By: Forbes Coaches Council
"Is your work building your career — or stalling it?"
Forbes Coaches Council members come from a wide range of backgrounds. And with their wide range of experiences, they have a lot to share with clients and fellow members of the community. To help them share with an even greater audience, we’re profiling Forbes Coaches Council members here on the blog. This week: Sarah Beth Aubrey.
Sarah Beth Aubrey is the principal of A.C.T Aubrey Coaching & Training, an award-winning executive training service, and a sought-after speaker for Farm Journal Media, Executive Women in Agriculture Conference, the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) and more. The Indianapolis Business Journal named her on the “Forty Under 40” list in 2013, and she was honored on Vance Publishing’s “40 under 40 in Agriculture” in 2015. She is the author of “Find Grant Funding Now!” “Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business” and “The Profitable Hobby Farm: How to Build a Sustainable Local Foods Business.”
What inspired you to become a coach?
One day it just clicked. I’ve been in strategic planning since 1999 and have always loved the work with boards, steering committees or teams navigating change. A while back, I was doing such work for a client which I really enjoyed. They proposed that I come work for them. I was doing work in a role they were actively trying to fill, but I like flying solo. Besides, taking on the full-time role would have included a lot of operations, which was not my strength. Still, they pressured me to at least meet the other VPs and interview. I did, with the known caveat that I really wasn’t interested in a “job.” During the interview, I began talking the VPs through their challenges in filling the position. One of them thanked me and said simply, “Sarah, you’re an excellent coach for these kinds of transitions.” Since then, I’ve been working with them to develop executive coaching for managers and other key stakeholders! And, my own formalized coaching practice was born.
What one piece of advice do you find yourself relying on most? Why?
When I was first a sales representative, I hated my job. I hated everything about it — the location, the way the regional managers turned their heads at questionable practices, the way I felt slimy selling products that didn’t matter to me. It felt like a farce. Of course, other people (including those I respected) thought I’d scored a great gig for a first job and should be grateful, so I stayed with the company. But one day, I had a chance encounter with a peer a few years older than me. He asked, “Is your work building your career — or stalling it?” He suggested that I ask myself this key question in any situation. I was stunned at the question and its impact on me. I found a way to move on from the job and have remembered that advice many, many times over the years.
What is the biggest hurdle your clients face? What advice would you give others struggling with this issue?
Many of my clients are either entrepreneurs or large farm operators. They are the CEOs, founders or heirs of their organizations and family businesses. One common theme is that “it’s lonely at the top” for them. Because of competition concerns, a lack of trust in others in the business, or their own tendencies to be self-sufficient, it’s difficult for them to find someone to talk to. My advice for them is to find a professional peer group. I have seen the peer-group model create tremendous change in individuals that were once stuck on certain challenges or decisions. The guided, but genuine, feedback and accountability from someone else who has been in a similar situation can provide immense value.