Last month, we welcomed Austin Bauer to the Mylance team as Director of Coaching. Since 2014, Austin has served as executive coach, leadership development trainer, and strategic advisor for more than 1,500 leaders at 50+ companies including CBS and YouTube. We sat down with Austin to learn more about his background and tips for freelance consulting success.
Q: Thanks for joining us, Austin. You have extensive experience as a leadership coach. Tell us more about your background.
A: I studied journalism and documentary film in college, and began my career as a commercial producer for brands like Lexus, Target, and Volkswagen. I found my way into leadership coaching, training, and organizational development by combining two areas of interest and experience. First, like non-fiction storytelling, coaching and training require the ability to draw out the personal stories of others by asking good questions, showing curiosity, and re-framing issues to inspire action. Second, I always need to make a business case for my work, so my background in marketing, along with a general entrepreneurial and business sense means I naturally serve as the conduit between the soft stuff (people) and the hard issues (money, practicality).
In the ad agency world, I worked with some incredibly bright and creative people. But I found a lot of burnout and a lack of professional development support, so people would often leave or 'age out' of the industry. I wanted to see my colleagues (and myself) stay inspired, motivated, and continue to add value to their organization so they could make a good living and lead a fulfilling life with a satisfying career. So, I created a role within one agency as their first leadership coach and worked with everyone from recent grads to the executives.
In 2015, I launched my consulting business and since then have done a range of leadership training, individual and group coaching, and executive offsite design and facilitation. My overarching aim is to make work better by supporting people and their organizations in becoming the best versions of themselves. This is often done through gaining more clarity, direction, and action around complex issues – particularly ones that involve people.
Q: What led you to Mylance?
A: A major goal I set in late 2019 was to "do nothing alone." I'd been working mostly solo since 2016, forming teams for some projects and being brought onto other's projects. I found the work that was most enjoyable, most impactful, and generated the most revenue were the ones I did in collaboration with other consultants or firms. I also set a goal to join a 'team of smart people doing meaningful work' where I could contribute my unique expertise, collaborate regularly, and be part of growing something bigger. When I came across Mylance, the skies parted and I felt a deep sense of connection, so I reached out to Bradley. Two months later, I'm Director of Coaching and feeling great about the team and the value we're able to deliver.
Q: As a professional leadership coach, you've worked with dozens of organizations and individuals. What is the most common challenge for freelance consultants? How do you help them overcome it?
A: Fear and imposter syndrome. Fear never goes away, it only gets managed. Anyone who is in a leadership position and doesn't feel some fear is either lying to themselves or lying to others.
Imposter syndrome is extremely common, and not just for newer consultants. It causes people to doubt their accomplishments while facing a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. It’s amazing how many smart, talented, hard-working people tell themselves, “I’m just lucky,” or “anyone can do what I’ve done.” This is rarely objectively true. We tend to downplay our own accomplishments, which holds us back.
Two things are key to combating fear and imposter syndrome. First, it helps to know that almost everyone faces these fears. That alone can be enough to let us move forward with less self-doubt. Second, it helps to see our accomplishments through others’ eyes. Simply hearing someone else read our resume aloud can help us to see ourselves in a new light. That’s why group coaching (like we do in the Bootcamp) is so effective.
I often say about coaching, “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame.” We are our own worst enemies, especially when on a new and uncertain path. That’s why having a support network of peers and coaches to remind us how strong we are – and how our fears are nearly universal – is essential. Things won’t get fixed overnight. In fact, most CEOs have the same fears and feelings of imposter syndrome. They have support networks, too. We all need regular contact with others who can remind us how far we’ve come, and how much we have to offer.
One thing is for certain: doing it alone simply does not work. We need others' perspective to help us see where we are off course, and to help us see where we are holding ourselves back. I see my coaching sessions as a "stop for gas." We burn energy each day and sometimes need a pick-me-up. We can only go so far alone.
I feel so strongly about this topic that there’s an entire chapter dedicated to it in my upcoming book, “Get Promoted: How to Become Your Best Self at Work.” It was co-written with my father, a clinical and organizational psychologist with 40+ years experience in private practice, hospitals, military, and industry. The chapter called “Imposter Syndrome” is one of our favorites due to the fact that it is so common and so painful, and the massive sense of relief that comes with learning to manage these self-limiting beliefs.
Q: COVID-19 has led to millions of layoffs, and professionals are evaluating career shifts to launch their freelance consulting business. What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out?
A: Get support! Use your current network. Grow your network. Be visible. Make a list of 20 people you have enjoyed working with over your career so far – the people who trust you and whom you trust - and let them know that you are planning to launch yourself into consulting. Be brief but convey enthusiasm, and remind them that you appreciate them and have always enjoyed working with them. Then, ask any or all of these five questions:
- What are three strengths you see me bringing to the table?
- What is one thing I should work on/fix/do less of?
- Any other advice for me?
- Is there anyone you can think of I should talk to, or who might find someone like me valuable?
- What are you working on/what challenges are you facing right now, and how might I return the favor/support?
Not everyone will respond. Give them an 'out' so they can graciously decline this request and save face. The feedback you get will be honest and enlightening. I often say "it's hard to see the picture when you're inside the frame." That's why it's helpful to tap into others' perspectives and get this type of feedback.
Q: Our next Bootcamp is beginning on January 11th, 2021. Why should new and seasoned freelance consultants consider joining us?
A: The combination of emotional and tactical support is powerful. I am quite new to the team, but having gone through it, I can honestly say this program is better than other programs I've seen that are 2-3x the cost. I really mean that. You get lots of face-to-face (virtual) interaction, which is immensely motivating and gets your questions answered. You hear from others in a similar boat, grow stronger together, and will likely find ways to collaborate in the future. And the ongoing support of the community means you have a growing network to get one-off questions answered and find new leads organically.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: I look forward to speaking with anyone who is interested in the program. It's inspiring to hear everyone's stories and I encourage folks to reach out!