Caroline Dowd-Higgins is an executive coach, public speaker, best-selling author and host of the award -winning podcast, Your Working Life and took some time out to talk with The Industry Leaders about what all successful coaching businesses have in common.
What's your industry?
Leadership Development, Career Advancement and Reinvention, Entrepreneurship
For people who don't know you, can you tell us how you ended up sitting where you are today?
I started my career as an opera singer, traveling the world as a performing artist. There is no doubt that artists need to have an entrepreneurial mindset. We are always promoting, influencing, and designing our next career opportunity, so that skillset is essential for survival. I loved my life as performer, but the struggle of the proverbial starving artist grew tiresome. The feasts were incredible with robust work and the famines were tough, which led me to my first reinvention.
Equipped with the power of transferable skills, I developed a second act career working as a talent development coach and trainer and scaled start-up programs for institutions of higher-education nationally. Since 2011, I maintained my side-hustle business part time and in 2022, I took the part-time business full-time and left working for an organization. I am thriving in my business and help others design their best lives and careers.
What does your daily routine look like?
My public speaking and talent development training takes me all over the world to deliver content, inspire outcomes, and challenge the status quo. When I am not on the road, I am working from my home office, coaching clients, most of whom are national – so I use Zoom. I just released a new book, so when I’m not speaking or training, I am developing new content and recording podcast episodes.
What excites you most about what you do?
I love the variety in my work. I empower people with the tools and resources to live their best lives and careers with a variety of mediums – coaching, writing, podcasts, speeches, and training. The “aha” moment when an individual client or an audience member has a breakthrough is wonderful validation that my work is impactful.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and by all means, as for help. I tapped many coaches and fellow entrepreneurs who have helped (and continue to help) me navigate my life and career journey. Find the experts whom you can learn from and hire out what is not in your skillset. That is a valuable investment of your time and resources.
What's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
I am a recovering workaholic and left working for an organization because the 90+ hour work weeks were debilitating and exhausting. I was truly missing my life and caught up in the whirlwind of being busy. While there are crunch times in my own business that require well over 40 hours/week, I now have control over how I prioritize the work and my life. I found that I am more productive and certainly healthier in mind, body, and spirit. I am now confident that I can be a high-achiever without being addicted to work.
I would advise anyone who related to the workaholic tendencies to take stock about what’s really important and assess your health and wellbeing.
Are there any well-known Books, Podcasts, or Courses that you credit your current success to?
I have executive coaching certifications that have helped me in my coaching practice (International Coaching Federation, Marshall Goldsmith, Leadershape, Clifton Strengths) and I am an avid podcast consumer. Some of my favorite shows are: HBR IdeaCast; Speakernomics from NSA, How I Built This with Guy Raz and all of Adam Grant’s podcasts.
Have you ever used a business or executive coach?
I have used a business and executive coach. As a coach – I know the power of the coaching experience and it has helped me scale and focus my skills and my business.
The business coach helped me understand my market value, set competitive fees and expand my network to grow my business.
My executive coach helps me tackle a variety of challenges in a safe and confidential space.
It seems like there are a lot of people offering business coaching these days. In your opinion, is that a good thing?
It’s essential to do your due diligence and research your prospective coach and ask for client referrals. I am using a coach from my local Small Business Association to help me apply for my women owned business certification. The state and local resources have been incredible.
People can sometimes confuse a coach with a mentor. Can you help us clarify the difference?
A mentor is a confidante who has been there and done that and can give you advice in their area of expertise. A coach should be professionally trained to help you overcome blind spots in your life, career, or business and help you navigate that journey in a space of psychological safety.
For any entrepreneurs or executives looking to work with a coach, where are the best places to find a great one?
First – ask trusted friends/colleagues for referrals. Any coach worth their salt will give a free introductory call to determine best-fit for both entities. Finding a coach is a personal decision and requires rapport and trust. A client should “audition” several coaches to find their best fit.
A web search indicating the kind of coaching you desire (leadership, business, wellness, etc.) will yield results but you need to consider fit, location, experience and credentials.
What 3 qualities would you say separate a great business coach from a bad one?
Ability to be a good listener and understand the client needs with clarity of expectations.
Ability to provide or refer the best resources to empower the client to be successful.
Ability to handle complex situations and challenges in the best interest of the client.
Do you think someone can be a great business coach without having many years of experience?
That really depends on the individual coach. Experience, knowledge, and resources are essential to be able to provide helpful business coaching. If a coach has niche experience in start-ups for example and only a few years in business, it’s worth a call to discuss best-fit.
What do you think the world of business coaching will look like in 20 years' time?
My predictions will happen well before 20 years. Business coaches need to be extremely tech savvy and understand the post-pandemic shift to virtual services. Savvy business coaches will continue to understand the business trends, funding landscape and future-focused world of work.
Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?