Coach FEATURE: Joan Underwood EPC

Joan UnderwoodWe continue to meet our fellow coaches, get inspired and build coach community with our "Meet the Coach" features! This month we meet Joan Underwood, a Leadership and Talent Development Coach with her own Talent Development Agency.

About Joan

Lives In: Wildey, Barbados

Company: Underwood Talent Development Services Inc.

Type of Coach: Leadership and Talent Development Coach

Describe your coaching business in one sentence: I help current and aspiring leaders develop the confidence and skills required to maximize their performance.

Meet Joan

QUESTION 1. What one book should every coach read - and why?

Ouch! It's challenging to restrict it to one. However, if I must, it would have to be How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen, Marshall Goldsmith et al.

Almost 80% of my coaching clients are women. Many of them are feeling stuck after initial high-velocity career advancement. And a commonly held belief among women is that good work should speak for itself and be rewarded.

As it turns out, that's not how it works is the corporate world. How Women Rise identifies 12 habits that prevent women from advancing to the next level in their careers. Even if your client base isn't predominantly female, I think that it's important for coaches and leaders to become more aware of/sensitized to these struggles that women face on a daily basis and how they can be overcome.

QUESTION 2. Which website do you visit the most?

The Coaching Tools Company is my absolute favourite for high quality, practical tools. I love the fact that the tools are customizable (ref: branding) and editable so that I can tailor each client's experience to ensure that it's truly fit for purpose.

I also use LinkedIn to engage with thought leaders, peers and clients. This enables me to stay abreast of developments in my field and to give back via my daily posts and comments.

QUESTION 3. Whom do you admire most and why?

This one is easy for me. My maternal grandmother is my shero. She was born in 1917 in the Caribbean island of Dominica.

In that era, families did not prioritize the education of girls. So, she had little formal education. As a poor, single parent what she had was the determination to succeed and create a better quality of life for her child.

This led her to leave the familiarity for her home country and cross the seas to start a new life in Antigua and Barbuda. She started out as a domestic worker, saving her money to launch her own business as a trader in fruits and vegetables imported from her home country of Dominica.

While Granny Janie (as her grandchildren and great grandchildren fondly called her) had little formal education herself, she understood and appreciated its importance. Therefore, she ensured that all five of her grandchildren attended the best schools. She also ensured that we developed a good work ethic by requiring that we took turns working in her fruit and vegetable stall in the public market.

In addition to what my grandmother taught me about being courageous, the value of education and the dignity of hard and honest work, she also showed me what it meant to love unconditionally.

QUESTION 4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This is actually something that I've been thinking about quite a bit since I'm 5 years away from attaining the pensionable age. I've concluded that my work as a coach and talent development specialist is such a source of joy and fulfilment that I will continue to serve—albeit probably on a reduced scale so that I can spend more time traveling with my husband.

I also see myself spending more time writing. I published my first book during the pandemic. The lockdown gave me the time that I needed to dedicate to the project. My usual workload prevents me from devoting as much time as I would like to my writing. So, when I "retire" in five years, that will be one of my priorities.

QUESTION 5. What is your "big project" at the moment?

My passion project right now is the design and facilitation of a 12-month leadership development programme for one of my corporate clients. This organisation is deeply committed to talent development and understands the importance of adopting a wholistic approach.

We will be launching the first cohort of the multi-module programme within the next month, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with the sponsors, talent development team, coaches and guest facilitators to create a life-changing learning and development experience for this first batch of 25 high-potential leaders.

QUESTION 6. What has been your favourite coaching moment so far?

This is another tough one. My primary love language is words of affirmation. So whenever a coachee shares a breakthrough stemming from the work that we do together, it feeds my soul.

Because a lot of my work focuses on building confidence, we tend to focus on identifying self-limiting beliefs and reframing negative self-talk. A few years ago, there was an incident where a coachee revealed that she had seen an ad for a job that completely matched the criteria she shared when I asked her to describe her vision for her ideal career opportunity. However, she went on to list several reasons why she wasn't applying for the position.

Based on our previous work together, I knew underpinning these "reasons" was self-doubt and a strong fear of imposter syndrome.

I asked her to imagine for a moment that she had a daughter who had called her up and shared this very same news along with the fact that she had decided not to apply for the job. I asked her how she would respond.

She responded immediately with righteous indignation that her daughter would somehow think that she was not good enough.

After listening to her, I asked her what she thought about the fact that she was so passionate about insisting that her hypothetical daughter was good enough and deserved to pursue her career goals but that she had not summoned up the same passion and conviction about her own future.

Fast-forward a few months: she applied for and got the job, and her new employer relocated her and her family to another country to take up the role. And her husband and two young children were fully supportive and excited to embark on this new phase of their lives together.

QUESTION 7. What are your Top 3 favourite coaching tools and/or resources?

  1. My favourite tool is a coaching intake form that I have potential clients complete as part of our discovery process. The information that they share includes their proudest personal and professional accomplishments and a statement about what they want more of in their lives. The responses provided in this form gives me insight into my potential clients' lives and aspirations. It also helps them to tap into a memory of when they were powerful and successful.
  2. Another go-to tool for me is the Shooksvensen Traffic Light Tool. It helps coachees identify what is holding them back from pursuing their goals.
  3. Rounding out my list of three favourite coaching tools is the EQ-i 2.0 Emotional Intelligence Assessment. Emotional intelligence is the single most valid and reliable predictor of leadership success. The even better news is that it can be learnt and developed. Therefore, with many of my coaching clients, we begin the relationship with a baseline emotional intelligence assessment which we then use to identify and target specific areas for development.

QUESTION 8. What do you love most about being a coach?

I derive immense joy from seeing my coaching clients have a breakthrough where they identify and breakdown a barrier that was preventing them from maximizing their potential.

QUESTION 9. Tell us a secret about you...

While more people have become aware of it since I wrote my book, they continue to be surprised by the fact that I am an introvert. I'm often told that it seems incompatible with how I show up as a coach and trainer/facilitator. This disclosure usually paves the way for an interesting discussion about the difference between one's identity and one's behaviour and the power of motivation.

QUESTION 10. If you could change one thing in our world, what would it be? And how would you go about it?

If I could change one thing it would be how ready we are to judge each other and to do so in a way that is harsh and intolerant of differences. I think that such rush to judgment underpins most conflict at the individual, organisational and societal levels.

If I had the power to effect change on a global level, I would mandate that everyone adhere to the principle of MRI, i.e. the most respectful interpretation of other people's motives and actions. If we used that as our starting point, I think that the world would be a much better place.

Joan Underwood

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