Terry Warren of Warren Executive Coach: “What opportunity I would have missed if I had not taken the risk of the new chapter”

What opportunity I would have missed if I had not taken the risk of the new chapter. Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was […]

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What opportunity I would have missed if I had not taken the risk of the new chapter.

Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.

How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?

In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Warren.

Terry Warren is an International Coaching Federation Associate Certified Coach with more than forty years of leadership experience in the financial services and healthcare industries. He has coached clients across a variety of industries, from sole proprietors to global company CEOs. Terry can be reached through his website, https://warrenexecutivecoach.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a small town in Tennessee where the majority of people worked hard to make ends meet. I was blessed to be part of a loving family with strong values, but we struggled financially. My parents went to school through the fifth grade, and my father passed away when I was fourteen.

Dad had many different jobs, but most of my memories are around his work as a carpenter. I remember his telling me, “Son, I want you to be a pencil pusher and not do all of this hard work that I have to do as a carpenter.” I think in some ways his advice planted the seed in my mind to find another way to make a living. Back then I thought he was telling me he didn’t want me to work as hard as he did, but I now think he was really saying he knew I was a terrible carpenter and I would never make a living that way.

After my father’s death, I worked in a grocery store in town to help with living expenses for my mother and me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Let me first say that I think my best life lessons were learned from my observations of how some people lived out their lives verus a famous quote. I read their lives rather than what they said. Some simple examples were my parents and how they worked; a college professor who connected with people regardless of their education or economic status; and a boss who helped me always look at different perspectives on a problem. My parents never seemed to rest, so hard work was just ingrained in me from the start. I observed my college professor take time to talk to everyone. The language he used with the groundskeeper was totally relatable, and yet when in the presence of other academics he could easily relate to them as well. I admired this and decided I wanted to develop my own ability to do the same. My boss helped me step back and look at many things differently, but if I had to pick one thing, he taught me to focus on getting the right end result and not on just my contribution to the end result. He helped me see leadership did not reward individual effort, but rewarded the results one gets over time through the team.

There are two different quotes I would say are especially relevant. The first is by Stephen Covey: I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. I might even modify Covey’s quote as follows, “I am a product of how I choose to think about my circumstances. I can think of many times I would have benefited from looking at my circumstance from that perspective.

One quote from the bible also had special significance for me after I really understood it. Jerimiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This says to me I was created for a purpose and having a purpose gives meaning to the good days and the bad days. It transcends titles, income, etc.

You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

First and foremost, I attribute any “success” I have had to God because he gave me any ability I attempt to name here. I believe some of the specific gifts I was given were an ability to quickly connect with others, the desire to work hard, an ability to be able to “connect the dots” when I do not have full information and an ability to solve problems. He threw in some humor and artistic ability for good measure.

As I looked back over a 40+ year career, I realized almost every job I had required me to quickly engage with people and make them feel comfortable talking to me. In my first couple of jobs, I often needed to interview physicians to get their feedback on a variety of hospital operations topics. Think about it. A “wet behind the ears” kid with an MBA needing to engage doctors who had spent far more years earning their degrees. A part of my last job before becoming an executive coach was to serve in a leadership role for hundreds of people who actually did not report to me. They needed to know I was approachable, but still provide vision and direction.

The desire to work hard is pretty self-explanatory, but in part it meant I was often asked to take on things no one else seemed to want to do or know how to do. In one sense, connecting the dots and problem solving are complementary qualities. Coaching is just one example of where connecting the dots is required. Coaches need to be able to listen intently, hear what is said, what is not said and read body language to help the client find a breakthrough.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?

I think my second chapter maybe my third or fourth chapter, but regardless, in the period before my total transition to being a self employed Executive Coach and visual artist, my career was in a variety of corporate environments, primarily in global companies.

And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?

I knew I was not the “retiring type” so I would need to figure out what I would be doing post retirement from corporate America. I began the journey to what would be next four years before my retirement date. My process was pretty straightforward, I spent the better part of a year talking to anyone and everyone just to explore what might be possibilities for someone who wanted to have their own business and impact the lives of others in a positive way. Some of these people knew me and would volunteer to share what they saw as my greatest gifts. Near the end of all of this, I saw an executive coach in action and the light bulb went off that I had just found what I wanted to do with a portion of my next life. I already had a passion for painting, so it was easy just to say I wanted to spend more time doing that. Finally, after deciding what I wanted to do, then I needed to understand what it would take to become a professional coach. That led to education and training to be ready for the switch. The icing on the cake was holding a “transition party” rather than a retirement party to officially announce the new chapter.

Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?

I told my CEO the exact date of my retirement four years in advance.

What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?

The discovery process I described under “reinventing myself” and looking back over 40 years to find the real skill sets that underpinned all of my various jobs.

How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.

Simply put, this chapter has been the best chapter so far. My clients’ successes are the reasons. I knew I had made the right decision very early in my new chapter. I was hired by a CEO to coach a bright young leader in his company. He had hoped the young man would one day be his replacement, but the young leader needed to make some big shifts in his leadership style. He needed to stop being the smartest person in the room and solving everyone’s problems rather than teaching them to solve their own problems. It’s the old “teach them to fish” story. The young leader was intentional and committed to making the shifts. He dramatically increased the trajectory of his career and in less than a year, he had developed a new leadership style and was applying it to everyone’s delight, but especially the CEO. I am happy to report in a very short time the young leader did in fact take on the role of CEO. That was hugely rewarding for me to watch.

Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am blessed that there were many people who helped me get where I am. It is hard to pick one for fear of neglecting another, but someone who was very important in my early development was Dr. Sid Gilbreath who was Chairman of the Department of Industrial Engineering at my undergraduate school. I mentioned his influence on my desire to be able to connect to people of all types above, but that was not his only significant contribution. He really took the time to understand each student. He encouraged me to consider working in hospitals as an engineer and pushed me to go on to graduate school which is something of which I would never have dreamed. He went even further to help me get accepted to graduate school at Georgia Tech and secure a work/study fellowship to pay for it. Dr. Gilbreath was one of the first people who saw something in me I did not see. I have been sure to tell him many times of my gratitude.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?

The most amazing thing about the new direction is that I get to work with great clients each of whom is an interesting story. Early on in my coaching, I was asked to work with someone who was fabulous with clients but less effective with positive working relationships inside the company. In essence, he was forced to work with me. Over the years, I have found most of those will not be successful, but this one was different. He was different because he listened to feedback from others and made an intentional choice to make big shifts in his style. I had so much fun working with him because he wanted to change. That is the secret sauce to being successful. Over time he made changes and ultimately became the CEO of his market. When you see what people can do when they are intentional, it is so much fun.

Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?

The majority of people who ever worked with me would never say I struggled with believing in myself, but those who knew me well, and especially my wife, knew it was an internal struggle throughout my whole corporate career. Even after 40 years of experience, I questioned my competence to coach top level global leaders when I started my current chapter. Throughout my career, my wife was always encouraging me to not “sell myself short,” but I usually did anyway. When I started coaching, I hired Stephen McGhee to be my coach. He did two things that totally shifted my perception of myself. He told me to go see the movie “Sully” and tell him where I could relate to Sully. The short version is that Sully had to call on 40 years of experience when faced with a situation he had never faced before and trust the outcome. It was what I needed to do. He also helped me shift my mind from thinking of coaching as something I needed to do well versus just serving my clients where they are at the moment. I was very confident in my ability to do that. My wife said “I tell you something for 30 years and you have a call with Stephen and suddenly you get it. Why is that?” He just got me to look from a different perspective and it opened my eyes.

In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?

I spent most of my life building a network of contacts and especially people I enjoyed being around. My wife is my number one supporter of the new chapter, but I was and continue to be supported by so many friends and clients.

Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?

Becoming an executive coach was really the portion of my new chapter that took me out of my comfort zone because I had been painting for many years. The new chapter for painting was just having more time to devote to it. The biggest challenge for me was getting comfortable coaching C-suite level executives. There was a lot of self-doubt early in my coaching about my ability as a coach, despite the fact that I had reported to and worked side by side with executives at the highest levels of global companies. My coach helped me stop focusing on self-evaluating my coaching skills to shift my focus to serving top executives in whatever place they were in at the time of each call. Some days my best service was to simply listen and on others it was giving direct feedback and others something else entirely.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. What opportunity I would have missed if I had not taken the risk of the new chapter.

2. The depth of satisfaction you feel when clients achieve even more than they thought they could.

3. Make a list of what “must be present” and “must not be present” for the next chapter to be fulfilling for you.

4. Be specific in how you describe success in the next chapter (e.g., what types of things you will have done, an income level, where you would live, your family, etc.).

5. Accept that if the chapter did not go exactly as you planned, the experience will not have been wasted. No experience is wasted.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I believe God created each of us uniquely. It would be fantastic if people regardless of roles, economic status, etc., understood they are important and they have a contribution to make because they are unique.

We are very 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂

Condoleezza Rice. While I have never met her, she was someone I had wanted to interview for my book but could never find the right person who was connected to her. I have admired her accomplishments. I believe there were some important choices she made and would so enjoy hearing even just one of those stories.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

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