Katie Baird gained her coaching foundation during her eight years in various strategy consulting roles. As a consultant, she recognized her passion for creating space for professional growth and took the leap into coaching and development. Katie derives her joy from investing in others, developing leaders, and facilitating learning for highly motivated professionals. Read more to learn what “coaching from behind” means to Katie, her philosophy on the importance of laughter, and her journey to how she got to where she is today.
Katie is part of the Fink Development Coaching Network, in addition to her role as Executive Coach and Founder of Baird Coaching. Katie specializes in leadership and career coaching, working with clients to dig deep and implement sustainable change.
Jennifer Fink: You worked in the management and advisory space for over eight years, what inspired you to make the jump into coaching and development?
Katie Baird: Yes, I progressed through a variety of roles over the years with Deloitte, as a strategy consultant. My background was an excellent foundation to leverage as I transitioned into the coaching industry - from solving problems creatively to building client relationships to designing strategic conversations….all relevant! I was inspired to pursue coaching work full time because I am passionate about creating space for professional growth, and truly find joy in investing in others. I wanted my work to produce tangible and lasting benefits for others in a personal way.
JF: If someone were to look at your LinkedIn profile, they would see you earned your BAC in Politics from Washington and Lee University, how does your education in politics help with your coaching practice now?
KB: I am so grateful I pursued a liberal arts degree. The curriculum at W&L encourages cross-disciplinary thinking. I found the courses to be intimate, immersive learning experiences - all intentionally designed to broaden perspectives and spark constructive discussion. I embrace those principles as a coach and encourage clients to look at opportunities from different dimensions.
JF: As a career coach, is there an ideal client or industry you enjoy working with most?
KB: My clients span all industries, but I love digging in on work related to career transitions (which has impacts personally and professionally)! These are opportunities for real focus, growth, and meaningful change. My ideal client is a high-performing, self-aware, driven individual eager to collaborate on goals that will further their professional ambitions or harness their passions.
JF: Your coaching strategy can be described as “coaching from behind”, what does this mean and how is it beneficial to your clients?
KB: Quite simply this means my clients shouldn’t expect me to come with the answers - though I am deeply curious and empathic in my approach! My philosophy as a coach is to act as a sounding board for clients to explore and experiment with the topics they bring to our sessions. I feel this is beneficial because it demands accountability and can lead to sustained change because the client is owning their choices.
"My philosophy as a coach is to act as a sounding board for clients to explore and experiment with the topics they bring to our sessions."
JF: What are three potential takeaways your clients walk away with when working with you?
- A strengthened voice to advocate for their needs, worth, and aspirations.
- A purpose-driven action plan to help facilitate measurable change.
- An increased confidence in their capabilities and tools to continue on a growth path.
JF: What is your “special sauce” when it comes to helping people with career development and transition?
KB: Humor! Navigating any professional development journey or transition is not always easy, and there isn’t a universal, perfect solution to the challenges associated with major change. Don’t underestimate the reliable data out there underscoring how laughter helps strengthen relationships and unlock creativity…..both core elements to an effective coaching engagement. Here’s just one article on the topic of humor research from Northwestern University, "The Power of Humor in Ideation and Creativity".
"Navigating any professional development journey or transition is not always easy, and there isn’t a universal, perfect solution to the challenges associated with major change."
JF: What most excites you about the coaching and development industry? And, what is one thing you’ve learned recently that’s helped you grow?
KB: I’m thrilled to see the industry becoming more accessible. In years past coaching was this sexy, nebulous development opportunity only available to those in the c-suite. Not anymore! This is going to be critically important as we look to recover from the pandemic - especially for the more than 2 million women who’ve left the workforce since February 2020. As we begin to move towards the “other side” of this global pandemic, I hope my coaching work will support those looking to re-enter the workforce or pivot in their careers.
My own growth recently is thanks in large part to the diverse advisory network I’ve cultivated (and continue to nurture). This reinforces a lot of what my liberal arts college education taught me - it is so powerful to solicit the (sometimes unpopular) opinions and support of professionals in tangential (or potentially unrelated) fields who are selflessly invested in your success.
"I’m thrilled to see the industry becoming more accessible. In years past coaching was this sexy, nebulous development opportunity only available to those in the c-suite. Not anymore!"
JF: As the Founder of Baird Coaching, what is an “aha” moment you’ve experienced on your journey to becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business.
KB: There’s a beauty in experimentation and failure, moments like these have paved the way for my most impactful and effective ideas for maturing my business.
JF: You started Baird Coaching several months before the pandemic, how has your business adapted to the virtual landscape? Are there any lessons you learned in 2020 that you’re taking with you into the new year?
KB: This line of work has always operated well with a virtual model - and Baird Coaching is no different. If anything, the pandemic motivated me to be more ambitious in my goals to diversify the backgrounds and geographies of my clientele, while still discerning that their desired outcomes from coaching are a fit with my expertise.
JF: Outside of the office, what inspires you to live a fulfilled life, personally or professionally?
KB: First and foremost I find fulfillment in a small set of relationships that lift me up - both family and friends who are truly a support system. I recharge thanks to needlepoint projects, wine tastings, and mountain hikes with my husband, James, and dog, Copley. And I find further fulfillment professionally thanks to entities like Harvard Medical School's Institute of Coaching - I never want to be done learning.
JF: At Fink Development, we’re big believers in the power of connection and community. Who are you most hoping to connect with in 2021?
KB: Our values around connection and community align. I hope to work with clients this year whom I can learn from in the process of supporting their personal and professional efforts to make a change.
Contributor Bio: Katie Baird began her coaching career as a strategic consultant in the corporate world for eight years. Interested in pursuing her passion of consulting coupled with her interest in career and development, she launched her own practice, Baird Coaching in 2019. She is an ICF-certified executive coach (and an affiliate-member of IOC at McLean Hospital, Harvard Medical School) with a focus on transitions, career advancement and leadership development. Katie is also a part of the Fink Development Coaching Network.
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Footnotes: Humor, Seriously | The Power of Humor in Ideation and Creativity