Podcast Ep. 68 – Coaching the Coach

Larry Olsen September 21, 2021

Keziah Robinson, CFA is a business strategist, CEO coach, and investor. Described by her clients as a “shapeshifter” who “can coach business owners through any challenge at any stage of their business,” Keziah helps small business CEOs navigate the operational and existential challenges of scaling up, pivoting, and/or selling a business they’ve put their blood, sweat and tears into. Reach her at: https://www.cassia-partners.com/


Larry Olsen: Welcome. I’m Larry Olsen, and what’s on your mind? Once set, it delivers your life. To change the outcomes we want, we must change the plays we’re running. Join us at Mindset Playbook with Real people – Real talk for Real insight.

Narrator: Today’s episode is sponsored by Aperneo, An Achievement Acceleration Company, whose approach to professional development enables clients to gain insights and perspectives to live, work, and engage with more success.


Larry Olsen:  Well, I want to welcome everyone to Mindset Playbook, and thank you for taking your time to invest it in yourself or your business or your family or wherever you show up and want to be the best possible version of you. My guest today is Keziah Robinson, a business strategist, CEO, coach, and investor who provides tailored solutions that incorporate elements, and listen to this, of design thinking and behavioral science described by our clients as a shape shifter who can coach business owners through any challenge at any stage of their business. Keziah helps small businesses, CEOs navigate the operational and essential challenges of scaling up, pivoting and or selling a business they put their blood, sweat and tears into. She currently lives in Boston, where she is the founder of the extremely successful independent advisory firm Cassia Partners, which I have heard is Latin for Keziah. So, I think that is very, very wonderful. Welcome to Mindset Playbook and thank you for investing your time with us today. Please share with us what your latest adventure is and how you set yourself apart from your competition.


Keziah Robinson [00:06:41] Thanks for having me, Larry. And just so there’s probably someone who took Latin in high school there at Cassia is the Latin root of the same name Keziah. So, they are equivalent, but they come from the same place. That’s how I would put it. A cinnamon tree. So, I am very fragrant. I like cinnamon. I must smell good all the time. My latest adventure, well, this is, you know, now with where we’ve been. And my latest adventure actually is I went to an event with 50 people in it this week, and it was such an amazing experience to be in. It was outdoors, but to be in that kind of close quarters and to have those connections with people. And we forget sometimes when we’re doing everything virtually there is something about the vibration, the energy you get when you’re in a room with a lot of people. So, it was actually really wonderful. And I felt like the quality the conversation was really, really high. So that, I think might be my most recent adventure, actually.


Larry Olsen [00:07:47] Right. Very nice.  So, there are, as you know, a lot of people that call themselves coaches have been through a certified coach training, and yet there’s not a lot of mileage underneath their experience level. And it’s not that they don’t have great education and they’re not wonderful human beings, but we all know the power of experience and shaping how we go ahead and share what we’re asking those that we are coaching to take steps on or whatever the case may be. You know, in your case, I saw you’ve got some really amazing credentials in your background, in your education. So, kudos to you on that. How do you think you separate yourself from all the other advisers out there?


Keziah Robinson [00:08:42] Well, that I would say coaching is very nascent field, so there’s plenty of business to go around. So, I if you’re thinking of becoming a coach, please do. We do great work in the world. I don’t want to discourage anyone. What my clients have told me I can only speak to that is I come out of the first half plus and 12 years or so of my career was in the investment world and I was exposed to a very wide number of businesses. And at that thirty-thousand-foot level, sometimes more in the private companies, a little closer, but always in that as an outsider. But I have an enormous breadth of understanding about actual like how businesses are put together and what generates revenue, where the costs come from, what kind of market you’re looking at, how do you size those things. And so, one of the things about that is that I often can transpose information from one industry to another. So, I’ve been coaching and consulting for the last nine years now. I’m dating myself a bit, but and in that time, I started out, I turned around small business and then I worked with a lot of variety of different industries. And again, the same thing of seeing what’s common and the common issues is something that I think a lot of coaches come maybe from H.R. psychology, they don’t come so much on the business side, or they ran a business. You know, they were very successful. They ran one business, and they haven’t necessarily got that same breadth of understanding about honestly how common most of the issues are and how tools and techniques that work, let’s say, in a different industry, can really help you, especially with old economy clients were working with trades the trades. I have some clients in construction and things looked at. You know, you have these really high value employees in construction and you’re paying them six figures. Right. And they’re very talented and skilled. And yet they don’t get any professional development, really. They don’t get any personal development. The things that we expect in a white-collar job in terms of mentorship or leadership development, you’re not seeing that there because that’s a historic kind of bias. And so, to be able to bring those that skill set, and that leadership skill set, not just to the CEO of a company, but also to help him or her bring that down into the culture of the business, into traditionally jobs, we’ve thought of that for whatever reason, don’t have that kind of leadership development. So that sets me apart.


Larry Olsen [00:11:26] I think you and I would both agree that development is essential for growth and profitability. How do you kind of break the barriers that I don’t need that stuff. I understand all of that. What’s your approach to getting someone’s attention that perhaps there’s some phenomenal opportunity there in their own thinking?


Keziah Robinson [00:11:53] Well, this is something a therapist friend once told me is a good trick, if you say somebody starts saying, “well, this is how we’re doing, blah, blah, blah. You go, how’s that working for you?”


Larry Olsen [00:12:05] Perfect.


Keziah Robinson [00:12:06] And the truth is, you wouldn’t hire me if you’re really sure that things are not broken. I don’t know why you’re in a conversation with me if there isn’t any room for improvement in your business. Thank you for the call, but what are we doing, right? You know, there’s an opening when someone is coming to you. They’ve already opened themselves up to the idea. I would say one of the hardest conversations, because it is an internal conversation. It’s my mindset. And what we do is really understanding that if you are going to grow a business. The people who you are replacing yourself, you’re growing yourself out of the job, you’re in and into a new one, and the people who will be taking on the roles and functions you had should be better than you ever were at it. They should have the potential to sell your business better to sell your product better than you could ever.


Larry Olsen [00:13:03] So how do you I have found in my own business since I’ve been in that for twenty-six years now, that as we bring people on, I, I have kind of a have difficulty letting go. I have difficulty not getting involved in everything and I understand micromanagement and what a negative experience is. The one who’s being micromanaged. How do you, how do you encourage people, and it could be a hovering parent. How do you encourage people to kind of back off and not feel like they’re losing control?


Keziah Robinson [00:13:40]   How many of you had let’s pull all depending on what is how many have you had in the last five years when you were writing all the copy, but giving a sense of what is good performance, what a satisfactory performance going to look like so that when you do delegate, you have a benchmark as to whether or not the person who delegated to succeeded and then also doing a test run and doing and that will help you understand if you haven’t provided training. So, I have kind of a one of the things I say with someone who’s very deep control of the details, let’s take it. Let’s just practice. Right. And it’s like just going for a walk. Right. Then you can jog, then you can run. So that has worked really effectively. And I usually I’ll try to stack that, especially have a vacation or something. They’ve got it. They’re really enthusiastic about that. They’re emotionally invested. And it’s a great way to kind of keep it up because then they will hold it and then they’ve got this prize, which is you’re going to go on vacation and you’re only going to check your email once a day and your husband’s not going to kill you for ruining the vacation. But the larger issue really is around what is on the other side. If I give up this control, if I am not controlling for you, maybe sales calls, if I’m not for me, I’m not controlling the project, scoping I’m not controlling these, then what am I controlling? And you have control over vision. So again, growing yourself into a larger role, growing yourself into a higher role. So, I know you do a lot of vision work. One of the first things I do with people is where is the destination? What’s the vision that you have? And allowing them really when they’re resisting is how do you hold and like really get into that vision so that you become more comfortable with the control? And there’s a third phase. This is where I go at it, which has to do with because this is the behavioral sciences. People have delegation issues for a variety of reasons. They’re not all the same. Sometimes people like really like that. They’re like, no, I love talking to clients. I don’t want to give it up. And it can be phasing that into how do we take the energy you have that you love talking to clients and maybe use it towards talking to partners like CEOs of other companies where you could do a joint partnership, talking to your employees. Maybe you want to be out there publicly, you want to be advocating for your industry. You can still have the energy and the positive response and the engagement with the client, but at a level that is has more scale and is higher up. So that’s something that I have one client particular we’ve worked a lot on on that and he’s been able to phase himself out of most of the sales.


Larry Olsen [00:17:04] Well, good for you. Yeah, I think I heard two things in there. There were many, but with that stick up stood out to me. One was how important it is when you’re delegating to to be clear on expectation and also to be able to listen to how they understand what it is you shared. And then you also talked about control. If you’re if you’re into control, what do you want to be in control of? And you talked about such an essential element and that being vision. So, when individuals in their lives are having difficulty. Growing because you’ve got to kind of give up to get what how do you assist them in, you know, is it was it was brilliant what you shared with us about taking someone’s strength and then diverting it, redirecting it a little bit so they don’t feel like they’re at a loss. But what do you do with these people that do not take them on as clients, but the ones that just get stuck and they don’t recognize that they’re the problem?


Keziah Robinson [00:18:14] Well, I definitely you know, one of the things I say when I work with and this is to a certain extent, I mean, I work with the decision maker, the person who hires me and is the CEO. I don’t they don’t do executive coaching. So, I don’t come through H.R. or anything like that is you have to be willing to be part of the problem as well as part of the solution. I used to not have to say the solution part until I had a meeting with somebody who was like, oh, I know I’m terrible, terrible, I’m terrible. I don’t want to have anything to do with this. I just I just want to, like, stick to this thing that I’m good. And he was micromanaging, and he was, and he was just completely it was like you’re completely divorced, divorced from reality. If you think that as the CEO, you don’t also have to be part of the solution right away. You can’t just be like I’m the problem, but I don’t want to do anything to fix it. So, I definitely find that. What happens, though, is there can be something where they really build the very on the logic. Like we see confirmation bias, we pull everything that justifies that Sally and Jim can’t handle. This this project, right, or that if we expand into this new market, it’s going to be a complete does that will pull all of that. So, a lot of it is, to your point is constructing a vision. And for some people, they’re coming in. They’re great at that. Other people need to be brought out of that tactical layer and they need to learn to dream. And I usually start with them with an ideal day, ideal week and have them really look at how would they like to show up, what would they like to be doing at work. And often then you can pull it up because like, I love project planning and it’s like, OK, well, project planning could be done on these tiny projects, or you could be doing project planning for really large projects, or you could be doing business planning for your own business. And then there’s people who deal with the individual projects for the time. So, we’ll take that and really help them start to craft like, oh, what would it be like if I showed up and this was my day in the office? This is my day at the on-the-job site. This was how I the types of conversations. And that’s a way to allow them to craft a vision for the role they want to play. And sometimes that’s all they’re going to get to. And then it becomes more of a consulting exercise as well. What’s the how do we optimize what’s in the best interests of the business? A client base? Where is the greatest source of value? You can be more intellectual about that piece, but they at least have a real vision for how they want to be as a CEO.


Larry Olsen [00:20:51] Gotcha.  People push back, “change” being and basically the second fear of the human race. Rejection being number one, right? You can’t make those changes without changing. And so psychologically, we and physiologically we are up against this unknown element. You have just shared a technique about how you let people baby step their way into a bodacious vision by asking “what a great day would be like”, you know, things that are easily imaginable because they know what a bad days like. And I call that backing into a vision. You know what you don’t want to know? What would it be like if that didn’t exist?  So that the person that’s pushing back could be a teenager. It could be someone at work that really has all this talent and skill but just can’t get along with others. And this can be really challenging for a CEO because of that lock-on, lock-out concept where once they’ve made their mind up and we know how quickly that can happen, it takes a real talent to unwind that for them and help them unwind it. What are some of those suggestions you would make with people who want to bring out the best in others but sometimes don’t see it because of their behavior or whatever they happen to be viewing and that individual that just locks them all up?


Keziah Robinson [00:23:39] One thing is to really hold that. That person is and this is I’m not a DTI coach, but you talked about certification during collective coaching and sort of an old school model, very, very well known. And of the things it holds is that the individual is resilient, resourceful, and whole. And that can actually be really, really powerful. If you with a to sit with and say, what, this person. We’re not broken. They were not defective, they were not because sometimes same thing, like you said, you’ll hold somebody maybe well, but they had such a rough life or like they’re going through a divorce. You see the same thing. Right. And it looks at that point, let’s assume that person has the ability to be successful. Is this the right job for them? Are they have you provided the right tools and are they accessing? Do they have a desire to access the success? And I think a lot of times you mentioned like teenagers, what happens is that the interest of the teenager is maybe very much. I’m just saying, no, they’re seeking autonomy. Right. So, it’s a lot of it’s all you can go into interspace bargaining. Right. And it’s funny because we tend to get emotional when we should be logical. We tend to get logical. We should be tapping into emotion. And this dealing with people is often knowing which one you lean toward. So, if you lean towards the logic that you usually need to say, let me try to put myself, let’s do an empathy exercise when we really try to understand them. So, I could if I’m going to let them go, I can set them free, or if they’re in the wrong job, I can have a conversation with them about how they want to see their will change or what they would want to do. Likewise, sometimes you’re being all emotional about what he doesn’t like me, that it’s like now look, here’s the system. Is the job described as a clear what you’re supposed to do? Are there negative consequences if you don’t do it? Are there positive consequences? Do do it like, you know, it’s more of a H.R. kind of manual element. So I find that for me, and this is sort of the art of coaching, is to know what pieces of the science to bring. To whom and at what point? Hmm. But generally, just assume that your teenager saying, “no”, it’s because they want to annoy you, not because.


Larry Olsen [00:25:59] Yes. So, another thing you brought up and I wanted to spend some time on this. As you know, listening is so critical and yet so difficult. Because of the conversation we have going on in our own head, will, another person’s lips are moving right? What have you found that allows you to really stay in alignment and in tune with what’s being shared with you so that you don’t drift off?


Keziah Robinson [00:26:33] The thing that I typically do and is number one, rating how important it is to be actively listening so nobody can sprint all day long. So, if you’re you know, you may say I really need to listen to my spouse or my children. I do not mean to deeply connect with the person in marketing who’s just pitching me on something or a salesperson. There’s a little bit of a choosing, how much do I want to flex this muscle? Because you have to build it up and if you’re trying to use it all the time, you’ll burn out. The big thing is to put time before and after meetings, face to face meetings, to really put yourself in a state of, you know, focus, like saying, I’m going to go in and listen, what are the things what are my objectives from this conversation? And that gets to sometimes your objective is just to make sure that person knows that they’re definitely fired, that this is no longer that peace is not negotiable. So, you can come and say, I need to listen actively to make sure that they are acknowledging that. And here’s my secondary. I want to listen for what the pieces that are negotiable that we might be willing to talk about. There is a package or something like that. So, I think it’s I really think with active listening, it’s to be thoughtful about it, but also not to beat yourself up if you’re not doing it all the time because it’s a lot of work. It is. It’s very hard to focus like that.


Larry Olsen [00:28:03] Yeah, that’s an excellent point. I think people do carry it too far and they have to be on board on every scenario when in fact it’s OK to say, you know, “right now I’ve got this going on. I’d really like to hear you. But could we do that about three o’clock?” You can respect that.


Keziah Robinson [00:28:20] Or put it in an email, sometimes one of the things is, as a CEO, you do have a right to tell other people how you want to be communicated with. OK, so you can tell your clients what you’re normally. It’s more expectation setting and you’re going to have some flexibility. But there often are times when it’s like this would be better communicated to your team, not in the hallway. Right. This would be better communication. But it’s also appropriate to ask someone who tends to respond very quickly to say, let’s not talk about it right now, like I sent the email 30 seconds ago. Please go back, come back in half an hour, come back later, or please make some notes and come back with it. So, I think there can be a sense that, again, that’s the behavioral science and things like that is understanding the different ways people communicate. And you do not have to be responsive to all of them as the CEO. You do, however, have to recognize that they exist. And, you know, and to kind of you and you don’t want to be somebody like I like to have everything in person standing up. And I’m glad that the person who has a disability and is like he can’t handle that. Right. And it’s like there’s some accommodations and things like that.


Larry Olsen [00:29:40] You know, there are some things that really keep us in the game. And as you in the position that you’re in, you know, we all need to be renumerated for our work. We live in a society that, you know, a good smile doesn’t get your groceries. You know, you actually have to make a transaction. What really floats your boat? What is it about what you do that you’re at the end of the day, you go, yes, that’s why I’m doing this.


Keziah Robinson [00:30:10] I love seeing. The transformation I love. It’s a vicarious thrill because I’ve never had I’ve worked in a lot of businesses, worked on a lot of businesses, and I’ve never met one that I love. I never met one where I was like, this is the business I want to run. But I’m interested and I care about all of them. So, I am there’s a there’s a thing when somebody comes in and especially if they, so I had that conversation, or we told or we shipped that product in there and it worked. And there’s this because we’re all prepared. If they come in and go, we’ll have the conversation. It didn’t go well, right? Well, then you have a game plan. Well, let’s talk about. But there’s I think that really trusting the part that’s amazing is and I trust the process and I trust the universe. My clients trust the process, they trust the universe, things just come together, and to your point, we get paid for the value we create. You have to monetize that. You need to make sure you’re delivering it to the right person. But if you come at it from a how do I create the most value in the world? Yeah, and the most value for myself because I’m enjoying the work I’m doing. So I say, let’s not discourage anyone from coaching. It’s an amazing profession. You know, obviously, I encourage you to get get training, get ground experience. Right. You know, you want good coaches out in the world, but it’s such an amazing experience and it’s worth a lot of money because, you know, to work with your clients, the level of finding the money follows the transformation. It always seems to come through.


Larry Olsen [00:31:46] Yeah. You know, you mentioned something very powerful and that is trusting the universe. What is that what does that mean to you and what is your understanding of that?


Keziah Robinson [00:32:02] So I live in the northeast, so which has been reforesting, people don’t always realize this, but like the Northeast has been reforesting as we people no longer live in these exurban cities as much like that and the back yard out back. It’s a constant process of things growing that you’re trying to get not to grow there. So, one of the things that I just know is I look at them like we have a process. Yes, things break down, but like our bias is towards growth. Right. You know, it dies. It decays. That takes. How long? I don’t know, and year maybe, and then something grows for one hundred and fifty or something. So, I think thinking about it in that sense, that really there is a bias towards growth. And even when things the entropy, which is the other drive, which is to break things down, it feeds into the growth. And that just gives me a lot of hope that I’m like, yeah, that’s the world. There’s growth coming for all of us, right, and it’s just about opening the door and accepting it. Same thing with money. I’m like, you know, you complain about somebody didn’t show up to a party. You never invited him to say, I don’t have any money. And it’s like just a little bit. Yeah, you got it. Don’t talk trash about it. And why not invite the money and speak well of it. It wants to come to you.


Larry Olsen [00:33:32] That’s so wonderful. With the little time that we have left, it just flew by and we’re just peeling the onion here. What would what how do people get a hold of you? It’ll be they’ll see it. They’ll be able to get it. It’ll be available. And when we go live with this and yet you have just an infectious personality, your I can see why you’re so successful because you create a real trust. I mean, there’s nothing that’s not authentic with you. Everything is well thought out from the heart. But yet, there’s a spontaneity there, too. There’s a real magic.


Keziah Robinson [00:34:17] You make me cry Larry, it’s so beautiful.


Larry Olsen [00:34:20] Thank you, though. How can people reach out to you, these CEOs or others, because I know that’s really the niche. What’s the best way for that?


Keziah Robinson [00:34:35] I would say LinkedIn is always great. There are not too many people named Keziah in the world, and there’s definitely not that many name Keziah Robinson that’s spelled Keziah. So that’s a great place to find me and just reach out, send me a message, connect with me. I’m always open to that. And as well as you can go to my website, Cassia-Partners.com and contact me through there. But I love even if you don’t need any help and you just want to share a success story, tell me about your business or tell me about a positive experience you had with coaching someone else. I’m always interested because it’s as you know, Larry, it’s a craft like we’re becoming we’re here to get gain more experience, become better and see more success and use that success in other people that we learn about and in order to make our clients more successful. So, I just please feel free, reach out to me.


Larry Olsen [00:35:32] Beautiful. I want to just share something with all the coaches or new coaches that are out there. You know, I mentioned about sometimes a lack of experience. Well, I think sometimes just the freshness is as powerful as someone who’s been at it for a while. So, I hope that wasn’t misunderstood by anyone out there because it’s a great field to get into. How would you like our listeners? What would you like them to think about? What should a CEO at the end of the day, what should their mindset be when they are employing the activities that you’ve assisted them in discovering?


Keziah Robinson [00:36:13] I think the mindset is just one of. This will work if growth will come, right? I can do it. And it sounds so cheesy, but it’s so true. And it is, to your point, one of the hardest things. And yeah. and sometimes a fresher coach has is, you know, they can do it and they’re going to come in gung-ho and you and I might look and go, I’ve seen this one before. Right. And they might come in and go, no, it’s going to work. And that there’s power to that, too. So, I think, you know, we all we all want to believe in ourselves. But, you know, I think trust the process like believe in yourself. Trust the process. All right. I trust the universe and it will come.


Larry Olsen [00:36:58] Wow. What a beautiful way to wrap things up. So for all of you out there, this is just the beginning for you. And make sure you get in contact because she’s got so much to offer. And this was just not even the biggest the tip of an iceberg that we got to hear from today. So, thank you again. It was a real pleasure to have you on board. I appreciate you taking your time and investing it today with all of us.


Keziah Robinson [00:37:24] Thanks so much for having me, Larry.


Larry Olsen [00:37:26] You’re welcome. And all of those of you listening again, remember, wherever you are is exactly where you need to be right now to make the choices that are going to put you in that wonderful position and opportunity. And it’s as we just heard and I and I’ve Keziah. I probably didn’t even nail that one time through this whole session. But anyway, Keziah, you’re a blessing. We’re very, very privileged to have had the opportunity to listen to you and I wish you all the best. And everyone out there just make this a time of your life. It’s the only one you’re going to experience right now, this moment. So, savor it. Thanks again. Look forward to our next guest. Take care. Well, thank you.


Narrator: Thank you for listening. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, we ask that you please subscribe and share with your friends and associates.  Join us next time where Larry’s guests are Beth and Greg Langston the founders of College Flight Plan. Since most college graduates never end up working in their chosen field, or are in college following their purpose, much time, money, and energy can be wasted. To end this challenge, they developed College Flight Plan, empowering students to master their self-discovery, allowing them to successfully activate their life purpose and find more success at whatever they do.



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