Creating better leaders through coaching

SVP Partner Carissa Gay discovered her purpose in Mongolia.

In one of her first jobs, she worked for an organization helping citizens there rebuild their newly democratic country after decades as a Soviet satellite state.

She was training a group to go into rural areas and teach others when she had an aha moment.

“For me it was a life-changing moment of realizing this is what I want to be about, equipping the leaders who are going to go out and make an impact in their sphere,” she said. “I really view that as my purpose.” 

Since then, she’s made coaching and leadership training her life’s work. After two decades of coaching roles in nonprofit, academic and corporate settings, she’s the founder and CEO of Courageous Leaders Coaching, an organization specializing in leadership, communication and career development.

In the early days of her career, coaching was reserved mainly for C-Suite executives. Sometimes a stigma would be attached to coaching, implying a deficiency that needed fixing. Not anymore, Gay said.

“Coaching is recognized as a process that maximizes potential, and it really applies to anyone that wants to grow and improve,” she said. “It’s an investment that helps someone become even more effective, more intentional, just have greater creativity and capacity in whatever they’re doing.”

An Oregon native, Gay came to San Antonio in 2016 for a position that allowed her to expand her coaching career by training a national team of coaches.

“That was a dream role for me in many ways because it combined all of my passions in terms of coaching, leadership, training and training other coaches,” she said.

When a reorganization eliminated her position, she opened her own coaching and training organization, Courageous Leaders, where she specializes in leadership development.

“I decided to focus on helping people become high-impact, sought-out leaders,” she said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone becomes the CEO, but you’re leveraging your strengths to make the greatest possible impact in your role, whether that’s the receptionist or engineer or whatever hat you wear.”

Her clients include leaders who are new to their roles and want to develop the skills to bring out the best in their teams and those who aspire to leadership positions. She also works with professionals looking to change their roles, discover their next chapter or find work aligned with their purpose.

Gay has also helped contribute to the professionalism of the industry. She is a Master Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation and is a past president of the ICF San Antonio chapter. She has also taken on leadership roles within the Center for Coaching Excellence.

One of her areas of focus in training leaders is conversation. She focuses on the subject in coaching and provides training in conversations, which are at the heart of any organization’s effectiveness, she said.

“Whether it’s the leader’s internal conversations or the external conversation of how they interact with their team, conversation is either going to build the trust and the motivation of the team or it’s going to decrease the capacity of the team,” she said. “It’s about equipping leaders to approach conversations with their employees in a way that increases the performance level of the organization.”

SVP’s model of building organizations by strengthening leadership inspired Gay to support the organization as a partner. 

“I believe in the mission and what they’re about,” she said. “The capacity building is so impactful.”

She enjoys seeing fellowship graduates and observing how their organizations have grown since completing the fellowship.

“I love the fellowship concept and how it takes these high-potential leaders and equips them with the knowledge, skills and even confidence they need to be successful in their role,” she said. “That then enables them to take off and go to the next level.”