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Name: Sophia Casey
Title: CEO and Chief Learning Officer
Organisation: Sophia Casey Enterprises (SCE) and International Coaching & Leadership Institute (ICLI)
Sophia Casey is a Master Certified Coach (MCC) credentialed by the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is the Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at the global coach certification organization, the International Coaching & Leadership Institute (ICLI). Additionally, she is the Founder and CEO of Sophia Casey Enterprises (SCE), a leadership development, executive coaching, and consulting firm. Some of her proudest moments are being named Director of First impressions for a former Vice President of the United States and serving as the Executive Life Coach and co-facilitator for a series of T.J. Maxx' Maxx You Project workshops. Sophia is relentless about supporting ICLI’s commitment to coaching for everyone, everywhere.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a leader and entrepreneur with an international team, one of the most challenging aspects for me has been mastering the art of effective communication.
I have learned the significance of being vulnerable enough to seek understanding and embrace diverse perspectives. With an international team, cultural differences and varying perspectives can enrich our work, but they can also present communication and collaboration challenges.
Also, I have learned the value of being open and curious, engaging in meaningful conversations, and actively seeking to understand the cultural nuances and perspectives of team members from different backgrounds. This helps foster empathy, build trust, and promote effective communication, and create an environment where team members feel safe to express their ideas, ask questions, and challenge assumptions.
By embracing vulnerability and actively seeking to understand other cultures' perspectives, I have seen firsthand the power of diverse perspectives in driving innovation, problem-solving, and fostering a sense of belonging within the team. It has allowed us to tap into a wealth of knowledge, creativity, and unique insights that have propelled our business forward.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I became a leader through a journey of exploration and a deep passion for education and human interaction. It all began during my high school years when I had the opportunity to work as a teaching assistant for my aunt at the Department of Head Start in South Central Los Angeles. This experience ignited my passion for education and witnessing the transformative power of learning.
Although I initially pursued a pre-med major, my love for education and understanding how people interact persisted. This led me to major in Sociology and Social Psychology at UCLA, where I delved deeper into the study of human behavior and social dynamics. Later, I pursued a specialization in Special Education at Johns Hopkins University, further honing my expertise in supporting individuals with unique learning needs.
Throughout my career, which spanned almost three decades, I immersed myself in various learning, education, training, and development roles. I also had the privilege of serving as a director of human resources, gaining valuable insights into leadership and organizational dynamics. However, it was during my intensive year-long coach training program that I experienced a transformative shift. Deepening my understanding of coaching core competencies and engaging in transformational work, I realized that coaching was my true calling.
I made the decision to pursue my coach credential and embark on a journey as a full-time coach. Since then, I have dedicated myself to supporting individuals in living their dreams and reaching their full potential. Through my coaching practice, I have had the opportunity to lead and inspire others, guiding them through personal and professional growth.
My path to leadership has been shaped by my unwavering passion for education, my commitment to understanding human behavior, and my dedication to helping others. Each step along the way has contributed to my development as a leader, and I continue to evolve and learn as I embrace new challenges and opportunities.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Each day, I strive to create a well-structured routine that supports my personal well-being and allows me to effectively manage my work. It starts with dedicating time for myself in the morning. I believe in the power of self-care and mindfulness, so I begin by engaging in activities like meditation, prayer, and dancing to center myself and set a positive tone for the day.
After my personal time, I meet with my assistant to review our schedule and tasks for the day. This helps me stay organized and prioritize my activities. Depending on the day, my schedule can vary significantly. I may have coaching sessions with clients, conduct training sessions, or participate in speaking events such as webinars and workshops. Each interaction brings its own unique energy and demands, and I strive to bring my best self to every engagement. As the day progresses, I focus on accomplishing the tasks at hand, ensuring that I give my full attention and dedication to each responsibility.
I embrace the variety and challenges that come with my work, as it keeps me motivated and engaged. In the evening, I make it a priority to allocate quality time for my family. Building and maintaining strong connections with my loved ones is essential to my overall well-being.
We engage in activities together, have meaningful conversations, and enjoy moments of relaxation and joy. Finally, before going to sleep, I take a few moments to reflect on the day's accomplishments and express gratitude for the opportunities and experiences I've had. This helps me maintain a positive mindset and set intentions for the following day.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A recent leadership lesson I've been reminded of is the importance of not allowing distractions to hinder our progress and peace. In today's fast-paced and interconnected world, there are numerous distractions that can divert our attention and energy away from our goals and the well-being of our team. I've learned that it is crucial to set clear priorities, establish boundaries, and stay committed to what truly matters.
This means learning to say no to distractions, whether they are external demands or internal doubts and fears. It requires cultivating self-discipline and a strong sense of purpose. By staying focused, we can lead with clarity, integrity, and purpose. We can be fully present for our team, make informed decisions, and create an environment where everyone can thrive and contribute their best. Another important leadership lesson I've learned is the value of letting go and embracing change.
As leaders, we often face situations that require us to adapt, pivot, and make difficult decisions. It can be challenging to let go of the familiar and embrace the unknown, but I've realized that it is necessary for growth and progress. Change is inevitable, and as leaders, we must be willing to embrace it with an open mind and a positive attitude. I've learned that resisting change or holding onto the past can hinder our ability to lead effectively and seize new opportunities. Instead, we must be willing to let go of old ways of thinking, old systems or processes, and even old roles or responsibilities.
By embracing change, we create space for innovation, creativity, and continuous improvement. We empower ourselves and our teams to adapt to new circumstances, explore new ideas, and take calculated risks. Embracing change also enables us to stay agile and resilient in the face of challenges or setbacks.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I highly recommend the book "You're a Badass" by Jen Sincero. This book is a game-changer for anyone who is looking to transform their life and step into their power. Jen's no-nonsense approach and relatable anecdotes make this book a fun and engaging read, while her practical tips and exercises provide readers with actionable steps to create real change in their lives. As a coach, I have recommended this book to many of my clients who have found it to be incredibly helpful in shifting their mindset and taking control of their lives. Whether you're looking to improve your relationships, career, finances, or overall sense of self, "You're a Badass" is a must-read.
Also, as the author of "Ease & Flow: A 31-Day Journal to Clear, Connected, and Courageous About Life", I believe that everyone can benefit from journaling and reflection. As leaders, we pour out energetically, and journaling as a mindfulness tool can support in prioritizing our well-being. By sharing personal experiences, insights, and reflections, people can get inspired to live their lives with greater purpose, clarity, and authenticity. Whether they are looking to deepen their self-awareness, navigate life's challenges, or cultivate more meaningful connections with others, the “Ease & Flow Journal” offers practical prompts and structures to support self-discovery and growth.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
I believe that there's no substitute for doing the work AND the work doesn’t have to be hard. I would encourage young leaders to practice, practice, and practice some more, which I relate to as opportunities to play with being curious about their teams. This is doing the work. My mantra is simple but powerful, “The Work Works!”. Whether you're just starting out in your career or looking to take it to the next level, success requires dedication, effort, and a willingness to put in the time and energy to achieve your goals. Don't wait for the perfect moment or opportunity – start taking action now and keep pushing yourself to improve every day. With work and persistence, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Also, my faith and my coaching work taught me to have grace for myself, prioritize self-love, and ask for support. My outlook on life is that anything is possible if we say so, and the hardships I’ve overcome remind me to dwell in possibility. I learned that I had a choice in how I responded to difficult situations. I can acknowledge that a situation is hard, but I also have a choice in how I react to it. I've learned that I don't have to do everything alone, and it's important to ask for support when needed. It's a daily practice to change my mindset and focus on possibilities.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Despite earning the highest designation in the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the Master Certified Coach (MCC) Credential, I have been called a “square peg trying to fit in a round hole” by people committed to not opening up spaces for Black coaches. I’ve even used that microaggression to deepen my commitment to my work. When you think about it, a square symbolizes order, trust, stability, and being grounded. So if it doesn’t fit in the round hole, it’s because it was never meant to, and I am proud to be that square peg making the coaching industry more accessible to corporations, Black coaches, and leaders.