Traditional leadership training is difficult to implement because it’s tough to access that seven-step conflict resolution process in the middle of a team meltdown! Today’s guest is a leadership coach with a different approach. She is on a mission to develop leaders who view management as a collaborative process, who share their vision and then walk alongside their team members on the way to realizing big picture goals.
Judy Lair started out on the ‘other side of the couch.’ As a client, she recognized that her counselor was employing the strategic thinking skills that she considered a personal strength. She applied to graduate school and earned her Master’s from Ashland Theological Seminary in 2002. For the past 15 years, Judy has operated a successful private practice, Counselorplace Christian Counseling, in Worthington, Ohio.
In June 2016, Judy expanded her business to include leadership coaching. She leverages her accreditations as both a Certified Business Coach and Certified Life Coach to help clients become insightful, inspiring leaders and effective problem-solvers. She offers 1:1 personal leadership coaching as well as Masterclass Leadership Development group coaching workshops. Judy is the author of four books, and today she shares advice about writing as well as business ownership. Listen to understand why Judy chose private practice, how she determined her ideal clients, and how her business grew to include leadership coaching.
How Judy made the decision to start her own business
- Avoid 60/40 or 70/30 split
- Background as paralegal, office manager
Judy’s strategies for landing the first few clients
- Written material
How to approach networking
- Don’t view as ‘sales’
- Share your investment in what you love
- Showcase how you can be of service
How Judy determined her ideal clients
- Strength as strategic thinker
- Ability to understand thought process, barriers
- Counseling niche in anxiety disorder
- Coaching niche in examining how leaders think, sharing expanded view
How Judy got into coaching
- Counseling clients in leadership positions discussed work in sessions
- Asked Judy to branch out, talk to their teams
The difference in marketing strategy for counseling vs. coaching
- Counseling clients know they have a problem
- Must identify pain points of potential coaching clients and communicate benefits based on where they’re at now
Judy’s ground-breaking approach to leadership development
- Traditional framework teaches skills (i.e.: conflict resolution) that are difficult to access when needed
- Judy seeks to develop innovative thinking and apply organically
The secret to team management
- View as collaborative process
- See team members as people rather than skill sets
- Align team members’ individual goals with vision for group
Judy’s writing advice
- Give yourself a daily word count, time parameters (e.g.: 2,000 words in two hours/day)
- Push past limiting beliefs
- Do not hit backspace or delete
Connect with Judy Lair
I’m a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor & Certified Coach. For the past 15 years, I‘ve operated a very successful private practice helping clients develop their own personal leadership style, utilize strategies to successfully balance people & priorities, connect in a meaningful way with customers/clients, staff, and management, avoid burn-out and consistently renew their energy, creativity & passion, and provide a proven mentoring process. I’ve published four books and enjoy guest speaking opportunities on I-Tunes podcasts, radio station programs, and conferences. I was born in Boise, Idaho in 1960. Our family moved to Alberta, Canada when I was 7 years old and relocated to Hershey, Pennsylvania seven years later. I moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1989 and now I’m a Scarlet & Gray Buckeye. My son Ben has a successful career in North Carolina and we love to travel the world.
Laura Pennington (Host): Hello everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Better Biz Academy Podcast. Today, I have a special guest expert for you. I am speaking to Judy Lair. She is a licensed professional clinical counselor and certified coach. For the past 15 years, she has operated a very successful private practice, helping clients develop their own personal leadership style, utilize strategies to successfully balance people and priorities, connect in a meaningful way with others and feel confident in adapting to change. She has published four books and enjoys guest speaking opportunities. She was born in Boise, Idaho and her family moved to Alberta, Canada, when she was young and then relocated to Hershey, Pennsylvania seven years later. And she moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1989 and is now a scarlet and gray buckeye. I am from Ohio too Judy, so I understand the importance of that. So, welcome to the show.
Judy Lair (Guest): Thank you, Laura.
Laura: I am excited to talk to you further. I’d love to hear how got involved in the career that you are working in right now?
Judy: I was on the other side of the couch many years ago, working through a number of personal issues that I had going on and while I was sitting there, I realized while in that maybe I could do the same thing. Maybe I could help people. I had this same strategic thinking skills that I was seeing that my counselor was using for me. And so, after a while I decided to apply to grad school. The interesting thing about that, Laura, is that I don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. I have three associate degrees, but I do not have a Bachelor’s degree. So, when I applied to grad school, I thought, I don’t know if they are going to accept me. The school that I applied to actually had a work credit, where they took the work that I had been doing in offices and businesses and they applied that as credit towards being able to go into grad school. So, I ended up on the other side of the couch. So, for the past 15 years I have had my own business. I love it. I love setting my own schedule. I love choosing the clients that I really feel like that I can invest in and help with. So, that’s how got on the other side of the couch.
Laura: That’s such a great story. I love how you’ve connected a personal interest in the topics and really channeled that into a passion to helping other people now. Did you find that you sort of knew from the beginning when you were going through graduate school that you wanted to work for yourself as opposed to joining somebody else’s practice or was that just something you sort of fell into?
Judy: I actually went to school thinking I would work in someone else’s business and in another environment; that’s what I used to; I’d always worked for someone else. And as I got closer to the end of grad school, I realized that the businesses, the firms that I might go and work for, the amount that they took – like they had a 60-40 split. Some of them had a 70-30 split, where they would take it for the marketing. They would take that split for the part of the work that they would do and frankly, with my background as a paralegal, office manager, manager of other things like that; I can do those things myself. I know how to do those skills and so why pay somebody else such a large percentage when I could do those things myself. So, that’s when I decided to start my own business.
Laura: A really smart business decision because there is pros and cons of working with somebody else. Obviously, if they have been in business for a while, they’ve got their practice and they have got contacts and they have already sort of built up sort of the marketing engine of the business. But there is that downside where you are kind of paying for all of that and more, all that administrative stuff that you saw early on, hey, I could actually handle this myself. One of the biggest problems for brand-new business owners is getting those first couple of clients. So, when you first set up shop, what was your strategy for bringing in your first couple of clients?
Judy: I was very fortunate at the beginning. My first office was out at my house. So, I decided to go with as low overhead as I could because I wanted to learn how to do that marketing piece specifically in the counseling coaching area. So, what I did was I used the ability to network with the people that I already knew to let them know, hey this is where I am at, I’d like to offer services to your friends, to people that you know. To be able say, let me help you, but you also help me of learning how to do the marketing piece. So, I used networking at the very beginning and then word of mouth went out. Then I did develop some written materials that they could hand out and I had a couple of seminars.
Laura: Very smart. So, networking is really important and it’s something that a lot of people feel really uncomfortable with, particularly when they are first starting their business. Do you have any advice for somebody who is launching a new company and knows that networking is going to be important component of their marketing strategy, but they are kind of terrified to do it or they don’t know how to do it?
Judy: I do. You look at it not in terms of sales. That was the cognitive mind shift that I had to make. I was not trying to sell someone. I wasn’t selling myself. I wasn’t trying to sell anything. I was sharing. I was sharing my passion. I was sharing my excitement about being able to help someone else. That sharing piece, when you say that I just love what I do; I’d love to include you in. I felt like that I have something to offer. That passion and that excitement is what you communicate to someone else. That inspires them to see that you go beyond just the basic black and white skills that you have, but you actually are in dusted in what you love and you want to share that with them.
Laura: That’s a great way to frame, how you think about marketing because a lot of people go into that with a wrong mindset of this is about me getting business. Or this is about me converting somebody into a sale, but when you frame it in that way, it’s much more likely to be effective; you have taken a lot of the pressure off of the situation and really showcased how you can be of service to other people. So, have you – I am curious if this has changed as you’ve owned your practice? Do you only work with particular types of clients or certain types of conditions or people who bring certain situations to your door? I know one of the benefits you have mentioned for working for yourself is that you get to decide who you work with, so how did that process evolve and kind of what does it look like today?
Judy: I learned early on that my strategic thinking skills were the things that cultivated the type of clients that I liked. So, the way that I enjoy thinking and problem solving and looking at things, I found a niche by clients that have anxiety disorders, especially obsessive compulsive disorder; that’s my main area, the expertise. And so, when I started that 15 years ago, it really is almost opening up that person’s head, looking inside at the machinery like, you are looking inside the back of a clock to see how of all of the machinery is going and what’s not working correctly and I really have a skill of understanding how people think and where the barriers are, and especially that population with any type of anxiety disorder. I have some of that myself, so I can feel into that and understand the progression of how I think. So, that’s where I started, was with that clientele to be able to help somebody. You look at how they think differently and then it evolved into helping other people especially in the leadership area to look at how they think. They just go along thinking something doing the same action, applying the same strategies to things rather than being able to step back and get a bigger view point and then get this underlying insight of, oh what is the root of something, I have been looking at it from the narrow view rather than this expanded view. So, that’s how I kind of changed – I still work with that population at my counseling practice, but in my coaching practice I apply those skills that I have been doing all these years to help them unscrew their head and look at how they are thinking about things.
Laura: That’s so fascinating and I am sure that that is super helpful for all of the people that you have helped in both of your practices. So, you have had this more patient based practice over a long period of time, but at some point, you must have made the decision to expand into coaching. How did you make that decision and what did that look like for you to be able to take something that had been representing your fulltime interests and then incorporate this other piece with somewhat different business?
Judy: That’s a great question. I had thought about it for some time, but I had a number of clients that were managers and top level executives that had come through with their anxiety issues and we talked as they got better at being able to view their anxiety different, understanding where it was coming from and see how they could work with it. We started talking about how it applied at work and managing people and visioning for what they were doing in their business and I helped them see how they had used those same unhealthy coping mechanisms at work and how they viewed things in a narrow way; and they started to beg me. They begged me, Laura, please come into this niche. We want you to come in and talk to our people. We want you to use these same skills with our folks and that’s what really pushed me to say, I want to add this coaching component. I want to expand the skillset that I have and expand that into this other area, because how people think and how they look at things happens everywhere, not only in the counseling piece.
Laura: That’s so interesting and so important to remember that you have the skillset, but it can apply to multiple different situations and helping people in different ways and I love that – I love that you’ve really seen service that people need and really developed and aligned your business to provide that as well. As we know, entrepreneurship is not always a perfect journey. Not every day goes as well as we would have wanted; what are some of the obstacles that you have overcome in either one of your aspects of your business?
Judy: One of the biggest ones in the coaching arena is how I am such a big thinker, which is awesome and great, but the marketing piece in the coaching arena is so different from the counseling piece. So, in counseling, people already know they have an issue. They already have a problem. When they call, me they know pretty much what their symptoms are and so they are already invested in some degree about working on that issue, but in coaching; coaching is different because people have to see that there is something that they need, that they can’t figure it out for themselves. There’s lots of books, lots of seminars, lots of other peers to talk to, and so most of the time – and me included – that I thought, oh I can do this all on my own rather than having someone else help. And when I got a business coach, that really showed me that the power of doing that. So, for me, and the coaching part of it, the thing that’s hardest is for me to language and in saying to folks that this is benefit that you will get because I’m so big picture. I’m excited about where they’re going to move to and I’m seeing the end of that and I need to come back and language at their pain point at the beginning where they’re at right now. And so, I always have to hone myself down to talk about that part. I’m so excited about where they’re going to go but I have to first talk to them about where they’re at.
Laura: That’s so important for anyone who owns a business to realize. That’s definitely something that I’ve had to adjust my mindset quite a bit. My coaching company for freelancers is all housed under the Six-Figure Writing Secrets name so just that name alone implies that you’re fully booked with clients, you’ve got great paying clients; but 90% of the people in my world who are my students are total beginners. So, for them, six-figures feels way out of reach and it’s really important for me to, you know, I always talk about going back to 2012 Laura which is when I first started my business and thinking about the questions and the pain points that she had that she would want to hear from somebody who is more experienced. So, I think that your advice is applicable across the board. Now I know one of your main points of your process is all about developing leaderships. So, I’d love to hear more about your perspective on leadership. What does that really mean? What does a leader need to embody?
Judy: I’ve been looking at how leaders have been developed for years because I help both leaders and the people underneath them, their staff and team, on my couch. So, I’ve heard from both sides and what I’ve seen and traditional leadership development training programs, it’s all about giving information and skills in teaching something. Taking these skills and saying, you person need to learn this, incorporate this, and then take it back to where you’re at and try to remember to use it. And so, I’m looking at research lately that says that traditional framework does not work. That we spend lots and lots of money on leadership development training programs but you can’t access it when you need it because actually, instead of training, we need to have development. That’s a huge difference. Rather than training which is something that is static and horizontal and you’re just trying to, how do I communicate better, how do I do conflict resolution better, those types of skills and then you have to remember it when you need it. When you’re in the middle of a team, melt down! how do I remember? What are those three steps again? What do I say first and second and third? That type of training just does not work because it needs to be a developmental thing. So, in the same way that children developmentally take time to learn concepts in a holistic kind of way, that’s how I view leadership training. It’s a way to be able to change how you think, it’s a vertical type of thing so that then you organically apply that at times. So, leadership is more about how you look at what you want to give and share, you want to vision forward and then you want to share that vision with the people around you in a way that they get excited about being part of the team and coming on board and then you walk alongside to help them problem solve out of the box. That innovation out of the box thinking, once again, traditional leadership development training does not allow for that because it just gives you what they already know; what is already been proven; here is the four listening skills; here is the way to connect with someone and in a static type of way. So, what I use is insight. Insight is the ability to have penetrating power to see into a situation and recognize the underlying root nature of things. So, see how it expands your ability to take in additional information but it also cuts through all of the things that aren’t really relevant to get all the way to the bottom and address that core issue. When you address the core issue, then you come up with new better more effective strategies to walk it out.
Laura: Such excellent insight there. Especially that distinction between training and development, right? We can have all the training in the world but if we’re not actually developing something and improving something, you’re kind of at this stuck point. And one of the other things that you mentioned in this answer and I know this is also a part of your leadership training and your area of expertise, it’s also something I’m passionate about, is bringing a team onboard. Because every entrepreneur or leader in any sense is going to have to rely on other people at some point to expand their influence. Where do you think a lot of people get tripped up with bringing a team onboard or managing a team?
Judy: That collaborative process takes effort and energy in terms of understanding where someone else is not just looking at the static skillset that they have; oh, you know how to do computers; oh, you know how to do marketing; oh, you can help me in this area. In that way, if you just look at it in the very black and white type of skill based things, it doesn’t encompass the whole person. And so, our team wants to be seen as a person and so when you talk to them about what are your goals and bring alignment, you’re looking for alignment of individual goals with the vision that you have, the project that you have, where you want to take them and get them excited about, you can meet some of your personal goals where you want to grow new ways that you want to add skills or you want to try something new. I want to give you that opportunity in this project, please come on board so that together we can move this project along and our goals are aligned in that way.
Laura: That’s really valuable advice. I think a lot of people struggle with this idea of giving up control and then when they finally do come to the realization that they need to do it, it’s from this place of anxiety, fear and overwhelm and then they end up hiring people on their team but they’re not really sure how to outsource these materials or how to make the people feel as though they’re part of that collaborative group. And so, the relationship falls apart and then the person is back to square one saying, oh this didn’t work, now I’m overwhelmed again, and I’m frustrated and I’ve spent time and money building this relationship with someone where it didn’t work out. So, it’s really important to keep all of that in mind. So, you’ve got such a busy schedule. You’ve got this private practice; you’ve got your coaching practice and somehow you’ve also found the time to write four books. How did you fit that into your schedule?
Judy: That was interesting. That was a writing “contest” – and I’m using air quotes for contest because it was actually just an accountability type contest to write 50,000 word in one month and I had all – I love writing, I always knew that at some point I would write a book. I just didn’t quite know when and how that was going to take place. And actually, one of my clients told me about this contest and so I decided, okay now is the time; and I like something where there are parameters where I know I’m going to put myself under the gun for certain period of time, I’m going to get it done, kick it out and have it ready. So, I took the month of November a few years ago and actually I wrote my 50,000 words in 25 days. I’m an over achiever, I admit it. I would work all day; I’d come home at 8 o clock or so ta night and then I would sit down for three hours and write down my 2000 words. And what that helped me learn was to be able to just keep pressing on. So, any of those limiting beliefs that I had when I was writing, like who wants to actually read this? Is this very interesting? Is this any good? Is anybody going to read it? Those types of things I just had to push those limiting beliefs aside because I had my deadline. I cannot go to bed until I get my 2000 words in and I cannot backspace and I cannot delete. So, I just kept typing and I ended up using about 85% of what I wrote in that. I edited it, moved it around, added a little bit more but that was my first book. It was called “From the Other Side of the Couch” and I really wanted to share the concepts that I’ve learnt and that I share here in my counselling office with other folks as a resource for them. Then this past November I did a series that I’ve got “Moving from Fear to Freedom” and the first three books in that I’ve done on general anxiety disorder, stress and worry and obsessive compulsive disorder. And I did all those from a story perspective, telling the story of client compilation and then telling all of the symptoms and such. And that was really close to my heart because so many folks feel like that they’re all by themselves. Nobody has anxiety other than them, doesn’t look like anybody in the room has any type of anxiety or fear or worry or these thoughts in their heads. So being able to tell a true story that people could connect to, and then I lead them along that journey which is exactly what I do with teens as well and share that in terms of getting into the story with them and then move them along the journey to get to the goal that you want.
Laura: I love that – giving yourself a deadline and not hitting backspace but not stopping until you hit you word count. That’s actually how a lot of successful people finish their writing projects by just having a commitment of writing a certain number of minutes per day or not stopping till you hit a certain word count. And you can always go back and edit later but what’s most important is getting those words down on the page.
Judy: Yes, Ma’am.
Laura: Very valuable advice for anyone who’s saying, I’m too busy, I don’t have time to do this. If she can do it and carve out the time, you can do that too. So, I’d love to hear as our kind of final wrap up question, what is next for you? You’ve done so many neat things but what do you see as next on your journey?
Judy: I love speaking, I would also love to – and I have an upcoming opportunity to speak at a university – I would love to teach. Something I feel like I do teaching in various ways anyway so I’d like to do more speaking and I’d like to maybe do some teaching.
Laura: Well, that’s fascinating and good luck with that. I’m sure you’ll be excellent with that. You have all the experience to transition into that speaking portion of your business. So, I just want to thank you for coming on the show today and sharing all of your expertise and allowing me to learn a little bit more about how you built your business.
Judy: Thanks, Laura.
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