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Meet Stefan Kalt of Leading Minds Executive Coaching

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stefan Kalt.

Stefan, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Before I became an executive coach, I taught philosophy and “Great Books” courses in the humanities and social sciences. As a student, I was drawn to reading broadly across all these subjects, discovering interconnections between the different parts of human life. As a teacher, I enjoyed challenging others to think through the big questions: Do humans have a purpose? What is the source of right and wrong? What is the relationship between the individual and society?

In late 2012, I herniated a disk in my lower back. Although I underwent surgery, my condition only worsened and by 2013 I could no longer teach. I was forced to stop working and focus entirely on recovery. As frustrating as this period was, it gave me an opportunity to step back and reflect on my career direction. I realized that, while intellectually stimulating, teaching was very unsatisfying for me in a crucial way: it didn’t enable me to make a significant difference in my students’ lives. My favorite part of teaching was advising and mentoring individual students because it allowed me to have a more direct impact.

After almost a year and a half of intense physical therapy, I was back on my feet. What to do? I knew I didn’t want to go back to teaching. I considered becoming a student adviser, but it didn’t speak to the philosopher in me. An old friend suggested that with my background in philosophy and advising, plus my desire to help people in measurable ways, I might make a good executive coach. I explored this possibility and met Dr. Brendel, founding owner of Leading Minds Executive Coaching. The timing was perfect because he was looking for a coach to add to his team. The pieces fell in to place. After training at the Center for Executive Coaching, I became an Associate with Leading Minds Executive Coaching in 2015.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
One of my biggest challenges was forging an entrepreneurial mindset. When I was teaching at university, I wasn’t expected to promote my courses – this was largely the Department’s job. It was also easy to keep students after they enrolled. As an executive coach, however, I’m responsible for attracting and retaining clients. Consequently, I’ve had to learn how to market myself and how to reach out to prospective clients. I also know that unlike my students, I can’t take my current clients for granted. If clients don’t think that coaching is benefiting them, they leave. This puts the onus on me to stay abreast of best practices in the field and to constantly refine my coaching techniques.

Leading Minds Executive Coaching – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Leading Mind Executive Coaching (LMEC) offers executive coaching, career coaching, and mindfulness coaching. To put it simply, we help clients use their strengths to find solutions to their problems. Using powerful, open-ended questions, we help clients explore their values, situational knowledge, and professional expertise to set goals and develop successful strategies for reaching them. Anyone – from CEOs of large companies to individuals seeking greater personal self-awareness – can benefit from coaching, but it is essential that they take an active role searching for solutions.

Our philosophical approach sets LMEC apart from other coaching firms. Many firms focus narrowly on performance enhancement, while ignoring their clients’ belief systems and big-picture views of the world. We help clients explore these areas with the help of insights from academic philosophy. This approach ensures that when the coach and client eventually agree upon an action-plan, the plan is grounded in a theoretical framework free from shaky assumptions. To help clients engage with the coaching process and effectively implement whatever solutions they discover, we revisit certain key questions throughout the engagement – questions associated with important philosophers in the Western tradition.

For easy recall, we have dubbed this framework the SANE model:

1.Socrates: What is the most challenging question someone could ask me about my current approach?
2. Aristotle: What character virtues are most important to me and how will I express them?
3. Nietzsche: How will I manage my self-interest and act in accordance with my chosen values and highest good?
4. Sartre: How will I take full responsibility for my choices and the outcomes to which they lead?

By regularly returning to these questions, we help our clients realize their vision of success and stay accountable to themselves for reaching their specific goals.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success as achieving one’s most important goals. Naturally, these goals differ from person to person, which means that success is partly subjective – partly, because certain goals may be unworthy in themselves, e.g. becoming an expert swindler. Setting appropriate goals is important. And in addition, constantly failing to reach one’s goals – whatever they are – is a mark of unfulfillment and, thus, a lack of success in life.

Enabling people to be successful is central to my job as a coach. I do this by helping them set meaningful and realistic goals, and discover the best ways to reach these goals.

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