Tom Crea is a leadership expert, decorated career Army Officer, and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot. Because of his proven skills, he was hand-selected to run the Army’s leadership development program at two Boston colleges, where he and his team transformed college students into combat leaders. Today, Tom is a servant leadership ambassador, author, keynote speaker, and leadership development mentor and coach.
Tom’s proudest moment as a leader came when his unit was called to war in Iraq after he had rotated out. His replacement was not able to perform, so members he developed stepped up to lead; they attribute their success to the leadership Tom instilled in each of them.
In this article, Tom gives us a peek into the work he does as the Owner and Leadership Development Coach and Speaker at Blackhawk Consulting Group. Tom shares how his time serving in the Army empowered him to become an effective coach, and how active listening is a key to his success in driving results for his clientele.
What inspired you to become a coach?
After being the recipient of several, humbling learning experiences, I felt there was a better way to help others learn. I got sidetracked for a few years learning to fly helicopters, but early in my Army career, I had the need and the opportunity to train one of my Lieutenants. As it turned out, this was a transformational event for me. I never thought I’d enjoy anything more than flying the Blackhawk, but I discovered that I enjoyed developing leadership in others more.
What is your coaching philosophy? How do you help your clients?
Once I learned how to lead, sometimes without much guidance, again I felt there was a better way to help others learn. I began coaching primarily via the Socratic method: asking questions and letting others find their own answers.
In my coaching/mentoring practice, I find that I have continued to help clients in the same way. First, they share a problem or challenge they are experiencing. Then, after gaining a better understanding, it becomes a matter of asking questions, while providing some input, to help my clients reach their own conclusions.
How does your approach differ from other coaches in your industry?
The biggest differentiator is that I am a product of the best leadership development environment available: the U.S. Military. My credentials are the result of personal experience.
In fact, I post content about personal growth, effective leadership.
In your opinion, what are the five most important attributes of an effective coach?
Awareness, listening, humility, empathy, knowledge/experience
What is the key to transformation? How can we reach our goals and make a change in our lives for good?
Awareness, listening, humility, empathy, and here, continuous learning. I believe we are able to reach our goals best when we are open to suggestions, which sometimes can be corrections to stay headed in the right direction.
Knowing where, and when, to turn for help is also more important than trying to solve everything on your own.
What recommendations do you have for individuals who feel stuck or resistant to change?
Don’t fall into the trap where you feel as though you have all the answers, or feeling that you have to find the answers on your own. It takes humility to ask for help. It also shows that you don’t have all the answers, you’re open to suggestions, and you will understand that the same applies to others as well.
Accomplishing big goals can be hard. How can we proactively measure our success along the way?
Yes, big goals are hard to achieve, which is why we need to break them down into small-enough, manageable chunks. Achieving each of these sub-goals gives you the feeling of success, and a burst of dopamine to go after the next goal.
How do you approach the balance between providing guidance and allowing clients to take ownership of their journey?
My role with clients is to serve as a guide, a mentor, and ideally, a friend. I won’t have all of the answers, nor should I. My role is to work with you and help you find the solution that best fits your situation.
Final Words of Encouragement
Never forget that we are all on a journey, one that involves continuous learning. My belief is that if you approach life willing to serve and help others, they will do the same for you.