Alisa Cohn is an Executive Coach who has worked with C-suite executives at prominent startups (such as Venmo, Etsy, Draft Kings,) and Fortune 500 companies (including Dell, Microsoft, Google, Pfizer, and The New York Times). Alisa was named the Top Startup Coach in the World at the Thinkers50/Marshall Goldsmith Global Coaches Awards and the #1 Global Guru for Startups. Her articles have appeared in HBR, Forbes, and Inc, and she’s been featured as an expert on BBC World News and in the NY Times and WSJ. Alisa is the author of From Start-Up to Grown-Up.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Alisa Cohn: Thank you so much for having me. I am an executive coach. I am the author of From Start-Up to Grown-Up. I work with CEOs and founders and co-founders and other C-suite executives to help them be more successful in their businesses. I also specifically think about where those founders and executives are, where are they going, and how will they get there?
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Alisa Cohn: I think that 2020 and 2021 threw plenty of curveballs, indeed. And now in 2022 with the Ukrainian war and inflation continuing to rise, it has become even rockier. I guess I would say if we thought about how businesses can thrive in 2022, the lessons I have learned entailed that everyone must be agile and adaptable to change. You must have an antenna up to recognize and have situational awareness, inside of your company and in the global landscape where it fits.
You need to continue to look at your business and see how you need to adjust to current situations and not live in the past. However, this does not mean companies should throw away their established playbook. It is all about balance.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Alisa Cohn: That is absolutely true. As I mentioned before about the war in Europe, and inflation playing a huge role, I have three pieces of advice to share for CEOs in corporate and startup spaces to be aware of.
- Number one, have enough cash in the bank, and resources to continue to survive and thrive as they grow as companies.
- Number two, ‘The Great Resignation.’ This worker movement has brought into focus how crucial it is to value talent. Companies need to make sure that they are building proper employee networks.
- Number three, build the right culture employees want. Employees need to feel reassured during these turbulent times and if they are not, they will find a better company that will.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Alisa Cohn: Well, my industry is coaching and so I would say the transition to becoming more remote. This means working over video and phone calls instead of in-person meetings and being more available to fit client needs. Especially now to fit the current times, I could have short conversations to cover the basics or pencil-in time for intense discussions. If you can’t adapt during the pandemic, you won’t be able to be the best coach you can be for your clients.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Alisa Cohn: This is the advice that I take and that I need to give to all my clients. We all know that any one difficult event happening is a low probability. But there is always a high probability of low probability events occurring and we must always be bulletproof and ready to adapt when difficult things come our way. The second is the advice I wish we received was that you got to really focus even more so on your culture and your people during these tough times.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Alisa Cohn: We are going to continue to see online businesses and remote work grow in prevalence. That means that we have to figure out how to improve hybrid work with technology and new behaviors. We must continue building our people skills and emotional intelligence that extends not just in person but through phones and screens.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Alisa Cohn: Oh my gosh. I can spend anywhere from eight to twelve hours depending on the day. This ranges from my writing projects, hosting and featuring on podcasts, attending webinars, speaking on panels, as well as collaborating with my clients via video or phone.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Alisa Cohn: I coach all my clients to use stories and I do the same. Here are two examples. One of my clients even during difficult times in the world, the CEO wanted to continue communicating with their clients. So, he took the opportunity to share client stories in quick videos that were sent to the entire team. The goal is to keep the customer and client front and center. This tactic was a remarkably effective way to tell stories and to help his employees understand the need to continually focus on the customer.
When I coach an executive, I share with them the story of me working with another CEO of a very young company. This CEO felt very disheartened about a lot happening in his company at the time. In my other experiences, one of the CEOs I worked with, three separate times, almost ran out of money. They were able to pull it together and then have a very excellent outcome afterward. Sharing these stories is how I encourage my CEOs and communicate with people effectively.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Alisa Cohn: Right now, the biggest challenge that my companies face is ‘The Great Resignation’, and the importance of CEOs realizing culture really matters to people. Number two, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. So, it is really important to enable, empower and train your managers to be connected managers right now. And then number three, you have got to find different ways to keep your people. For example, promoting internal mobility. I taught a whole LinkedIn learning course on promoting internal mobility as a manager because you want to make sure that your best talent finds opportunities within your company.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Alisa Cohn: I am very interested in learning about DAOs, an acronym for Distributed Autonomous Organizations. I’m also interested in how people can lead together laterally. Whether it’s based on their own motivation, being autonomous, or their interest and passion for different scenarios and how leadership looks when it’s lateral, rather than top-down.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Alisa Cohn: I think that all the companies I work with are experiencing bumps in the road on talent, and I absolutely agree that connected leadership and management are the way to keep people. We need to value management as a domain on its own. We need to train and empower managers and teach them how to have career conversations: having one-on-ones; giving feedback that leaves people inspired and not feeling bad; and how to solicit and receive feedback from employees. Those are the changes that managers can make to help ensure they maintain and retain their people.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Alisa Cohn: My business superpower is emotional intelligence. I think I do have an elevated level of emotional intelligence, but I know that I can always improve. You can do this by tapping into what people are feeling through your own actions. This is how you speak with others, and how you help them feel heard and seen. This then helps lead them to a better outcome. That’s what I think emotionally intelligent people can do.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Alisa Cohn: First of all, on a personal or business level? Success to me means continuing my mission, which is to light 10,000 candles. This means I need to have a positive influence on everybody that I come across. That’s what my success means. I accomplish this through my platform, my book From Start-Up to Grown-Up, my podcast of the same name, and the speaking and workshops that I do. And of course, through increasing my work and ability to inspire my clients, whom I am privileged to work with.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Alisa Cohn for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Alisa Cohn or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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