People leader and talent partner Cathleen Merkel offers bespoke leadership & mindset coaching, workshop facilitation services and speaking engagements to individuals and organisations who want to feel newly inspired, at ease with themselves, creating strong human connections and a real sense of purpose. She strongly believes that the way we feel about ourselves affects the way we are with others, the way we influence, build connections and support the people around us. Therefore, her focus in all the work she does is on the individual, their emotions, their needs, and their goals.
Working with both individuals and groups face-to-face and online, as a coach, it is Cathleen’s highest priority to keep learning and to ensure she continuously meets the coaching standards outlined by the International Coach Federation (ICF).
Welcome Cathleen, thank you for coming on board with us, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Cathleen Merkel. I was born and raised in East Germany, and have lived in the UK for 9 years. My partner and I live in Surrey, where we enjoy the outdoors, some peace and calm – especially when we return from buzzing London. I am a music enthusiast and eager learner. The other day I said to a former colleague that years ago my purpose in life was to be happy, but actually, I have realised that my purpose is to be curious, to learn, study, read and absorb all the new information like a sponge!
I am a professional and qualified mindset & leadership coach, facilitator and Motivational Speaker who helps leaders and entrepreneurs feel more at ease with themselves, removing the constant pressure they frequently put on themselves and be at their best more consistently. In my role, I work with emerging and Senior Leaders who want to progress in their careers (and lives) but who feel stuck to take the first step.
Can you talk us through the path you have pathed to where you are now as the founder of Cathleen Merkel Ltd?
I left my family home when I was 18 as I wanted to live my own life, being independent, away from my parents who kept telling me what to do, how to be and how to behave “properly” according to society’s demands. Thinking about my teenage years, I still strongly remember the constant feeling of not being enough, the fear of being punished whenever I made a mistake, not feeling trusted and the pressure of behaving in a certain way. Still, until today, I have no idea what this “way” is supposed to be. On reflection, I feel as if I have lived with inner tensions and nervousness around my family for many years, and to a certain extent I still live with them.
The challenging relationship I have had with my mother, in particular, has shaped me as a person, and it took me years to work through a lot of the personal challenges I kept facing due to this relationship. It was apparent in my behaviours towards others, in my lack of self-belief and in the relationship with my family until perhaps a 4 to 5 of years ago.
It was tough for me to spend a longer period of time at home. I felt uncomfortable. I felt I couldn’t be myself…it was tiring!
The tensions I experienced with my family, were reflected in other areas of my life. I struggled to show the real me – “to let the wall down” – as I didn’t quite know what was the right way to be and to behave. I was programmed to behave according to my family’s expectations.
Throughout the last years, I went from being an overworked people pleaser to helping leaders step off the hamster wheel, focusing on what they really love to do, who they really want to be so that they can live the life they love to live. I have worked in various leadership roles in the past and worked in international organisations with multiple complexities and highly demanding stakeholders. When one of my former managers once said to me “you need a lot of acknowledgement and recognition.” I was adamant and keen to prove that this was clearly not the case…only to realise shortly after that this was exactly what I was craving for.
I kept working 24/7, saying yes to literally everything and everyone, trying to deliver 200% because that was my way of getting approval and feeling needed and seen. During one of my solo trips to Bali and spending some quality me-time, I started to ask myself “what am I doing this for?” I felt exhausted, deflated and lacking purpose. Soon I realised that I had to hit rock bottom to understand how I really wanted to live my life! And that’s when I made a choice to turn my experience and learning into helping other people create careers and lives they feel excited and energised about.
I returned and started my training to become a professional Coach. I have been working with Coaches since I was 21 and loved how they had supported me. My relationship with my family has completely changed and we respect and support each other and look forward to mutual visits. Being able to let go was probably one of my toughest lessons!
In 2016, I changed careers and moved into a role that was far more leadership and development-oriented. Coaching leaders and designing and facilitating workshops was now on my daily agenda and I loved it!
In 2018, I decided to go part-time to focus more on my own business and I eventually went solo last week! I have been working with a Business Coach and a Mentor since early 2018 and built an incredible network of supportive and like-minded people. Whilst working part-time, I created a bespoke leadership course consisting of 6 modules that will take leaders from feeling stuck in the rut and being on a constant hamster wheel to becoming really clear on their career path, creating a great life balance that makes them feel energised about their lives again to feeling more confident and excited about the work they do.
My podcast will go live in September and I am working with some incredible organisations and individuals, ensuring that I keep being at my best for myself and the people around me!
How is Cathleen Merkel Ltd. funded and what is the start-up process like for you when getting prospective clients on board?
I was working full-time in a Corporate Talent and HR role until I went part-time in autumn last year. This really helped me fund my business! I have systemised as many of the processes as possible so that I can spend quality and focused time with my clients.
Re the start-up process, I have some great connections in various organisations due to my professional background. That really helps! I was engaged as Associate Coach by development organisations I had partnered in my role as People Director and I keep networking with prospective new clients.
Social Media plays a crucial role in doing so. I make my brand visible, sharing value and insights on the major platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Building a significant email list and keeping your former clients engaged with newsletters, updates and invitations to free webinars and other events important too.
It is really important to get to know the prospective client and to understand their needs, goals, and challenges. No one is quite alike and therefore the needs for, let it be coaching or the design and facilitation of a leadership workshop can be very different. I also want clients to get a real sense for my style and approach and I do so by offering free taster sessions.
Can you tell us 3 reasons why it is crucial to re-invest back into our self?
I could probably give you far more than 3 reasons as I believe investing in yourself is the most important investment to make!
- I cannot be at my best for others if I stand still. I am curious about new ideas, methods, and knowledge in general – in particular in the field of personal development. I always want to know how I can improve our clients’ experience further and that only happens when you read, connect with peers and learn from the best.
- I have a coach supervisor, a mentor, and a coach. My aim is to deliver top-notch coaching and facilitation services and that requires regular check-ins and feedback from my Supervisor. She helps me by holding the mirror up to my own habits, assumptions, and beliefs – which then help me put my work and approach in perspective. My mentor supports me in expanding my general business knowledge. I want to run an effective and mostly automated business that is highly focused on the client’s needs. There are so many amazing people out there who have gone through this learning before and whose mission it is now to support entrepreneurs like me! Isn’t that fabulous?!
- My Coach is supporting me along the emotional journey – my own mindset, overcoming obstacles I may throw in my own way, building a clear business strategy and sticking to it. I believe in the power of Coaching and wouldn’t want to miss it in my life! The world lives in keeps changing – rapidly. It is important to stay up to date with those changes, let it change in the technology/digital world, changes in legislation or cultural/habit changes. As I mentioned above, being curious and responding to this curiosity by investing in knowledge is key!
Can you share with us a particular career highlight so far?
I had quite a few highlights, but the biggest one was probably the most liberating decision I have ever made – to leave my corporate job and become a full-time entrepreneur! It can be scary sometimes, but I am truly loving it!
How are you working towards your own personal development?
I listen to audiobooks, podcasts and/or read every day. A friend and I had a giggle about long commutes the other days and how we quite enjoy them as we can listen to all these amazing audiobooks and podcasts. I also keep developing my coaching skills. There are lots of fantastic programmes out there to continuously improve my skills as a coach and facilitator.
As mentioned above, working with a coach, supervisor and mentor add the real-time and practical learning to my personal and professional development, whereby reading business articles and networking with leaders and other entrepreneurs offers great insights into economic and commercial challenges organisations face, new standards that are being introduced and further development in the workspace in general.
Number one rule in business you stick by?
Be consistent! Do everything you do consistently (and don’t expect miracles)! Deliver great services, build great relationships, give value, be visible…always – not just for a couple of months. I have seen a few entrepreneurs starting out, posting on social media and expecting their businesses to turn around after a few weeks. It may work for some people, but I dare to say that this is the minority. Show up every day, be at your best and do your best.
What are your preferred marketing methods for your coaching packages, sessions, and workshops?
Referrals are still my most effective marketing methods and I get 40% of my business from referrals. It’s great, but you can’t just rely on them. Another part of my work comes through Associate partnerships and building great relationships, not only with those partners but also with their clients.
Social Media is a big one! I shifted my focus from Instagram and Facebook to LinkedIn, still being present and visible on all platforms. The ability to share inspiration, give value and run free Lives and Webinars are incredible and people keep following you. They may not become your client right away, but they may well do in the future.
How are you looking to expand within the next 5 years?
Personally speaking, I want to enjoy great family life, travel to new places and enjoy feeling fit & healthy. My partner keeps saying “I want to be healthier by the age of 60 than I am now.” I kind of want that too! We were always thinking about a small holiday home somewhere South. I would love to have that built in the next 5 years.
Professionally I would like to have built a strong international brand, being perceived as the leading expert. There will be a team working with me that ensures great customer service is being provided and regular podcast, speaking engagements, and client sessions run smoothly.
I would love to scale further from one-to-one to one-to-many, working with teams and groups virtually and face-to-face across the globe.
Can you share one pro and one con of running your own business?
One pro is that you can work on your own terms, i.e. it’s in my control what work and clients I say yes or no too. I can frequently work from different places in the world and still coach people virtually and deliver my webinars and I am excited about incorporating fitness and health more frequently into my daily work schedule.
One con is that I am not a part of a team and that can feel lonely. Yes, my network is great and I make a real effort to meet friends and business partners face-to-face on a regular basis, but that’s not quite the same. I think that’s one of the reasons that I love working with groups of people so much!
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN means being at ease with yourself and feeling ok about your flaws whilst appreciating your strengths. It also means to embrace that you are different and that your doing and thinking is different. #BEYOUROWN actually makes me smile when saying it! It makes me feel liberated, light and positive about the things to come.
Where are you looking to expand to next throughout 2019?
I am currently focusing on making every day really special – working with some amazing people towards fulfilling their life purpose and feeling really great about themselves, helping teams build a sense of togetherness and community and shifting cultures accordingly in organisations.
Having said that, I can’t wait to publish my podcast and deliver more of my 6 modules ‘Purposeful Leadership’ course!