Kelly Meerbott is an Executive Leadership and Business Coach who has founded YOU: Loud & Clear, and has transformed America’s top CEOs’ personal and professional lives, hand-crafted profitable business strategies for international corporations and coached senior-ranking officers in the US Military to heal underlying trauma and build effective leadership skills.
Using a unique and holistic approach to coaching, Kelly combines every facet of her client’s life and business to deliver a wholly fulfilling experience. By working in partnership with them, Kelly can assist in clearing internal blockages so that creativity, inspiration, insight, and answers can flow and develop freely. She works together with her clients to develop internal cohesiveness, which in turn will create a sense of belonging both within and in the world around them.
Over the last 13+ years, Kelly has worked with a diverse portfolio of clients and discovered that no matter how experienced all humans are in running their lives and businesses, everyone still has obstacles (real or perceived) that prevent them from fully executing their vision. However, Kelly’s personalized change management process has demonstrated measurable results; improving employee satisfaction and productivity, streamlining communications processes, and neutralizing company politics, all while maintaining a focus on increasing profitability.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Kelly Meerbott: I found my calling to coaching and training early on in my career while working for a Fortune 500 Company. The company recognized my natural aptitude for mentoring and educating others, and I was given roles where I could have the most significant impact coaching my peers and supervisors. The influence was felt across the organization, as company morale and productivity improved and politics disintegrated. Revenues also increased as previously disgruntled clients and employees became corporate supporters and advocates.
However, in 2009, at the height of the recession, I found myself caught up in a round of 30,000 layoffs. This was a defining moment in my career as I explored what was next and I hired a coach who subsequently changed my life. The support and guidance of a personal coach helped me realize my passion for helping others and desire to make it a career. More importantly, I recognized how impactful and life-changing a great coach can be. This is what inspires and motivates me to make a difference in the world.
I launched my Executive and Business Coaching company, YOU: Loud & Clear Inc in 2009, and over the last 13+ years, we have worked with a diverse portfolio of clients, specializing in senior executives, members of the C-suite, and high-ranking officers in the US military. Our vision is one of heart lead leadership across all organizations, groups, and enterprises that we encounter. We understand that leaders who genuinely lead from the heart – not the head – are more equipped to connect with the emotional needs of employees. Our vision is one of the Leaders who can embrace a heart-centered approach to business. Leaders with the courage and belief to go inward, and reflect rather than succumb to external pressures.
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Kelly Meerbott: From an early age, my biggest influence was my mom. When I was younger she played every role. My father was a professional golfer on the PGA tour so the first four and a half years of my life were spent living out of hotel rooms and she was the person behind the scenes that made everything work. She would pay the bills, she would handle my dad’s PR and she would take care of me. My mom always told me to never depend on anybody, she instilled into me the importance of getting an education and only relying on myself for my future.
My mom was also wildly curious about people. I remember her talking to all different manner of leaders, from Hollywood leaders to industry leaders, and she was always interested in learning from them. She would use people as a resource, so if she didn’t understand something about accounting and she ran into someone who was high up at Deloitte, she would simply ask them, and then she would go to the library and teach herself about it. That trait has influenced me, if I want to know about a topic I don’t know much about I immediately enroll in a course on it or invest in a book on it. It’s a sense of self-reliance. Also witnessing my mother navigate those high-level relationships that she was surrounded by due to my father’s profession, that was how I learned to do it. I watched her handle conflict with such grace. She was very patient, kind, and caring, but she was also assertive and would not be pushed to the side or ignored.
The second most influential person in my life is my husband, Brian. Not only has he reinvented himself multiple times but he’s also always been unwaveringly supportive of me and my dreams. There were occasions when we received large tax returns and I was at a stage where that money would be very beneficial to my business and without any hesitancy, he would say take that money to invest in your business. But not just that, his mindset of working hard and at the same time finding the humor in life is so inspirational. He sings every day and whistles and he’s just a happy, calm guy and he has mellowed me out a lot. Yet he’s also that person that when I’m out of alignment with my core values and not showing up as the leader I want to be, will call me out and remind me of who I am.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Kelly Meerbott: The pandemic didn’t affect me in the same way it did so many others; my business got stronger, my marriage got stronger, I had some amazing employees come into my business and I also had space and time to write and create. We didn’t face the problems that so many were facing. I think the biggest challenge was seeing those who I love struggling.
I think the reason my business got stronger during the pandemic was that people started to understand the importance of coaches and mental health practitioners. I was receiving multiple calls to be on wellness panels and to partake in conversations about how we can practically survive this and my answer is always the same. We have to get comfortable in the unknown. Life is not predictable and you have to get comfortable and trust in the process. I don’t call that period, ‘the pandemic’ or ‘challenging times’, I call it ‘the great pause’. It was also a period for reevaluation, and some people needed a place to put their stress and so a lot of them turned to professional coaches for help. I also got more authentic during the pandemic, I decided I was going, to be honest without fear of ostracization and I believe people have gravitated towards that. People are sick of falsehoods, they want honesty and authenticity.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Kelly Meerbott: The Great Resignation isn’t something I have suffered from because I strive to treat my employees with appreciation and love and compassion and to understand who they are. That approach has served me well. I recognize that my employees have lives outside of the work they do and that they’re better at their jobs when they take their time and are allowed to just go and get on with it.
I have been anticipating the Great Resignation for several years because I think there have been subpar cultures within corporate companies for quite some time and now these companies are being held accountable. So really the way the Great Resignation has affected me, is that leaders and companies are now approaching me for advice on how to tackle this cultural phenomenon and prevent it from escalating.
My advice is that it’s not about money. It’s about appreciating your employees, seeing them, hearing them, and not treating them like a number. Leaders need to stop leading with distrust and assuming that their staff is not working hard enough. Listen to them, trust them, and let them do the jobs they were hired to do. An example of this would be the reluctance companies have had for years towards allowing their employees to work remotely for fear of them slacking off. Yet, guess what, studies are showing that remote workers are working longer, harder, and more efficiently. Why has it taken a worldwide pandemic for companies to believe in their employees?
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Kelly Meerbott: Create a sense of belonging within your business. This means making sure you include everybody’s voices, everybody. Constantly evaluate your workplace for voices that aren’t being included. Don’t tokenize the marginalized communities. Appreciate your people. Reward good work. Promote and prioritize rest. Hire great people and then get out of their way and let them do their job. Understand that there isn’t one path to an end goal. So if you’re hiring somebody, and they’re going in a different direction to the one you would take, trust them in that process as long as they get you to your end goal.
Look at the policies, procedures, and processes in your business. If they are too clunky, too complicated, too bureaucratic and there’s too much red tape, make them simpler. Get rid of the bureaucracy. Get rid of the red tape. A lot of corporate companies seem to have a mentality of ‘but we’ve always done it this way, but that’s the problem, the tide is changing and you have to go with it. Show your employees love; meaning mutual respect, admiration, and trust, that is the foundation of everything. If you don’t trust your employees, that’s not on them. That’s on you and you need to consider where that distrust is coming from. Also, people are resigning because they want to do their own thing and they want to create. Consider how you can establish that same energy within your organization to allow them to create to their fullest. That way they’re now creating for you, rather than themselves.
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Kelly Meerbott: I don’t believe in the term work-life balance. I believe in work-life flow. What do I mean by that? There are going to be days or weeks where I am excessively busy and overly stressed because I have something big coming up that I preparing for, and during that time I am out of the flow. But there are the days when I am in the flow when I am going to get up and ease myself into the day, do my yoga, do my meditation, etc. I try to make sure that the days when I am out of flow are the exception to the rule, not the standard.
Being in flow is when you are doing everything you can to care for your instrument, meaning your body, the space you occupy. Make sure that you’re doing everything your body needs to perform at the highest levels, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. My approach is to have the structures and supports in place to ensure my energy is full at all times. If your energy is full then you’re going to be able to be in that flow more often than not. I don’t use the word balance because I feel that it puts more pressure on us to constantly have everything measured and in control, and that’s unrealistic. Flow to me is more of a feeling than a measurement.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Kelly Meerbott: I talk to my people and I create a psychologically safe environment for them to be honest and vulnerable with me, I recommend all other businesses do the same. Have a conversation with your employees, don’t take notes, don’t have an agenda, just have an authentic conversation in which you ask them what’s working and what’s not. Your employees will tell you, they’ll tell you what system doesn’t work and what’s too clunky. They’ll tell you where the bureaucracy is tripping them up and all you need to do is just stop talking, listen, and act on it. Then, once you’ve acted on it, go back to them and ask for their feedback. You have to realize the balance of power has shifted and acted accordingly.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Kelly Meerbott: Cloning myself. My biggest challenge is knowing where to prioritize my time and energy to have the biggest positive impact. Also making sure I have the right people around me who share my vision and passion.
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had 10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Kelly Meerbott: I would give out bonuses to all of my employees. I would pay off our house and any debt we have. I would give my husband Brian a million to invest. I would level up my company’s technology. I would give a million to my nieces, nephews, and godson to invest in their education or however they want to better themselves. I would give some to my favorite charities and I would give out a million anonymously to random people. Then I would travel and see parts of the world I’ve only ever seen in pictures.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Kelly Meerbott 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 Kelly Meerbott or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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