Melissa Brock, founder of Matchstick Coaching & Consulting, is an infectiously inspiring, approachable, and creative coach and consultant. She worked for Humana for 10 years and has recently made the leap to her own business. During our conversation, we discussed how she found her ideal career, asserting oneself as a female leader, the importance of owning your goals, and how she helps women dream about their careers.
How did you get on the path you’re on now?
In coaching sessions with people I may ask, “Is there something that feels too big to say that you feel like you were put on this planet to do, or something you feel very drawn to that is a secret?” A few years ago, I was talking to someone and they asked me something similar. They told me that my body, my intuition knows what I really want to do. The thing that came to mind was that I could make people feel more connected and true to themselves. That’s the overarching north star for me – how can I help people be connected in a really authentic way?
There was always the question about how much I could contribute to the company, but I had to take it to the next level and ask, “What’s my biggest value to the community?” — to a bigger constituency.
What that looks like right now is through career planning. I’ve done a lot of resume writing and interview coaching in my career, but where I’ve really loved being there with people is by helping them have the conversation with themselves. I can be that part of the “matchstick” and “spark” to help them realize what they really want to do, things that they may have even been hiding from themselves.
What’s your favorite thing about career coaching?
One of the things that excites me in coaching is providing the opportunity for people to see themselves in a different way. A lot of times people apologize for themselves, and I’ll be able to say, “I’ve known you for 10 minutes and I can already see that you have these great qualities…” and they’re like, “oh! Yeah! I do have that!” And I think sometimes those things get lost a little bit. A lot of times we are so focused on what people do and what their skills are, but what I really want to talk about is the potential role in a team or in a community.
One of the questions I ask people sometimes is, “Imagine if you’re on a commune or part of a community, where you’re not going to get paid for what you do, but you can do something to bring value to this community. What are the things that you would do?” Sometimes it’s making things with their hands, or taking care of the little ones, or making sure everyone has the resources they need. I’ve gotten some really good answers to those questions.
I’ve also found that the magic has been in being in the moment during those sessions, in being reflexive and responsive to what’s going on. You can stick to your plan too much and I think that the real magic and energy is in when you’re meeting with people face-to-face and you can share your idea that was sparked from something someone said or trust your gut or your intuition with something.
What hurdles have you overcome as a woman?
I had to find a balance because what it means to be a woman in corporate culture was really tough. People would say, “You’re so helpful” and I would be like, “No, I’m not, I’m actually a strategic partner. I know you mean this in a nice way, but if that’s the vibe you’re getting, we need to talk.”
To change this, I started to say, “The kind of leader I am is …” It was almost an affirmation. I was always a collaborative leader and I would say that. I would also describe the type of team I was going to build. I’d say, “We’re going to be an efficient team that has each other’s backs. We’re a model team, one that people will come to for advice.” By saying, “This is the kind of leader I am, this is the kind of team we’re going to be”, I was able to assert myself as the type of leader I wanted to be.
How can leaders build diversity and inclusion?
To get them to think about diversity and inclusion at Humana, I would ask leaders, “When do you feel included, when do you not feel included and what does it feel like when you’re not included? Whatever your demographics or background may be, when are the times when you feel included and when your differences show up in a positive way?”
A lot of it is about examining old ways of thinking about leadership and myth-busting. You would think with a lot of diversity training, we’d all say “diversity is good” and we’d all agree on everything, but we had to examine things a little deeper.
Leaders can ask themselves, “Who am I spending my lunch breaks with? Who is on my personal board of directors?” I realized I had a lot of white women on my personal board of directors. How can you diversify the people who are helping you make decisions?
Also, being the type of peer or leader that is not only open to getting feedback, suggestions, and new ideas, but LOVES getting feedback, suggestions, and new ideas. This is important because that old, traditional way of leading a team isn’t very conducive to innovation.
What are your mantras?
“Being over doing, ease over struggle, and love over fear.” – Khe Hy
“Alignment is the new hustle.” (Don’t Keep Your Day Job by Cathy Heller)
This quote made me think about the idea of climbing the ladder only to find out your ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. So part of my work is to help individuals find the “right” wall for them. I’ve also thought of that as acting as a doula for a fresh start. I’m there to encourage and guide, to help folks focus, and remember that the discomfort of transition is totally natural.
And for myself, I realized that if I can just focus on being really aligned to who I am, what I’ve got, what I want to do, that’s the magic. Hustling I can do. I know I can muscle through and keep putting one foot in front of another, but that’s no way to live your life. I’m on a mission to help other people like me get unstuck and realigned in their careers.
Do you know someone else I should interview? Let me know!
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