Women’s Leadership Coach: Tracy Irvine

We’ve known Tracy for nearly two decades and have watched in awe how her career has blossomed and her influence has grown. We had a chance to sit down with Tracy recently to talk about why she has become a women’s leadership coach and what pearls of wisdom we can share.

What is the path to becoming a women’s leadership coach?

My career path has had a few twists and turns. I never was that girl who knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. It took me eight years and five changes in my major to eventually settle on something that was considered “practical.” That meant a career in … accounting.

Five years later, in the middle of a job interview, the recruiter stopped to asked me, “Have you ever thought about becoming a recruiter?”
That simple question changed the course of my career.

So you started as a recruiter?

I spent 18 years working in talent management for some of the world’s biggest companies, including Apple and Accenture. I loved my career. It was creative and challenging, but burnout crept in, and I found myself in the middle of an early mid-life crisis. That’s when I had another conversation that changed the course of my career.

I met my very first coach at a social event, and she encouraged me to try it. I didn’t have anything to lose, and I was at my wit’s end, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

After a few sessions, I knew that my next step was to become a coach. After I went through a coaching training program, I started my new career in the area of career coaching. As I began to work with more and more women, I could see that there was a need to support women leaders so they can become powerful and authentic leaders.

You talk about being a ‘rebel leader’- that sounds intriguing tell us more?

So many women are told that they are too quiet, shy, outspoken, bold, or brash. Instead of celebrating their individuality, many women are made to feel wrong, so they hide that part of themselves. I believe that there is a reason that you were born outspoken, shy, or bold, and I believe there is a way that you use these gifts to your advantage.

Why do you find working with women leaders most rewarding?

Women are complex. We are leaders, mothers, sisters, daughters, significant others. It brings me so much joy to work with all of that complexity and witness my client’s evolution into an even stronger, purposeful, successful, and confident leader.

What challenges are the most universal to female leaders?

The challenges that I see to be the most universal to female leaders are:

  • TAKING ON TOO MUCH. It’s natural for us to want to do everything. We run businesses, take care of the kids, make the meals, clean the house. Though we may be multitaskers, there is no way that one person can do everything and take care of themselves. Many female leaders can benefit from learning how to say “no” more both at work AND at home.
  • LACK OF CONFIDENCE. You may have heard the term Imposter Syndrome. It is a psychological term that refers to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a fear of being exposed as a fraud. If left unchecked, Imposter Syndrome can limit one’s ability from speaking up in meetings to going after new opportunities.
  • BEING HELD TO A HIGHER STANDARD. Unfortunately, women need to do more to demonstrate their ability than men. This plays on our weaknesses, and it manifests in severe negative ways, including the reluctance to self-promote or to ask for what we want.
  • PLAYING THE GAME. Men are taught at an early age how to build alliances and go for what they want. Women are not. Thankfully, playing the game is nothing more than learning a strategy. Women can benefit from learning how to be strategic in a way that’s comfortable and authentic to them.
  • TAKING RISKS. Women tend to be more cautious about risk and often question their judgment to the point of inaction. You’ll never move forward in your career or build your business if you don’t take the occasional risk.

Are there some quick fixes for those that can’t commit to women’s leadership coaching right now?

The first thing I would recommend is to read a personal or professional development book every single day. A recent survey found that the average CEO reads 4-5 books a month!

All you need is at least 10 minutes a day. You can read first thing in the morning or on your lunch break. If reading a book is not your thing, check out Audible and listen on your commute to work or while cooking dinner.

I just finished a book titled Broadcasting Happiness by Michele Gielan. It gives easy to use tips on how you can improve your communication in the workplace and get better and faster results. The best part is that her techniques are based on ‘positive psychology’.

The second thing I would recommend is to find or create a ‘mastermind‘. A Mastermind is a peer-to-peer mentoring that focuses on any business or career-related issues. You can find mastermind groups of all shapes and sizes out there, both paid and unpaid. I would recommend starting your group of two to four people to meet for one hour every week.

Let’s say you found a group of four people. Each person would “have the floor” for 15 minutes, where you would present a business or career issue, and the rest of the group will give you their advice and support.

If you decide to try a mastermind group, I highly recommend that you take your time in choosing the group members. You want your group to consist of people that you can learn from, who will attend every session, be willing to challenge you, and hold you accountable.

(if you are looking for a job during this time, also check out Tracy’s pandemic job search tips)