Coach Interview Series: Steve Gutzler

by Brandon

Steve Gutzler

Leadership Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach

Our main objective here at the National Coach Academy is to enable aspiring coaches to reach their full professional potential. One of the most effective ways to educate students about the world of coaching is by offering them a window into the world of real, practicing coaches and showing them all the different ways coaches make a difference in the lives of their clients.

We hope today’s interview adds another insightful glimpse into the dynamic world of coaching.

Today we are interviewing Steve Gutzler. Steve is a Leadership Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach based in Seattle, Washington.

NCA: Can you describe your coaching practice and the kinds of clients you typically work with?

Steve: I work predominantly with C-level leaders and senior leaders. The reason is because I do a lot of keynote speaking on the subject of transformational leadership, change, emotional intelligence, and the power of influence in the workplace. From that came a lot of leaders seeking out individual coaching. They knew that they were very well trained in a lot of the technical and tactical aspects of work but a lot of times they were falling short on the interpersonal empowerment and what it means to be a great leader of influence, impact and inspiration.

My coaching practice came as a result of people seeking out a trusted advisor. Someone that could help guide them in that skill set and develop their craft as a leader. I’ve been coaching for approximately 20 years now. I have six CEOs that I’ve worked with recently as well as vice presidents and senior directors. I’ll be over at Microsoft this afternoon with a senior director. And the reason is a lot of times I’ll have connections or relationships with their broader organization, so it’s a natural inroad to do coaching with them.

NCA: What initially got you interested in pursuing coaching as a career?

Steve: Leadership is my passion. Leaders are so instrumental in driving organizational change. They set the environment, they set the culture, and they have so much potential. But they need assistance. They need support and someone that could come alongside them. None of the leaders that I work with are broken or have glaring gaps, but they certainly can make changes in behavior and leadership tactics. I’m very passionate about helping leaders maximize their full potential. That’s really what drives me — helping them lead themselves to greatness.

NCA: In working with your clients, what would you say is the most rewarding part of that process and on the flip side of that, what is the most challenging aspect of the work that you do?

Steve: On the rewarding side, I think it’s always around customization. There’s never two individuals or leaders alike. It’s really asking those initial questions as far as what are their absolute must-have desired outcomes. You can have a program and your system in place, but if you don’t hit the core needs, wants, and desires of your client, you’re going to miss the mark.

For me, the most rewarding aspect is making sure we’re absolutely 100% on target as to what they want to improve. What are two developing skills as a leader they want to improve? It’s all a matter of customizing around those desired outcomes and building something that will create empowerment plus accountability. Those are the two keys. You want to be able to empower people with the right tools for personal change in growing in their self-awareness so that they make better choices. Then, put some bulletproof accountability around that as far as tracking some of their short-term, momentum goals in alignment with those larger desired outcomes.

For instance, if a person wants to grow in time maximization, going from something that’s a bit disorganized and out of alignment to something highly aligned around prioritization, the momentum goal would be in the next 30 days, the very first 30 minutes of your day would be focused around creating your priority focus list and then the next 90 minutes on your highest value activities. We will chart the number of days they actually match that. There’s the accountability.

What I am continuing to learn is asking the right questions. When you unlock the right questions for someone, it’s almost like a dimmer switch goes up all of a sudden. Their own awareness begins to grow and enlighten and it can move to far better choices. Granting people permission to stop, look, and listen and to be aware of their surroundings. What’s going on in their life, what’s meaningful, what’s fulfilling, and helping them unlock the answers rather than telling. Beginning to enlighten them to make their own empowering decision — that’s really key.

It doesn’t all need to be perfect, but I better practice what I preach. If I’m going to be a coach, I need to have a proven track record. Nothing will erode your confidence quicker than if you’re not living the very values that you are coaching around.

NCA: Can you think of a mentor or a coach in your own career who was the most vital to your success and in what ways did this mentor help you thrive in your career?

Steve: I’ve had three specific mentors that have been very, very instrumental. First and foremost was my father who owned and operated a restaurant. He taught me the basic business fundamentals of exceptional business practices. My dad trained me in how to be a great manager all around emotional intelligence skills, although we didn’t call it emotional intelligence at the time.

Twenty years later when I started my company, that’s what I centered everything around. Self-awareness, communication, and how to connect well with people. My father mentored me in that by modeling it. I would watch and observe his ability to communicate and connect with different types of customers. He used to say, “We have to treat everybody like family. Let’s treat everybody like royalty.” It stuck with me and I think that was huge.

The second was my spiritual mentor. My pastor taught me the value of listening. I would go to church from school in a self-discovery mode of what direction in life I was going to take. He never told me exactly the path, but the value of having someone listen to you and be there and love you and consistently model what it meant to be a man of integrity. It had a huge impact on me. He became a huge influence.

Then I had a football coach who told me directly that I was a great player and I was one of the top leaders on our team. I really wasn’t a great player, but the fact he spoke that to me — it was so empowering to have somebody say you’re a great player, you’re a great leader. He was the one who taught me, “You don’t need to be a captain, Steve, to be a leader on this team.”

Each of those three, in a very real sense, I’ve become a part of their leadership DNA. I’ve tried to follow their footsteps.

NCA: One of the most common challenges new coaches face is self-doubt. Some coaches call it Imposter Syndrome, where early on they feel somehow inadequate to take on the role of coach. What is one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who is in the beginning stage of their coaching career and dealing with these doubts in their mind?

Steve: I’ve struggled with that from time to time, as well. I know what that feels like. I would say first and foremost, practice what you preach. If I’m going to encourage my coaching clients to have a morning ritual, to start their day slow rather than fast and not jump on email but to have a really purposeful, intentional day, then I better be practicing that on a daily basis. If I’m going to instruct my coaching clients to prioritize and set their day around the most valuable and profitable activities as opposed to meaningless work, then I need to practice that in my first 60 to 90 days. If we want to talk about sustainable health practices, I need to have my core four health practices in place.

It doesn’t all need to be perfect, but I better practice what I preach. If I’m going to be a coach, I need to have a proven track record. Nothing will erode your confidence quicker than if you’re not living the very values that you are coaching around.

Secondly, confidence always comes from being centered on your true values.

And third, preparation. If I’m going to do a keynote speech or if I’m going to coach with a senior executive, I better have strong preparation in place. If I’m not prepared, if I haven’t practiced, if I haven’t thought through, if I haven’t scripted, then I’m going to get to that call and be grappling for different thoughts or not as sharp with my questions. I won’t be on top of my game.

Preparation and practice builds inner confidence. Being a centered leader on your values. Make sure there’s no incongruency and that you’re fully aligned. You’re not a perfect leader. You’re in process, but you can have a voice because you are in the arena living it.

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