German-born Cathleen Merkel helps high-achieving women in corporates create a more fulfilling & balanced life without sacrificing their hard-earned success. She encourages her community to practice small changes that will ultimately develop into life-changing habits and helps her clients reconnect with what matters the most to them and makes them feel inspired.
She specialises in (self-)leadership development through her Legendary Leaders Mastermind Program, bespoke workshops, one-to-one and group coaching. Cathleen also loves to design and facilitate customised workshops & events as well as stepping on stage for keynote speaking sessions on topics related to (self)leadership.
Cathleen fully understands what it feels like to lose one’s sense of purpose, to feel worn-out day in and day out, feeling sluggish and waiting for the next holiday to come. Since her early childhood, she had been ‘trained’ too long for approval, recognition and acceptance, and the only way to get there was to work hard and deliver. The pad on the back made her feel good for a day or so, but then they need to prove herself stepped in again.
Over the last 15 years Cathleen has built a successful career. However, she did not always enjoy the work she was doing. Yet, she continued to work incredibly hard. 14-16 working hours per day became the new normal, not realising that she didn’t really have a fulfilled social life, getting home late at night or spending time in another hotel room during work travels, switching the laptop on again to make sure everyone’s needs were being met but her own.
She became a prisoner of her own insecurities and the lack of connection with herself. Enough was enough! She felt tired, unfit, stressed and frustrated. Things had to change and so she successfully did! Cathleen is a firm believer that the way people feel about themselves has a huge impact on the way they interact with others. Creating awareness is the first step, taking action is the crucial next step. Now she is making it her mission to accelerate your journey towards freedom, liberation from self-doubts and exhaustion to finally live a fulfilled life where you continue to be successful but on your own terms!
Welcome back, Cathleen! Can you talk us through the last 6 months of progression since we last spoke?
Thank you for having me back, it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s only been 6 months as so much has happened since then. I rolled out my Legendary Leaders Mastermind Programme which is very exciting. I simply love working with an intimate group of amazing individuals! My first group finished their last module only a few weeks ago and it was so fantastic to see how they connected and bonded from day 1. My first Virtual Online Mastermind will launch in early 2020, which is amazing as it will give women from across the globe the opportunity to join and become part of a powerful, vibrant community.
The other part of the business I focused on intensively has been my training and facilitation business. I worked with some incredibly interesting organisations and their leadership teams in the UK and the US, and also travelled to China for the first time, which was a fantastic experience. These organisations brought me in to explore how they could build more strongly connected leadership teams. Helping teams to connect on both a professional and personal level and building supportive communities are some of my key passion areas and it is so rewarding to see their results.
And there is, of course, my 1-2-1 Coaching offering that specialises in helping high-achieving women in Corporates create a fulfilling & balanced life without sacrificing their hard-earned success. Since we spoke last, I built some strong momentum working with some incredibly smart women who became a part of my community.
Last but not least my Podcast Legendary Leaders went live in October and I am so hugely proud of it. It’s been fantastic fun recording each session together with my guests who are so inspirational. If you haven’t listened to it yet, then here’s the link to check it out: https://www.cathleenmerkel.com/legendary-leaders-podcast/
Most importantly, I really progressed as a person! I feel so much stronger, so much more resilient and confident that I can achieve a lot without sacrificing my health and love for the work I am doing! I get goosebumps only reflecting upon the progress I have made…and there is so much more to come!
Has your typical day changed at all?
It has changed in so far as there isn’t a typical day. Every day is different, and my biggest challenge is all about making sure I stick to a healthy routine and set boundaries. This can include my working hours as I caught myself on numerous occasions falling back into the 14-hour day and not disconnecting from my “to-dos” at all. At the same time, I do love what I am doing and truly enjoy my work so that time is literally flying every day.
I started looking at my habits across a week instead of just day-to-day. Some weeks in a month I may be travelling a fair bit and other weeks I may be working from home most of the days. It is all about creating a healthy balance, making sure I make time to recharge. This needs to happen while I’m at home and away.
I also book in slots for certain work across the weeks. For example, I have 2 Mondays a month booked for podcast recordings, 1 morning each week for exploratory calls with prospective clients, and I have my admin days. Batching certain jobs and building in time to focus solely on client work is really important and helps me get things done.
Have you since expanded any workshops/coaching programs or reached any new milestones that you set out to achieve?
Finalising the outline of the Legendary Mastermind, which is based on the 6-step Legend Framework; and running my first programme has been the greatest milestone. This is an accountability group that regularly meets over a period of 90 days (6 sessions) in order to provide accountability, support, feedback and ideas to one another. By participating in this group, each individual instantly grows their outlook and range of possibilities, as you can’t help but be inspired and far more resourceful as part of the group than you could ever be on your own.
I coach & mentor the group focused on specific themes as outlined in the Legend Framework. We meet bi-weekly (there is a face-to-face and virtual option) and I offer check-in sessions for the group via Zoom as well.
What I really enjoy about this Mastermind is that it is an intimate setting. I only accept a maximum of 8 people for each group, to ensure participants open up easily and start feeling connected right from the start. Each session takes 3.5 hours if face-to-face and 2.5 hours if in a virtual setting. It has been so beautiful to observe how the group started supporting each other, offering help outside of those sessions, sharing personal experiences and exchanging expert advice with each other. The Mastermind members are connected through a private WhatsApp and Facebook Community and share their progress and challenges regularly.
The Legendary Leaders online course is going to go live in Q1/2020. That’s a huge milestone as it took a lot of work and time. It was important to me to speak to clients about their needs and what insights could really help them progress and build the life they want to live – which ensures their personal and work life come nicely together. Therefore, I decided to move the launch to early 2020.
What is your current business philosophy?
“Sometimes when you follow your dream, it opens the door for others to be able to follow theirs!” -Neil Patel
When I read this quote for the first time, I had goosebumps – this is it! So many people share with me that the way I built my path inspired them to be brave and to make changes in their lives. That’s exactly what I am here for! Helping other ambitious women make the required changes that will help them live the life they really want to live. It’s as simple as that!
I also know that running a business isn’t just about me. I learned so much about collaboration, seeing competitors as supporters, and becoming a supporter of others. I love meeting up with people who are in a similar industry, to exchange experiences and advice. Collaboration is key for me!
Is your business plan still reflective of your business today or has it altered as you have grown?
Yes, definitely! I have only started, and there is so much more to achieve, to optimise and to develop. Obviously, I am reviewing my business plan on a regular basis. At the same time, I want to give it a fair shot and see what I can achieve in 2020. I have a “secret” shadow plan that outlines my business strategy and goals until 2022 that is ambitious, but I do like a challenge.
Have you encountered any challenges or faced any business building carries since we last spoke?
Not necessarily different challenges. The one key challenge I keep working on is to remain healthy and ensure life does not only consist of work. As much as I love what I am doing, connecting with the social part of my life is key. I miss going to gigs and travel for the weekend, which is something I ‘simply’ need to initiate more often.
One key piece of advice for starting a business in today’s world.
Connect – connect – connect! Meet like-minded people, hire a mentor and become part of a mentoring group, socialise at events and build supportive communities! You will come to realise how many of your challenges, that you may believe you experience all alone, are challenges that other people face(d) too! It’s been such a relief to know I am not alone and that I am supported (and that I am able to support others).
How are you continuing to redefine success?
Redefining success for me means to regularly check-in with myself. It is all about being in line with my personal purpose, i.e. fully understanding why I do what I do and as to whether “it feels right.” Success is also about being able to combine my passion for the work I do and the learning and growth I gain with my other passions in life, and with me being able to make time for the people I love. As soon as I start to sacrifice one of those areas, I need to take stock and redirect the path to success.
Are you seeking any new professional mentorship or guidance for 2020?
I am going to continue my current mentorship that is going to run for another 6 months! This mentorship has significantly stretched my thinking and my skills – I can’t wait to keep going. I am always looking at different mentorships, group coaching programmes and skill development classes to make sure I keep developing myself on a professional and personal level.
Finally, what can we expect from you in the lead up to 2020 and what is your main focus?
My main focus is to keep supporting as many amazing women as possible – let it be through 1-2-1 support, workshops or the Mastermind. That’s my bread and butter and the most rewarding work. I am also currently in planning discussions with a fabulous woman who is a redundancy mentor & communication specialist about a retreat in the first half of 2020. That’s something I had always dreamed of and now we are making it happen!
This retreat will again be for a small group of individuals who are thinking about reshaping their careers, and who would love to have some time and space to think and reflect, whilst being supported by us with expert mentoring and coaching and helping the group to bond and connect. But first of all, let’s enjoy a fabulous time with our loved ones and a fun New Year’s Eve! Wishing you all a very special Christmas and the happiest New Year!