This interview with Ren Wiebe – an Executive Coach with AIIR Consulting – was conducted and condensed by Brianna Rafferty.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Central Canada in the City of Winnipeg. I moved to Toronto with my wife in 1990 and have since made this my home.
How has your background influenced your professional career?
I was raised in a strong family that promoted the core values of hard work, contribution to community, and living life with purpose. I had many fantastic teachers and mentors through my early years. Each brought different aspects to my learning and development. The common theme in each was a willingness to invest time and energy in my development.
What inspired you to become a coach?
My move into coaching was actually inspired by some real ambivalence about my evolving career in finance. Upon reflection I realized that all my most satisfying moments at work were those that involved coaching the team or helping people learn and develop. The field of leadership coaching was just beginning at that point in the late ’80’s, and I was able to speak with people on the frontier of what would become a global trend in leadership development. I found my home in the Applied Psychology program at University of Toronto where I completed my Masters and worked as a career counselor. Since then I have had the opportunity to coach leaders individually, to work with leadership teams, and to facilitate leadership development programs.
What is your philosophy about human change, learning, and development?
I believe at the core that people want to succeed and contribute positively in their working lives. People and teams grow through interaction and by challenging assumptions. The best leaders (and teams, athletes, parents and friends) are always striving to improve. Real change/growth happens when leaders are clear about their goals, authentic in who they are, and intentional in their actions.
When you first started out in your work as a coach, what was one of your biggest mistakes, and what did you learn from it?
When starting as a coach I was very eager to contribute. I was always ready to add my ideas and advice when I saw a potential solution I thought would help my client. My own coach and mentor shared an observation after reviewing many of my taped coaching sessions. He said “Ren, it’s not the quality of your advice that has the biggest impact on people, it’s the quality of your questions.” This statement was extremely powerful for me and truly shaped how I now coach. I know now that in most situations people have the answers to their challenges deep inside, and that my job is to draw these to the surface through questions, discussion and action planning.
What are your strengths?
As a coach my greatest strength comes from the care I have for my clients. I work hard to create trust with my clients, which allows them to say anything and to speak their truth. I listen deeply, challenge their thinking at times, and use my intuition to lead me to the next question. My clients appreciate my willingness to sit beside them without judgement, to help them explore their strengths and challenges, and to set clear and purposeful plans.
How do you leverage your strengths in your coaching work?
I lean on my strengths to help create a trusting work alliance with my clients. I feel that my clients are able to use these strengths to explore their ambitions, the foundation of their successes, and their ongoing leadership challenges. I help people discover their authentic leadership style and create a personal vision of leadership and life success.
How do you practice what you preach as a coach?
I believe that the best coaches are always striving to improve. As a coach and leadership development consultant I work hard to practice this on an ongoing basis. I set annual learning goals and hold myself accountable for achieving them. I look for feedback and try to learn from every interaction and client.
How has your coaching practice evolved over the years?
I could answer this a couple different ways. My coach practice has evolved in that I now tend to work with more senior leaders and senior teams. I am involved in more diverse and challenging situations than in my early years as a coach. As for how I practice as a coach, I would say that the biggest change is that I tend to be less active than in the past. I say less, inquire more and get to the root of issues faster. I trust my instinct more and am willing to take more risks in conversations.
What advice do you have for clients in maximizing the success of their coaching engagements?
1. Lean in quickly to being open and real with your coach
2. Come prepared for conversations and ready to dig in and work hard in the conversation
3. Be both committed to growth and yet patient with yourself and the process
Each month, Brianna Rafferty talks with a member of the AIIR Global Coaching Alliance about the unique challenges of being a leader and coach. To learn more about the AIIR Global Coaching Alliance, click here.