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Spotlight: Leigh Ann Roberts, PCC- Executive Coach and Professional Development Trainer & Consultant, Circle Center Consulting

Leigh Ann Roberts1 - Where are you from, and how did you choose to live in Middle Tennessee?

I’m from Ridgeland, Mississippi (north of Jackson, south of Canton) and came to Tennessee because, when I graduated law school wanting to practice mediation, Tennessee had court-mandated mediation and Mississippi didn’t. I went ahead and took both bar exams and moved to Clarksville to practice with a firm for several years before I took a position as Assistant Attorney General in the Consumer Protection Division of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office.

2 - What is your professional background, and why did you become a coach?

After practicing law for 20 years, I understood that I was often trying to coach my clients around the difficult conversations that had landed them in bad partnerships and contract disputes. I also had taught nights for 16 years so many of my corporate clients began hiring me for compliance trainings- sexual harassment, discrimination, diversity & inclusion type topics. When employers received feedback that the trainings weren’t the typical, excruciating snooze-fest, I began to facilitate workshops on topics such as conflict in the workplace, negotiation strategies, mentoring, emotional intelligence and other professional development topics. Before I knew it, I was being invited to speak and work with individual team members on their development and I was smitten! I had some wonderful colleagues already in the coaching field (Dan Haile, Mark Cappellino and Mark Robertson) who encouraged me to deepen my training and follow my heart/gut into the field. I remain deeply grateful to them to this day for their mentoring and friendship.

3 - How did you choose your specialty area?

Mediation/conflict management and interpersonal communication has always been my passion and was likely what led to my work with executives and leadership/professional development coaching. I believe having a background in workplace mediation was a deciding factor in being selected by many of my initial coaching clients. Being a former litigator and also a person who really enjoys productive “sparring” with really smart professionals, I got a reputation for being a very candid feedback partner. Though the largest portion of my work is with executives in healthcare and technology based organizations, I have a heart for middle level management professionals everywhere especially in larger nonprofit agencies.

4 - What are the greatest challenges and greatest rewards of your career?

The greatest kind of challenge I have encountered has been discovering, mid-engagement, that I was really hired by a given executive to “fix” their people with no interest or insight around their own contribution to problems on their team. I won’t belabor this point as I can hear the collective groan of my colleagues recalling their own experiences with this kind of dynamic. Though rare, and much better at spotting this issue than when I first began practicing, I am always a bit surprised when it happens. 

The greatest rewards of my career usually involve a client taking a big risk into greater authenticity in their role. Regardless of title, taking risks is a challenging area of development for any professional and when I see someone who has previously been sitting on a gift, talent, insight or other contribution, step more fully into his or her voice risking to share their unique contribution, I am so incredibly inspired and fulfilled. Every. Single. Time

Oh, and I love the success stories I get from former clients as they move, take on new roles and responsibilities- trying out their skills and strengths in new environments and industries. I keep a file of those emails and read through it every few years. Again, this never fails to inspire me and remind me that I may actually have the best job on the planet.

5 - What is something that most ICFTN members would be surprised to learn about you?

During my very brief, very bright career as a blocker for the Nashville Roller Girls, I was known as Aretha Spanklin.  R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  What can I say, I like to knock ladies down.  It’s about balance y’all.

6 - How do you enjoy spending your free time?

Hiking at Radnor, time with my gifted girlfriends, crafting and hanging out with the loves of my life Tracy Roberts and Emmett and Sophie our locally adopted four-legged children.

Leigh Ann Roberts | Circle Center Consulting LLC

Letter from the President: Who Are You?

Much has been written and debated about leading the various generations now found in our workplace.  How do we apply that knowledge and awareness to coaching?  How do you coach to the generation sitting in front of you?  It has been said that good coaches meet their client where they are.  Might be hard to do if you are a member of the silent generation or a Boomer trying to effectively coach a Gen Z.  Or vice versa, if you are the Gen X coach with a Boomer sitting in front of you.

But, perhaps we overcomplicate our differences.  A good coach listens, reflects back to the client and allows the client space to consider and determine their path forward.  Does it matter what generation you and your client are?

  • Traditionalists (born before 1945) may have extended their career for economic reasons or because they are not prepared to pivot to retirement. They may need help in re-shaping a personal end-of-career vision. 

  • Boomers (born 1946 -1964) may be setting high expectations about the last phase of their career years, competing for a limited number of leadership positions.  Helping some redefine success can be of value.  Going deep with self-awareness, creating or redefining expectations that continue to provide meaning can help rediscover ways to stretch in new ways.

  • Gen Xers (born between 1965 - 1979) are fiercely independent, skeptical, and resourceful and place a high value on professional development.  They are generally open to coaching that can help their aspirations become a reality. They like self-assessment, feedback, and development plans when they are focused on advancement.  

  • Generation Y or Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) are quintessential multi-taskers and the first generation born into a technology culture. They are a generation of entrepreneurs who are inspired and motivated by other bright people and enjoy working in teams. They are also the generation that has defined work/life balance. 

  • Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2010) have never known a life without technology. Beyond prizing their tech, Gen Zers also value their company's culture, trust authority and are community focused. Like their millennial predecessors, Gen Zers want vibrant, collaborative spaces and teams and immediate feedback. However, Gen Zers also identify as scrappier than millennials. They have a "self-made" attitude and value healthy competition.

Each of the five generations in today’s workforce defines “work” differently, requiring diverse coaching techniques. Each generation has a unique perspective of what job satisfaction, work ethic and professionalism mean to them. I repeat, we meet each client where they are and, although generally will conform to how their generation is defined, each is absolutely unique.

How has your coaching practice been influenced by generations of clients? 

Donna Yurdin, ICFTN President

Donna Yurdin