Today, we have the pleasure of sitting down with Alba Contreras Rodriguez ,the founder of FONS LLC (Focus on Solution) – https://focusonsolution.com/. Alba’s journey from Venezuela to the United States and her successful career in various industries led her to pursue her passion for coaching. Alba is an expert in executive and team coaching, helping leaders and organizations excel in times of transition and transformation.
- Alba, thank you for joining us today. Please share an overview of your personal journey and how you found Focus on Solution Coaching.
I was born and raised in Venezuela and moved to the United States right after High School to learn the English language. My childhood dream was to become an architect and later shifted to a STEM path in business administration and computer & information sciences, opening the door to a successful career in various industries.
After graduation at 21, I moved back home and started working as a systems programmer and analyst. I later worked for General Motors, KPMG management consulting, and Ford Motor Company. Ford offered me an international assignment at corporate headquarters in Michigan. They sponsored me to become a USA citizen and return to school to get my MBA at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. In 2017, after 23 phenomenal years with Ford, I decided to retire early to pursue my next career.
I launched FONS LLC, which stands for Focus on Solution, to pursue a new path by following my passion or calling. I was motivated by several key lessons: the importance of focusing on the humans in any transformation; knowing myself and being confident in defining my path; learning to become a CEO, and being a lifelong learner. To become a successful coach, I attended a coaching school, got trained and certified by the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and became a team coach practitioner credentialed by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).
FONS provides Executive, Team, and Group coaching for leaders and organizations to excel and enable transitions and transformations focused on human readiness.
- The name of your company, “Focus On Solution” (FONS), speaks to a positive and forward-thinking approach. How does this philosophy inform your methods in executive and team coaching?
My coaching approach is grounded in empathy, intuition, and trust-building, which describes me as a spiral lighthouse coach – I am all about getting the holistic 360 view and finding the connection between the BEING and the DOING. It is all about deepening the learning and creating a grounded harbor of trust, safety, and connection. I encourage my clients and teams to think beyond their comfort zone and expand their horizons by focusing on the ecosystem and interdependencies. My coaching philosophy and methods allow me to help my clients navigate VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) business environments and deliver results while improving their well-being. I am a thought partner, accountability partner, and sounding board for my clients.
My coaching programs are focused and tailored to the goals and challenges of the individuals, teams, and their stakeholders. My clients trust me to help them build self-awareness and develop new attitudes to be more effective leaders and teams through reflection, experimentation, and action.
- You’ve been recognized as one of the top coaches in Detroit by Influence Digest. What unique strategies or techniques do you offer your clients to ensure your services stand out?
With my extensive experience in various industries for over 30 years as a corporate executive, management consultant, and credentialed coach, I am a coach who understands the power of coaching in transforming leaders and organizations. My purpose is to help leaders and teams recognize and achieve their highest potential to serve better and add value to their stakeholders. I understand the responsibility and how it feels to be in their shoes.
My Focus on Solution Programs©, for individuals, teams, or groups, use a structured, flexible process and set of tools based on the needs of the client(s) and mainly focuses on their BEING, not only on their DOING. The program’s main components include honoring confidentiality, building a relationship of trust, gathering data through assessments and 360 interviews, identifying the areas of development and focus, and co-creating a coaching plan to deliver the expected goals and success metrics. The coaching sessions have an agenda of the client’s needs; the work outside the sessions is about reflection, practice, experimentation, and learning.
- You offer a Team Coaching service. What, in your experience, are the key benefits an organization can gain from investing in team coaching? And what are the benefits of team coaching over individual coaching?
Team Coaching is a powerful and effective process that enhances the performance of the individual members, the leader, and the team as a collective, impacting the immediate business and broader organization.
Eighty percent of organizations operate almost wholly in teams, and today’s world is complex and changing rapidly. Today’s challenges need collaborative teams, and organizations need qualified team coaches and leaders who can create connections on multiple levels to develop a sustainable and prosperous workplace.
Integrating Team Coaching into an organization can:
- Enable teams to adapt and navigate the challenges of today’s hyper-complex and fast-changing world
- Help team members think beyond themselves and their team to consider the organization’s larger objectives as a whole
- Facilitate teams to work with each other and every stakeholder across the organization
- Develop greater clarity of purpose, better processes of decision-making, communicating, and organizing work
Unlike one-to-one coaching you might be more familiar with, Team Coaching explores issues related to collective performance, enabling the team to recognize and manage influences on its performance, now and in the future. Team coaching takes a systemic view of those influences, which may concern the team’s internal dynamics and how it interacts with its stakeholders.
- Dealing with diverse personalities and working styles can be challenging in a team coaching environment. How do you approach these dynamics to create an inclusive and beneficial coaching environment?
Throughout my corporate career, I was responsible for leading and collaborating with diverse teams worldwide, which allowed me to work with diverse personalities and working styles. Inclusion relates to belief and behavior. It’s the magic sauce that activates and releases the power of diversity.
I use three main ways to create an inclusive and beneficial coaching environment.
- Imagine an iceberg; as a coach, I create trust, safety, and connection to help people explore what is above and below the waterline and assist them in exploring layers and perspectives. I encourage teams to utilize different lenses that allow them to understand and navigate the culture of their organization and as part of a more extensive ecosystem.
- I can raise awareness of where I notice specific biases in the team. As an outside pair of eyes, I am in an ideal position to notice what they cannot do from within. Helping the team identify their fundamental biases and their impact on their ability to perform at their best is an excellent first step.
- Making ongoing feedback safe, with ways for actively sourcing this, ensures the perspectives and experiences of others are consistently understood.
- What are some common challenges you’ve observed teams facing when striving for better collaboration and efficiency, and how does your coaching address these?
The teams I have coached share common challenges as they operate in highly complex, intense, and rapidly changing environments. Some of the issues that impact a team’s ability to collaborate include:
- Undefined or unclear purpose, strategy, and processes
- Lack of trust
- Blurred roles and responsibilities
My team coaching programs consist of supporting the team as a whole and individually. I conduct team sessions in workshops, team meeting observations, assessments, stakeholder interviews, and experiments within the framework of the action plan that we co-create together.
Think of team coaching as fitness coaching for the whole team. It will take some hard work, both in the coaching sessions and outside, but the result will be a more nimble team that is “Fit for its Purpose.”
- Can you share a success story where your coaching significantly impacted an executive’s performance or led a team to achieve exceptional results?
I have experienced great success at coaching global executives on navigating corporate culture and processes, as well as cross-generational leadership and multicultural organizations. Clients seeking to lead strategy and implementation of significant transitions and transformations have leveraged my expertise to ensure human readiness for success.
One of my success stories is a Senior Vice President promoted to President of a Hospital and Regional Leader for multiple healthcare organizations. While transitioning to an enormous responsibility scope, this executive struggled with being more strategic, figuring out her new role, and working for the board of directors. I designed a customized coaching engagement with 360 interviews to identify professional growth opportunities and co-created a coaching action plan. Following the coaching engagement, the client, team, board, and sponsoring organization saw growth, enhanced communication, and executive presence, which also played a crucial role as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. In my client’s words, “Alba’s support and direct feedback helped limit my stress during adapting to a new role and working in the new normal of a global pandemic.”
- With the shift towards remote work and digital collaboration, how have you adapted your coaching techniques to remain effective in this new landscape?
Since I launched my business, I have supported clients virtually worldwide. During the pandemic, remote work became ubiquitous, and most clients use a hybrid model.
I use a digital platform and tools that help facilitate coaching sessions, offline work, and communication. Regarding team coaching, I have supported teams virtually and in person, which is more convenient for the workshops.
- Could you describe what a first-time client can expect during a typical coaching session with you?
My Focus on Solution Coaching program© starts with getting to know each other. The success of a coaching engagement depends on a relationship of trust, which is only possible by honoring confidentiality.
We start the session with check-in and what has transpired since the previous session. Discuss the homework and pending items, identify the main topic for the session, which can be an agenda item we have agreed to, or discuss a situation or issue. We end the session by gathering the client’s takeaways and commitments. The session’s notes and fieldwork go to the client, who also has access to me in between sessions via email, call, or text.
- Lastly, for executives or teams considering coaching, what advice would you give them as they embark on this journey?
When executives or teams consider embarking on a coaching journey, I suggest being intentionally focused, patient, disciplined and enjoy the journey. Find a formally trained and credentialed coach who can support you effectively.
A successful coach must be curious, empathetic, open-minded, and comfortable with challenging clients to get out of their comfort zone. Primarily, my experience and willingness to challenge the client are why I have gotten hired as a coach; simply going with the flow would be doing the client a disservice.
In terms of what to expect during a coaching experience, similar elements apply to executives and teams:
- Be curious to seek and accept feedback.
- Be challenged individually and collectively to become your best selves.
- Be willing to be uncomfortable at times. The ask is that you treat each moment of discomfort as an opportunity to learn for your benefit and the benefit of the team and the stakeholders.
- Be open to experimenting.
- Be ready; it will be a transformative experience.