Sheri-ann is the Founder & CEO of McLean Coaching and Consulting, based in the USA, where she helps each individual to tap into their potential, allowing them to live a fulfilling and purpose-led life. Together, Graham and Sheri-ann discuss the benefits of coaching, the transformations they have seen and why you should consider being coached yourself.
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GRAHAM: Hello, everybody, and welcome to this week's edition of The Coaching Conversation. I've got a real treat for you today; I'm joined today by Sheri-ann McLean, who is a coach based in Massachusetts, USA, as she’s going to share with us today the secrets of her success. Shri-ann grew up in Jamaica studied in Jamaica, and emigrated to the United States in 2016 where she has been successfully building her practice ever since.
Sheri-ann has three specialisations; she works in the educational area, both with faculty members, and students. She works in the Executive area, particularly with people at a career change point, or who are feeling stuck and slightly frustrated. And she also uses the personnel profiling system known as DISC. I'd like to explore that with her and see how she uses that tool with her clients.
Welcome, Sherri-ann, it's lovely to have you here. First of all, tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into coaching.
SHERI-ANN: Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and sharing with you guys today. For me coaching was something that came naturally, I've been doing this, I say unofficially for years, even in my school and high school, moving into college, and more so in recent times. I love to help people to get where they need to be, whatever that looks for them, whether they're looking to go back to school, whether they're looking to start a business, whether they're looking to take that next step in their life, that's always an avenue for me to say ‘Okay, then let's see what we need to put in place to get there'.
I always say to my clients that you already know what the answer is, you know what it is - it's inside. I am just the passenger in your bus, and you're the driver and I'm with you, beside you, helping you go through that process. For me, it is what drives that passion, that love to be able to help people to get to where they need to be. I believe that everyone has a purpose and once they realise that purpose, they're able to walk in that purpose, they're able to fulfil that purpose, and live fulfilling lives.
GRAHAM: That's fantastic! I love the analogy of being the passenger on their bus. If only other coaches could understand that concept. I'm really curious about your work in the education sector. Please tell me more about first of all, how you work with the faculty members.
SHERI-ANN: This was something I did prior to coming to the USA. I was a resident advisor on campus at the University of the West Indies and I served as a tutor as well as working with the Jamaica Red Cross, and we did a lot of capacity building; trying to bring a certain skill set to different faculty members. For me, that was extremely fulfilling, we work with a lot of populations that struggled with certain skill sets and we were able to bring that to them.
When I was at the University of West Indies we worked with the leadership called ‘you leads’; It's a leadership-based group for individuals at the university. We did an evaluation, we did surveys, we did leadership conferences, and through that, we were able to interact with faculty, interact with a lot of the leadership to really build a programme that could mould those leaders that are moving to that next level - What are some of the career paths that they want to go on? What are some of the directions that they want to go on? And so that skill set that I had from Jamaica, I was able to bring that here to the USA and start to work with a few people that wanted to go into that direction.
So, it's a work in progress. It's something that hasn't yet got to the place where I want it to be as yet, but definitely, that school piece is a big piece for me. I'm big on education - I tell everybody, I'm a pusher when it comes to education and just developing that skill set. It doesn't necessarily mean that you want to get a degree or a PhD or anything like that, but whatever skill set that you want to you know, develop going into that direction to develop that skill set.
GRAHAM: And when it comes to students, were there any particular challenges in working exclusively with students?
SHERI-ANN: Wow, yes. Working with students is challenging, but fulfilling at the same time. I say that because I remember when I was in college, and I'm still in college, I remember where I was at that point, and I'm like ‘Am I doing what I want to do? Or am I doing what someone else wants me to do? John Maxwell talks about this in his book, put your dream to the test where you are at the point where are you living your dream? Or are you living the dream of someone else? And I really had to pause and reflect on a time in my life in college, where I was like, is this something I really want to do? Is psychology something I really want to do?
I came to a place where I realised that I lit up the whole room when I talk about psychology when I talk about development when I talk about growth when I talk about all this stuff pertaining to psychology, and so I remember probably about maybe about three weeks ago, I had one of my students that I used to work with and coach at in college, and she reached out and she said, Thank you so much, Sheri-ann thank you for your guidance and your coaching. My friends and I tried to get into a job in Canada, and two of them were already in the job, she was looking to move into that job. And she said, the resources, the support the guidance that I provided for her at that time, they were able to step into this opportunity.
And I was like, wow. For me, I did not see that as something that I was doing, because I wanted the recognition, if anything I saw that because I remember what I went through when I was in their place, and what I could do to help them to get to their next level.
So, there were challenges; they were like ‘I'm not sure if I want to do this’, and I said, ‘you won't know if something is going to work unless you try’. So just tried. It may work, it might not work. We'll go to the drawing board. We'll plan again, and we'll move forward. And that's my general approach to things.
GRAHAM: That's fantastic. I can imagine working with students is, as you say, challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Coming to perhaps the more mainstream part of your work, the executive work, you specifically target people who are at a career change point. What are the sorts of challenges? What are the sorts of mindsets that you bump into your coachees in that situation?
SHERI-ANN: One of my clients that I recently worked with, was at a place in her career where she understood that I don't want to do this anymore. I didn't want to do this job anymore. I explored that with her; What were the reasons and we broke that down. Was it tied to finances? Was it tied to job satisfaction? Was it tied to just not having that relationship with your supervisor or anything like that - we were able to break that down.
Then one of the things I said to her is that the things that are happening currently in this role or this job, it's not going to be a guarantee that they won't happen in her next job. So, we have to find a way that when you're moving into the next role, you're confident with managing all those different things that will come up. And one of those things that we worked on as a part of our coaching process was having difficult conversations. Now we all know, they can be really tough, they're called difficult conversations, right? So, I said, you're going to have to have those conversations in your new role. And if you don't know how to navigate those now, then that's an area that you're going to continuously be struggling with moving forward. So, I challenged her to do it, she went and she did it. She said it was really tough. But when she came out of it, it was liberating for her to be able to have that conversation. I told her that that was my proudest moment of her - that was the one thing that's the whole role of the coaching process because I said, you have opened up so many doors by doing that. Because stepping into your next role, there's going to be things coming up, and I don't want you to sit and think ‘oh, I don't need to say anything’, I want you to open up your mouth and say something.
Again, this comes from my experience growing up in leadership in companies; I've seen things and I haven't said things; I've kept quiet and I've seen how keeping certain things to myself did not benefit anyone. So, I encourage my clients to speak up, be respectful, have that approach, but then being open, being willing to say something about something and for her; she's having situations in their current job where she needs to speak up and I'm like, look, you've already navigated this in your previous role. You already have the skill set, go ahead and do it, you can do it.
That difficult conversation piece; I don't think it's something that we talk a lot about, and even in my current role, it's something that we continue to assess - really having a difficult conversation with stakeholders, with clients, with providers, all those persons that are involved in whatever treatment level that we're talking about. We're trying to have those difficult conversations and normalising those difficult conversations
GRAHAM: I bump into people having challenges with difficult conversations more times than I can count in my coaching programmes with people. It is a real challenge. If you're not the dominant, assertive type of person, you can feel totally oppressed and subdued. Really, it's a matter of building people's assertiveness and confidence.
I love the way you unpack the reason why someone was looking for a new job as the start point. Because, frankly, a job can be a job, can be a job. And if you don't understand why you're unhappy in one, you'll make the same mistake again when you and so that's a great starting point.
You also work with people who are feeling stuck, which is an interesting phrase ‘stuck and frustrated’ as you described it. What does that mean, when you find that in a coachee? What does that look like?
SHERI-ANN: In reference to one of the clients I work with; I was approached, and I expressed that I could help you in this situation. I like to unpack your life like a bag - you're just coming from a trip, you're all loaded up, all the stuff was in the suitcase, and as you slowly unpack things, you're like, ‘Oh, there's my there's my lipstick, or, oh, there's my shoe - I was trying to find the shoe’. And so that's what I did with her, she was feeling so stuck. She felt like, there were so many things that she wanted to work on with her health, with her job. And she felt like she could not move; literally felt like she was chained and could not move.
I explore things with her. We talked and we unpacked, we did some activities, and all that was rooted in a past job experience where she felt as if she was a failure. I told her, let's do a mirror exercise (that's one of the exercises in John Maxwell's book ‘The 15 invaluable laws of growth’). I said, ‘Let's do the mirror exercise, I want you to look at yourself, you told me what you see’. She started to tell me what she saw in herself. I said, ‘Now tell me what you would say to yourself’, and she started to tell herself different stuff. I said’ You're not a failure. If something happened, it doesn't define who you are. We learn from that, and then we move forward’. If they say no, that's okay. We move forward. And if they say no, again, that's okay, we move forward. The key thing is that you never give up. You never, ever, ever give up.
Again, this is solely based on my experience from my experiences with my clients; I remember when I was in school - I love learning. I absolutely love learning. I always say if I'm supposed to go to school, and they pay me I would go - I was going through school doing really well. I was in my master's programme, and I had some difficulties with my research paper so I got a little bit defeated. At that point, I was like, I'm not going to do school, I am done. No PhD for me. I don't care about it. I'll just settle with my bachelor's. And luckily, I had people around me who really pushed me and really motivated me. And I was able to get out of that dark place and push myself and get into a place where right now I'm finishing up my PhD. Why? Because I had the support. I decided that I'm not going to give up no matter what. It doesn't care how many no's I get; I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep pushing. I'm going to keep pressing on. Because I know within myself that there is something bigger for me.
That's what I was able to translate to the client that I was working with. She started to apply for jobs. She said she got no's, but she was okay with that. She started to work on her health; things were turning around and it made her happy. And for me, that was one of the most fulfilling experiences. Just understanding that even if you're stuck today, it doesn't define your tomorrow. It doesn't define your next week. It just is just how you're feeling now, but I guarantee that you will get out of that feeling of being stuck in this place.
GRAHAM: That can be the magic and the joy of being a coach can't it because really, you're enabling people to fulfil their potential by seeing themselves in a different way, by taking risks, perhaps experimenting, and not letting things overwhelm them. It's a real privilege to be able to help people in that kind of way.
Moving on, I'm conscious that you work with the DOS and see the DISC personality profiling system and psychometric system. I'm quite familiar with it; I've been using it for decades myself, and I use it in my coaching programmes occasionally. Just talk us through how you use it and the kind of response you get from the candidates that complete the surveys and the profiles.
SHERI-ANN: I'll start with myself because one of the things they advise is that you should take this for yourself and see where you're at. I needed to take it so that when I meet with my clients, I can share, when appropriate, that I took it. I said to one of my colleagues that I think all companies in terms of management should really take this assessment, then meet and talk about how each personality will complement the other. Because some people are dominant, understanding this allows me to know how to communicate with them, how to connect with them, and how to problem-solve with them.
Again, if they know, for example, that I follow along like the eye, then they'll know how to respond to me and how to communicate with me. So that's one of the things that I push - I really think that we should do that.
In terms of my client. I encourage them to do it. Once we do it, we meet we discuss it. Then show them the flip side, so that if someone else is on another side that is not similar to yours, then what will happen is that you guys will clash. But there's a way for you to work around it; there's a way to communicate with that person, there's a way to understand that they're presenting this way doesn't mean that they're upset with you, or it doesn't mean that they're trying to put you down. But that's how they communicate. That's how they connect with others.
I think that's a key part in terms of understanding; how teams are connected, how teams flow, how ideas flow, how others will complement each other, and create this holistic team that can really push progress, push goals, push the vision, push the mission of the company. And that's how I generally approach it. So, I've more used it in coaching, the coaching realm, I haven't used it in leadership and large-scale companies, but I've used it with the individual clients that I coach.
GRAHAM: It's interesting because this gives a fantastic way of increasing someone's self-awareness. And self-awareness, as we all know, is the absolute foundation stone of emotional intelligence. If you don't know yourself very well, it's difficult to extrapolate your emotions and understand other people's emotions, and therefore it's difficult to know how to influence them in the way to achieve the best results for everybody. I've used it many times and definitely, as people become more aware of who they are, and indeed the people around them, they find better ways of working together as a team. And it's not that one profile is right and one profile is wrong and one is better than the other. It is simply like an x-ray. It's just a picture. But if you understand where the fractures are, you know how to best work to minimise the risks of working together in that situation.
It's been a pleasure working with you today Sheri-ann. Thank you very much for your time. Thank you for sharing your experience. If our audience wants to reach out to you in the future, how can they get hold of you?
SHERI-ANN: Thank you so much, Graham, for having me. I'm on social media all over - I'm on Facebook @McLeanCoachingAndConsulting. I'm on Instagram. You can visit our website and mcleancoachingandconsulting.com. If you want to give us a call in the USA at 508 414 0290.
GRAHAM: And isn't this a joy? Here we are. I'm in Manchester, England. You're in Leicester, Massachusetts. And coaching is a universal joy. Thanks so much again. See you again soon. And that's it everybody for this edition of The Coaching Conversation.
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