Coaching Conversation with Missy Lafferty

Coach Conversations is my opportunity to hear coaches and leaders talk about what has influenced them, lessons they’ve learned, and why coaching is an important thing for all of us.

I am proud to have had one of my first Coach Conversations with my fellow Dickinson College and Columbia Business School alum, Missy Lafferty.

My favorite quote from my conversation with Missy is, “Anything is possible, but not everything is possible!”

Missy and I met when she reached out to talk about my experience in the EMBA program at Columbia Business School. We’ve stayed in touch on and off in the years since, and its always been fun to reconnect to talk about careers and course plotting. Positively navigating her way has been important to Missy since her days at Dickinson and her experience there helped her gravitate toward working to make the process of finding satisfaction in one’s career choices when she came to Columbia for her business degree. Now Missy is available for consultation through the Business School’s Career Coaching & Advising program. Missy works with both Executive MBA students and regular MBA students. As her LinkedIn profile tells us, the guidance she provides includes job search strategies, short and long-term career planning, networking strategy, interview preparation as well as resume and cover letter review, but what she does doesn’t really tell us about why she coaches.

We dug into why she coaches a little bit and here’s what I learned. There is certainly a practical side to coaching. As a CBS student Missy developed relationships with the career management team. This was, and is, we agreed, a practical way to get anyone’s networking started. Taking this further, Missy feels that the work she does through the School helps her stay connected to it and down the road the connections she makes today will prove valuable tomorrow wherever her path leads, especially from an entrepreneurial perspective.

Along those lines I asked Missy about what she gets out of coaching students on a professional level. Her response included the note that the questions that the students ask, help her think about how she thinks about her own career. I find that engages with my students always teaches me something be it practical about how to look at a braking point for a corner or regard a point of view that I had not considered when we’re having a discussion on donor relations in the classroom. On a personal level Missy explained that she derives a great deal of satisfaction from helping her students develop their own strategies. In fact, Missy said it was great to hear from students who land their dream job, but even better when students tell her about the successes they are having in securing job interviews because it means they have acquired the tools they need to take over their search. In contrast, although she finds it more difficult to work with a student when one of them starts out by hoping the coach will take the lead, she finds can be a great coachable moment. If a student is having trouble committing to a specific path out of fear of not being able succeed Missy has found that her studied practice at being a better listener along with a backstop philosophy enables her to say to her students, “Anything is possible, but not everything is possible.”, because she lives those words herself. As an example she cited learning about Warren Buffet’s idea of creating a list of the most important things for a person to do in order of priority and then to forget about spending time on any but the first few at the top of the list rather than waste time.

I think combining this idea of finding focus with developing your listening skills is super important for a coach. As I consider my conversation with Missy it strikes me that getting your students to take flight on their own is really why anyone should be interested in coaching. And when I think about my experience at the track when I’m one to one with my student in the car, my goal is to drive less and less from the right seat of their car, that is tell them less and less through our headsets about where to brake, how much to turn, etc., as I observe them picking up the tools I am teaching and applying them during our day. Like Missy, my favorite bit is when I see a student applying the tools they’ve learned in subsequent track days.