Marilyn O’Hearne

Marilyn O’Hearne is an Executive, Leadership, Team, Mentor Coach, and a Coaching Supervisor

She tells us that, “Coaches, leaders and teams partner with me to move from the uncertainty of our rapidly changing, culturally complex world to the clarity, focus, confidence and innovation needed to unlock potential so all can live in prosperity and peace (my vision). I am an award winning, culturally intelligent International Coaching Federation Master Certified Coach, in more than 40 countries since 1998. With my big picture approach, my centered listening and compassionate truth telling, trust and fresh perspectives are quickly generated and sustainable goals achieved. A recognized thought leader, I’ve authored Breaking Free from Bias as well as contributing to 5 books.

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative. 

Children I hardly knew would come up to me on the playground at recess and tell me their deepest secrets. I wondered about this at the time, until my gifts, including being a compassionate listener, were identified. Our parents, both Medical Doctors, told us that until we had a job, school was our job, and were expected to excel. I did. Our parents also demonstrated a passion and joy for lifelong learning. We expected learning to be fun, and it is! Growing up in Kansas City, the middle of the US, I was a curious child and loved to explore. Curiosity and compassionate listening helped me prepare my 25 year career as a coach, in 40 countries. I am thankful our parents traveled with us, and invited guests of many cultural identities into our home so we had the opportunity to learn about other cultures. My first international trip by myself was to Mexico City to visit my parents’ colleague and his family, at age 16. They also supported us in our interests and gave us the opportunity to try out different activities. My interests growing up were horseback riding, dance, ice skating, snow skiing, writing and reading. I was also a girl scout and enjoyed going to summer camp. As a teen, various summer jobs became additional learning opportunities. I graduated from Southern Methodist University in Texas with honors, in Social Sciences: Cultural Anthropology, Psychology and Sociology. I took my first Cultural Anthropology class while in Spain, another cultural, learning adventure! I returned home for three years to complete graduate school and get married, and then moved to Brazil for two years, where I wrote features for the Brazil Herald/Latin American Post, taught English and English composition to adults and served as interim Director of Education for an NGO. Back to Kansas City again, we raised two daughters while I worked in the Social Sciences field, including in schools, Hospice, as an Adjunct Professor, in the US as well as Hong Kong and Malaysia, and as a systems therapist. I discovered coaching through a systems journal, “fell in love” with this approach to development that sees each person as “creative, resourceful and whole”. I am still in love with coaching, its impact and successful results! I was trained and credentialed in this profession, still using my social sciences and post-graduate systems training in coaching executives, leaders and teams, and, within a few years, was training and mentoring other coaches, adding coaching supervision in 2017. Because of my global experience and training, I was invited to run for an International Coaching Federation (our professional organization) Global Board position and won, serving 6 years. I was one of a few who pushed for cultural intelligence to be included in our coaching competencies as well as within the organization. I was recognized for my efforts and their impact, as well as my development of my own programs integrating cultural and coaching competencies, with the ICF Circle of Distinction Award, one of two honorees chosen that year.

Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.

Powerful childhood experiences such as my parents hosting an interracial wedding in our home on the Kansas side of Kansas City because it was still illegal in Missouri; welcoming all to our dinner table: friends and colleagues from Mexico, Japan, divorced, widowed, Jewish, Catholic and taking us to dinner with African American colleagues in their home across town, across the racial dividing line, triggered, beyond my own experiences of being treated differently as a girl, my “that’s not fair!” reaction. At the time, I felt powerless to do anything about it. I have been called to write, speak, coach and train about cultural intelligence (the recognizing and understanding of the beliefs, values, attitudes, rank and behaviors of people (including your own!) with distinct cultural identities; and then applying that awareness toward effective behavior and communication. and bias, contributing to my vision of a world where all have the opportunity to live to their full potential, with prosperity and peace. I started my business in 1998, 25 years ago, and have partnered with executives, leaders and teams as their coach and coaches as their trainer, mentor, and supervisor in 40+ countries.  I have lived in 3 other “countries”: Spain, Brazil and Texas!, and spent extended time in Asia Pacific. I am thankful for my parents being, for their time, groundbreaking role models, not only in their socializing with diverse friends and colleagues, but also my dad’s first post-residency position to serve as director of the first (integrated at his insistence, at a time when the General Hospitals were not) Kansas City Mental Health Center. Mom also told all four of us, “You can be whoever you choose to be,” and she modeled being an empowered woman, one of three women in her graduating medical school class. She balanced her time between being there for me, my sister and two brothers, with excelling in her profession and pursuing her own creative and athletic interests.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”

When I discovered coaching, it was a new profession. Because my mother was one of the few women graduating from her medical school class and my dad bringing group therapy and Transactional Analysis to our city, I benefited from their examples of pioneering. I was attracted not only to the approach of seeing each person as “creative, resourceful and whole” but also to the coaches I met and the results we were achieving.

Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?

While already trained in some of the coaching competencies and bringing my compassionate listening and curiosity, I did not have a business or marketing background, and needed to learn more about these aspects of my business. I started with an Advisory Team with members who had marketing and business expertise and have also hired contractors to help along the way.

While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?

Professionally, unlike some executive, leadership and team coaches, I was already working almost exclusively virtually when the pandemic started, so I did not need to make this pivot. My business grew during the pandemic because I was well positioned with virtual work as well as experience and expertise in supporting and developing diverse, global leaders, teams and coaches during transitions. Personally, as an extrovert who was used to working from home and also getting out for networking events, it was a big adjustment when these were shut down. My social circle was reduced to immediate family and a small circle of long time women friends. And I learned to be more content with more quiet time on my own, including deepening spiritually.

Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?

My childhood interest in writing has continued, with publishing my “Breaking Free from Bias” book and contributing to 5 other books, my video blogs, as well as articles and columns in many publications including India’s “The Smart Manager” as well as being cited and interviewed, including for podcasts, and my Youtube Channel. 25 years of being an executive, leadership, team and mentor coach and coaching supervisor, with exciting client results, including 10 years of working with United Nations leaders, and serving as a leader and Global Board member in my own profession, at ICF as well as the Association of Coach Training Organizations and the ICF Advance Cultural Competency Advisory Team. Awards include: ICF Circle of Distinction Award for contributing to CQ (cultural intelligence) and DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) in coaching, “chosen for impact on and contributions to the International Coaching Federation, the coaching profession, and social change; thought leadership; as well as their mission, vision, and core values.” Thomas Leonard Award honoring Visionary, Innovative Coaches ICF Heartland Lifetime Achievement Award Recognized as Top Mentor Coach by Coach foundation Kansas Excellence Award recipient Issued by Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce These can be all be found on this webpage, along with speaking engagements: I continue to read and learn, resulting in the Master Certified Coach credential and certifications in Team Coaching, Coaching Supervision, Civic Leadership Coaching, Deep Transformational Coaching (Bali) and Unity Challenge, as well as completing the Harvard based Immunity to Change training and the ICF Credentialing Assessor training.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

#UnlockALLPotential: I want to live in a world where all, regardless of their cultural identities including gender, have the opportunity to reach their full potential and live in peace and prosperity. That’s my vision.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

One of the most important things I’ve learned personally and professionally is to be guided by vision, values, and centering to listen to that “voice within” when making decisions. I carry with me my mom’s message, “You can be whoever you choose to be.”

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?

I am both excited about the progress women’s leadership is making today as well as discouraged by the continuing differences between how much men and women earn and positions they hold in many places, including my own country, the US. I have seen a tremendous change especially in the awareness of this as well as some attempts to support and advocate for women.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

Sharing my mom’s message, “You can be whoever you choose to be.” Get the support and help you need to be who you choose to be, using your gifts to meet the needs of our world.