IAM1630 – Coach Helps Clients Level Up Their Leadership

Podcast Interview with Alan Heymann

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”: Leadership is so important and while many believe that it's lacking I think that it's really understanding leadership and knowing that you have the power to be a leader and redirect the business, world or anything you decide to where you want them to be. Alan touched on this and the resilience, turbulence, and how change has impacted everything.

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Previous Episode: https://iamceo.co/2021/05/01/iam992-coach-helps-clients-level-up-their-leadership/


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Alan Heymann Teaser 00:00

I think patience which is a hard lesson for me to learn sometimes, but the process of building up contacts and getting your name out there especially if you're trying to do something different, takes time.

Intro 00:12

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders, without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:40

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I am CEO podcast and I have a very, very special guest on the show today, I have Alan Heymann of Peaceful Direction. Alan, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Alan Heymann 00:47

It's so great to be here. I don't get two very very usually. So this is great.

Gresham Harkless 00:51

Yes, I'm very, very, very, very excited. I'll give you three for that. And what I'll do is before we jump into the interview, I'll read a little bit more about Alan so you hear about all the awesome things that he's doing, and Alan, who is a JD and PCC, specializes in coaching through transitions such as the transition from individual contributor to leader, the transition into a larger and more complex role, and or the transition into a different career. He brings a warm and open and energetic presence to his coaching clients.

Today, Alan has coached leaders who are born in 16 countries and work in five continents. An expert communicator and an engaging speaker, Alan spends more than two decades in public government and nonprofit com communications, leading teams from two to more than 100 people who use words and images to inspire positive change in society. Inspired by a career transformation he brought about with the support of an executive coach, Alan decided to become a coach himself. He founded Peaceful Direction in April 2019. Alan, are you ready to speak to the I am CEO community?

Alan Heymann 01:50 I'm so ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 01:51

Awesome. Well, let's do it then. So to kind of kick it off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit and hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Alan Heymann 01:58

Sure. So I think I have to start my CEO story with my coaching origin story. About seven years ago, I was leading the communications function for a very large nonprofit organization. Very complex role. And I really thought at the time I was gonna retire from this job in 20 or 30 years. I thought I had made it. About nine months in, I realized that I needed some heavy-duty scaffolding to help me succeed in the job. So, I connected with somebody I knew who was going through coaching school and was a colleague of mine, met a classmate of hers, hired my first coach, and the experience really taught me a couple of things.

It taught me one, what is my stuff? My roadblocks, my limitations, my obstacles, the things that I can't see around, and what is institutional stuff that's related to the place where I'm working, that's never gonna change. So I worked with the coach, left the job, got reconnected with a previous employer, and went on to do some pretty interesting things there. But I never lost this idea that coaching, which I had just been introduced to, was valuable, that it helped people. It achieved transformations in lives. And so I decided to go to coaching school and I became a coach. And then, you know, after a series of events having to do with work and life ultimately as you mentioned in the intro, made that leap and decided to start my own company and work for myself for the first time in 20-plus years.

Gresham Harkless 03:12

Yeah, that's so huge. And I'm a big believer in, you know, nothing under the sun happens just by happenstance. It happens for a reason and it sounds like, you having to go through that experience and the transformation of coaching allowed you to really dive in to be able to help others. So if that hadn't happened, you may not have decided to be a coach.

Alan Heymann 03:35

Yeah, for sure. There's a straight line between those two events and the experiences that I had along the way in leadership before becoming a coach, informed my coaching style and some of the stories I get to tell when I'm speaking with my clients.

Gresham Harkless 03:46

Yeah, absolutely. Nothing is by happenstance at all. It all adds up into who we are and how we impact change in our lives and in our businesses. And so I wanted to drill down a little bit deeper and hear a little bit more, on that impact that you're having. Could you take us through how you work with your clients and how that process goes?

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Alan Heymann 03:59

Absolutely. So, you know, there's never an ideal time to start coaching, so I get some clients who are freaked out about something, they're in almost crisis mode and they really need to talk right away. I get some clients who are just sort of slowly, deliberately building that future that they want and giving a little bit more time and attention to that than they would by themselves and everybody in between. So coaching is a great way to level up your leadership if you're just starting out or if you're moving into something that's more complicated than you're used to. And the way that I really like to use it is in service of transitions. So if somebody has been through a transition recently, they've changed jobs, changed careers, getting ready to retire, or they're preparing for something so they wanna get that promotion, they want to turn the corner into a different career, and they just wanna bring their thoughts together. Coaches can be really helpful with that.

So that's the sort of work that I love to do. I also catch people as part of their own in-house leadership development programs at companies and at member associations. Sometimes they make space for coaching and they bring in coaches from the outside. So I work with leaders in those environments as well. I do a fair amount of contract coaching as well for large coaching companies that will go to a big institutional client that needs a hundred people coached at one time and they bring coaches together and match them on engagements like that. Those are the different types of work that I do. Usually, with a new client, we'll start out with something like a three-month or six-month engagement and work together for a bunch of sessions and make a plan. My job is really to be the co-pilot or the navigator toward the destination that the client chooses.

Gresham Harkless 05:29

I absolutely love that analogy, the co-pilot to that destination. I almost feel like you probably definitely said this and probably experienced this, that change is always constant. So there's some type of transition. It feels like we're always going through as a world. We just went through one big one and are still working and navigating through that as we speak. But I think that understanding the, I guess, stress, and maybe even to use that analogy, turbulence that comes with going through transitions and changes, I can imagine it's, I won't say it's necessary, but it's so helpful to be able to have somebody to bounce those ideas off of and to grow from them.

Alan Heymann 06:03

Absolutely. And building those resilience muscles toward being more adaptable to change is something that we work through a lot. And, you just mentioned it, we're, now just about a year through and by the time this airs, it'll be more than a year through pandemic times and what a big transition all of us had to adopt in our working lives so quickly, assuming we even have our good health and the privilege of still being able to work and pull it all remotely. So I have spent a lot of time in the last year and a couple of months talking with people about boundaries, talking with people about balance, and talking with people about what possibilities this new way of working is opening up in their world that maybe they don't want to say goodbye to. Once we're all headed back into our offices and things sort of return to whatever normal is supposed to look like.

Gresham Harkless 06:45

That's extremely powerful. And you're, absolutely right where you hear people saying, they're just no boundaries because I'm working in the same place I'm playing and I'm sleeping, I'm eating, so on and so forth. You have to kind of reestablish all of that new normal and what that looks like. I think you kind of alluded to like, it will not just disappear once we're back into however work ends up being. Some of those kind of seeds, sounds like they're still gonna be there.

Alan Heymann 07:10

Absolutely. And, for better or for worse, honestly. So I have seen more children, domestic animals, beds in my Zoom calls with my clients in the last year and change than I ever did before or ever thought that I would, and it's really, really hard if you have small kids at home and you're the primary caregiver and you're working. It's really, really hard if you live by yourself in a major city and you're socially isolated and work is all you have. So, looking at what those boundaries could be if the physical ones don't exist anymore, was a lot of the work that I was doing early on in the pandemic. And this is where you get into things like transition rituals. What do you do to signal to your body that the workday is over? even when the workday ends and you just walk 10 feet away from whatever it is else that is going on in your life.

This is where the rise of the fake commute has happened, where I have clients who will get in the car once a week and drive nowhere for 20 minutes because it's their Peace and quiet time and a space that only belongs to them. So I think the good news in all of this is that we've come to see each other as entire human beings, as opposed to maybe some kind of unit of production in the workplace. We've come to understand about each other, that we all have other priorities and other concerns besides the work itself. We can manage and we can make room for those things and we can honor the fact that we all have them. Whatever they look like, because they're all different for everybody.

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Gresham Harkless 08:25

Yeah, absolutely. I appreciate you sharing that and reminding us of that. And two as you mentioned as well, that resilience muscle that we've all had to flex and to grow during these times has allowed us to, I think, be more prepared for the next thing that might happen. That we are, okay, I got through this, I was able to pivot through this, so this will prepare me for that next thing that might happen personally or in the world as a whole. I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. This could be for yourself personally or your business, or a combination of both. But what do you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Alan Heymann 08:55

There's a number of different things. One is, you know, I've had, this theme throughout my career of active listening. I started my career as a journalist, and what does a journalist do? Ask questions and listen for the answer. And because I'm an introvert, because I'm not the first person to speak in any given situation or meeting, it's given me the ability to hang back and observe and take in and process and then speak. And that's a lot of what coaching is. I spend more time asking questions than I do talking, or giving ideas, or speaking out loud during my sessions. It enables me to be with the full person and to the extent that a lot of us in the workplace are introverts. I recognize what that superpower is, and how it can be really useful in a work context. And I coach people through experiences that they're having where maybe there's an environmental mismatch or there's something that maybe they feel like is holding them back when actually it could be propelling them forward. So that's what I like to do. I don't work exclusively with introverts, but they do tend to come my way a lot.

Gresham Harkless 09:56

Absolutely appreciate that. And so I wanted to switch gears a little bit, and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have, but what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Alan Heymann 10:07

Sure. Well, I'm a big fan of automation only because I'm one guy running a business. I have clients to coach and I have things that I need to do on the back end of the business so anything that takes manual work out of my hands is gonna be great. And so I use certain tools like a scheduling tool for my clients to be able to book things automatically without having to do that back-and-forth interaction, which works really well because they can reschedule, they can cancel, they can move and it's perfect. So any tool like that I think is, wise to invest in because they're not that expensive and they're very intuitive and very useful. The other thing that I really like to do is trying to remove as many unnecessary decisions from my day as possible because we all have to make decisions every single day. Some of them have tremendous consequence and some of them don't, but the amount of information we get coming in related to those decisions almost doesn't matter, regardless of the size or the scale of the decision you have to make.

So every single day I will wear a blue or gray top and some sort of black pants and I never have to worry about what I'm gonna be putting on when I get up in the morning. I sleep in my running clothes. So I take all the friction out of that process and I have no excuse, but just to put on the shoes and get out the door in the morning. So anything I can do to remove an element of decision-making for my life, in my mind frees up space and time, and creativity for applying to the business and other things that are more important.

Gresham Harkless 11:29

Appreciate those hacks. And, so now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you hopped into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Alan Heymann 11:40

Sure. I think patience, you know, which is a hard lesson for me to learn sometimes, but the process of building up contacts and getting your name out there, especially if you're trying to do something different takes time. And we as a society are not wired for patience these days. We have instant on-demand communication. I think the dawn of microwave popcorn, you know, as a young person for me was kind of what started me down the slippery slope of being impatient for everything in life. We want it now, we want it yesterday. It doesn't work that way when you're building a business. And I've been really, really pleasantly surprised and pleased at the growth that I've been able to achieve in the short time that I've been doing this. But I take none of it for granted, and I have to constantly remind myself of what it was like a year ago, a year and a half ago, two years ago so that I don't get itchy and do something that might be not wise.

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Gresham Harkless 12:30

And so now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition, of what it means to be a CEO and we're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show. So, Alan, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Alan Heymann 12:39

I think it means being the person in charge, the person who makes all the decisions, the person who has the bottom line. You know that old, the buck stops here. And so if you're looking for that ultimate in accountability where everything is totally within your grasp and is up to your sense of decision making, your sense of judgment, that's the CEO.

Gresham Harkless 13:01

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And as we've kind of alluded to, like all those decisions that you have to make and, how they come to fruition or they don't sometimes come to fruition or based on the decisions that you make. So having that, I guess that ownership, that responsibility, maybe even a better word is something that's huge and it's definitely gratifying. It could be trying at times, but it's definitely one of the most exciting things that you could do

Alan Heymann 3:21

For sure. And, it may mean that you have the best boss in the world or the worst boss in the world, depending on the day. And I had this fairly newly self-employed guy realization not long ago that you got to block off the holidays on your calendar, otherwise people are gonna book them. It doesn't happen automatically anymore. There's no office to close, it's just you. So I had a person in another country I was coaching who booked an appointment on Thanksgiving Day and I had to say, I'm sorry, we're gonna have to move this one to another day of the week because can't do it. But otherwise, you know, there are no leave slips. There's, no person to ask for permission to take your daughter to the orthodontist. It's a hundred percent you.

Gresham Harkless 13:56

Yeah, absolutely. You have to kind of create that standard, those boundaries I guess might be an even better way to say it, within your business on how you want to grow the business and grow it in alignment with who you are. So definitely appreciate that perspective, Alan. I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know, and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all those awesome things you're working on.

Alan Heymann 14:20

Yeah, I'd be delighted to do that. And I love talking with people about what I do, which is why I love to do podcasts and, you know, reach out to your audience that way. Always happy to have a conversation with anybody about, what coaching is and how it might help and to share also, this is very personal, individualized work that I do, and I'm absolutely not gonna be the best coach for everybody. But the good news is coaches have a great network of practitioners and their classmates and their colleagues. I work with other coaches all the time. I even have a partner's page on my website of the ones that I work with the most frequently. So if we don't hit it off, or if you're looking for a specialty I don't offer, I can easily guide you to somebody else who can help. I'm always happy to do that just as a way of advancing my own profession. So my website is peacefuldirection.com. You can find me on LinkedIn and Twitter at Alan Heyman, and I'm sure there's probably something about show notes I'll be hearing fairly soon from, our gracious host.

Gresham Harkless 15:11

Yes, absolutely. We will have those links and information in the show notes as well too, to make it even easier to get ahold of Alan and find out about all the awesome things that he's doing. I think you brought up a really valid point. I think so many times we don't remind ourselves or understand that people have, you know, relationships and connections and networks. So it always helps to just have those conversations and even if it's not the best fit, you have an opportunity to maybe be connected with somebody else or even if it is a great fit, you have the opportunity to take things to another level to get to your destination a lot quicker. But it all starts with that action and that conversation. So appreciate you so much, Alan, for taking some time out and enlightening us, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 15:48

Thank you for listening to the I am CEO Podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at blue16media.com. This has been the I am CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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