, through the pandemic, as many of us were sitting reflecting on our lives, it struck me that I had no reason to be living in a big city anymore. I had no reason to be living in the city of Toronto anymore. Because the reason I had been there has been well business, but which is now all being done virtually. So, take that off the table. And my kids, who, as long as I’m a phone call or a text message away, and willing to e-transfer money.
Colin Hunter 38:38
The bank of mum never ends.
Karen Wright 38:41
Thanks fully; it’s a significantly reduced load these days, which is wonderful.
Colin Hunter 38:46
Karen Wright 38:46
But anyway, so just sort of struck me. Oh, wait a minute, I have some options. Now I have some choices.
Colin Hunter 38:50
Karen Wright 38:50
And I ended up buying a 114-year-old little bit dilapidated home on the very east coast of Canada and a little town called Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. And I moved into it last August. So, you know, and this is so the fact that I did that that alone has got some people’s heads spinning.
Colin Hunter 39:12
Yeah, For me, it’s appealing. I’m going, yeah.
Karen Wright 39:18
Right. I know. I mean, it’s smaller, cheaper, friendlier, prettier, and safer. It’s, you know, it’s so many things.
Colin Hunter 39:26
Karen Wright 39:26
But yeah, so it was like, oh, my, I’ve never really lived anywhere else. And I’ve always loved this sort of period of architecture and always wanted to fix up the, you know, cute little house and all that. So anyways, bought this house and moved into it. I’m now living in a very small town on the east coast of Canada. And I’ve referred to it as having tipped my life a half a country eastward, which I think is a very logical first step toward tipping it an ocean further eastward.
Colin Hunter 39:57
Karen Wright 39:57
And living in the place, I really enjoy most in the world. Which is France?
Colin Hunter 40:01
And tell me why? Because I’m a big front fan?
Karen Wright 40:04
Yeah, I’ll tell you why. Tell me why. Yeah. So, my first time in France was right after a big personal kind of inflection point when I was about 30. And I just, you know, did a bike trip through Provence, which is where I first encountered move on to and spent the last few days of the trip in Paris for the first time. And I fell in love with it; we had a troubled beginning; I got lost walking my first night, you know.
Colin Hunter 40:32
Karen Wright 40:32
It didn’t start well. But I just was captivated by it in so many ways that lighten people, culture, and that, you know, all the things. And even though all of that is sort of the conventional list of why people like Paris and France more broadly, I feel different when I’m there.
Colin Hunter 40:50
Yeah, I do
Karen Wright 40:50
And I feel more open; I feel more content, more peaceful, more curious, more inspired. And I’ve traveled quite a bit in my life, and I’m very grateful and feel fortunate to have been able to do that. But I keep coming back.
Colin Hunter 41:06
Karen Wright 41:06
Keep coming back to France so that I can’t be any more specific than I feel different when I’m there. And I’ve met beautiful people there. And I like the life there, the focus on community and experiences and food and Beauty and all of that. So why do you like it so much?
Colin Hunter 41:25
I like it because it’s tensions that you know, one of the things is a front you know, I’ve got a few friends who would say France is great apart from the French dumps said well, France wouldn’t be France without the French.
Karen Wright 41:38
Colin Hunter 41:38
and for me that’s so what are the French and a bit like, you know, somebody says, what are the English there’s a great book on the English that’s written as a what the English are? Well, our number one dish is chicken tikka masala. Yeah. If you look at our history, it mostly involves Vikings and everything else. And so, it’s the same with France it’s you know if you go to the south of France and the August period there, garlic pose, yeah, you know, the Parisians are coming. It’s almost like they’ll spit on the ground.
Karen Wright 42:06
Colin Hunter 42:06
Because they don’t like parisian, they’re entitled to this bit like people outside London are not very friendly. So, there’s that contrast between that, and I love the social. So, I love the fact in a country where a strike can close everything.
Karen Wright 42:23
Colin Hunter 42:23
Yeah. And it’s frustrating and everything at the same time, but at least they have a cause and least they.
Karen Wright 42:28
I think they love a good protest. Oh, my gosh,
Colin Hunter 42:31
you know that you will come back from being abroad and somebody who says there’s a grave and you think, okay, that means I’m going to be landing at shells that got Airport and not being able to get home the correct way. And this, isn’t that frustrating? I’m like, Well, yeah, in one way. But you know, even just their food, their cooking, then the language is, everything sounds better in French. It used to be like, Italian, and so for me, I’ve got a passion for that. But I think it’s because of the tensions. And I think that’s how I’ve lived my life tensions between freedom.
Karen Wright 43:07
I love that
Colin Hunter 43:01
but responsibility, other things in there. And I think,
Karen Wright 43:10
well, I also think that given the history, there’s a different kind of appreciation for what they do have.
Colin Hunter 43:16
Karen Wright 43:16
you know, and I value that; I really believe that’s an important perspective to have. And I don’t know that as true on my current side of the Atlantic. So yeah, so anyway, so that’s the forming a personal plan
Colin Hunter 43:31
Karen Wright 43:31
And starting to, I’m starting to try and write the stories from my life that I think have pointed me that way. And so as an example, my maternal grandfather was he was a mining engineer, but he was part of a military group in World War Two called the Royal Canadian Engineers. And they were the crazy guys who didn’t, you know, do it right. And so
Colin Hunter 43:56
Karen Wright 43:56
And he spent some time in France and in Belgium, when it was in the war and had some stories, and, you know, some pictures and so on. And so, I remember listening to some of his experiences, and then he and Mike, who are my travel role models, went on to travel, and they always spent a fair bit of time in France. And so I’ve got a framed picture that was on their wall, through my childhood of you know, when you’re walking along the sand, and there are all the artists and the bookstores and so on, well when they were there shortly after he had returned from the war so would have been in the 50s they bought this sketch of the enough and the sent from one of the sellers along the center and they brought it home and had it framed, and I have it.
Colin Hunter 44:39
Karen Wright 44:41
I know. So, there’s just you know, there are all kinds of little moments
Colin Hunter 44:45
you know, I just think German, [inaudible] Misérables like everything else, the history and I love the also the intellect, left bank, right bank, all of that Paris is just fantastic. So, I think it is just you can’t create something in my mind beautiful unless you mix. Different.
Karen Wright 45:06
Well, Beauty is the contrast. Right? Beauty is from the perspective of something else. Beauty is not a standalone thing; I don’t believe.
Colin Hunter 45:14
No, I don’t believe either. So, this has just been an amazing conversation character talk. Well, now we’re in France. Literally, we could just go on and on share. I would love people to understand how they might get in contact and hear more about your work because you have been an influence on so many other people’s careers. And I can’t wait to read your new book. Yeah. But just if they want to get in contact with us, how would they do that?
Karen Wright 45:41
Probably the easiest is to my company website, which is parachute executive coaching.com. And I’m also pretty active on LinkedIn @itsKarenwrightcoach on LinkedIn.
Colin Hunter 45:53
Yeah, brilliant.
Karen Wright 45:55
So yeah,
Colin Hunter 45:55
Its been a real pleasure to finally get a chance to meet you and to get into your story. And thank you for sharing it all.
Karen Wright 46:03
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real delight.
Colin Hunter 46:11
So that was Karen Wright; I could have talked to her for hours. And I think you know, love of Paris, love of coaching, the love of writing, but the depth that she goes to and also just her explanation of the people she wants to work with. Almost the purpose that she holds in there is so much in line with mine that, you know, they talk about, you shouldn’t listen to your own echo chamber. But there’s a piece in here that we can learn a lot from people like Karen in terms of the approach that she’s taking to her life to coaching and, therefore, to the story she can tell us. So delighted you could hear delighted you could get an introduction if you haven’t heard from her before. And I look forward to welcoming you to another episode of the leadership tales podcast very short.