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Professional Development: A Key Component of Inclusive Leadership

It’s safe to say that it is not uncommon for many people to get to a point in one’s career when they finally realize that there is so much that they still don’t know. 

When your career is just beginning, it’s easy to be a bit naive, star-struck, and wide-eyed, or fully determined to prove your worth to the boss and yourself. You might become preoccupied with “earning your stripes” or taking up your rightful space in the conference room. 

Let’s pause for a moment and hear about Jax* 

*Names changed for confidentiality reasons

Jax* (they/them) has worked their way up the ladder at their company ACME Marketing*. It was their second job out of college and they truly loved the position. When Jax decided to come out as non-binary, the company was really great about changing their name in the HR system and normalizing the use of pronouns for all employees. It was an ideal scenario.  

It’s 2023 and Jax has already been promoted a few times within the company. Now instead of doing the grunt work for hours into the night, Jax is one of the managers who oversees strategy and interfaces directly with clients. In fact, Jax is the person responsible for running the pitch sessions for multi-million dollar clients.  

In addition to these achievements in their career, Jax has been tasked several times by the management team to run inclusion trainings at the company regarding gender identity, as well as speak at industry conferences on the topic. They really enjoy the opportunity to use their voice to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, of which they are a part, and to educate others that are willing to learn and become allies.  

But recently, Jax has started to question themself. Every time Jax holds a microphone they wonder if they’re saying the right thing. Whether in a pitch meeting with a client discussing a marketing strategy, or sitting on an industry panel, Jax is beginning to wonder if they’re the right person for the job. They start to doubt if they’re qualified to be the voice for the LGBTQ+ community and to be teaching others about allyship.  

Even if you don’t share the same identity as Jax, or work in the same type of organization, chances are you may have felt at some point you were not qualified enough for something.

And even when you feel like you’re getting the hang of things, your perspective widens. Perhaps you are more aware of the depth of your career field or maybe the role, the responsibilities, or the organization itself has evolved to the point that you begin to understand, “Oh shoot. There’s so much more I don’t know.”

Luckily, by that point in your career, maturity has also caught up with you and it’s at this moment that many realize assistance is required. You need a coach. You need an outside perspective from someone who can help you understand what might be missing, where to focus your energy for forward progression, or how to avoid churning and churning to the point of burnout.

Coaching is especially helpful if you’re a part of a marginalized community. It’s invaluable to have the support of a coach who understands what that version of “Imposter Syndrome” actually feels like for a person in your shoes. There is nothing comparable to being the only *insert marginalized identity here* in the room to make you question if you deserve to be there in the first place. 

This was the moment that Jax reached out for executive coaching with a focus on vocal empowerment. This type of coaching is crucial for many of us to break through that barrier of self-doubt and be able to identify when there is self-sabotage occurring in certain aspects of careers or life.

For some leaders, executive coaching feels like a “nice to do” instead of a crucial and logical step that will enable career advancement and higher performance levels with your organization. Dismissing executive coaching is a grave mistake given all the benefits there are to reap, both for the individual and the organization in which they work.  


A dive into the data…

A Metrix Global study found that executive coaching has a 788% return on investment (ROI).  These findings were based on several factors including increases in productivity and employee retention:

  • Executive coaching resulted in a 48% increase in organizational performance. This number was based on an increase in revenue, an increase in employee retention, and the development of customers as advocates. There is not any organization that would say “no” to that kind of returns on their investment.  
  • As for the individual receiving the coaching, a 70% increase in individual performance, based upon the leader attaining their goals, having clearer communication, and overall higher satisfaction in their career.  

This is the kind of ROI Jax was seeking when they signed up for executive coaching. Wouldn’t you? 

For argument's sake, let’s imagine you’re not a leader in your organization like Jax and you’re not that person’s boss either. Let’s say you’re an employee within that leader's team. The study found that you benefit too:  

  • Executive coaching in the team leader resulted in a 50% increase in overall team performance, as measured by better conversations, improved collaborations, and enhanced work performance for the entire team.  

These overwhelmingly successful numbers were corroborated by another study reported on by Forbes. That study found that the mean return on investing in leadership coaching was 7 times the initial investment. So for every dollar the subject company invested in leadership coaching, it saw $7 back from that investment.  

A followup with Jax

Jax enrolled in three months of Inclusive Leadership Executive Coaching with me, Elena Joy Thurston. Much of the focus of our work together was in preparation for a keynote Jax was invited to give at an industry conference. While they were super excited about the opportunity, the anxiety and self-doubt were keeping them up at night. We used the three months preparing Jax for the conference, and while also taking advantage of additional visibility opportunities with clients to put their new skills into practice. After our work together, Jax rocked the keynote and was able to feel proud of both their message and the impact they had on the audience.  

As a result of Jax’s commitment to executive coaching, ACME Marketing acquired three new clients that had approached Jax after the presentation. Furthermore, Jax’s team has also developed its own visibility skills under Jax's tutelage. The group is now the go-to team for pitch meetings with the company’s most high-stakes clients.  

Elena Joy Thurston will be leading our Keynote Queers course with Jill Davis. Both course leaders are former TEDx speakers and will help you create a powerful presentation that will be adaptable for a variety of audiences. You can still save your spot, we have limited seats available for our online 8-week Keynote Queers Course that begins on March 14, 2023. 

About the Author

Elena Joy Thurston is an inspirational Diversity & Allyship speaker, trainer, and author through a lens of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Elena Joy inspires her audiences to learn how Inclusive Leadership can improve company morale and productivity, changing members' lives in a practical way.  A Mormon mom of four who lost her marriage, her church, and her community when she came out as a lesbian, her viral TEDx talk on surviving conversion therapy has been viewed more than 45,000 times and landed her media and speaking opportunities with ABC, CBS, FOX, Penn State, University of North Texas, Michael’s, Logitech, and more. Elena Joy is also one of the subjects of the feature film documentary Conversion


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