Maki Moussavi is an executive coach, speaker and author who helps executives and organizations who seek to empower, strengthen and transform their leadership and teams. Maki provides the mental tools and accountability to enable highly transformative, professional and personal development that focuses on “reprogramming” to a new mindset that is authentic and aligns personal, career and organizational aspirations while gaining clarity on direction and vision. She also supports executive teams and organizations to empower meaningful change during times of transition or cultural challenges. Maki is a corporate career veteran and Master’s-trained genetic counselor.
Maki, can you start off by telling us about yourself and why you went into entrepreneurship?
Interestingly, I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur. It wasn’t something I aspired to. I describe myself as a type A personality who did what you’re “supposed” to do. I went to college, then graduate school, got a job with a good company, and assumed I’d work my way up into leadership and stay there until I retired. It became clear to me after I’d been in my corporate job for about 10 years that it wasn’t going to work for me. I knew that in order to do what I really wanted to do, I would have to start my own business. When I left my corporate job behind after 13 years, I started my coaching business.
Can you tell us what drives you to be successful as an entrepreneur?
As cliché as it may sound, it’s my commitment to being of service. Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. There are parts of it that don’t come naturally to me. What keeps me going is knowing that I offer something that people need, and that it’s my responsibility to make sure the people who need what I do know that I exist.
Tell us about your current role and your vision of helping people be better versions of themselves.
One of my clients once referred to my style of coaching as “the yoga of executive coaching” and I take that as a compliment! I work with highly driven, ambitious professionals with big aspirations. These people are the picture of success on the outside, but on the inside, they aren’t satisfied. They seek a more fulfilling experience and don’t know why their success hasn’t created that for them. My style of coaching is to dig deep and identify your limiting beliefs, the stories you tell yourself and how those keep you from reaching your potential. It’s about breaking outdated patterns and ways of thinking to liberate you from the burden of continual seeking that doesn’t lead you to where you want to be. This is transformational coaching, which requires a high level of self-awareness so that you can distinguish between what you’ve been programmed to value and what you actually value. Once you have that clarity, you can tackle what holds you back and create the path to satisfaction in a way that aligns who you are with what you do. This approach can be scaled to work for teams within organizations, as well.
What’s the one or two accomplishments that you’re proud of?
First and foremost, I’m proud of my two beautiful daughters and the humans they are. They are such a gift and I take being a positive role model for them very seriously. The other accomplishment I’m proud of is my book, The High Achiever’s Guide. When I set out to write it, my number one goal was to share my experience and the process of how to go beyond success on paper to something that felt real and deeply satisfying. I love hearing from people I’ve never met, who message me to share the impact the book has had on them and the changes they’re making as a result. It’s humbling and an honor to be a part of someone’s journey to a better experience in whatever way I can be.
What advice do you have for other up-and-coming business owners and leaders?
If I had to pick just one piece of advice, it’s this: Remember that integrity is all-important. Never, ever make decisions to do or say something that goes against who you are or mis-prioritizes your work above your personal needs. We live in a high-pressure professional culture that puts success above everything else, and we’ve all been a part of or witnessed environments where behaviors that feel icky to us are what elevate people, or where putting your own needs behind work responsibilities is expected and has a negative impact on your life outside of work. Any success you achieve that requires you to do something that is out of alignment for you will not feel good to you no matter how high on the ladder you land.
Are you active on social media professionally? If so, what platforms work best for engaging your followers?
I am, even though I’ll confess to having a love/hate relationship with social media! Linked In and Instagram are best right now, and I’m working on bringing Twitter into the mix.
What is the major difference between being an entrepreneur and working in healthcare?
The major difference is the freedom of choice. As an entrepreneur, I get to prioritize what I work on. In healthcare IT, particularly during the last part of my corporate career, there were a lot of regulations that dictated what got prioritized for work and what had to wait. That was difficult for me because the areas of healthcare IT I was focused on, genetics and personalized medicine, were frequently seen as optional or tertiary and therefore postponed indefinitely.
Who was your biggest influencer?
I had a mentor in my corporate job who was an incredible example of leadership. He was a high-level executive who had integrity and prioritized people above all else. He would go out of his way to connect with “the little guy,” and luckily for me, he saw something in me that made him want to help me grow. Even though I know he wanted me to stay with the company, he supported my decision to leave and has remained supportive. He is a rare example of staying true to his character, even when it hurts him politically. I always admired that about him, as do many others.
What is the most challenging part of your work as a CEO?
For me, it’s finding the balance between working with people and leaving the creative time in my schedule to write. Those are two very different energies, but both are equally important to my success. It’s taken some experimenting to determine how best to do that, and I’ve found that blocking days of the week to be client-facing and leaving others for writing time works best.
What do you have your sights set on next?
I have yet to create a mastermind offering and that’s something I could see being highly beneficial to my target audience. I’m working on that, and on reaching more people with my book. Pretty soon it will be time to start on book #2! I’d like to continue to grow in serving corporate clients.
What is a day in your life like?
My mornings are reserved for time with my kids before they are out the door for school. Several days a week, I spend a little time meditating and journaling. I’ve found it’s a great way to focus my energy before I get started with work. If it’s a client-facing day, I meet with my clients and always leave time for a walk outdoors or a workout during a break. I also network on those days. On internal days, the flow is similar except I focus on writing. One hack I have for myself on days when I’m not feeling the urge to do what I’ve prioritized is to set a timer for 30 minutes. I tell myself to just get out a 30-minute chunk, and usually once I’ve done that, I can repeat the process and get into the flow. My day ends when school is out and that begins the transition into family time.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to read, especially books in the horror, historical fiction, and dystopian genres. I’m learning to play tennis and on the weekends during the fall, watching football is my favorite pass time. (Go KSU Wildcats and KC Chiefs!)
What makes you smile?
My kids love to show me YouTube videos of cute animals. I have an edgy sense of humor that’s hard to put into words, but I love a well-placed GIF in response to a comment or message. My husband is really good at impersonating characters and his Donald Duck is pretty hilarious.
What are you never without?
These days, a mask! My notebook travels around the house with me. I’m always writing random things down so I don’t forget.
What scares you?
Climate change and leaving a world that’s in deeper trouble than we’re in now to future generations. This planet we call home is extraordinary and precious. I hope we can collectively find a way to prioritize it over greed and profit.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere with a warm-water beach!