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Q&A with Magdalena Nowicka Mook

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Magdalena Nowicka Mook, CEO @International Coaching Federation

How could you describe your career path in few words?

I have been a professional for over 30 years now and my career path was nothing but straightforward. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in international trade. I started my career merging the two – working for Economic Research Service within an international organization. And then came fascination with the non-profit world, eventually leading to me joining International Coaching Federation. And I changed the country I resided in as well! It was always about searching for the job that I found aligned with my personal values, and which was fulfilling and satisfying. I was seeking a place where I knew I was supporting a compelling cause, the one that could truly have an impact on individuals, organizations, systems, and the world. Moving from a “learned” profession is common nowadays, but good 20+ years ago it was not necessarily a norm. It required courage and some nudging that I am forever grateful to my mentors for. It was worth it as I feel like my skills are now applied in the environment that can benefit from it, and in the environment that I am benefiting from every day. Being at helm of the leading coaching organization in the world is very humbling and very empowering. And this is what we say – we empower the world through coaching.

What was your most challenging experience, and it has changed your mindset?

I was born and raised in Poland. I was truly fortunate to travel quite a lot as a young person and then I had a wonderful experience of studying abroad in my graduate school. My very first job was with a foreign organization, although I was still residing in Poland. Mixture of cultures was nothing new to me. In fact, at my university, we had students from other countries and cultures. My studies abroad brought together a group of people from twenty-five different countries. It was a great immersion in distinct cultural norms and offered a great openness to what could be at first perceived as different and maybe even uncomfortable. My challenge was to be less protective of “what I knew” and more open to “what I did not know.” It is a gift that is serving me to this day – being curious, always, rather than being judgmental. We all have biases – conscious or not, but it is important to be able to check and reflect, before acting. We all have reasons for being the way we are, and this needs to be respected. Coaching helps so much with developing an awareness of self and that is the first step to being a better leader.

When you get surprised by unusual or uncertain context, what do you think?

My first thought is – why am I feeling surprised? What is surprising about this experience? Is it a pleasant or not so pleasant one? Is that an opportunity, even if unexpected? A treat that needs to be carefully evaluated? I try to appraise, think about it, examine first, before acting. I like “unusual,” and it is because I think that one of the most important thing leaders need to do is to anticipate, is to be aware of trends and the foresight. This is what distinguishes a leader from everybody else. Curiosity about where this unexpected event can lead us is a must, before dismissing or being fearful. Last couple of years showed us difficult and yet so important lesson of turning hardship into opportunity, of finding a light in seemingly dark times, of learning to connect and contribute in the ways we simply did not consider before. This is a great lesson and should always be appreciated, never forgotten – turn the difficulty or a surprise into a win. In coaching, we often ask – “how did you deal with hardship before, what helped”? Or – “what is the worst possible outcome of this situation’? Immediately contrasted with “what is the best possible outcome of this situation”? It opens horizons, it allows to be better prepared to react to surprises. Disruptions are gifts, in a way, and makes us better leaders learning how to deal with them.

Based on your experience, what is the key success factor for a female leader / manager?

In a way, it is a bit sad that we must still talk about male/female leadership as two different things. And yet, it is real. Self-awareness comes to mind immediately. One has to know who she is, what are her strengths, what she stands for. Again, professional coaching is one of the best, proven method to help leaders achieve that. I am a living example of that! It is important to always be cognizant of the culture of the organization you are working with or are a part of. It is important to stand up to your values, respectfully. As any leader, you need to build your team and empower them to do their best and to bring their unique skills to their full potential. I consider developing my team professionally as one of my most important leadership goals and responsibilities. We cannot operate in a vacuum and teamwork seems to be bringing better results in most cases. Be curious, listen, empower and be there if the help or support is needed. Remember, you are not leading if nobody is following.

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