In her career as an executive leadership coach, Alicia Rodriguez ’78 waits for what she calls, the “Aha! moment”—the instant when her client “gets it.” Rodriguez works both with leaders who want to lead better and people who are moving into leadership positions for the first time. She helps clients to see how they are perceived by others.
“Coaching is a way of thinking,” said Rodriguez, who has spent more than 20 years coaching executives and started her own firm, Sophia Associates, in 2000. “I try to help people stand in a different place that they have never seen before,” said Rodriguez. “It’s like taking a snapshot of a person and showing them how they are being perceived.”
So, how does an executive coach or, as Rodriguez calls it, a “wisdom partner,” do her job?
From her home near Annapolis, Maryland, Rodriguez recounted a situation involving a company president who struggled with worker morale and decided to seek advice. Rodriguez surveyed the staff and discovered that employees felt their boss (Rodriguez’s client) “cut them off at the knees” during company meetings, making them feel inadequate and disrespected. The company president was genuinely surprised. She told Rodriguez she never meant to be domineering, she simply wanted to set a structured pace during meetings. Together, Rodriguez and this executive discussed ways to incorporate employee input into her tight schedule. “It’s the difference between giving someone a fish versus teaching someone how to fish. I work to build self-awareness.”
Rodriguez encourages clients to consider the context of their position within the culture of their organization. Rodriguez encourages what she calls “noticing”—teaching people to stop, to listen, and to consider their place in a situation. She encourages clients to notice the working atmosphere around them in order to perform their jobs better. “Is that really how you want to live your moments, your life?” is a question she asked in her 2007 book, EveryDay Epiphanies: Insights for Living with Purpose (Sophia Associates, Inc.). She follows that question with: “Because if it is not, what are you waiting for?”
—Robin Respaut ’07