Stephanie Freeth is on a mission to change mindset
Stephanie Freeth is a contradiction in the best possible way. A former ballerina who studied at the School of American Ballet and danced her way through college, she’s also a Princeton undergraduate and Kellogg School of Management graduate, strategic advisor to organizations in transition, and an influential executive leadership coach. If that’s not enough, Stephanie has two children who are entering 4th and 7th grades.
A daughter of two educators herself, Stephanie is a lifelong learner with strong intellectual curiosity. She’s accomplished, resourceful, and unapologetic in her approach. It was inspiring to hear Stephanie speak about her practice with passion and conviction.
Stephanie, why do you coach?
It was really a natural progression from my strategy consulting practice. Working extensively with non-profit leadership teams and mission-driven organizations over the years, I recognized that any strategic plan is only as effective as those creating and implementing it.
A large part of my focus involved working directly with the leaders on their capabilities and their approach so there has always been a coaching aspect to my work. I think of an organization much like a creative production — all the pieces have to come together for it to work. I love the collaborative nature of coaching, where I partner with the leads to ensure the entire production is a success.
Tell me about your practice. What makes it different?
My practice is about empowering leaders and teams. I partner with accomplished executives, those who are on a path to leadership at the highest levels. I particularly want to support female executives and their teams. That’s not to say that I don’t work with purpose-driven men. But my passion is to empower and support female leaders, high potential executives, and business founders. I’m reminded daily that what the world needs right now is more thoughtful and resilient leaders who create teams where radical candor is the norm.
My approach is inspired by the work of the Conscious Leadership Group who created the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I came across their work for the first time! It resonated with me so intensely and entirely aligned with how I wanted to coach others. It’s such a powerful approach and methodology that requires deep internal work as well as addressing the pragmatic aspects that make organizational leaders and teams successful.
Sounds interesting. Tell me more.
Well, the best part is that it uses proven techniques based on the correlation between neuroscience, cognitive engagement, and performance. In a nutshell, we are often unaware when a cognitive-emotive loop or pattern is unconsciously driving how we show up in the world. You’ll frequently hear me talk about ‘operating above or below the line.’ There’s a video that helps to explain it.
Above the line, we’re open, curious and committed to learning. That’s when collaboration, innovation, connection, and creativity happen. Below the line is where we’re closed, defensive and committed to being right. From an evolutionary standpoint, our brains are hardwired to operate below the line.
I want to help leaders and teams recognize when they are working from a state of trust (above the line) or from a state of threat (below the line). With awareness of where they are, teams can then choose what actions to take instead of just repeating reactive patterns over and over.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered as a coach?
I have recognized that I’m not the right fit as a coach for everyone. I work with those who are ready to keep learning over and over. My clients need to truly want to become creators in their lives. I support people in recognizing when victim consciousness has them believing “that’s just the way it is.” In our work together, my clients get support to become the creator of their reality.
A personal challenge has involved juggling family with my work because the two can present conflicting priorities. I worked with a coach myself to shift modes from ‘maximize’ to ‘optimize’ and figured out how to structure my time and energy in such a way that I could succeed in both areas. I also have a very supportive partner so that helps immensely.
OK, here’s a big one. Tell me about your life philosophy.
There’s no question that I’m driven by a service orientation. Being in service to others is really important to me and my ideal is to make the world a better place within my sphere of influence. You can see this through my work across the non-profit sector. I want to be part of the change and at the same time stand for the values of inclusion, collaboration, and embracing play too.
What brings most satisfaction professionally?
I’m happiest when I support others to create an impact. When I see the difference that my work makes to clients and organizations. It’s incredibly powerful and hugely motivating.
What would your clients say about you?
I believe they’d say that I was incredibly committed and curious. Being a ‘learner’ myself, I’m constantly self-educating, synthesizing information and applying it to benefit my clients. If I don’t know something, I’ll learn it and then I’ll teach others who want to learn too.
What will your business look like in five years time?
My business will provide continued flexibility and make even more of an impact to others. I see myself working increasingly with corporate clients who’ll hire me to work directly with leaders and promising executives. Likely my time will be divided more or less equally between coaching, strategy consulting, content development and public speaking at national conferences and events. I’ll be learning something new every day no matter what I’m doing.
Tell me about your group coaching sessions through Nxt Chptr. What can clients hope to come away with?
I’ve been experimenting with what classes to offer through Nxt Chptr and I’m still learning with each iteration. Every course I create will have some common threads. I like to highlight great content, which includes the 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership. I also believe in offering fun, practical application of the content during the session. I want people to finish the course and have an aha or lightbulb moment that they can apply right away in their work and personal life.
Ultimately, I have seen that supporting people in creating awareness around how they are showing up leads to a mindset shift. As someone who values education tremendously, I recognize that education and credentials alone are not enough. Practice and a supportive community of practitioners make a big difference in how adults learn long after their higher education is complete.
Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers?
Absolutely! Mindset is everything. Play fosters learning. Learning to recognize when you are in a state of fear (below the line) and when you are operating from a state of trust (above the line) opens the door for huge shifts in how you are showing up to live your best life.
This Coach Profile was written by Bronia Hill, a Nxt Chptr Coach and Career Progression Strategist.