Jeff Smith has described himself as someone who’s in the midst of a mid-life opportunity - not a crisis. He climbed the corporate ladder and realized that although he was good at managing finances and operations, that wasn’t his greatest strength. Helping others find their leadership mojo and empower and engage others around them, is what comes naturally to Jeff.
And so he set out on a mission to change employee engagement for good, one person at a time. Cue mid-life opportunity. The first person he changed was himself. He fully immersed himself in the practice and teaching of yoga, and became a certified coach. He recently founded SupportingLines Institute to formalize his coaching model and begin the process of teaching leaders and certifying coaches, with a mindset of building supporting lines, not reporting lines.
“Being a yoga teacher is a wonderful analogy for what a coach or leader does because you're there for the person; you've got them supported. You're trying to get them to open up and twist or maybe experience something deeper or try something new in a way that they might not on their own probably wouldn't.”
Founder & CEO, SupportingLines Institute
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In this episode of People at Work, Bev and Jeff dig into some of the life experiences that shaped Jeff’s philosophy and opinions about how to change the problem of engagement in the workplace. This starts with understanding that engagement is as messy, complicated, and hard to change, as the humans involved. It’s also contingent on a people-first approach, where individuals need to be supported, encouraged, respected, and cared for.
“I think it's really important to look at everyone as human first, and then to try and make sure the human experience at every company is better for everyone first.”
That’s why the core of Jeff’s framework is individual coaching, with an emphasis on the ways in which people connect with each other, share information, and achieve outcomes together. For this to work well, leaders need to start with self-awareness, identifying areas that are holding them back, and by being vulnerable.
“What you're trying to do as a leader is to be your best self first, and then create the conditions for other people to do that too.”
When we focus on individual development and improved performance, it has a ripple effect. Helping one leader change how they relate and interact influences the lives of all of those around that person. That’s why Jeff’s mission is clear: certify 1000 coaches with the SupportingLines framework, with their collective reach helping over a million people have improved relationships, work outcomes, and better lives—in and out of work. That’s a worthy goal (and a fantastic way to spend your mid-life opportunity!).
Jeff has over 20 years experience in sales, finance, people, culture, and operations, all of which led him to start SupportingLines Institute. There he helps leaders create stronger teams and better outcomes. He enjoys family time, teaching yoga, and coaching hockey.