Don’t hold back.

That is my biggest take-away from our guest today, Carol Kauffman, the founder and Executive Director of the Institute of Coaching at the Harvard Medical School. A veteran psychologist and Professional Certified Coach, Carol has participated in over 40,000 psychotherapy and coaching sessions, working with top leaders at some of the largest organizations in the world and is known for being “the coaches coach.”

Her career in psychology began in helping trauma survivors, but over time she became renowned in her field for turning those same clients into peak performers. After twenty years, Carol had a “pivot point”—exposed to the world of coaching, she realized that she could use her same skill set to help people in an entirely new way.

“In therapy what you want to do is, you want to follow the trail of tears to get to a place of healing for your client. And in coaching, you follow the trail of dreams, for this person to live the life they want.”

Carol is open, engaging, and thought-provoking in our discussion, counseling others to be bold in pursuing what they want. She certainly “walks the walk” when it comes to pursuing your dreams: while she didn’t know what she wanted to be when she started college, once she figured it out she pulled out all the stops to position herself for success. When she realized needed a job as a research assistant in order to enter the Ph.D. program she wanted, she didn’t just apply for a job; she campaigned for a job. Landing an interview for the program wasn’t easy, either, and her persistence (and, frankly, moxie) is inspiring. It’s a great story, and I can’t wait for you to hear it!

Join us as we discuss Carol’s circuitous (yet bold) career path, her goal with every new client, and the power of harnessing both the light and the dark in becoming a great leader.

“See if what you’re supposed to do is there, and if so, don’t hold back. If anyone is going to get in your way, please don’t let it be you.”

Listen to the episode in the player above, or download and enjoy it on Apple Podcasts. If you’re so inclined, please leave us a review!

Takeaways from this episode:

  • Carol didn’t know what she wanted to do for a career, but her first year in college her mother gave her some advice that she still appreciates to this day: “Carol, just figure out what it is you love to do and figure out how to get paid for it.”
  • Even after entering a psychology program (realizing she loved to give advice and help people through problems), Carol still struggled with deciding between psychology and being a professional folk singer. It took several years for her to make the decision, finally deciding that psychology satisfied her in a way that performing never would.
  • Carol likes to remind people that while her bio makes her career path sound simple—undergrad and Ph.D. at Boston University, a prestigious internship at Harvard Medical—it was really full of “jolty pivot points.” She wasn’t a straight “A” student and wasn’t Boston U’s first pick (or even 75th) for their program. However, she was diligent at not letting opportunities pass her by and “work[ed] like a dog.”
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out. Carol read an article about Marty Seligman, the former president of the American Psychological Association, and sent him an email. They have been working together now for years, launching positive psychology, lecturing, traveling the world, and even celebrating their birthdays together. Don’t hold back!
  • In coaching, people are not always receptive to being told they need to change something about themselves. The key to coaching the unwilling is to find out what matters to them and relate what needs to change to what they want.
  • “Coaching is really about finding a way to care about your client, then using everything in your repertoire to help that person become who they want to be.”
  • One of Carol’s goals, when she has a new client, is to find something to like about that person, instead of worrying about whether or not they like her. How can you apply that to your own life? Challenge yourself to find things to like about those you come in contact with this week.

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