Strategic Choice International and Centre of Excellence for Executive Women Leadership

By Stefani Soliman

“It’s not about work-life balance, it’s about life balance.”  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Marilyn Neufeld aims to help clients find that balance through her coaching at Strategic Choice International (SCI). A Hamilton-based certified Co-Active Coach from the Coaches Training Institute, Marilyn is a specialist in behavioural change. Using her Authentic Leadership Model©, Marilyn coaches clients to determine what they value in life and how to live a life in sync with those values. Whether coaching individuals or leadership teams in large companies and small businesses, Marilyn helps her clients successfully achieve their goals.

SCI began in 1999 leveraging Marilyn’s career successes as a leader in health care across Canada and as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in pain management, leading and coordinating change in major teaching hospitals. Her role as an Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences continues to align her strategies in progressive leadership. She started SCI to continue facilitating change by coaching leadership development with keynote speaking, business strategy, and organizational reviews to increase individual and team effectiveness and transform cultures.

A considerable part of her strength-based coaching is helping clients to thrive on change. Often the steps to reach a goal require change, with the client making several choices to make their change a success. Marilyn helps her clients become confident in these decisions as they move towards positive change in their lives. She may also help clarify goals by always going back to what is important to the client. “People are surprised to find out that the wisdom already lies within you,” explains Marilyn. “Coaching is just uncovering it.” In some cases, Marilyn finds her clients are already living a life in line with their values, and use her coaching to learn that they’ve ultimately made the right choices.

Photos provided by Marilyn Neufeld

One of the reasons clients succeed with Marilyn is due largely in part to her approach – client-centric coaching. While she has developed her own models and techniques, she never forces her methods on the client. It acts as a framework for her coaching, and as such, leads how she handles herself in a session. “Coaching for me is whatever works,” says Marilyn. As she coaches to achieve authenticity, it would not be in line with her model to claim she is client-focused but act in favour of her own agenda.

After seeing the positive changes in her clients and the value of leadership coaching, Marilyn started the Centre of Excellence for Executive Women Leadership (CEEWL) two years ago. She read that 36 per cent of leaders in the region were female, but thought, “Where are they? Let’s learn from them!” She set out to start a program, bringing together women from high profile positions in Hamilton to speak and share their wisdom and expertise. Seeing success after nine months, Marilyn has created CEEWL as a series, where emerging women leaders can come together to learn about themselves, their values, increase their confidence, and increase their competence. And these women aren’t just inspired – they take action. The goal is that these women leaders will lead change projects within their organizations after just a few months.

One of Marilyn’s goals is to encourage her clients to become facilitators of change in their own right, in their workplaces, and in their life. At their request, she wrote a book for the leadership teams she coaches, entitled Coaching for Success – Helping Employees Achieve Strategic and Operational Goals. Once again, Marilyn remains authentic (as per her model) and focuses on her client. “This is the key to success – doing more and thinking of how I can add more value in this situation, for this client, and then do it.” And that’s advice we all can take. Through her actions, Marilyn has shown that “standing in your leadership,” rethinking how you add value, and how you have the power within yourself to make those changes can make all the difference.