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Catching Up With: Sharon Seal

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Sharon Seal is a frequent guest speaker for my "Introduction to Public Relations" course that I teach for undergraduates at Loyola University. Sharon is neither in PR or in media--she's a certified professional business coach. Sharon serves as a wonderful example for those students who don't have a specific interest in PR as a career, how the skills we learn in class are applicable to other fields. I recently caught up with Sharon and thought we'd have a chat about her work and how she uses PR skills in her job...

Sharon, tell us a little about yourself, your background..

I am President of Coaching Concepts, Inc. and for the past 19+ years I have been an executive coach. My clients are usually emerging leaders who want a thinking partner to support them in honing their professional skills such as communication, strategic thinking, leadership presence, team development and emotional intelligence. My background, before becoming a leadership coach, was in real estate sales, management consulting and non-profit business operations.

Why did you decide to become a coach?

When I worked for a large non-denominational church as Director of Operations, the conversation with leaders of that organization was often was around how to develop their staff, communicate more effectively with their constituencies, and lead their team. As I began to describe to others what I loved -- giving feedback, support and guidance to leaders – folks started to tell me I should become a coach. That was in the early 1990’s…and I had never even heard of coaching. So, long story short, I became trained as an executive coach, earned my Professional Certified Coach credential, and have coached hundreds of clients in various industries including Fortune 500 companies, small private sector firms, non-profits, and federal government agencies.

You’re a frequent guest speaker for my INTRO TO PR class. What PR skills do you use as a coach?

Some of the skills that are required of a PR professional are the same ones I use on a daily basis as a coach. A coach must be people-oriented, and have strong relationship skills. People fascinate me, and I have the ability to see others’ strengths and help them to see themselves in new ways. Folks tell me I’m an excellent listener, and communication skills are something I try to model for my clients. A PR professional must be able to put themselves in another’s shoes and see the world from their vantage point. My strengths as a leader allow me to connect with clients who are also leaders in their respective fields, and create credibility with them. Of course, as a business owner, I have to use sound judgment and good business sense to not just survive, but thrive in a very competitive field. Like a good PR professional who works to tight press deadlines, I use my self-management skills and ability to focus and meet deadlines on a daily basis. My clients trust me for not just my powerful coaching skills, but because they know that if I say I will do something, I will deliver. Finally, PR professionals that I have known are intensely curious about people and the world around them. I’m very passionate about deeply understanding my clients’ goals and challenges, and I am blessed to work with a variety of very smart clients who are open to exploring new ideas and ways of being.

What do you think are the biggest differences between being a “business coach” and a “public relations counselor” for a business?

As an executive coach, I do very little “telling” and a lot of “asking.” And I am certainly not a public relations counselor, someone who can advise clients on the art and science of PR. Rather, I help clients step back and look at challenges from a different perspective, to help them open up to new understanding and more choices. While our coaching work can certainly support a client in understanding herself better and perhaps even in honing her message to customers, I leave the promotion of a client’s business to the experts in PR and marketing.

How do you use public relations skills in your job?

The skills that I note above help me in many ways. Because I don’t send out press releases or do formal PR, I am a walking embodiment of Coaching Concepts. My belief is that having good PR skills increases my visibility in the community and enhances my professional image. The PR skills I possess serve me well in my various roles as a presenter, writer, thinker, and coach. I also think I’m good at connecting with others, and have built a network of professional colleagues who have a great deal of wisdom and knowledge about many different things. I love learning from others.

How do you promote yourself, and how has that changed over the years (i.e. social media, etc)?

As a small business owner, the advertising and marketing budget for Coaching Concepts is pretty slim. I do no advertising; all of my business comes to me by referral or from professionals I meet in the business community. I promote myself through being out and about in the community and serving others, either formally or informally. I’m a mentor for a terrific 7th grade girl through My Sister’s Circle, and one of the ancillary benefits of that wonderful commitment to her is the chance to interact with other mentors. My monthly “Musings” is where I write about what I’m thinking and doing, tying in my personal perspective with business issues. You can read back issues, and subscribe, at my website www.CoachingConcepts.com. I’ve done interviews on radio and television, which are fun. I have a profile on Linked-In (for Sharon Keys Seal) and a Facebook page for Coaching Concepts, Inc. (new friends are welcome!). Much to the dismay of my very hip friends in PR, I have resisted being on Twitter. I prefer face-to-face conversations of depth, versus short tweets. If George Clooney wants to connect with me, he can email me at Sharon@CoachingConcepts.com. I’ll let you know if I hear from him.

Anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for talking with me. And thanks to your readers for their interest. I’m always happy to talk with those who would like to learn more about working with a coach.

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