Stories from a Career Coach

by Kevin Reid

Posted on Oct 23, 2020

In this podcast episode, host Will Francis chats with training consultant and career coach Kevin Reid about his fascinating job. To be a good coach, you have to be able to really listen to people. And Kevin shares some of the great lives and situations he's listened to and helped over the years: from students and millennials to a 94-year-old nun. Our favorite of his many nuggets of widsom is: you can divide your ability into three things - what you should do, what you should not do, and what you should delegate to someone else.

Real-life Stories from a Career Coach


[00:00:02] Will: Welcome to "The Big Q&A," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. I'm your host, Will Francis. And today we'll be talking to an executive communications coach, Kevin Reid. He's a deeply experienced coach with two decades of experience helping businesses, teams, and individuals in Ireland and beyond to become more efficient and effective and, as he says, to banish their self-limiting beliefs. Kevin is a founder of and of Personal Skills Training. He is also on the board of advisors of AIESEC, the international student organization.

[00:00:36] I think we're all curious about our maximum potential and someone like Kevin helps people to realize that. But what does a coach do and how do they run their own career and work life? Well, my job in this episode is to find out. Welcome to the podcast, Kevin.

[00:00:50] Kevin: Hi, Will. It's good to be here.

[00:00:52] Will: So I am very intrigued by what you do. And you know, I think that ideally, I'd love to come and, you know, use your services. I'm reading through what you do, it just sounds fascinating. It sounds like you really put a rocket at people's careers. And you say that you offer your prospective clients this no-obligation chat and a coffee to see how you can help them. What I'm interested in is: what is the most common thing that people say that they want from you in that first meeting?

[00:01:22] Kevin: Well, the coffee and the conversation, to begin with: is people have to find out if they like me or not. There's no point in working with someone if there’s no compatible level. So we have to find out if we'd like to work with each other yet. Usually, then we'll ask a direct question, "Would you like to coach with me going forward?" It's either yay or nay. That's okay. And then we start to have a conversation about what people want to achieve.

It's a little too narrow when people say they want to achieve their goals. It's also what most people approach the process with an ill-defined or narrow viewpoint, a narrow goal.

[00:02:04] So what usually happens is, "I want to do well in my job." It starts off with that and then we discuss and make that into a couple of objectives that the coaching process can work on. And then what we do is, as we begin to coach together, they change, the objectives, and then they change again and then they change again. So I normally start with between three and five objectives in the coaching process. But then as the relationship develops, the trust deepens, it becomes more effective. They just keep changing and then it becomes a constant flow process. So people might come with, "I want a better job, I don't like my boss," whatever, so narrow. But it just explodes after that. It becomes very, very, very broad and far-reaching.

[00:02:47] Will: Does it cross over into personal goals?

[00:02:57] Kevin: Totally. Totally. So where I'm coming from, I wouldn't really describe myself as a life coach. I work mostly with business people to allow them to communicate better, manage their self-limiting beliefs, and to get ahead in their careers.

[00:03:04] Will: Tell me about these self-limiting beliefs. What are they? What do they commonly look like when you encounter them in your clients?

[00:03:11] Kevin: In a modern-day, they would tend to look like hiding behind email. "I heavily emailed him." "Did you call him?" "No." "Did you meet him?" "No, but I sent him an email." That's where people are afraid to take that step. We've kind of got away from human interaction, so it's getting people to feel comfortable to make the step that makes a difference.

[00:03:34] Will: You mean the excuses that people tell themselves why they can't get what they want done?

[00:03:40] Kevin: Yeah.

[00:03:41] Will: And about in terms of people's own kind of values and qualities, what are the other self-limiting beliefs? Do people believe that they can't do things? Do they believe that they're not good enough, that they don't have the confidence or the skills? What is it?

[00:03:55] Kevin: It normally comes from a lack of self-belief. And where do you get a lack of self-belief? Usually from the paradigms you find yourself within your life, how you've grown up, your education and the experiences that you've had hold you back. Then you get into a whole different gambit of what people have experienced in their early days. Their growing up, their education, what they've been exposed to can have a very negative effect on them in life and then it manifests itself as an adult in later life and that can hold people back.

So a self-limiting belief is, "I can't do this." And even to say it out loud. So even when delivering presentation training, the first thing, many people, "I can't do this. I won't be able to do this." So they're giving themselves a qualifier. They're convincing themselves in advance out loud, "I can't do that."

[00:04:42] Will: I hear that when I talk to people about what I do, they say, "Oh, I'm not a speaking in public type of person. I'm just not." And they've told themselves that so that they never have to kind of go and question it or interrogate it. They've just kind of closed that box.

[00:04:59] Kevin: And they convinced themselves they can't. So the first presentation I get anyone to do who has any of those self-limiting beliefs is, "Tell me about your last holiday. So why don't you stand up while you do it? Wave your arms around a bit and tell us how big the sand castle was you made on the beach." There you go. You're making a presentation on a subject matter you're comfortable with because it's your holiday.

[00:05:20] Will: It's a good point, isn't it? That's great. I mean, yeah, you can get anyone talking with conviction and animation.

[00:05:26] Kevin: And then as they do that, I'm slowly walking away from them so they find out what it is like to stand up in a large space on their own and talk about something they're passionate about.

[00:05:34] Will: Are there people who have innate limitations? You know, do you sometimes come across people where the kind of conclusion is actually, yeah, you can't speak in public?

[00:05:43] Kevin: Sometimes you shouldn't speak in public. So you'll get some people that have a very loud and overbearing voice. I was coaching a chap one time who was given to me, his company sent him to me because he was loud. He was shouting and the reason was both his parents were deaf.

[00:06:01] Will: Oh my God.

[00:06:03] Kevin: Mammy and daddy, he used to just shout at them all the time. Then he brought that to work and people are like, "Oh my God." So we try and trigger a different set of behaviors. So what he had was a really bad habit that he was really good at. Think about it. And what we had to do is try and get him to recognize when other people are actually physically wincing to move away from you, maybe you're too loud. So it's not really to dial your own voice down but to recognize the knock-on effect it's having on others and to dial it back down again.

[00:06:33] Will: That must be quite hard being told at your workplace that you're too loud. I mean, how did he take that?

[00:06:44] Kevin: I could have had the first conversation; I wouldn't have liked to have had the first conversation. When he came to me he'd been instructed to come to me. So initially when I began to work with him, he didn't want to talk to me at all. So we had to make it a safe place for him to have that conversation with me. And we had to make it where, "I am here to assist you and just want to make a small change. It won't be painful. You won't have to change your behavior. Just want you to be more observant." "Oh, that's easy. I can be more observant." "What I want you to look out for is the physical nuances, the gestures that people may give you when they're being deafened basically”. So that's moving away, wincing, you know, all of those things. If when you were aware of that, then you change. So I gave him a trigger.

[00:07:29] Will: Wow. That's not a side of what you do that I anticipated that people kind of get sent to you like to have an aspect of them realigned or improved or fixed.

[00:07:44] Kevin: Reprogrammed. It's awful but that's kind of what it is.

[00:07:47] Will: And does that happen quite frequently?

[00:07:51] Kevin: Yes. I was coaching a lady from Malta, from a large professional services company in Malta recently and she smiled too much. She smiled at everything. She had a most glorious smile and she sometimes had to go into large companies who may have gone into receivership, and with a beautiful smile tell everyone they've lost their jobs.

[00:08:09] Will: That's interesting.

[00:08:10] Kevin: So with her, what we had to do is we had to get her to not realize that she was smiling. It's she would smile to make herself comfortable. So when you feel comfortable, recognize what that feels like and stop smiling when you feel comfortable.

[00:08:24] Will: Wow.

[00:08:26] Kevin: That's her trigger. So coaching, I think the way this conversation is going, and this is not the traditional - you come and meet me, we sit down, we have a conversation and I change the way you make a presentation or get a promotion and work. There's a whole raft of different interventions, coaching interventions, coaching conversations that make a massive difference to people in business life.

[00:08:49] Will: Wow, that's amazing. And I'm sure we'll hear a lot more about those kinds of situations and very interesting briefs that you deal with. But I mean, just broadly speaking, what are the main benefits of coaching, top line?

[00:09:04] Kevin: In my opinion, it's to have...very much with the clients that I work with, it's to have an impartial third party, which is me. So I'm the one that when we get trust and rapport built up in our coaching relationship, which does take a couple of sessions, I'm the one that's able to tell you the things that you're doing wrong from a completely impartial point of view that may be interpreted by other people as being extremely negative. And sometimes the reaction is, "How come no one ever told me?" Probably because you're very senior in the company and no one ever told you, you do that or you're overbearing all these various things that you do.

[00:09:44] One chap recently, you know, "You really got to stop slapping people on the back when you meet them. I know it's a thing that big guys from Texas do but it doesn't go down well, especially amongst women of smaller stature. You know, and, "I never realized I did that." "Yes, you do." Similar recently with another lady from Portugal. Because English wasn't her first language, at the end of every sentence she said, "You know." “You know this, you know”, constantly. She wasn't aware. I told her, she didn't believe me. So we decided we put a voice recorder on the table, have our normal coaching session, and listen back: over 300 "you know" in an hour.

[00:10:21] Will: Wow.

[00:10:22] Kevin: She wasn't aware of...she, "Oh my God." Went home, asked her husband, "How come you never told me?" "Because I love you. It's not something that matters." "Oh my God." Totally distraught. So it's that impartial third party that supports you, that impartial third party. Then there are certain ground rules.

“I'm allowed to tell you that you're wrong on this coaching relationship. I'm allowed to give you my opinion. And when you and I decide upon a course of action, which in business could be to take a completely new direction or to sell the company or promote the company, something really, really big, I'm allowed to drive you towards that course of action”.

[00:10:57] Another word for driving is “I'm allowed to nag you”. So you have to agree to what you want to happen. I'm allowed to push you a little bit in that direction and you give me nagging rights. And if you don't do it, then I get to say “I'm disappointed”. Oh, it's so painful. But sometimes very senior people need someone to push them along.

[00:11:19] Will: Is there a problem where then senior people are held to account in certain ways that no one does that in the way that businesses are structured?

[00:11:29] Kevin: I would work with a lot of senior people who've gone up through the organization very quickly without picking up a lot of the skill sets that they really should have picked up. Even something as basic as presenting. So I do a lot of presenting at conferences, work with people who, "Oh my God, I'm speaking next week at a conference." And, "Oh my God, like the guest speaker is Bill Clinton." And, "Oh my God, I have never..." you know. They sort of have the role but not the skill set to go with it. So that could be even confidence in making a pitch on behalf of the company, on selling the company, on selling themselves as a board member. You know, there's a whole raft of different things that they've got to a higher echelon within the organization and have no one to say that they can't do it with.

[00:12:16] So that's where the coach comes in. And even touching on that, if I may, engaging with the coach is a very emotional decision. So we don't get a lot of testimonials, because a lot of people don't tell anyone. "You know, if you come in and anyone asks you who you are, say you're the IT guy." You know, and that's in European companies. In American companies, it's, "Tell everyone you're my coach because the company invested in me." You know.

[00:12:41] Will: No way, that's interesting, isn't it?

[00:12:43] Kevin: And even when I've been on social media, we got a lot of business from people who look you up on LinkedIn. So I look on LinkedIn as a little dip in the ocean then you go back on LinkedIn you go, "Hi, how may I help you? How am I assist?" Coffee and a conversation, because it's that emotional step of engaging with a coach. People are still a little bit reluctant to step into that water.

[00:13:04] Will: That's fascinating. I mean, it's interesting that you talk about that cultural difference between America and Europe. I mean, I've definitely witnessed that myself working for an American company in the past. Do we have a less healthy relationship with self-improvement in Europe, do you think?

[00:13:21] Kevin: Well, culturally, in American schools, they teach you presentation skills from a very early age, not so much in Ireland and the rest of Europe. It's ingrained within American society, American culture. So there are different approaches but then needs most of you're in a certain culture and you're in a certain position and you have to adhere to the requirements of that culture and that position.

[00:13:45] Will: It sounds like, you know, you get a lot of very different briefs but is there a typical journey? Are there typical phases or stages of the journey that people go on from that initial coffee through to at some point perhaps not needing you anymore? What is that?

[00:14:03] Kevin: Yeah. So when you initially engage with someone and you have to challenge the self-limiting beliefs from the impartial point of view and you have to help them work through them, whatever they may be, and when they realize what they are, then you're into breaking the negative habit. And then when you've kind of got to that stage, your real job then is to work yourself out of the job. So your real job is off you go on and do that on your own. The way I work with my clients is for no fee whatsoever, you can ring me at any stage in the rest of your life and the rest of my life, whoever lives longest.

[00:14:34] So if you're somewhere and you have, let's call it a wobble, you have a, "Oh my God, I'm going into this situation. I'm coming out of that situation, not sure what to do." You ring me or you text me as long as it's not 4:00 in the morning, I will respond to you. Recently, a lady was about to go and sell her company in New York and she said, "I have the president, I have everything absolutely fine. Just remind me again." And I just gave her a couple of, I think it was two or three points and I talked about the end in mind for selling the company. "Thanks, Kev." Off she went, and she said as she was making that presentation to sell her company, she could feel this imaginary hand, which is my hand, between her shoulder blades with a gentle push. So that's that lifetime of support.

[00:15:20] Will: It's interesting hearing you talk about that. The way you're describing it, you sort of think, "So, we should have people like that around us naturally somehow." And perhaps we always thought that that would happen in our lives, that we would work with people and be with people, friends, colleagues, family, whoever, that would give us that support. But they can never quite give it in the way that you do for some reason. And that is because, I suppose, you come in as this impartial third party and you're given license to behave in a way that no friend would because the stakes are too high. You know.

[00:16:02] Kevin: I can give you a perfect example of that. I was at a networking event with business owners in Northern Ireland, in Belfast. I happened to get talking to a very successful husband and wife team. He had his company, she had a company, he employed 300 people. She had around 850, 900 people working for her.

[00:16:23] Will: Busy couple.

[00:16:23] Kevin: Busy couple. A power couple, you know, very self-assured, very assertive. Then we started talking about coaching and what I do and both of them immediately, "Ha, we don't need you. You know, we've got each other, we're both business people." And the lady did say to me…let me get this right now…"Why would I engage with you as my coach when I can just ask my husband anything I need?" And immediately my response is very simple, "I don't love you." "Beg your pardon?" I say, "He loves you, so he'll tell you what you need to know to about this level and I'll tell you the rest." And there was a pause and she reached her hand and said, "You're hired."

[00:17:02] Will: Wow.

[00:17:03] Kevin: Just to continue the story, when I began to coach the two of them, I tried to coach her, then it became these cracks in the relationship. So he would come home from work saying, "I had a really tough day. Oh, these guys did this. These guys did that." And she would go, "There, love," the equivalent of, "Have a gin and tonic and a pair of slippers. Sit down by the fire, let me mind you." She would come home having had a really bad day with her mostly male board and go, "God, those guys are so-and-sos, they really give me a lot of grief." And he would go, "Oh, you're not able for the job. Maybe you should sell the company." So they still had that tension that his wife was more successful than him. So I got her where she needed to be because I didn't love her.

[00:17:39] Will: That's really good. What a great answer in response. The way you're talking about your clients, obviously you can't say who they are, but they sound like real kind of high flyers, kind of CEO type, CMOs, etc. Is that right or are there know, are there people outside of that kind of higher echelon of business?

[00:18:03] Kevin: Totally. Yes. Most of my work comes from referrals. So what the coaching process is, is trust. "You should talk to Kevin Reid because I trust Kevin Reid. You should talk to him too." So that doesn't matter. I'm just giving you some of the more exotic examples that happen to be from high-flying people. I have coached all sectors, all walks of life, all ages. So I have coached young people with their parents present because they had some difficulties in maybe a little bit of bullying in school or things like that and all the way up to a nun who is 94.

[00:18:39] Will: Wow. Oh my goodness. Sorry. Hang on a minute. We'll stop there. A nun who is 94?

[00:18:46] Kevin: Yeah.

[00:18:48] Will: What life advice does a 94-year-old nun need?

[00:18:49] Kevin: She had been in Africa for decades and had come back to retire and she just needed to do I explain that? How can I explain that properly? She needed to know how to live in Ireland in 2017 having been away for decades. And she was treated differently than when she was first a nun because the respect level for nuns had dropped. So I had to deal with that. People were perhaps abusive on the street and things like that. So not very pleasant but how to get back into society. So we had great fun going and buying mobile phones and going to McDonald's and things like that, you know.

[00:19:30] Will: Wow. That's incredible, isn't it? And I assume someone at the beginning of their career and someone who is, you know, just starting out needs a coach just the same as anyone else, I suppose.

[00:19:44] Kevin: Yes. I would do a lot of work in the professional services companies, the big four. And a lot of the people at the start of their careers are not assertive enough. What they have in their mind is, "Well, I've just started in tax or audit. I'm very low, way down the pecking order. I don't have a voice. I don't have an opinion, so therefore I won't." If you don't have a voice and you don't have an opinion, you'll go nowhere. The people that have the voice and have the opinion, in many instances, it doesn't matter if they're right or wrong but they seem to try, they go faster further. So too many people were like, "Oh, I wouldn't be able to voice an opinion." Absolutely not. Even coming out after a meeting and standing on the street outside and doing an around the group discussion, decide who did what, "Oh, no, you couldn't possibly do that because I'm a junior, they're a senior." So they are deferring authority on people who, in some instances, have no right to authority. So people only have authority who you give them authority. That's not being rude but, you know, people have to earn authority with you.

[00:20:22] Will: And do you know, talking about that makes me think about this thing that a lot of businesses are grappling with at the moment and it's managing millennials. Have you heard people talking about this?

[00:20:35] Kevin: Wasn't sure which way this podcast was going to go so I didn't want to mention that specifically. So yeah, it's not...

[00:20:45] Will: Have you come across that as an issue in business? And do people come to you with that problem that, "We've got these 20 somethings and they expect things that we just didn't expect when we were their age and we don't know how to deal with it?"

[00:20:55] Kevin: Yeah. I'm 50 years of age and I'm not belittling anyone of that age but I thought there's a sense of expectation, which is one thing. They're able to ask for all the things they don't have, which is one aspect, but not able to put themselves forward and put their knowledge and put their many, many years in college forward, "I should be the person to do this job." But they can complain, "There's not enough types of peeled grape in the canteen." You know.

[00:21:23] Will: I think people have been looking at too many Google employees on Instagram. I think that's what it is, right?

[00:21:31] Kevin: Possibly, you know.

[00:21:34] Will: I mean, that's my only explanation for it. Do you have any insight into why there is this emerging generation gap in the workplace?

[00:21:39] Kevin: Well, you know, I'm not being ageist but we had to go through, we had to earn your way up by hierarchy and know, it took time. Now it's very easy to start at a very senior level at a very young age because education has improved and technology into education has improved. But the difficulty is the soft skills aren't there. So I have a number of clients who are quite young, so they're internet entrepreneurs and they've reasonably sized companies but I handle the people for them. They can't handle the people.

[00:22:15] Will: They can't do it.

[00:22:17] Kevin: They can design the algorithm. And they can sell whatever they sell but they can't...

[00:22:22] Will: I mean, I can sympathize with that. I would have been an awful manager at the age of 26, to be fair, you know. And just that you talk about kind of, you know, some of the younger people that you come across. What do you actually do in your role at AIESEC, the international student organization? Do you help students in any way through that?

[00:23:11] Kevin: It's the longest established international student body in the world. 1948 it started. And what they do is they place five people from five separate countries in a location all around the world for a year to learn management leadership. And part of their role is to organize placements for other people around the world. So every year, June to June, five people come from various parts of the world and they're here for a year. So they're doing their various roles. What they're not getting, which I give them through my corporate social responsibilities, I give all of them free coaching for a year.

[00:23:42] Because someone will feel homesick, someone will fall in love, fall out of love, won't know how to go to the next stage. So I give them that support for the year and it's very useful for me to polish my skills because what I'm getting to coach are men and women in their early 20s from five separate countries and five separate cultures. So I'm a winner, they're a winner. Plus, they usually all go on to fantastic jobs and they remember their Uncle Kevin.

[00:24:09] Will: Exactly, yeah. So you sort of touched on this a little bit earlier but how often do you hear people say, "I don't need a coach?" And other than that brilliantly pithy response you gave earlier, what sort of stuff do you say to them?

[00:24:27] Kevin: It's usually people who go, "Look, I have a serious problem. But I'm really, really busy at the moment. So, when I'm not busy, I'll come back to you." So that's rubbish.

[00:24:36] Will: I would imagine that's very common.

[00:24:37] Kevin: Extremely common. There's never a right time, number one. And what you're probably doing is a whole wrath of really destructive behaviors that are causing you incredible tension and stress personally at home and in your job. You give me an hour and I'll change two or three of those. And literally when we have that because we could have maybe a faster conversation because we're aiming at a couple of things and you can see the weight coming off people. So I like to get people where I just say, "Look, just give me an hour. So let me just talk to you for an hour." And we set a couple of ground rules about it. I'm allowed to say a couple of things too but allow me to do that.

[00:25:17] Another time it's very useful to talk to people is when they're about to go on holiday. "I'll talk to you when I come back from my holidays." "Talk to me now because when you're sitting on a beach somewhere, you're going to run this around your subconscious." It's more powerful to talk to me now. "Okay."

[00:25:29] Will: Yeah, absolutely. I'm not trying to get free coaching advice now but I'm thinking about how I'd approach that. I think that, you know, my problem and a lot of people's problems is probably trying to do too much. I don't know if that you come across that a lot. I'm sure I'm probably trying to achieve too much and I struggle to focus on just one thing. Do you find that that's very common and do you find that you kind of have to tell people to just give up on certain things?

[00:26:03] Kevin: Well, you can divide your ability into three things, what you should do, what you should not do, and what you should delegate to someone else. Because too many CEOs, or too many senior people, or too many…actually anyone in any job…they're doing stuff they shouldn't do, they're doing stuff someone else should do. And the reason they're doing it is it's easy. And the stuff they should be doing is really kind of tough and kind of emotional and “I don't want to do it”.

[00:25:59] Will: It feels great to be busy.

[00:26:01] Kevin: I know but you're doing garbage, you know. So, you know, there's a company in New Zealand recently, great fanfare, where they have a four-day working week. They're a reinsurance company, people loved it. You know, and that's a great rule of thumb about if you started at 10:00 and finished at 4:00, what could you get done, like, to really work? Because most people only work at about 70% of their capacity. It's astronauts - because their life depends on it - are in the high 90s. Everyone else, you know.

[00:26:30] Will: So you're a very experienced coach but I have to wonder, who coached you?

[00:26:32] Kevin: I was given, a great grounding in life when I worked in a post room, which then went on to become a print room and that was in an organization called the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC. And the chap that guided me at the time, a guy called Pat Delaney, and he gave me a great grounding in life and great positioning in life and great understanding of how you work, how hard to work, where to position yourself. I'm still in contact with Pat 30-odd years later. And he then guided me into doing information science and then from there into training and development. So there's like one catalyst person and I think we all have one of those people in our lives.

[00:27:12] Will: We do. And I think, maybe I'm just over-ambitious, but I always wished there'd been more of those people. Like at school and at key kind of points in my early career, I wish people had kind of, you know, pushed me on a bit.

[00:27:30] Kevin: Well, I think, with respect, that was then, this is now. There's more access to people in my particular field now than there would have been before. You can find us more easily. We were always there but you couldn't find us before. Because you know, a lot of people would have, "I have a coach, I'm investing in myself." Or," The company's investing in me." Or, "I have a coach." "Oh, are you in trouble?" They still have that sort of hang up around getting help.

[00:27:56] Will: Like as therapy or...

[00:27:57] Kevin: Yeah.

[00:27:59] Will: Which is a huge stigma around as well.

[00:28:01] Kevin: Totally.

[00:28:03] Will: And when did you realize that you wanted to be a coach and what was it? What was it that kind of made you want to spend the rest of your career doing this?

[00:28:10] Kevin: I worked out one day that I'm extremely visual, so I see a coach myself. I see a coach myself once a month just to keep my head and direction where I need it to be. And seeing a coach myself helped me to realize I'm extremely visual and I can tell stories to people and guide people along in a certain way. Added onto that, I am an extremely...I have great doggedness and tenacity of getting stuff done. There's always a way. That's how I think about it, there's always a way. So if you guide in being visual, having tenacity, having doggedness, having a desire to please and work with people and see them blossom and run ahead themselves. So like, I have no kids myself, so working with those young people in AIESEC to see them blossom, that's fantastic for me. So to be able to help people and to know you've made in many ways a life decision, a life-changing thing for them.

[00:29:07] Will: I mean, was there a point in your earlier life, perhaps even as a child, where you did that for someone perhaps in your family or friend circle?

[00:29:17] Kevin: Not really. I think I just had that affable personality for a long time. When I was young, I was very tall. I was 13, I looked like 19, you know. I was very tall, so maybe that allowed me to have better conversations with people.

[00:29:34] Will: Same here, actually. I mean, surely there was perhaps a bit of a confidant or a person that people looked to for guidance? I mean, I'm trying to imagine that there was some moment where you kind of saw yourself help someone through something just with the power of your words and you went, "Ah." You know.

[00:29:54] Kevin: A gradual process and I believe, now that you mention it, I haven't really thought about it before, it probably started as the potboy. Because as the potboy, you're delivering the post to the entire office block you get to talk to everyone. You can walk into any room in the building, everyone's happy to see you. You give them a present, they thank you for your time, you walk away. Then you can have deep conversations with all of those people because you know everyone.

[00:30:16] Will: It's very true though.

[00:30:18] Kevin: I never thought of that before. Thank you for that.

[00:30:21] Will: That's all right. But you know, it's funny, I have a very similar experience myself in that I, in my 20s, in my early 20s, was a receptionist in a couple of large companies in London, and I had the same experience. You know, I knew everybody and everybody was pleased to see me because I'd either be going around, you know, doing things, taking them things, bits of post, whatever, or just be in reception, helping them out with getting a meeting room, some important thing they were doing. And you're everyone's friend. And that kind of led to many things that kind of cropped up throughout my career, really, in a funny sort of way.

[00:30:56] Kevin: Funny like being on first-name terms with the CEO.

[00:31:00] Will: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's very true, actually.

[00:31:02] Kevin: Thanks for helping me to realize that, I hadn't realized that before.

[00:31:04] Will: There's something to be said for roles like that.

[00:31:05] Kevin: Yeah.

[00:31:06] Will: Because you're not even in the hierarchy. So you're essentially on a level with everyone.

[00:31:13] Kevin: Yeah. But you're on a non-threatening level with everyone and that's even a good grounding to be a coach because then that has to build trust and rapport.

[00:31:22] Will: And inevitably you do end up hearing people's gripes about someone else in the office or, you know, you become a confidant.

[00:31:31] Kevin: I am in two organizations at the moment coaching the entire senior management team, unbeknownst to everyone else. So I have to be the impartial third-party for 8 people in one company in 12 and another. Absolutely impartial. And people are sitting, unloading about everyone else. So you have to guide that very, very carefully. Very carefully.

[00:31:54] Will: Absolutely. What does it actually take to be a coach? You know, what training's involved? What certification, you know, how long does it take to train?

[00:32:05] Kevin: It can take anything from a year to three years. You keep doing your qualifications as they go on. Most people start with a certificate or a diploma and take it from there. But once you have your qualification, it's the practice. The biggest skill that is really hard to do and you have to really focus in on is to be able to listen, and see, be seen to listen, and to engage. Now, while you're doing this, at the same time, you have several channels running in parallel. So as you're listening, you're listening to the person, you're listening to what they're saying, what they're not saying, to their body language, you're also thinking about when you're going to bring in the next point, and you're also going to thinking about the actual structure of the conversation, where you wanted to go within the timeframe that's allowed.

[00:32:51] So you're like a giant Gantt chart. You have a whole load of things running in parallel at the same time and it takes a certain skill. You will find yourself interacting with people who you may not care for. You will find yourself interacting with people who have awful opinions, who are sexist, racist, rude, whatever it may be, you've got to treat them professionally.

[00:32:54] Will: That's interesting.

[00:32:55] Kevin: You will find yourself interacting with people who have BO (body odor) problems. Got to sit in a small room with them. You'll find all of these things where you have to, as a professional, interact with them.

[00:33:07] Will: And how has that changed the way that you coexist with your fellow human in your life then having to do that? Have you noticed how that's changed how you just interact with people yourself?

[00:33:21] Kevin: I talk to everyone. Martina, my wife, sometimes says, "Stop." I just talk to everyone because what small talk is, is allowing the other person to realize you're not a threat. So if I can make small talk, people have incredibly intimate conversations with me even though they've never met me before because I am not a threat. And if your expertise is having conversations with people and being a communications coach, lots of things happen in your favor because you can talk to people.

[00:33:55] Will: Absolutely.

[00:33:56] Kevin: Usually shopping-related though.

[00:33:57] Will: Yes.

[00:33:59] Kevin: Because you know, if you don't ask, you don't get.

[00:34:08] Will: It's something. I like that. So other than getting better deals in Harvey Norman, what elements of your coaching do you find most applicable to your own work-life?

[00:34:22] Kevin: Getting organized. A lot of people I work with at whatever level they are, they're not organized. The busiest day of the week for them, the busiest time of the week for them is Sunday night. Because they work their so-and-sos off all week. They waste their weekends and, "Oh my God, here comes Monday again. I better get all these things done on a Sunday night." And I see you're smiling back at me. You're thinking about that. That shouldn't happen. So getting into a habit of being organized, getting into a habit of knowing what's coming up and being adaptable in that way. So I would bring a lot of worst-case scenarios that I've seen the people that I coach and rid them in my own life to make my own self work better. The one that works for me most of all is the overview. I have an extremely good overview of everything I do and I'm able to take a step backward and look in on that. And it's that impartial overview that's so powerful.

[00:35:28] Will: Yes. You mentioned this before and I sense that this was a particular technique or system or part of your system. Tell me more about the overview.

[00:35:39] Kevin: Let's start with the basics on the overview. I know you've traveled to Ireland today but could you normally put your hand on your passport at any time?

[00:35:52] Will: No.

[00:35:55] Kevin: This is the overview we're talking about, being able to reach out and all the things that are important to you, you know where they are and how to use them, how to utilize them, interact with them. Where is your passport? At a basic level, where's your birth cert? At a basic level, can you reach out and get those things? Bring it up one layer. Are those things accessible to you? Bring it up another layer. How easy is it for you to interact with the people around you? How easy is it for you to ask people to help you? Can you delegate to people? Can you delegate upwards, downwards, side to side? All of these things that and how much of an overview do you have to allow you to do that?

[00:36:30] Will: Is that a tool to help me gain some sort of objectivity in my life?

[00:36:37] Kevin: Yes. It gives you adaptability, objectivity, time management, decision-making, the works. I know we're going to have a conversation around adaptability but how it works for me is a paper-based model. That I will take photographs and have it on my phone but a paper-based model that when I fill it in by hand it gets into my subconscious, which takes a little bit longer to fill out but it's deeper. And then I also have wall to floor...sorry, floor to ceiling, apologies...floor to ceiling whiteboards in the office. So the entire office is whiteboard. So I can put my thoughts on that. It's not an app. It's instantaneous. So like I lay it down and I can look at it and everyone who works with me can see it as well.

[00:37:20] Will: Yes, you're highly accountable for it, you know.

[00:37:23] Kevin: Yeah. So what I have then is I would be of a coaching company, a training company. I'm in a number of collaborations around the world as well but it's able to look at all of that as an overview and then to decide, "Today, I'm going to work on that. And today, I'm not even going to think about that other thing. It's not important."

[00:37:39] Will: It's very disciplined of you.

[00:37:41] Kevin: But you have to be because you can't do it otherwise. What I work for is I work for time. So I work for time to allow me to do all of these things that you have to be disciplined.

[00:37:50] Will: Yes, you do. You know, as you've gone on your journey, have you had to overcome your own self-limiting beliefs?

[00:38:00] Kevin: Yeah. You and I are both tall men.

[00:38:02] Will: Yes.

[00:38:03] Kevin: Being tall and being young, not good. Particularly if you had, "Oh, I'll fight him. He's big."

[00:38:06] Will: You're a challenge.

[00:38:09] Kevin: Or being taken as being more mature than you actually were.

[00:38:16] Will: Quite proud of the fact I first got served with a beer in a pub when I was 14. I was really happy.

[00:38:22] Kevin: Similar. But it's overcoming that. You know, Eleanor Roosevelt, the president's...said the only person that could put you down is yourself. For too many, "Oh, I can't do that. I'm not able to do that. That's not something I can do." Which if you tie it in, I did a course recently where you would also have qualifiers, which would be, "You don't have to listen to me but can I just say..." That's you putting yourself down. So you're just saying, "I'm going to tell you something, discount it completely." Or, "Would you mind terribly if..."

[00:38:57] Will: I hear this so much.

[00:39:00] Kevin: You know, and being able to get down into what has to happen and make it happen. Like to be assertive is where we all want to be in life. It's not aggressive. It's not passive. It's not passive-aggressive. It's assertive. Gallup has done research on this. You live seven years longer if you're assertive. Assertive people do three things. They discuss, they argue, they negotiate on any subject and it's a comfortable process for you and for them.

[00:39:25] Will: I couldn't agree more. I see people struggle with that and I think that it's one thing that seems to hold people back more than anything is this self-belief and people are just so unbelievably hard on themselves. And I don't know why that's baked into it. Do you find that changes, culturally? Talk to me about that in the kind of the Irish mindset versus British, European, American.

[00:39:50] Kevin: I think in Ireland you have a conversation with everyone. Just talk to someone, you can kind of get what you need. If you don't ask, you don't get. Maybe a little more formal, the U.K. A little more formal, again, in let's say the Northern European countries. I've traveled extensively in France and had conversations with people in laybys where they looked at the number plate on the car and went, "Oh, you're Irish." We'd have a conversation about that. So it's funny what attracts in different ways. Maybe that doesn't...I don't think that answers your question.

[00:40:17] Will: No, but I suppose my suspicion is that there's a scale and Irish people definitely do a lot of the qualifiers. You know, to say excuse me, they use the word sorry.

[00:40:30] Kevin: Yeah. Oh, totally.

[00:40:32] Will: Do you know what I mean?

[00:40:34] Kevin: Yeah. I have you now. I understand now.

[00:40:36] Will: And British people are pretty much up there as well. And then you go to some places in Europe, but particularly to America, and those qualifiers are just completely absent, well, I would say largely.

[00:40:51] Kevin: That's because culturally from an early age, Americans have been taught, and Canadians, if you want it, ask for it. You know, you want it, go for it. Like, so, I went with a colleague one time in Silicon Valley to buy an iPhone watch when they weren't out. We went to an electronics store; it wasn't on the shelf. They asked the guy at the counter, "Oh, I might have one in the back," and he came out with three of them. So my colleague then demanded a discount. Well, like, "Well, you didn't think you had them, so now you're selling them." They demanded a discount and got it. And I was like, "Oh my God." But he was, "Yeah, that's normal." Where in Ireland you might say to someone, "Is that the best you can do for cash?" And if you get a discount, that's okay but it might be only a couple euro but this guy got $50 off. I was appalled.

[00:41:40] Will: That's amazing. I think we could all do it a bit more of that, really. Well, that was absolutely fascinating. Some great insight there into what you do and why you do it and why people find it valuable. And you've certainly made me think a lot about the fact that I probably need coaching in my life.

[00:41:50] Kevin: Happy to help.

[00:41:52] Will: Absolutely. So thank you very much for coming on the podcast, Kevin. It's been a real pleasure.

[00:41:57] Kevin: Pleasure is mine. Thank you, Will.

[00:42:07] Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training at Thanks for listening.

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Kevin Reid
Kevin Reid

Kevin is a Senior Training Consultant and the Owner of Personal Skills Training  and the Owner and Lead Coach of Kevin J Reid Communications Coaching and the Communications Director of The Counsel.

With over twenty years of experience in Irish and International business with an emphasis on business communications training and coaching, he is a much in demand trainer and clients include CEO’s, general managers, sales teams, individuals and entire organisations.

With deep expertise in interpersonal communication through training and coaching and in a nurturing yet challenging environment, Kevin supports teams and individuals through facilitation and theory instruction to empower themselves to achieve their communication objectives. This empowerment results in creativity, confidence building and the generation of a learning culture of continuous self-improvement.

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