Monday, March 30, 2009

The OSI Interview: Michelle Ward

Michelle Ward set a course for acting at an early age. For twenty years she worked toward reaching the fabled bright lights. But one day she realized that this goal was no longer as valuable as it had once been. In her own words:

I enrolled in a Career Change Workshop at NYU, and through a series of personality tests, exercises, and conversations with my classmates, I realized that I wanted to help others find their own path, especially "creative types" that thought they wanted one thing their whole life and now have to rewrite their plans. I wanted to help them figure out what they wanted to be When They Grow Up.

But I didn't want to limit myself to Career Coaching. I wanted to help people along with all their life challenges, but not in a Hippy-Dippy or a Tell-Me-What-Your-Parents-Did-When-You-Were-Five way. I wanted to be their springboard, their partner, their confidante, their cheerleader. I wanted to be their Life Coach!

I went full throttle into taking classes at the International Coach Academy, where I'm enrolled in the Certified Professional Coach Program. I will then be certified by the International Coaches Federation, who "exists to Build, Support and Preserve the integrity of the coaching profession."

I've been training my whole life to be a coach. My communication skills, my enthusiasm and sense of humor, my desire to help people find their passion, and my people-loving-personality makes this the role that I was born to play.

She ain't kidding, either. But she is fantastic.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?
Listening, or as coaches call it, "power listening." For me, it means to shut off the part of my brain that gets ready to jump in and contribute to a conversation, and to turn on my natural curiosity. If something comes up while my client is talking, I'll jot it down or let it go, trusting that I'll know the next question to ask when the time comes. If you go past all of the tools that coaches use, it all boils down to being non-judgmental and to listening.

2. Which bits matter least?
Doing the "right" thing. As a perfectionist, I was scared you-know-what-less to start coaching, because I didn't trust myself to do it "right." I would start that call with a million (OK, 4) things in front of me: my coaching model, to visually let me know what I wanted to focus on; a binder full of questions to ask, based on the situation presented to me; my notes for that client along with their intake form; and a pad of paper. Now I only have my notes and a blank sheet of paper. And if The Worst thing happens (aka What Now? Syndrome), I admit it. Oddly enough, I think that my saying, "I'm not sure where to go now" allows the client to chart the course. So, You're Welcome, clients!

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?
Being a people pleaser once seemed to be my role in life - to make everyone happy, to not rock the boat, to be everything to everyone. Not to say that I don't care what people think anymore, or that I try to piss people off. I don't. But I know what I need to feed myself emotionally, and I can't say "yes" to everyone. I know my limits, my priorities and my values, and if someone or something doesn't fall within that I'm OK with letting it go.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?
Silence. Building on my answer to question #1, I have had to stop myself from filling the silence when I'm with a client. The chatty extrovert in me wants to jump in, ask another question, give the client multiple choice answers, or share a personal story. But I've learned that those silences are one of the only ways to prove that you've made the client stop and think, possibly in a different direction than he or she is used to. I used to live for the applause when I was pursuing a career as an actress, but now the silence is my applause. Ironic, huh?

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?
John Cusack holding the boom box in Say Anything. Seeing the outtakes on a scene that Glenn Close did for Fatal Attraction, where no two takes were alike. The custom-written verse that my brother-in-law added to Grow Old With You, the song he played at my wedding. The way that my husband's whole face lights up when I ask him if he wants to do something that he really wants to do at that moment in time. The tiny piece of wallpaper - a single blue star on a white background - I took from my childhood bedroom and carry around with me. The place in the show (always at the theater, never at the movies) that gives me chills. Most recently, the new When I Grow Up logo! I want to keep those kids in my pocket and carry them around with me. Oh wait - I guess that's what business cards are for.

Michelle, thank you!


Michelle | When I Grow Up said...

Eek! This is super excitement for me, Emma. Thanks so much for including me in this wonderful series. I am so freakin' honored!

Cassandra Rae said...

I heart Michelle!