We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Landrum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
For the first 32 years of my career, I worked in the energy industry in Human Resources. The majority of that time was spent in Talent Management, which includes leadership development, employee development, talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, etc. I really loved all of those facets of my work. Additionally, I led succession planning, identifying future successors and helping them prepare for upcoming opportunities within the company. I felt a deep sense of satisfaction working in Human Resources. I could see people taking on new challenges as they grew and shaped their careers. And I enjoyed seeing the success, development and growth of those in my group. It’s good to know that you can make a positive difference for the organization, and especially for the person.
During the later part of my corporate career, I began doing some internal Leadership Coaching for Spectra Energy, which is now Enbridge, and I realized I had found my sweet spot. I decided that coaching and facilitating fulltime was how I wanted to spend the rest of my career. So when I turned 55, I retired from Spectra and pivoted my career in that direction.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I’ve had the pleasure of coaching approximately 450 leaders individually or in small group settings. Coaching is a fantastic tool for current and future leaders. It gives them an awareness of what they need to focus to continue being successful and to reach that next level.
The coach creates a safe space where a person can generate that awareness and determine how they would like to grow and develop. It helps them to be better leaders and opens up potential for greater opportunities in the future. Two hallmarks of coaching are that: (1) everything discussed is strictly confidential, and (2) there is no judgment on the part of the coach. The confidentiality aspect provides a safe space. The coach is bound by a code of ethics. Clients are free to share whatever they would like with whomever they wish, but a coach will never divulge to anyone what is discussed during a session. The non-judgment aspect of coaching is also very powerful. When we are talking with someone with whom we have an established relationship, we filter our communication depending on the reaction we anticipate from our listener. However, coaching provides a safe, judgement free zone where one is free to explore. People tend to talk more freely about things they haven’t talked to anyone about before. It’s not uncommon, at the end of a session, for someone to say, “Wow, this has opened my eyes to opportunities and possibilities that I had always considered beyond my reach.”
Another major characteristic of coaching and that distinguishes it from consulting is that we do not provide solutions. The whole idea is that the solution to the dilemma lies within the client. A coach’s mission is to skillfully ask the right questions that will prompt her/him to think carefully through what they’re facing and to discover for themselves the key to unlock the solutions so they can see their path more clearly and move forward. We ask questions to help them identify the barriers that are holding them back from accomplishing their goals. And once she/he can get to the heart of the matter and identify those barriers, then it’s easier to turn the key and unlock the solutions and begin doing things that are in alignment with those goals. It’s not always easy to stick to asking questions and guiding clients to formulate their own conclusions. Sometimes coaches can envision a solution to the issue at hand, but we refrain from sharing our own ideas. The benefits of this ideology are threefold. First, the coach may not fully understand the context of the situation; what may work for one person or circumstance might not work for another. Second, when people arrive at their own solutions, they are more likely to believe in them, to implement them, and to achieve more successful outcomes. And third, it’s the old “’give me a fish’ versus ‘teach me to fish’” philosophy. If they learn and practice a method of working through issues and coming up with solutions on their own, they can carry that skill with them and expand on it going forward. So, it’s critical that we create an atmosphere where they can determine for themselves what’s best in their particular circumstances, and what’s best for their own development in handling situations that will inevitably arise in the future.
I’ve had the privilege to work clients all across the spectrum, from oil and gas, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, consulting, chemical, media, non-profits, software development, etc. And having the opportunity to partner with people from so many different industries has really been beneficial my development. I work with people of all levels within an organization, from high potentials to C-suite leaders. I also have the privilege of working with several universities. I coach undergraduate and graduate students. They are eager to explore ways of being better leaders while they’re in school and look forward to the potential of professional leadership opportunities ahead. Students have a wonderful appetite for learning, growing and finding success. Their enthusiasm and positivity is really exciting to me as their coach.
I have also enjoyed serving as a speaker and workshop facilitator for Leadership Development and Career programs. And many times, workshop participants ask for individual coaching, so I’m able to help them make further shifts in their leadership.
Of the people I’ve coached so far, the majority of them have been women leaders. And I’ve noticed that, although they face many of the same issues that men face as leaders, they are also up against some challenges that are unique to women leaders. I’ve also noticed that they have particular skills and leadership characteristics which make them incredible leaders. Addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2020 report states that “as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce . . . we’ll end up with far fewer women in leadership – and far fewer women on track to be future leaders.” Clearly, it is important for women to be able to see their potential and to be aware of what their options are. It’s also vital that they be provided with the same opportunities to develop professionally as their male counterparts. In response to this situation, I’ve conducted some group coaching sessions designed especially for female leaders. And I’ve been asked to give a couple of presentations in the near future regarding women in leadership. One of them is at Rice University’s Women in Leadership conference where I’ll be focusing on the topic “Get, Leverage, and Be an Ally.” In preparation for these presentations, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing women leaders from across the United States about leadership, what’s helped them and what challenges they’ve faced. Through these discussions, I’ve been able to identify certain tools and characteristics that can help women as they continue their journey to become transformational leaders.
It is truly a pleasure to accompany people on their learning and developmental journey as they improve their skills. And it’s such a wonderful feeling when they can see and hear from others about the positive impact they’re having on the people they are leading, and also when they can see the positive impact on their own future trajectory. Looking back now, it becomes more and more evident to me that the move to coaching was the best career decision I’ve ever made. And I hope to continue for a long time to come.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My wife and I, along with our two sons, moved to Houston 20 years ago, and we fell in love with the city. The thriving economy, the diversity and culture of the city, and of course, the many great restaurants that Houston has to offer. I’m a sports fanatic, so I’m happiest when I get a chance to attend a game. It’s been a lot fun adopting the Astros, Texans, Dynamo, Dash and Rockets as my teams, along with local university teams as well.
My favorite spots in the city? Well, we live in the Energy Corridor, and I think it’s one of the best places we could be. We like CityCentre a lot. We’re empty nesters now, so sitting out by the little green area watching young families play with their kids brings back great memories of when we were raising our boys. We like Rice Village as well. There are lots of unique shops and restaurants there, and the students from Rice University. It just has a really nice vibe to it. We like walking, or sometimes just sitting at a sidewalk café to enjoy a nice glass of wine or some French pastries.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shout out to my wife, Beth. When I decided to leave a very secure position in the corporate world, I had no significant income, only one client along with a few potential prospects. Needless to say, we went through some pretty lean times, financially speaking. But with a little patience and a lot of bootstrapping, fast-forward almost six years, now I have a successful coaching business (and we’re still happily married). And without the trust and support of my best friend of 36 years, none of this would have been possible. So, thank you, Beth, for believing in me..