Dr. Karen Semien-McBride: “Coaching is a necessity”

Coaching is a necessity. My tagline quote is, “Life is not a sport that you want to participate in without a coach.” And that is a fact because we all want to win! The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15-billion-dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. […]

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Coaching is a necessity. My tagline quote is, “Life is not a sport that you want to participate in without a coach.” And that is a fact because we all want to win!


The coaching industry is now tremendous. It is a 15-billion-dollar industry. Many professionals have left their office jobs to become highly successful coaches. At the same time, not everyone who starts a coaching business sees success. What does someone starting a career as a life coach, wellness coach, or business coach need to know to turn it into a very successful and rewarding career?

In this interview series, called “Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career as a Life or Business Coach” we are interviewing experienced and successful life coaches, wellness coaches, fitness coaches, business and executive coaches and other forms of coaches who share the strategies you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach.

In this particular interview, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Karen Semien-McBride.

Dr. Karen Semien-McBride has over 25 years of experience in the field of organizational leadership, business development, change management, strategic planning, public speaking, mentorship, marketing, social psychology, accounting, human resources, human equity, finance, executive coaching, compliance, entrepreneurship, consulting, business administration and higher education. 10 years of her career were spent as a C-level executive.

Dr. McBride is one of the most sought-after executive trainers and business strategist for non-profit organizations and small businesses. In 2004, she founded the non-profit organization AORW (Association of Rejuvenating Women) now the CEO Institute, which supports coaching and mentoring individuals who want to advance their professional careers, businesses, and work-life balance.

Dr. McBride holds two Doctoral degrees, a Master’s and a Bachelor in the areas of Business Administration, Social Psychology, and Organizational Leadership.

Dr. McBride puts theory to practice by overlapping psychology theory and business acumen as a way of conceptualizing how individuals execute decision making, strategies, human interaction, operational styles, emotional intelligence, and mindset shifts.

Her upcoming book explores the psychological theories and their applications of the Operational Assessment, making it the new ‘Leadership Language’ of the 22nd Century. “It gives you a deeper insight on how to utilize the theories to benefit how you engage others, communicate, make decisions, and who to fully show up as in your professional and personal life.”


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and what brought you to this particular career path?

When I started my education journey, I was all about business, accounting in particular. I was the kid at 16 doing my family members’ taxes. My goal was to become a CPA. But I soon realized that me crunching numbers would result in boredom because I also had extraordinarily strong leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit. I had a passion to teach and be instrumental in others learning and obtaining their goals.

I was always an entrepreneur and a leader. As I stated before, I believed in teaching others and that brought me to a place where my goal was always to lead people. Lead people in a way that would produce results, that would create opportunities, and that would shift the norm of what people would consider leadership to be.

I had great professional mentors that I sought out. I looked for people I wanted to emulate and learn from to mentor me. I made that my practice in every position I held. Leadership and mentorship are so important to me because there are individuals who do not know that they can seek out mentors and don’t have to wait on someone to come to them. Hence, the work I do today, executive coaching is a way to enhance emotional intelligence, leadership, and my theory of the new leadership language.

You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

First, I realized that I was what we call in the New Leadership Language, a ’Planner’. I believe a plan is necessary whether it is a business plan, a strategic plan, a growth trajectory plan, or an exit plan. I believe preparing for growth is necessary.

Secondly, I realize I was what we call in the New Leadership Language, a ‘Thinker’. I see things logically and conceptually. I’m able to solve a problem quickly. I’m able to see how others can benefit and grow from thinking strategically. I’m able to see a weakness and turn it into a strength. I believe my success is helping others find theirs.

Thirdly, is I now understand that I have attributes of a ‘Doer’, another terminology that is used in the New Leadership Language. Although being a ‘Doer’ is not a strong attribute of mine, I do know I utilized it in building relationships, finding resources for people that I support, and being open to connecting with individuals that may not necessarily fit in my sector. Understanding that growth is not just in one place.

An example would be that once I understood that these attributes were a core part of me and how I operated, I embraced them. I embraced the weaker parts of it, as well as the strengths and through that process, I became more aware of how I could become successful using this information. Then, I applied it to my career which brings me to why the CEO Institute model is successful.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

It’s funny that you mention habits. I share with my clients that there are good habits and there are bad habits. There’s research that shows that it’s easier to create a bad habit or what we would deem a bad habit than it is to create a good habit. There’s research that shows that we can create a bad habit in roughly two weeks….10 days. But it takes 30–45 days to create a good habit. Why is that? The research shows that a good habit usually has leniency, fewer regulations, no deadlines, and more fun. Good habits take dedication, motivation, perseverance, resilience, effort, and commitment.

So, I had to make myself aware of the formula of a good habit. I applied the formula, and luckily being as I mentioned earlier a ‘Planner’, supported a formulation of structure in a plan that supported good habits. But for those who do not have that Leadership Language of a ‘Planner’, you must identify how the good habit formula works for you.

This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

This is reminiscent of when I was writing and conducting my research for my first doctoral degree dissertation. Wait, don’t go, is she serious everybody doesn’t write a dissertation…LOL, OK hear me out. Writing a dissertation was probably one of the hardest things that I had to do because I had to formulate good habits to write, even when I did not want to. So, I used the theory of motivation\self-motivation by Dr. Geller.

The theory is quite simplistic. It states that if we can answer ‘yes’ to 3 questions, we have, motivation/self-motivation.

Questions applied to anything that you committed or trying to be committed to doing.

The first question is, can you, do it? If you can answer yes, I can do whatever this is. So, you’re one step closer to that good habit

The second question is, Will it work? Meaning, whatever this is, can I start it and complete it? Am I capable and do I have what it takes to complete it? If you answered yes to that question, you are now another step closer to those good habits.

The last question is… Is it worth it? To me, this question is the most important. There are many times that we get stuck due to us not asking ourselves this question of… Is this worth it? Will this create or support my growth and achieve my goals?

The premise is that if you’re able to answer yes to all three of these questions, you have the motivation to create good habits.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The formula to create good habits is motivation or self-motivation as I mentioned earlier. Bad habits take awareness. Being aware that the bad habits will not serve us or the bad habits will not make us effective. Then we must choose, our growth, our goals, our effectiveness.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I recently conducted leadership training with an exceptionally large well-known corporation. I shared this quote, “As we know life is not always black and white, the majority of the answers are in the gray area. We have to learn how to be OK in the gray!” The context of this quote was based on, at the highest level of leadership we focus a lot on the right and the wrong, and a true leader has to say right to who, wrong to who? Because right and wrong can be subjective, our focus must be on effective decision making, effective communication, and understanding that we make decisions based on the information that we have at the time. So today the answer could be right, but tomorrow the answer could be wrong. So, our focus must be on effectiveness.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I have several projects that are happening simultaneously. I will share three that I am extremely excited about.

First, I am teaching a Business Health 101 course to legacy business owners in the Los Angeles area. This project is so near and dear to my heart because I grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles. I am a proud product of the inner city. This is an opportunity for me to bring my expertise back to the inner city to support economic growth.

Secondly, I was offered the opportunity to publish a section in Business Matters magazine for 12 issues, called “Executive Coaching Corner with Dr. Karen.” This is so amazing because I can reach an audience not just in the US, but in the UK and Australia. I get to coach individuals monthly with tips and resources that support professional growth and business sustainability.

Lastly, with my longtime colleague, we created the Operational Style Assessment. I referred to it early as the New Leadership Language. It embarks on a new leadership language that will help leaders communicate effectively and learn about their true selves. When I speak of leaders, I speak of everyone who leads in their professional sector, in their personal lives, and in social circles. The language is universal.

The assessment is available on my website at: https://www.mkcircle.com/assessment/

It is life changing.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Many coaches are successful, but some are not very successful. From your experience or perspective, what are the main factors that distinguish successful coaches from unsuccessful ones? What are your “Five Things You Need to Create a Highly Successful Career as a Life or Business Coach”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

Let’s look at the oldest form of coaching, which would be in the area of sports. A basketball team looks to their coach for guidance, tools, resources, and for the winning plays. There’s not been a team in sports that has not won a championship without a coach. Your business, your professional career, and your life should resemble a sports team. Coaching is a necessity. My tagline quote is, “Life is not a sport that you want to participate in without a coach.” And that is a fact because we all want to win!

The five things you need to create a successful career as a life or business coach are, first, coaches must know their clients. I created the Operational Style Assessment because it was important for my clients, of course, to know themselves. But it was even more important for me to understand my clients.

Secondly, as a coach, you should be a resource. You should be able to offer your clients resources that they do not have. The support they do not know how to get, tools that are not readily available to them at a moment’s notice.

Thirdly, it is extremely important to be clear of your offerings. Your clients should know your theories, your tools, your education, and your results. Who and what people have gained from being your client or being a part of your coaching program?

Forth, every coach no matter if you are a life coach, a financial coach, business coach, executive coach, or any other type of coach, must have emotional intelligence. You must be practicing and operating with Emotional Intelligence at the forefront of your coaching premises.

Lastly, know your craft. People are paying for your services, paying for you as an expert to help them grow in whatever capacity you’re coaching. People ask me often, should I be a certified coach? I say to them if you feel you need the certification to support your skillset as a coach then you should seek out that certification. What is more important is that you are educated in your craft. You must have credentials that provide your clients a secure understanding that you have research in your field, you have been educated in your practice, and you are considered an expert in your field.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen coaches make when they start their business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

What I deem the largest misstep for new coaches is they don’t know their clients and/or they are not experts in their field. I am not saying that life lived is not a skill that can surely be shared with others to support their growth. But what I am saying is new coaches do not take the time to complete research in their coaching field. It is extremely important to conduct research on what is needed in the area of your expertise. New coaches should ask themselves these questions, what is my target market? What are the needs of my clients? What do I want to teach or offer them? What are my like competitors doing? What are my competitors doing that works? New coaches must understand that they’re starting a business. Essentially, this advice is for therapists, counselors, and MFT’s alike. I have worked in higher education in the psychology field for over 10 years. I understand that colleges do not train practitioners on how to run businesses. Colleges and certification entities offer their students the how to be practitioners, not the how to be business owners.

Based on your experience and success, what are a few of the most important things a coach should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience? Please share a story or an example for each.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having an assessment tool that allows a coach some insight into their clients. Having the ability to gather information in a short period will allow a coach to establish a relationship of trust and understanding with their client.

I’m not sure I am on board with the ‘Wow!’ factor. Coaching is about a relationship. It’s not about how can I ‘Wow’ you with the information I have. It’s about how can I support you with the information that I have. So, I guess, if you are looking for the ‘Wow’ factor, it would be that you must use emotional intelligence and the competency of Empathy.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business, and particularly in coaching. What are the best ways for a coach to find customers? Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

I receive 10 to 15 invites/messages in my LinkedIn Mailbox daily from lead generation individuals and companies promising me high ticket clients and massive lead generation. I have not used one of these individuals or companies. I am not saying they cannot be a help to a coach building a business. But I am saying, I have not used one. The reason I have not used one is because of how they market to me. I get the same message from 80%-90% of them. Not one of them has approached me with Emotional Intelligence. I received a candid message. They do not appeal to my needs as a client. I mention this to share with coaches that they must be clear about how to approach their audience. Here are a few strategies to build effective leads:

  1. Build a referral base. Start with people you already know and who know your skills as a coach. Have a free 1-hour or 30-minute group session with colleagues and acquaintances on a topic that you know well. From that session, ask for referrals.
  2. Build your brand and niche via your social media platforms and be consistent with that brand. Not redundant…consistent. Offer free sessions to build clientele. A very prominent platform right now is Clubhouse. Try it out.
  3. Create a website that supports your brand and spell out your coaching offerings. Be conscious of being too wordy on your website. Be concise and clear! You’re welcome to check the Resource Affiliate section on our website for website creation recommendations.
  4. Seek out a comprehensive coaching platform. My favorite is simplycoach.com
  5. Lastly, you can always try out some of the lead generation individuals and companies on LinkedIn. I have none I can recommend.

Coaches are similar to startup founders who often work extremely long hours and it’s easy to end up burning the candle at both ends. What would you recommend to your fellow coaches about how to best take care of their physical and mental wellness when starting their business?

As an expert executive coach and business strategist, I teach work-life balance. So, I practice what I teach. Now, you are correct that when you are starting a new coaching business or any new business, you will have to put in plenty of hours to build your business. But it is just as important to build in time for yourself. It is necessary to have mindfulness time, journaling time, reading time, and personal time. My executive assistant will tell you that I calendar in days for my time. The goal for a coach or business owner is to scale your business. I recommend creating a scaling plan which includes growth projections that would allow you to hire additional coaches or expand your business based on the business model.

Here’s a suggestion. Schedule half-day Fridays or half-day Mondays for your mental time. As I mentioned earlier, here is a way to create a good habit that will support you and the growth of your business.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I carried the influence to have everyone take the Operational Style Assessment (what I deem as the New Leadership Language) and apply it to their life, it would change how we all operate. Simply because it would identify our biases. It would identify our strengths, identify our growth opportunities, and leave us with a sense of wanting to shift for the betterment of us and the world. I believe strongly in this research; it could change the world.

We are blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I appreciate this question. I pondered, the who. There are many lunches I would like to have with influencers known and unknown. But I would have to say, Oprah Winfrey. I based my answer on how our missions intersect. Our focus is on sharing information that can support the greater good. We want to see sustainable growth in individuals, access to information that supports advancement, authenticity, and intentional shifting to a better you. We, as partners, can effect sustainable change in humanity simply by revealing an individual’s Operational Style, how they show up, and shift for individual growth.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Our website is www.mkcircle.com

IG: @drkaren.execoach

Twitter: @drkaren.execoach

FB: @CEO-Institute-Executuve-Business-Coaching

YouTube: Dr. Karen Semien-McBride

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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