Interview with Karen Collins: Mother and Founder of Empowerlead
Balancing personal life, work life, and family life can be a daunting task, especially for parents juggling multiple responsibilities, while simultaneously advancing in their careers. An excellent resource for developing and meeting your professional goals is leadership coaching. Covid changed the work/life landscape, probably for the better, and allowed more people to look at their lives, establish their goals, and readjust to align with them.
Leadership coaching can support parents looking to get back into the workforce after taking time to focus on their families. It is a great way to develop their confidence when looking to restart their career. We had the pleasure of speaking with Karen Collins, founder of Empowerlead and mom of two! Through a combination of coaching techniques and proven strategies, Karen empowers her clients to cultivate the confidence they need to succeed in their professions, and ultimately in their lives. In this week’s Meems Monday interview, we discuss Karen’s approach to building confidence, her tips for finding balance, and how she helps clients thrive.
Tell us about yourself and how you became a leadership coach?
Previously, I worked in executive consulting for almost a decade with a non-profits and while I had achieved and surpassed my career goals, I was miserable. Thinking I needed more support, I hired my own leadership coach. Part of the work we did was uncovering my values and finding the things that really brought me joy. After doing a lot of work, I realized the best part of my day was coming home to sit with my nanny and help her with getting into college. We would do the paperwork, talk about what her goals were, and I pulled a lot of joy from knowing she would be the first person in her family to attend college. When I revealed this to my leadership coach, she pointed out what I was doing was coaching, and in that moment my coach became my mentor.
This realization happened in 2019 and in the middle of COVID, July 2020, I quit my job and started my leadership coaching business, Empowerlead. It was a strange time because a lot of people started to realize how misaligned they were with their goals and true passions, and the need for leadership coaching became very necessary. Within weeks of starting my business, I had a full roster.
What are some benefits to working with a leadership coach?
First, coaching at a basic level is using the present, what’s true for you right now, to build your most fulfilling life. I often get asked how it differs from therapy: Therapy supports you in reflective work to understand how you became who you are today, coaching is forward-focused in defining who you want to be and helping you develop a clear path to becoming that person. I tell my clients, “This is not about proving yourself; it’s about improving yourself.”
Working with a leadership coach can offer a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved Self-Awareness: A leadership coach can help you uncover what’s most important to you (aka values) and also identify the impact your self-perception has on how you choose to show up in the world.
- Clarification of Life Purpose, Values, and Goals: A coach helps you find your authentic life purpose (your “why”), clarify the values you wish to honor, and set goals and action plans that align with them.
- Increased Accountability: A coach can hold you accountable to your values and your goals, ensuring that you stay on track and follow through on your commitments.
- Better Work-Life Balance: A coach can help you identify ways to manage your workload and responsibilities more effectively by having clarity in what matters to you, which leads to greater work-life balance and overall well-being.
- Enhanced Communication Skills: A coach can provide feedback and guidance on how to communicate more effectively in the important relationships in your life.
- Improved Decision-Making: The one thing I tell my clients I want them to accept through coaching is the fact that we are at choice in our lives. A coach helps you hone your decision-making skills, which leads to better and more confident choices. While your authentic choices will become clearer, I do not promise they become easier to implement!
- Expanded Perspective: A coach can offer a fresh perspective on challenges and opportunities, providing new insights and ideas to help you make better decisions to achieve your goals.
- Greater Confidence: By helping you understand who you want to be and the difference between courage and confidence, the results uncover your unique skills, clarify your authentic desires/goals, and overcome obstacles, which ultimately leads to increased confidence as a leader in your life.
- Support During Transitions: A coach provides support and guidance during major life transitions. These can be professional such as changing careers or starting a new business as well as personal with evolving family and relationship dynamics.
What techniques do you use to help clients improve self-awareness and confidence?
First, we design a safe and brave environment together where clients feel empowered to explore their dreams and also the imposter syndrome that is keeping them stuck. We often think we need the confidence to begin something new, but confidence only shows up with something we’ve done before.
So, my role as a coach is to help my clients gain clarity in who they want to be when they achieve their goals and to use courage to show up authentically in this world. I call this "living from the inside-out", which is the key to letting go of external validation as the main driver of your actions. With clarity and courage, confidence shows up through experiential learning and playful practice.
As far as what techniques I use, my 5-point pathway is a program I developed to help clients understand what’s most important to them and what’s standing in their way. From there, we explore possibilities and opportunities that get uncovered along the way.
What strategies can parents use to maintain a healthy work-life balance, while fostering a fulfilling career?
- Consistency in routines: Routines do not have to be unrealistic chunks of time. They need to be small, consistent habits at the start and end of your days, weeks, and months that create the life you desire. Examples: your own wake-up/bedtime routines (not just your kids!), scheduled family rituals, exercise habits, dates on the calendar with friends and spouses, etc.
- Define your Dream Schedule: In order to achieve it, we must first see it. This is like a vision board of your weekly calendar and allows you to identify “time confetti” in your life, which will become the space for your true desires.
- Be present: Practice the mindfulness tool of being fully present in the moment you’re in. Whether at work or at home, focus on this moment because it’s the only one you’ve got.
- Identify your Zones of Excellence + Genius: Determine what can be delegated or removed from your list of actions and responsibilities, so you remain in these areas for 70%+ of your time.
- Learn the art of saying “no” to set realistic expectations: Set realistic expectations for yourself, both at work and at home, which allows you to practice some of these other tools (presence, time management, break times, etc.)
- Practice time management: Use time management strategies to prioritize tasks and manage your time effectively, both at work and at home. This will take a bit of trial and error to find the tools that best support you. What works for you may not work for others, so don’t get discouraged as you navigate the options to find your gems. A few I like: Pomodoro Method, Eisenhower Matrix, and one I created, the TEST method.
- Take breaks and give yourself a break: Take regular breaks throughout the day, even if it's just a few minutes, to recharge and avoid burnout. Take as little as 2-3 minutes to do a breathing exercise, listen to a favorite song, or notice something beautiful in your environment. When you don’t meet your own expectations, give yourself grace to know you did the best you could in the moment and new moments will present themselves to try again.
What tips do you have for parents to communicate effectively with their employers and set boundaries at work?
Before you can set boundaries with others, you must know what you want to set boundaries around.
Oftentimes, we set boundaries around what we don’t want to “let in” and then those boundaries feel restrictive. The purpose of boundaries is to set us free, so when they are set around our core values versus what we want to avoid or restrict, then we experience that freedom.
Here’s an example: I had a recent client, Hillary, who wanted to set a boundary around working after 7pm when she’s traveling for work. The struggle was that she then felt guilty for ordering takeout and sitting in her hotel room reading or watching TV.
We did some work using a tool I developed by adapting the “5 Why’s” problem-solving technique and uncovered what she valued in that time was a more centered and calm experience while traveling. The value that was being stepped on by working late hours was wellness.
When we reset her boundary around wellness through a centered and calm experience, she recognized that sometimes that comes with clearing out her inbox or glancing at the next day’s presentation. It also came with enjoying take-out in her king-sized bed with zero guilt. Now she feels free to make choices that best support her desire for wellness, rather than a hardline “no” to work after 7pm while traveling.
How can parents set realistic and achievable career goals, while also prioritizing their family commitments?
Like the prerequisite work for setting boundaries, there’s some pre-work before setting goals as well.
Before we set goals that will take you higher, we need to go deeper first. Let's find out who you want to be then let's take meaningful action to get there.
This work is primarily what I do for individuals who are experiencing coaching for the first time or are transitioning into a new phase in life (think: elementary school-age kids, empty nesters, new job, career change, etc.). With my 5-point pathway, we harness your mind and intuition to create clarity, courage, and confidence to build the life you want.
For parents trying to re-enter the workforce, how can they best identify their strengths and transferable skills to find employment?
- Values mining
- Boundaries and Blocks exploration
- Fills me / drains me lists of daily tasks
- Uncovering your Zone of Genius
- Naming the trade-offs you're willing to accept with choices you make
Speaking with Karen has shown me how a leadership coach can be helpful for parents who want to excel in their professional lives, and how this type of coaching can have a positive impact on their personal lives. As a mother of four trying to reestablish my career, a leadership coach can help me realize my priorities, set realistic goals, and create a plan for success. Any support to develop confidence and boundaries in parents’ lives that better supports a fulfilling life is worth it!