In this episode of Simply Feedback, we chat with Renee Pollins, Executive Coach, Strategy and Culture Consultant at Renee Pollins Consulting, about her transition from language arts teacher to an executive coach, as well as the importance of clear and actionable feedback in her life and work.
Renee Pollins has over 20 years of coaching experience helping people grow their leadership, advance their careers and successfully navigate career transitions. She has worked with all levels of management, across 4 continents, and in Public, Private, Startup and Non-profit organizations. Renee has facilitated leadership workshops to thousands of executives and led her own teams. She has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a great leader and how to develop a strategy and implement change.
Troy Blaser: 0:04
Hello, and welcome to today's episode of Simply Feedback. Our guest today is Renee Pollins, an Executive Coach, Strategy and Culture Consultant at Renee Pollins Consulting. Renee has over 20 years of coaching experience helping people grow their leadership, advance their careers and successfully navigate career transitions. She has worked with all levels of management, across 4 continents, and in Public, Private, Startup and Non-profit organizations. Renee has facilitated leadership workshops to thousands of executives and led her own teams. She has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to be a great leader and how to develop a strategy and implement change. Renee, It's great to have you with us on today's episode of Simply Feedback. Thank you so much for joining us.
Renee Pollins: 0:50
Thank you for having me. It's great to be here. Thanks Troy.
Troy Blaser: 0:53
I'm looking forward to our conversation today. It's been interesting to get to know you just a little bit. One of our favorite questions here on the podcast because it is Simply Feedback and it helps us to get to know you just a little bit better. If you could tell us about a time maybe that somebody gave you some feedback that had a significant impact on your life. Do you have a story that you could share with us?
Renee Pollins: 1:20
Yes. Just to give some background on it, because you know, the feedback in itself out of context is kind of like, okay. So I was about 30 which many years ago, and I was in the beginning stages of learning to lead this multi-day executive leadership program in the company that I was working for. And the pro it's an extensive training. The program delivery method was inquiry-based. So it wasn't just like a dissemination of material and, you know, kind of like Q and A, it was much more dynamic and unscripted and conversational than that. Which for me, I, by nature, I love security and definition. I mean maybe a little bit more than most. It's just my natural inclination and I am somebody who I prefer to be in the background. I'm I'm introverted. So I'm not, I'm not like I have friends who love to be on stage and love the limelight. And I'm like, I can, I can hang out back here and you can totally take that. So, you know, standing up and leading a three-day program in itself was just out of my comfort zone. And our training was, it was all in house and we had these training rooms with the one-way mirrors. So in addition to my discomfort, standing up in front of 15 people leading this program that doesn't have as much definition as I feel comfortable with. And I'm seeing my reflection in the mirror for three days straight, which was just like, you know, you get used to it after a couple of hours, but in the beginning it was just like I just wanted to like shrink away and not wanting to be in the mirror, but there was no way to hide. So on the other side of the mirror where our senior consultants and our trainers, and we would have like 15 minute breaks or a lunch break, or, you know, anytime we were on a break was time for feedback or for the people like me who were getting trained. So it was a constant like being on and then getting feedback and implementing and being on and getting feedback back and forth for , for three days. So we were part way into our second day and we were watch , we, the participants were watching a half an hour film that we were going to come back and discuss. So that was time for feedback for me. So I leave the room to get instruction. And one of thank God, one of the coaches as somebody who was like a mentor to me and I just adored and she gave me very clear feedback that I was being too timid. Which of course, based on everything that I've told you, you can imagine when you trigger the background so I would come across as timid, even though I was trying so hard not to be, I was still coming through that way. And she said something to me, like stop being a mouse and be a lion, get out of your skin, stop trying to do it right. Let go, and lead. All right. Now it was like very clear. So I'm standing outside the classroom door, like we're getting ready to go in after you can hear the movie music wrapping up. Right. And we're getting ready to go back in. And Judy and like her best tough love way ever is like in my face. Kind of like in that loud whisper go in there and you'll be a lion. Do you hear me? And I'm tears streaming down my face. I don't know how to, I don't know how to be a lion. I don't know how to do lion. And I don't know how to just like , let go of the material and like what she was, I could, like, I could see other people do it, but I mean , I couldn't, I didn't have the familiarity. I couldn't click into that gear. So she was like, like wipe your face off, get in there and you be a lion. Okay. So I go in, and after a few minutes I was leading with somebody who like, thank God, started things off right after like, I dunno , 10 or 15 minutes. I somehow clicked into a new kind of footing where I let go. And I just let the conversation with people, not trying to find the right answer. I could be directive without having to know the right things. And I guess, you know, and speak louder. And in , in my own kind of version of being a lion and letting go, I could feel that I had clicked into it. And it was a, like, it was a total game changer for me for, for life. I was 20 years ago now. And I've transferred that into, I mean, since then I've had three kids. I've applied some of that. If not all of it at times, to being a parent where there's no script, there's no rule book and you have to be directive, but you know, with heart, obviously, you know, lion with heart and in leading large programs, it's been a gear that I can click into and I can have a lot of fun with it, which then makes the experience, influences the experience of fun and engagement for everybody.
Troy Blaser: 6:47
Absolutely. That's a , because the people that are attending want to be led, you know, and they will follow you in kind of in the same style that you've set. So once you sort of access that lion mode, they're like, it's almost breathe a sigh of relief, like, Oh great. She knows where she's going. Let's follow her.
Renee Pollins: 7:07
Troy Blaser: 7:10
And she's having fun.
Renee Pollins: 7:12
So this can be fun.
Troy Blaser: 7:15
That's cool. That is, you know, that's one thing I , I love these, these experiences with feedback and they often, as we've interviewed different guests, they often come 20 years ago or some point in the distant past. But they do, it has a real impact on your trajectory on your path. And that's something that will come to mind. You said you had just shared it recently with somebody else and, and , uh, you know, it's amazing how those, those pieces of feedback, we don't even know it when we're giving them, but they, they, every once in a while, they'll stick with somebody for a long time.
Renee Pollins: 7:55
Yeah. For life. I mean, and you, you don't know. Yeah.
Troy Blaser: 8:00
Well , Renee , tell us maybe just a little bit about how you got started. You didn't start in the consulting world. You didn't start as a coach or but what was that journey like? And , and it seems like there was a transition for you from a career spent with one company to starting your own practice. Tell us a little bit about that.
Renee Pollins: 8:24
Sure. So I mean, many like fresh out of college, I went to school to be a teacher to be a language arts teacher. And I think I decided like age seven, my mom was a teacher and I think I decided then that I was going to be a teacher. And my mom taught younger kids and, you know, and as I thought, I just, I love reading and writing. And so I thought I decided language arts for me. and then I got into it and I really enjoyed it for about six months. And then I really didn't enjoy it for a year and a half or two years or something like that. And I, along the way, I had kind of gone through my own self discovery, self improvement kind of journey, and realized that I guess I might've been like age 24. And I realized, like I decided at age seven, I was going to be a teacher. And at age 24, I don't want to do that. And I don't know what I want to do. Like, it was pretty scary because I had a degree in education.
Troy Blaser: 9:43
Spent all this time on this degree and it turns out it's not the thing for me.
Renee Pollins: 9:48
Right . and so I kind of stumbled upon this consulting company that I didn't even really understand what they really did at the time that I was introduced to them, but I had a few interviews and I had this like gut feeling that that's where I was supposed to be. And I didn't really know what it was going to look like. I wanted , I was going to take any job that they offered me. I just knew I wanted to work there. So they hired me as the, there were 30 people in the company. They hired me as the travel coordinator, which I went down in history as the worst travel coordinator they ever. They hired me as travel coordinator and backup receptionist. And aside from the fact that I really was quite bad at that, they were gracious enough with me to like move me into strategy and move me into other kinds of areas that were a better fit for me. And after a handful of months there. And when I saw that the consultants were doing that, they were leading these innovative programs with executives at these big corporations. And they were doing executive leadership, coaching and strategy and change management. I was like, that just sounds like the best thing in the world. So I trained and developed over several years and started doing that, did that for, for many years there. And then at some point in my mid forties, I found myself really loving the people I worked with, loving the mission of the company, really loving what I did, but didn't see a future for myself there, you know, and had many conversations and really tried to envision, like, I kind of knew the trajectory I was on and I, it, it had always been appealing to me. And then all of a sudden, maybe the time in life. And , but all of a sudden I was like, I don't think that's it for me anymore. I thought it was. And now I don't think it is. And any time you're someplace and you don't have like a bright future in mind, it can make things really miserable. Even, even though I loved, like I said, so much of it, the future wasn't there anymore. And so after many conversations at work and with my husband and , I decided to leave and I did it in a way that I don't really recommend for anybody else because I didn't have a job lined up. I didn't even, I had an interview, I hadn't applied, I didn't have prospects. I didn't anything. I just knew it was time to be done there. It was just time to go and, you know, figure it out after that. And it was really crazy because my husband and I, you know, throughout our marriage and having kids, we, we had been kind of 50/50 in income towards the house. And, and I carried the health benefits with the, with my job. So it was like this ludicrous leap of faith that we both took in, you know , placing bets that everything was gonna work out. And I thought for several months about what I wanted to do, I came up with all sorts of ideas from pet sitting company to opening a tea shop to any number of things. And I came back to, I really actually do love leadership development, executive coaching, change management, strategy programs . Like it's , it's just what I really, really love. And I needed to do it in a way that I had more flexibility , uh , and more creativity for myself at this time of life. So I , I started my own practice.
Troy Blaser: 14:09
That's awesome that no , it really is. It's kind of inspiring to me. And I say that because my wife is kind of in the middle of a similar kind of transition. She, she has been an elementary school teacher for a number of years now and, and well , and she loves teaching the kids and loves the kids. Sometimes there's so much that goes around teaching. That's not the actual teaching part that that is a challenge to deal with. And so she's in the middle of a similar transition of leaving a steady job. You know, it's not a great paycheck when you're a teacher, but, but it's steady , steady and diving into her own coaching business and that whole leap of faith that you were talking about. So it's inspiring to me to hear that you did it and, you know, things are working out and it's like, okay, I will keep going. We'll keep supporting Sally as she does a similar kind of thing.
Renee Pollins: 15:12
Play some bets down.
Troy Blaser: 15:14
Yeah. And it's exciting. So she's, she's very much someone who is, you know, looking ahead, what's the next thing, what's the next change that's coming. And I'm the one that says I'm happy at the company I've been with for 20 years. I'm going to keep doing that for a while . So it's a balance.
Renee Pollins: 15:34
For sure. Yeah. With my husband and I, I'm the one who's like, I'm going to stay right where I am and he's the one we're both entrepreneurs. So he's the one who has, you know, taken more latitude and more risks, you know, over the years.
Troy Blaser: 15:47
And you were there providing the health benefits the whole time.
Renee Pollins: 15:51
Secure one. So it was really, yeah. It was like an upside down.
Troy Blaser: 15:56
Well, so now you're, you're sort of back into that field talent development, leadership. What are some of the challenges, challenges that you see in your field in talent development, in leadership and, and, you know, the podcast is Simply Feedback. Are there ways that you use feedback to help some of those people with, with the challenges that you see?
Renee Pollins: 16:18
Oh, for sure. I mean feedback when it, when it's done well, is necessary for talent development for people to grow like the, you know, cause you can only know so much with your internal compass. It , you need some kind of input from the outside. Like this is, this is really how you're coming across and this is really what's happening and here's where you can go. So I think I found like time and time, it's just like a consistent thing that I find is that people don't really give clear enough and direct enough feedback or the expectations aren't clearly set and agreed upon. And the feedback doesn't happen often enough. So like I was working with somebody a couple years ago and the feedback was talking with the boss and this was, I was working as an executive coach. And the feedback for my client was that he needed better time management skills, which I that's like a phrase that that can mean so many different things to so many different people. And the reason the boss said you need better time management skills is because the person I was coaching wasn't showing up for meetings that they supposed to. Was multitasking in the meetings that they were in, was stepping in and out of meetings all the time. Like it was just, it created this kind of chaos around them and was pissing people off because they thought they were , you know, you just like, you think you have a meeting and then the person repeatedly doesn't show up and you get really mad. So like his direct reports, his peers in particular, not as much senior management, because that's always like, I'll show up for those. But everybody else was just really, really mad. And it was obviously affecting productivity and performance and the upward trajectory of this person. You know if you don't work well with your peers and your direct reports, you're not going to get promoted because nobody's going to want to work with you or for you. And people know that. So, so really what, what needed to be said was, you know, kind of like, I want you to work on your time management specifically, you have to show up for the meetings you say you're going to, so there are going to be some meetings you have to say no to. And if you agree to a meeting, you are there, you are on time and you are focused and participating the entire time you are there. You need to learn how to do that. And that's like, I mean, that's super clear. It's not like I need to juggle things better. It's like, no, you need to show up on time, stay the time and stay focused and stop saying, you're going to be at things that you're not going to be at. So that's the biggest thing I've found is that people give feedback that isn't clear and it's not clear and actionable enough. And then it leaves a mystery and then, you know.
Troy Blaser: 19:37
Kind of fades from memory over time. It's not on the radar anymore. And until the next round and somebody says something similar.
Renee Pollins: 19:46
Right. A year later, you need to work on time management. I worked on time management. Well, yeah.
Troy Blaser: 19:52
That's a good point. Renee, can you tell us maybe about some of the interesting projects you talked earlier about losing some of the passion, you know, when you were at your previous company. What things are you working on right now that you are passionate about that you could share with us?
Renee Pollins: 21:17
I'm an executive coach for several people, and I love that. And that's, you know, we work in six or 12 month increments and I love kind of the dynamic nature of it. I set it up so that we have set times that we talk each month so that we can take deep dives in what's happening, but also like really on-call texting, back and forth, emailing back and forth, you know , occasionally get a text at eight o'clock at night, Hey, you know, SOS, can you chat for 15 minutes? And I, I just love it. I love working with people this way and supporting their growth, you know, and , and having them thrive and be really excited about how they're leading and confident in that way.
Troy Blaser: 22:01
It must be interesting and exciting to see them make changes as they, you know, talk about plans, action plans. Here's how I want to improve. Here's the , the changes that I'm going to make. And then to see that, be able to see that happen.
Renee Pollins: 22:15
It really, it really is. And then we also, I also work a lot with people in mindsets. So identifying a mindset that is, is helping them thrive and being able to leverage that more or identifying a mindset, that's been like a blind spot and seeing how that's hindering performance and effectiveness and being able to then really effectively navigate around it is freeing for people. So, so I'm, I'm very passionate about people's growth and expression and confidence and impact, and kind of along those lines, I really love working with companies, executive teams and developing their strategy because that's just , uh , when, when we're working collaboratively, I'm not an industry expert, I'm not a market place expert, you know, I'm not doing reports like that, but it's, I'm trusting that people know their market and they know their industry. And then from where you are now, like where do you want to be? And what does that look like? And what does it sound like? And what's the vision. And then how are you going to get there? And, and having it be a really inspiring experience, but also super practical that , that they can go and they can, they can take action on it. And it's, it's usable, you know, a lot of times the strategy gets developed and then it's kind of like in a binder and it gets put away somewhere, but something that people, it, it, they really love it. It's something that they've created and they're , they're able to take action on it. So, so I love that. And then the only other thing I'll say that I'm passionate about is I have a women's leadership online and virtual program. And that's just like a , it's a , I mean, I've got nine modules of all different aspects of leadership that, you know, you can take and examine and apply and, you know, and then we get together and we talk as a group about where people are winning and, and kind of real time things that women are dealing with in a, in a supportive and authentic environment, which I think is not always found, like it might be found with some friends, but to have, you know, some new peers outside of your company to bounce ideas off and to be like, I'm really overwhelmed and I'm having a hell of a day, like, and just to be straight up about it is I think nurturing.
Troy Blaser: 24:43
And I think too, useful , it's always helpful to get a sense of, well, I know how it's working for me at my company, my job, but to hear somebody else's perspective at a different company, and maybe it's better, maybe it's worse, but it , it can help normalize things a little bit.
Renee Pollins: 25:01
It's one of those things that they tell me over and over again is like, I thought I was the only person who felt this way. And now it's like everywhere that we're all feeling this way. And I thought the dynamic I was dealing with was really unique, but I'm finding how normal it is and how other people have dealt with it. Why I enjoy it. And I'm so passionate about it is because I get to work with people in creating a really great future that may not be predictable right now. But then they create something that is exciting and actionable. And I work with people I enjoy working with like, that's super important to me that they're there. Now I can get, I can get along with a ton of people, but some people are more difficult for me than others. And there have been times when it's like, I don't think this is going to work. You know, there's someone else, there's a better coach for you out there. And I've got suggestions and all that, but, but I think the enjoyment factor comes through loud and clear working with people.
Troy Blaser: 26:07
That makes a lot of sense. So, so keeping our audience in mind, maybe keeping my wife in mind, do you have, do you have some specific advice or, or a formula for taking risks that you could share with our listeners who maybe they're also looking to make a career shift that was similar to yours?
Renee Pollins: 26:26
So when I was thinking about doing that, I was reading, I read all these books and I wanted to do it in three months and everything I read said six months was super aggressive and it's more like 18 months. And I, like, I was like, that's BS, I'm going to make this happen. And it was like 18 months plus for me. So I think that's the first thing is to like, just give yourself plenty of runway and patience and, and know that it really, it can take that long and to find kind of like a new home for yourself, but that fits right for, for where you are in life right now. The other thing I always recommend is there's this book that I read, that I just really helped to clarify what I was going to do, which is called Designing Your Life. It was a bestseller a few years ago. It's written by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. And it's this methodical, practical approach to thinking through what career is best for you. Like at this time in life versus like 24 years old.
Troy Blaser: 27:33
When you're seven and deciding and then I think it's like, trust yourself, get very informed on the facts. Like my husband and I examined to incredible detail, our finances to be able to say, okay, we've got like this much runway before I have to start making money again. So like get informed and know the reality of what you're dealing with. And then at some point you just have to leap, which is like the most uncomfortable thing in the world. But at some point that's really, it's gonna boil down to, okay, are you, are you going to take the leap? Well, and we're talking about that with my, my wife and I, because the school year is coming to a close, the contract ends mid summer, and that's when the leap comes, you know? And so it sounds like be patient, give yourself space and time to find that new, new place and keep the faith maybe longer than you originally expect you might need to, or, or think you can, you know, it'll probably take you longer than you think it will.
Renee Pollins: 28:43
Yeah. I love it.
Troy Blaser: 28:45
But this is, this is personally helpful for me, independent of , of other listeners of ours. If people, if people want to know more, if they want to continue the conversation with you is that something that you're open to,
Renee Pollins: 28:59
I would love to.
Troy Blaser: 29:01
How should they get in touch or reach out to continue the conversation with you?
Renee Pollins: 29:06
So let's see, easy peasy can go to my website which is ReneePollins .com and contact me through there. I'm on Instagram is Renee Pollins Coaching. So can message me there and I'm on LinkedIn. So, I mean really? Yeah. It's and it's all, it's all my name Renee Pollins. So long as you know the name, you can find me and message me .
Troy Blaser: 29:29
Fantastic. Again, thank you so much for your time today. I really enjoyed getting to know you a little bit and enjoyed the conversation and the topics that we've covered. We appreciate you joining us.
Renee Pollins: 29:42
Thank you so much. It was really enjoyable for me too. Thank you.