1701 – Doing What You Do Best Even Better with’s Emily Sander

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Executive Coach, Former Chief of Staff, Founder & ICF-Certified Coach of Next Level Coaching, LLC, Emily Sander.

Emily likens herself to “Yoda” for leaders, guiding them to operate at the peak of their potential. She believes that while leaders can gain a lot from books and videos, there comes a point where they need someone else to provide training and offer an outside perspective.

According to Emily, executive coaching is particularly beneficial for leaders in high authority roles. It provides a safe space for them to vent, brainstorm, and receive feedback on their blind spots. She also touched on the loneliness of being a CEO or founder and the importance of having someone to confide in.

Coaching can help leaders manage their time, energy, and mindset, enabling them to perform at their best. The structure of coaching sessions can vary depending on the specific needs of the leader, whether it's preparing for an interview, navigating a new role, or addressing mindset and beliefs.

Emily explained the importance of hiring a Chief of Staff for early-stage founders. While it may not be necessary when a company only has 2 or 3 employees, once the team grows and there is a need for coordination and strategic initiatives, a Chief of Staff becomes invaluable.

A Chief of Staff is a gap filler, taking on various responsibilities and filling in the gaps in the founder's skillset. Emily gave an example of a CEO with a technical background but lacked expertise in people operations and HR. In this case, a Chief of Staff was brought in to handle those areas.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • The value of coaching for leaders in high authority roles
  • The benefits of coaching in providing a safe space for venting, brainstorming, and receiving feedback
  • The importance of having someone to confide in as a CEO or founder
  • How coaching can help leaders manage their time, energy, and mindset
  • The varying structure of coaching sessions based on specific needs
  • The significance of coaching certifications, particularly the ICF certification
  • Discussion on when founders should consider hiring a Chief of Staff
  • The role of a Chief of Staff in coordinating and filling gaps in a founder's skillset

About Emily Sander:

Emily Sander is a seasoned business professional with over 15 years of experience in various leadership roles. Her career highlights include being part of the initial testing team for the groundbreaking Kindle device and co-founding a startup with just six team members.

Emily's expertise extends to building global client management teams from the ground up and optimizing processes within established companies. She has also served as Chief of Staff for CEOs and leadership teams, demonstrating her ability to operate at the highest levels of corporate leadership.

Driven by her passion for helping individuals reach their full potential, Emily transitioned into a full-time coaching role. She now works with business leaders worldwide, from early-career professionals to seasoned executives and entrepreneurs.

Emily's unique blend of corporate and coaching experience culminated in the authorship of “Hacking Executive Leadership,” a concise and accessible book that distills her insights into effective leadership.

She also authored a book “An Insider's Perspective on the Chief of Staff,” shedding light on the often-underappreciated role in corporate settings. Emily Sander's career journey exemplifies her commitment to personal growth and helping others excel in business.

About Next Level Coaching, LLC:

Next Level Coaching, founded and led by the ICF-Certified coach Emily Sander, is a distinguished coaching service that empowers business leaders and career professionals. With a strong commitment to personal and professional development, Emily utilizes well-established methods and frameworks to assist her clients in several critical areas.

These include enhancing confidence, equipping individuals with advanced management techniques, refining communication skills, clarifying career goals, and optimizing time management abilities.

Through personalized one-on-one coaching sessions, Emily and her team ensure clients receive tailored guidance to reach their full potential as effective leaders. The coaching service has a proven track record of numerous success stories, with satisfied clients continuously growing.

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Next Level Coaching, LLC website at

Check out Next Level Coaching, LLC on LinkedIn at

Check out Emily Sander on LinkedIn at

Check out Emily Sander on Twitter at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now, it's Emily Sander. Emily, you are an executive coach, executive leadership coach. You're found on the web at next level. Coach, you are also the author of two books, Chief of Staff Hacking Executive Leadership, and you are also a podcaster. Yay! So your podcast is called Leveraging Leadership.

Josh (00:01:21) - So do our friend is listening to our conversation right now. If you just want to hit the search function, search for those two words. Leveraging leadership to podcast by Emily Sandor and we got Emily right here. Hi, Emily.

Emily (00:01:32) - Hi Josh, Great to be with you. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Josh (00:01:36) - Absolutely. Well, share with us a bit about the work that you do, who you work with and kind of generally your impact in the world.

Emily (00:01:44) - Sure. So I like to say I'm the Yoda to your Luke. So I train leaders to do what they do best even better. And because I ultimately want everyone to be operating at the top of their potential, when you do that, you win, but everyone around you wins as well. And so just like Yoda, I work behind the scenes. The last role I had in my corporate career was as chief of staff, and that's the right hand partner and strategic advisor to the CEO. And today I coach and so that's me at the top of my potential and I get to wake up every day and help others reach theirs.

Emily (00:02:20) - So that's that's what I'm doing today.

Josh (00:02:23) - I think that there are two groups of leaders out there. They're the leaders that, you know, maybe are investing in themselves by way of just trying to absorb as much content as they can and constantly growing. That's fantastic. And then there's leaders that do that and they also invest in coaching. Can you maybe talk about, you know, kind of that dynamic and the advantage that that leader who also has a Yoda, you know, maybe some of the advantages that they might have that that a leader who's just kind of doing themselves through life might not have.

Emily (00:03:03) - Absolutely. So, I mean, you can teach yourself a lot of things from books and from YouTube videos and from stuff you hear. But there comes a point, there comes that tipping point where you need someone else to help you. You need that training, you need that practice arena and you need the outside perspective. So like, you know, if you're learning how to golf, you could read all about that.

Emily (00:03:25) - You could watch YouTube videos, but you actually have to get out there and swing and maybe have a golf pro a just you or like put your hips like this or align your shoulders over your feet, look straight down. All of that stuff comes from a hands on coach. So in my in my field, one of the biggest things that my clients get out of coaching is I know business, but I'm not in their business, meaning they can talk to me freely. They don't have to pull any punches or like be scared that this might get back to someone. But I get business, I get their role, I understand what's happening, and they have that. They have that outlet and free space to talk.

Josh (00:04:00) - Yeah.

Josh (00:04:01) - And you know, what is the. Why do you think it's incredibly value for, you know, top level executive leaders to have that, you know, that coach someone that they can confide in, that they can have those conversations with What what's the transformation that you see or maybe what some of that um, I don't know maybe discoveries that, you know that they, that they end up having through that dynamic.

Emily (00:04:27) - So a couple of things. So first of all, it's cliche, but it's lonely at the top. And so if you're a CEO, if you're a founder, you've got all these people looking at you, depending on you and you have no one to kind of vent to or outlet to or brainstorm with at a certain level. And so just having someone okay, every other week I meet with Emily and I have this time to just think things through. And I have a lot of verbal processors, so people who just think out loud a lot. So that's helpful to them. And I think also if you're the boss, no one is going to tell you, Hey, you're not very good at this. This is a blind spot for you, so you might want to work on this. No one's going to say that to you, or very few people are going to say that to you. So having someone who is intentionally looking for things that you do well and things that you can develop in and helping you do that for your success, you know, coaches are for you and they want you to succeed, but they're going to call out like, Hey, I've seen this happen a couple times.

Emily (00:05:24) - You've told me about this. We need to switch things up here. And so I think that part of it is valuable to leaders, especially in those in those high authority roles.

Josh (00:05:33) - Yeah. Um, and what does, um, what does coaching usually look like? Is it just, you know, we chat for 30 minutes every other week on Zoom and, and I guess the more important part of that question is what does the flow usually look like? My suspicion is that, you know, you're probably dealing with a lot of pretty bright folks, Right? You know, folks, I'm thinking of myself. Right. Or I'm personally very driven. You know, I don't have any problems with motivation. You know, certainly have my work cut out for me in most times. And I'm, you know, a rabid learner. But so I feel like, you know, if I'm asked really good questions, I'm probably going to do about 90% of the talking if given the opportunity, if that's the structure for.

Josh (00:06:23) - But what do you see?

Emily (00:06:25) - Yeah. So I kind of think of three examples here. So one is, is something very tangible and finite, Like, Hey, Emily, I have a panel interview next Thursday at two. Can you help me prep for it or. Hey, Emily, I am a founder. I've just gotten funding. We're going out and giving pitches to investors. I need to work on my pitch. That's kind of one example. The other is I'm trying to get into a new role or I've just gotten into a new role, and I looked around and I'm like, What have I done? Like, what do I do? I keep trying to do the same things that I did before to be successful, and they're not working now. So help me, help me do what I need to do now. And then the third kind of example I'll give is mindset and headspace. So a lot of stuff, as you know, happens in between our ears and everything we do and everything we see is by the contact lens we have in.

Emily (00:07:17) - And so taking inventory of that lens and of that belief set to figure out, hey, you know, I can manage my time, I can manage my energy and my managing my emotional quotient as well because that's a huge time suck energy suck. A lot of leaders are just getting in their own way. And so helping people unpack that and say, okay, let me go like full throttle green light, go and be firing on all cylinders and not trying to run a race or win a race by pushing on the gas and the brake at the same time.

Josh (00:07:50) - Yeah. You know, just out of curiosity, because I was obviously looking at your credentials and you're an ICF certified coach. I know you've got other designations as well. You know it. I think you know well currently in the United States, right? Like anyone can say for any reason, I'm a coach. Yeah. But there's probably I'm just wondering if maybe you can kind of give us a little bit of a shopper's guide desiring a coach and why maybe those designations may be important.

Emily (00:08:20) - Yes, great question. So you're right. Anyone can wake up and be a coach tomorrow. ICF It means you put in the work to actually build the craft of being a coach. So you're trained. We have a code of ethics that's really important. So we have all of that. We've gone through a rigorous process, like a very rigorous process of training and mentor coaching. So someone has listened to our coaching sessions and given feedback. And so ICF is really the the gold standard of the credential of what you want to look for within ICF, there's three designations, so there's OCC, PCC and MCC, and those are different levels you can look at as well. But I would at least ask your coach. Or look on their website if they have any sort of designation. Sometimes they might have come through a different path, an ICF, but it's still valid. But if you see that ICF certified, they'll have that badge on there. You know that you've you've got a legitimate coach.

Josh (00:09:16) - You are the author of a couple of books.

Josh (00:09:19) - Your newest one is called An Insider's Perspective on the Chief of Staff, Why You Need One and How to Be a Great One. So speaking specifically to founders, they might be at the level because maybe they're a little bit newer in business where they're kind of they're filling a lot of roles. And one of them may be kind of that chief of staff role, as I mentioned from time to time on this podcast. It's kind of like the last episode I just recorded. I just said the same thing. You know, I got very, very, very lucky that I paired up with the woman who is now our CEO, and she is a brilliant chief of staff and I consider myself to be very lucky. But talk about that role. And at what point, as a founder, we might say, okay, it's time to start delineating this workout. I can't do all these things. Well, and I don't know, maybe just kind of the maybe the evolution based on the stage of business and where the founder may be.

Emily (00:10:24) - If you're an early stage founder, these key hires can make or break you. So I think chief of staff is a great one to add when appropriate. So if you've got, you know, 2 or 3 people right now, you know, I'd be hard pressed to make a strong argument for chief of staff. But once you get to the point where there's so many people that you need to coordinate big strategic cross-functional initiatives, that is a time to get a chief of staff. The other big one for founders is gap filling. So you mentioned like, hey, I'm wearing so many hats. Okay, let me get a chief of staff that suits what I need and suits what the company needs at this stage and have them fill some roles. So for instance, I had a I had a CEO who had a came from a technical background so programmer could code built the product that he was he was now selling, but he didn't have the the people operations, HR type of outlook. And so we got a chief of staff who kind of filled all of those spots for him.

Emily (00:11:24) - When you when you have key hires, other key hires coming in so a chief of staff can help you get a COO or a CRO or a CFO and help fill some of those seats and really have an eye toward that. We talked about this before, but you know, when you need someone to say, Hey, I'm going to call you on your BBS here, like you just said this last week, and now you're saying something else and you're throttling the team. That can be super helpful to keep people focused and prioritize and energize and not scatter scatterbrained. We get shiny object syndrome. We get pulled down rabbit holes, we get squirrel over here. So someone to keep us, keep us on point. And and there was one more thing that I wanted to I wanted to say. Let me see if I can remember it. But yeah, chief of staff is, is great at all those stages. Oh, when you're scaling. So when you get to the point of, hey, proof of concept market share, we have all the toe holes, the initial toe holds of traction.

Emily (00:12:22) - We're going to have to scale exponentially, get a chief of staff. They can help bring these key hires in. They can help build processes. They can help with change management across your organization. So you're going to go through a bunch of change with your role and what you have to do to be successful. Your leadership team is going to go through a whole bunch of changes. So if they were employee two or 3 or 4 and now, you know, doing everything under the sun and jumping into things is not what they need to do anymore. To be successful, they need to be more focused and prioritized and aligned. A chief of staff can help just the company move in that direction at a rapid clip.

Josh (00:13:00) - Yeah. You mentioned COO. And is there a kind of a delineation between typically what a CEO and I realize that this is going to change based on the size of the company number of, you know, the team size, that sort of thing. But generally, you know, when we think about a chief of staff versus a CEO, any delineations there that you could help with?

Emily (00:13:24) - So in a mature company, the COO, the biggest distinction is the COO has a functional group under them.

Emily (00:13:30) - So they have all of operations which could include a number of sub departments. Given the company the chief of staff would see, would not have a dedicated team but would see across the organization. So they see across operations, across finance, the cross sales across legal and so they can connect all those dots and they help the CEO to see the big picture. So that would be the the the most simple way to explain it at a mature company. For a founder though for early stage I have a lot of chiefs of staff who also serve in the CEO role in in in real life right so they're the chief of staff and title and I have one that is chief of staff and business operations. And basically that's a catchall for like, hey, you're going to be doing a whole bunch of operation work and. And getting these teams ready to go and up and stood up and ready to expand. And so a lot of chiefs of staff early on will bleed over into that operational leader role. And again, their gap filling in a huge way.

Emily (00:14:29) - And when you get to that step step function where you need to get a larger operations team and you need someone to come into a formal operations leader role, the chief of staff can help you with that higher because they have done the role and they also can see what the team and the company needs at that point.

Josh (00:14:46) - Yeah, who should be reading your. By the way, I just downloaded it and insiders perspective on the Chief of staff, why you need one and how to be a great one who should be reading this book? I think your title kind of explains it. But most importantly, you know, the transformation that you would expect by this by the time someone completes the book and then puts into action a lot of the principles that you cover.

Emily (00:15:11) - Sure. So the three people it's for our current chiefs of staff, prospective chiefs of staff, and then any leader who either has a chief of staff on their team and wants to get the most out of it, or a leader who's just curious about the role.

Emily (00:15:23) - Maybe I've heard about that. Maybe in politics, in the military, kind of in business. But like, what is this thing? Those would be the three people who should read the book. And then by the end, you'll know what it is. You'll know what makes a great one. If you're a CEO or a founder, you'll have some ideas about how to use them and what initiatives or projects or things they could do. And your company and you'll The feedback I've gotten is I like the tactical and practical chapter towards the end where you give some questions and you give some kind of graphs and matrix for how to do some some of the things with the chief of staff. So you've got the concept. Yes. But also a lot of tactical pieces where like, oh, I can go use this tomorrow or I can use this with my team.

Josh (00:16:10) - Yeah. All right. So your website, Emily, is is next level coach. Obviously, we've talked about the books. Anything else for our friend that's been listening to our conversation? You say, All right, now that you've listened to me, here's what you should do next.

Josh (00:16:26) - What would you.

Josh (00:16:26) - Recommend?

Emily (00:16:27) - Oh, that's a big one. I would say prioritize. So I know that's key. But a lot of founders can't articulate what their top two priorities are. So if I if I'm meeting with someone for the first time, I often say, you know, what does success look like for you and what are your top two priorities? And they'll either say like 12 different things, which is they'll have priorities or they'll like, say one thing and not know how to get there. And so I think for any leader, they've got to have the vision for it, but also be able to reverse engineer into the execution and break that up into, you know, in three years, I want this. So in this year I need to do this. And in this quarter, this month, this week, this is my most important thing. And keep those priorities in front of them and keep someone focused to them. So if you're doing that on your own, like go do that on your own, get reminders, get accountability, whatever you need, but make sure you can articulate to yourself and to others what your top two priorities are.

Josh (00:17:25) - Emily Sander, you're the author of the books Chief of Staff and oh, sorry, an insider's perspective on the chief of staff. Also hacking executive leadership. And you're the host of the podcast Leveraging Leadership. And you're found on the Web at next level, Coach. Emily, it's been wonderful having you. Thank you for joining us.

Emily (00:17:44) - Thank you so much, Josh.

Josh (00:17:52) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up My Influence slash guest. If you're a listener, I'd love to shout out your business to our whole audience for free. You can do that by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or join our listener Facebook group. Just search for the thoughtful entrepreneur and Facebook. I'd love even if you just stopped by to say hi, I'd love to meet you. We believe that every person has a message that can positively impact the world. We love our community who listens and shares our program every day.

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