Originally published in CEO Today Magazine, March 2022 Edition. It can also be viewed digitally here
As a life and leadership coach, Dr Teri Baydar‘s mission is to support and educate C-Suites and high achievers towards their personal paths of self-actualising growth for the greater good. She has decades’ worth of experience in behaviour research and leadership development, and an MBA with accrued training in authentic leadership, managing complexity, and behavioural economics. We hear her thoughts on the value of life coaching, self-development and self-actualisation below.
Why should leaders focus on self-development?
There are countless benefits to working with a life coach. Leaders who focus on self-development see improvement in their development and refinement of vision, decision-making skills, and higher executive functions. My clients learn how to become calmer under stress, more self-aware, confident, authentic, impactful, powerful, and emotionally intelligent. Their ability to engage and lead others increases exponentially due to their ability to manage and inspire new behaviours in their teams that foster employee engagement, passion, high performance, innovation, and creative solutions.
How does life coaching differ from other types of coaching?
What’s important to understand is that good leadership and executive coaching is founded in life coaching. All methods of coaching are looking for behavioural change. To think that life coaching is just about health and wellness or something outside of work-life is an error.
In all coaching, it is fundamental to achieve a state of behavioural change in order to be successful. Many methodologies will address this from the outside in with something like a 360. Life coaching addresses behavioural change from the inside out. Generally speaking, the inside out methodology brings deeper transformation and more integrated results. It is a more direct method of creating personal and professional transformation.
Really good leadership coaching is life coaching. This is because leadership is not just a list of scripted ways of doing things. Leadership is all about self-actualisation and modelling a model of higher consciousness and expanded executive functions. Leadership is about raising people up and modelling a model of behaviour that people want to follow.
I work with leaders who have a yearning desire to realise a vision and impact the world. Most of my clients are C-suite executives in small and medium enterprises. A large portion of them is working to transform a business model or process. They are high-achieving creators and innovators. They understand that it is essential to scale their executive functions of heart and mind if they want to scale their companies.
How does life coaching affect CEOs and leaders?
Your executive function of mind and heart is what sets you apart and gives you the ability to create impactful change. Think, for example; emotional control, flexibility, goal-directed persistence, metacognition, organisation, planning/prioritisation, response inhibition, stress regulation, sustained attention, task initiation, time management, working memory, mental and emotional resiliency, innovative/creative thinking, and the list goes on. The higher the executive position within the company, the more that individual person needs to elevate their mental/emotional executive functions. CEOs and leaders who are evolving and expanding their hearts and minds will naturally outperform those who are not.
There is an obvious benefit to companies and society if our C-Suites and leaders are working on bettering themselves. This creates a ripple effect. The visibility of a leader modelling
the model of being an authentic, whole, human(e) being impacts a lot of people in a very positive way. Historically, we have had a shortage of altruistic, visionary, innovative leaders moving humanity forward. They tend to be few and far between. We need more of them.
Life coaching for C-Suite individuals and leaders has a very valuable ROI. Imagine going through IPOs, startups, fast organic growth, scaling, company sell-off, mergers, and cultural and strategic pivots with an internal wisdom adviser and educator. Somebody you can be 100% honest with, in a safe zone to figure out what your best choices are as a human being. In this kind of work, we look beyond the tactical, practical, calculable data choice points into what is meaningful and satisfying in alignment with your calling, as well as the best interest of the company and its mission.
When the stakes couldn’t be higher, having a qualified professional helping you get it right is precious. CEOs and leaders are often expected to make high-impact decisions that they’ve never made before. Often, they’re asked to do this without substantial data or proof of outcome. It can be very high risk and high stakes. Having a quality life or leadership coach pointing out your mental, emotional, and behavioural trap doors is a lifesaver. This, in turn, brings clarity to pressured decision-making.
Some things I’ve heard back from my clients are:
“You saved my ass!”
“I didn’t blow up in their faces.”
“I kept my cool.”
“It was surreal, I could totally see what was really happening underneath in that negotiation.”
“You were right, they behaved exactly like you said they would. But, I was prepared.”
“I felt so confident and at ease, nothing could disrupt me!”
This kind of work is not for the faint of heart. As studies show, most executives make decisions from a place of fear. Listening to fear holds us back from being thriving, creative, innovative professionals. Breaking through that fear makes all the difference in levelling up your career, growing your company, creating long-term meaningful relationships, and living in a healthy state of ease and comfort, while still performing at high levels.
What is the most important benefit a leader can get from life coaching?
By far, the most useful tool that comes from life coaching is emotional intelligence, of which very few CEOs and executive leaders demonstrate a high level. Travis Bradbury, in his Ted talk “The Power of Emotional Intelligence”, demonstrates how CEOs have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace. Systemically, as the executive rises in the workplace, their emotional intelligence will go down. We live in a system that prioritises left brain functions. Those individuals with strong left-brain thinking patterns rise to leadership roles. Those with high EQ. are eliminated from leadership candidacy because they are creatives centred in their right minds. Those who rise to CEO positions are either naturally left-brain dominant (possibly low EQ), or their emotional intelligence is squeezed out of them by the left-brain favoured environment.
I teach emotional intelligence to my clients by using their real-world challenges as grist for the mill. This process creates a state of expanded awareness that allows a higher level of critical thinking, creative problem solving, better relationship building, empathetic human connection, and higher levels of consciousness and vision. It is essential to understand that emotional intelligence can only be developed through internal transformation on the path to self-actualisation. It cannot be learned from a book or seminar. It is a real-world everyday practice founded in humility and a deep desire to change oneself.
Why do life and leadership coaching matter?
The future of humanity depends on the largess and quality of the hearts and minds of our leaders in business and society. We are at a place where spiritual and social development is lagging in comparison to our technological development. We are effective and efficient at creating products and processes. But our evolution as greater conscious beings has fallen by the wayside. We are not paying enough attention to who we are being while we’re doing whatever it is we’re doing.
This lack of attention to internal processes leaves us skimming across the surface of problems. We’re constantly looking for the next quick fix. We lack long-term thinking and solve mentality. To quote Einstein: “No problem was ever solved at the level of consciousness at which it was created”. Essentially, we need to raise our consciousness. As with any planetary movement or change, it is through our leaders in business, government, and society that we can achieve critical mass.
We live in a period of massive change. Many paradigm shifts are happening in the way we live and do business. Changes like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, shifting views on gender, and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ communities have led to huge initiatives in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Coping with COVID guidelines, working from home and big shifts in employee mindset around work and life are creating new work structures and procedures. These changes in the way we live and work are only going to escalate. We will continue to have more options to do more, faster, and better. There is no “going back”! It’s a new world. But humans are not machines. Life and leadership coaching can bring balance to the individual, but what we really need are more and more individuals capable of sustaining that balance. As a species, we don’t have a great scorecard when it comes to taking care of ourselves, each other, and the planet. Physical and mental health issues are on the rise. Until now, very little has been done to provide a space for people to learn about and grow their human(e) consciousness. Traditional education does not teach us how to live well and be better humans.
I love the saying: “Starving people speak of bread.” We talk a lot about what we don’t have, or what’s missing in our lives. For me, this reflects what’s going on with the word “consciousness”. There’s a lot of talk about being conscious or raising the consciousness. What this really reflects is a yearning for higher awareness, a better understanding of who we are and what we’re here to do, both individually and as a species.
Life and leadership coaching is so valuable because it fills the educational and human development gap in many ways. It is essential for any leader who wants to have an impact or innovate. To create or embrace change requires the ability to tap into the skillsets that are developed in this self-actualisation and learning space. I often tell my clients: “Get out of your left brain into your right mind.” To be a part of the future, you must continuously grow and expand your creative mind and understanding of consciousness. There are clear constructive pathways towards this new level of awareness, knowing, being, and having an impact in the world. The fastest and most effective I know of is life and leadership coaching.
A new world requires a new kind of leadership. The flow of that movement forward is happening whether we like it or not. To do my part, I have two books on the bench. The first is a guide to the personal transformational journey towards self-actualisation and becoming an impactful leader. The second is on healing the broken business model that is perpetuating suffering and how to lean into the shift happening from plantation economics to organic economics.
How do leaders know where they are in their self-actualisation?
A great tool to figure out where you are is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Most of us spend the majority of our time in the lower echelons of meeting physiological needs and safety. This is all about the tactical/practical of having shelter, food, air to breathe, a space to rest. Here, we accumulate wealth and create processes for our safety and comfort. This quickly becomes a hamster wheel situation, constantly doing more for the sake of growth and expansion. This leads to burnout and exhaustion.
There is a common misconception that personal fulfilment and self-actualisation will come once everything else is in place. This linear construct is a misrepresentation. A linear life does not exist. Therefore, linear thought processes and goals are out of sync with reality.
There’s a glass ceiling that successful people encounter. They get into a loop of continuously doing what they do well, doing what worked in the past and accumulating money and influence. They keep chasing the feeling of getting it “right”. In this place, their evolutionary drive can start whispering (or sometimes yelling) to them that there has got to be something more. Once confronted with this intuitive truth that there is more, it’s time to find the right kind of coach, mentor, or support to move up to the next level. This other level of living, being, and doing does exist. If you aren’t feeling the kind of love, belonging, and esteem you wish to in your life, you are not on track. Humans are designed to feel good, be happy, and live with ease and peace of mind. If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy and do not feel complete in every aspect of your life represented in the graphic, it means there are experiences being offered to you that you are not tapping into. Becoming a self-actualised, whole human being is undeniably an inside job. Nobody gets to the top of that mountain without taking the inner journey of personal transformation.
Dr Teri Baydar is a leadership development consultant and coach who educates and supports C-suites and high achievers towards their personal path of self-actualising growth for the greater good. She has decades of experience in behaviour research and leadership development, specialising in transformational thinking.
She has worked with senior and emerging leaders at the Boston Consulting Group, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, IFF, General Electric, Global Partners LP, Housing Partnership Network, Rapid7, Topos Labs, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Starbucks, Komodo Technologies, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, Zip Car, Enterome Bioscience, Pfizer, Facebook, the SEC and more.
She is the Engagement Chair of the New England Board of Women in Technology International, an inspirational speaker, emerging author, and expert speaker. She also teaches meditation and occasionally walks on fire.