What led you to a career in coaching?
Interestingly enough, I started my professional career as one of the first female traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I spent 15 years in the finance industry, working at firms like Goldman Sachs and Chicago Research & Trading (CRT).
Early in my career, I was promoted to leadership roles and I quickly realized that my true passion was people, not numbers. I learned that I loved developing leaders and coaching far more than I ever loved trading. So it was easy for me to switch gears and switch careers. Everyone around me thought I was crazy—so much so that the guys on the trading floor were taking over/under bets on when I would return. I laughed and said “I’m not coming back to see you … in fact, you will be coming to see me.” That prediction came true.
I went back to school and got a post-graduate degree from the University of Chicago, where I learned not just what worked, but also why it worked. I was, and still am, fascinated by how psychology and neuroscience impact one’s biology and behavior.
What I love about coaching is that it allows me to facilitate transformational change—real change—in individuals, teams, and organizations; I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than that!
Is there anyone who stood out as a mentor or coach to you? Who was your first coach?
Early in my trading career, I met Dr. Fernando Flores—who is considered one of the pioneers of coaching and a Nobel Prize nominee. He is the individual I credit most for my own transformation, both personal and professional.
I spent three years in an immersive, three-year coaching program with Fernando, who was not only my professor, but also my professional coach and mentor. It was through this experience I learned the power of systemic, ontological coaching and its ability to facilitate measurable and sustainable change.
How you define “coaching?”
At its very core, coaching is a catalyst for change. In some ways, working with a coach is like working with a personal trainer. In order to achieve results, the client needs to do the work, but the trainer brings the expertise to assess, direct, correct, motivate, and support the client along the way.
At Jody Michael Associates, we bring a similar type of expertise, revealing the client’s blind spots, challenging their perceptions, posing powerful questions, and directing experiential practices designed to effect the change they are seeking in their lives or careers.
We offer a variety of coaching services—executive, career, trading, and wellness—that all share a common goal: to facilitate growth. We help clients achieve greater self-awareness, clarity, observational capacity, and confidence; as a result, they find themselves finally able to get that coveted promotion, attract more income, cultivate emotional intelligence and executive presence, and lead (their own lives and others) with greater impact and influence.
What do you look for when building your team of coaches?
We maintain a very high level of discernment in our hiring practices; it’s not unusual for us to sift through hundreds of coaches’ CVs to identify those we even choose to interview. We have very high standards when it comes to credentials, education, experience, business acumen, and personal self-development. Last, but not least, we need to see that spark and energy that is evident when there is authentic passion and love for coaching.
While anyone can hang a sign on their door and call themselves a coach, all of our coaches are certified and experienced. Our coaching team has advanced training in human behavior, neuroscience, psychology, and coaching as well as extensive corporate, entrepreneurial, and trading experience that allows us to quickly absorb and deeply understand our clients’ complex business challenges.
What is the most inspiring (or transformational) client outcome you’ve had so far?
The most shocking client outcome followed what I consider to be my most unusual client request. Most individuals seek coaching to feel better equipped to handle a challenge, close a skill gap, or address some other type of deficit. This particular client came to me because she had overperformed. After having the top-grossing year in her career (doubling her sales from $5 million to $10 million), she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to replicate—let alone exceed—that level of sales in the upcoming year.
Because her company’s policy was to fire anyone who sold less in any year than they did in the prior year, she was worried that this performance—which she considered an anomaly—would result in her losing her job.
I convinced her that not only could she sell more than $10 million, but that we would work together to remove any psychological limits on what she could sell. Next year, or in any year. And that is what we did. Through coaching, I was able to help this client completely reframe her belief systems, particularly the ones limiting her potential and her performance.
She proceeded to sell over $100 million the year we worked together.
At the end of the year, when wrapping up our engagement, I asked her: “So, are you leaving your job?”
She laughed, and said, “Oh no … I’m selling even more than that next year.”
And she did.
How does the client help shape the coaching experience?
The individuals I work with are usually successful, ambitious and well-educated. But often when they come to me, they have overplayed their strengths, staying in their comfort zone and neglecting to build the range that they need to be a truly great leader.
A successful engagement requires that the client enter the experience with an open mindset, willing to venture beyond their comfort zone so that they can learn to build that range. It’s also critical that clients make a commitment to focus on, work toward, and embrace change.
How do you continue to transform your own life, personally and professionally?
Every morning, I set an intention for the day. As I tell my clients, it’s a small effort with a big payback. When you go through life on auto-pilot, letting things “happen to you,” you become reactive. By contrast, setting a daily intention increases your awareness so that you can respond to situations in a very deliberate manner. This increased awareness is the first step toward making any change, however incremental.
I also have an unwavering commitment to maintaining a growth mindset; I love to learn. From the time I was young, I’ve always been a voracious reader—from memoirs to books about the latest findings in neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, and artificial intelligence. I firmly believe that books can help us live far richer, more robust lives by enhancing our ability to see the world through new perspectives.
If you could be anything besides a coach, what would you do for a living?
Oh, that’s easy. I would be an interior designer. I love transforming spaces almost as much as I enjoy coaching people to achieve personal and professional transformation. I am inspired by beautiful environments and I have a deep appreciation for art. I think my passion for aesthetics is expressed in everything that surrounds me, from the design elements on our website to every piece of décor in my home and office. Each is thoughtful, deliberate, and reflective of me and our company’s brand.
You’ve conducted over 40,000 one-on-one sessions thus far in your career. What is one piece of insight you could share with our readers?
Most people suffer a lot of unnecessary pain in their lives. They take things personally, ruminate, fail to see things from multiple perspectives, and have blind spots. They often fail to make the distinction between the things you can and can’t change.
People tend to forget that life isn’t always fair, things don’t always go according to plan, change is constant, and everything eventually ends. Pain is simply part of the human experience. How well we can deal with the pain lies in our capacity to develop “mental fitness”—doing the individual psychological work and spiritual practice necessary to deal with whatever the world throws at you. That’s what allows people to live peaceful, powerful lives.