Empowering employees through leadership coaching

From managing a division of 45 people to mothering two teenagers, Kelly Marino is expanding her skills as a leader in the workplace and at home while pursuing Brown’s coaching and leadership programs.

photo of Kelly MarinoWhile sitting around a card table and brainstorming business ideas with two of her colleagues in 2010, Kelly Marino never could have imagined that the healthcare-focused market research company they were founding would soon grow into a multi-million dollar enterprise. 

After selling the company just over a decade later in 2022, Marino became president of Fulcrum Research Group, now a division of global consultancy SAI MedPartners.

“We do strategic customer market research in the healthcare industry,” she explains. “I work for clients in the biopharma space. They come to us and ask for help understanding what physicians, patients, and other stakeholders think about our brands, and we work with them to help figure it out.”

With more responsibility comes growth

In her new role as the division leader, Marino recognized the need to reassess her plans for career growth. Now responsible for 45 people — including both project teams and clients — she had to pause and ask herself, “how can I help take my leadership to the next level?” For her, the answer was enrolling in the Leader as Coach program at Brown, designed in partnership with ACT, an internationally recognized coach training and leadership development company.

“When I was looking around for programs, I wanted something that combined coaching and leadership,” she says. “I appreciated both the quality of [ACT’s online curriculum], but also the affiliation with Brown, which adds to the reputation of the program as a whole.”

Marino admits that prior to enrolling in Leader as Coach, she — like many experienced leaders — developed a habit of “having all of the answers” for her team. “I worked for years to try to figure out how to get our staff to take [challenges] on themselves, to really feel empowered to put solutions forward, to be creative, to be thoughtful,” she says. “One of the things that really stood out to me with this program is the ability to empower people. I decided to enroll because I wanted to see how I could help support that kind of growth in my organization, and what I could be offering as a leader to drive that process forward.”

“ One of the things that really stood out to me with the [Leader as Coach] program is this ability to empower people. I decided to enroll because I wanted to see how I could help support that kind of growth in my organization. ”

Kelly Marino

Leading with curiosity

When transferring these skills out of the classroom and into real life, Marino was blown away by the effects of applying coaching techniques to challenging discussions. “I'm engaging with someone else's creativity and curiosity. I don’t tell them what to do — I ask questions that allow them to articulate what they already know,” she says. “If you can help people by asking questions and supporting them, and they're developing their own ideas and their own solutions, they feel so much more committed to the results.”

As she develops her coaching skills, Marino is focused on the bigger picture: long term, organizational change. “The only way you can create change is to create new neural pathways over time. If all we're ever doing is answering questions for people, we're not giving them the tools to start to develop that change for themselves, or for us,” she says.

Coaching on the home front

Though the program is designed for professional development in the workplace, Marino found that the skills were transferable to other areas of her life, including her relationships with her 17- and 14-year-old daughters. “I find myself having conversations with my teenagers that are so much deeper and more engaging,” she says. “They're telling me things about their lives that I don't think I would have heard otherwise. It’s made a huge difference in how I think about my relationship with my daughters, which has been awesome.” 

After completing Leader as Coach, Marino chose to continue her coaching journey by pursuing the Leadership and Performance Coaching Certification (LPCC) at Brown, which provides students with an accredited certificate by the International Coaching Federation. “The Leader as Coach program really focuses on your role as a leader, whereas the LPCC program focuses on developing you as a professional coach,” she says. “I have used skills I gained from both programs across my career.”

As she reflects on her experience in Leader as Coach, Marino is grateful for the immersive sessions that nurtured deeper connections with her classmates. 

“It really does take a bit of bravery. When you coach people and when people coach you, it’s a vulnerable experience,” she says. “When you spend time listening deeply to someone, they're listening deeply to you, too.”

Watch Q&A with Kelly Marino

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