I am CEO

CEO Shares Her Inspirational Journey from Healthcare Executive to CEO Coach

Full Episode from I AM CEO Podcast - IAM2004

To some people, success often comes after countless challenges and obstacles. One individual who personifies resilience and determination is Rebecca Pearce, a former healthcare executive turned CEO coach.

In this episode, we dive into Rebecca's inspiring journey, her personal growth, and her mission to help business owners and CEOs redefine their paths to success.

Rebecca's journey began as a healthcare executive, working for renowned insurance companies. Her career took a dramatic turn when she was appointed as the CEO of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, back when Obamacare exchanges were just emerging. With no staff, no office, and no solid plan in place, Rebecca embarked on a mission to implement a groundbreaking system.

Rebecca Pearce's journey from healthcare executive to CEO coach serves as a testament to the power of resilience and self-discovery. Her personal experiences and triumphs have fueled her mission to help business owners and CEOs unlock their full potential. Through coaching and consulting services, she guides her clients towards growth, success, and ultimately, the ability to change the world. If you're ready to embark on a transformative journey, Rebecca Pearce and her team at Extend Coaching and Consulting are ready to help you along the way.

For two years, Rebecca poured her heart and soul into her work, believing in the positive impact it would have on people's lives. However, despite her dedication, the system experienced setbacks and faced criticism. Eventually, Rebecca lost her job publicly, causing a tremendous blow to her identity and self-esteem.

Website: extendcoach.com

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Full Interview:


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Rebecca Pearce Teaser 00:00

You can't come in and think, I got this, I got this licked. You need to understand you need to be ready to look in the mirror. You need to be ready to have a conversation with yourself about what you can change. And if you're in that spot, that's when coaching works.

It's almost impossible to move somebody who's not ready to change.

Intro 00:18

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I Am CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:47

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Greg from the I am CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Rebecca Pierce, Becca.

Rebecca Pearce 00:54

It's great to have you on the show. So good to be here. Thank you.

Gresham Harkless 00:57

Yes, absolutely. Super excited to have you on and hear about all the awesome things that you're doing.

And of course, before we do that, I want to read a little bit more about Becca. So you hear about some of those awesome things. So Becca was a strong-willed healthcare executive for the majority of her career. She worked at several well-known insurance companies before being appointed by Governor O'Malley to be the CEO of the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange.

She served the state for two years before returning to the corporate world as VP within a hospital system. In 2015, after surviving and recovering from a brain tumor, she left the world behind to find That left the world behind to find a personal executive coaching firm. She and her coaches specialize in working with business owners and CEOs who are used to challenging the status quo, but are currently stuck and need help elevating their focus so that they can ultimately change the world.

And I think in life, we go through things and things don't always go according to plan, but what I really love about Becca is that, she just gives us a reminder of how we can all ultimately. Where we are in life. And I was watching this video and she talked about us going on the success train.

And we often find that, especially in this area, we're going to the next thing, that thing after that. But I think there's so much power and understanding that you can make a change. You can pivot and do some really awesome things. And one of the quotes she gave was her favorite quote, I think was one of the favorite quotes at least was she can fall down seven times, but you get up the eighth time.

So Becca excited to have you on the show. Love everything you're doing. Are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community?

Rebecca Pearce 02:22

I am. Thank you for having me.[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:24

Absolutely. Appreciate you being on. And so they kick everything off. I wanted to rewind that clock a little bit, something I touched on a little bit here, a little bit more about your story.

We'll let you get started with all the awesome work you're doing.

Rebecca Pearce 02:34

Yeah. So I'm going to start the story in 2011, in September of 2011, I was appointed as the very first CEO of any state based exchange in the United States. This was the beginning of Obamacare exchanges were just getting started. Nobody had decided exactly what they were going to do.

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The state of Maryland wanted to move forward first. They identified me and appointed me as the first one. I had no staff. I had no office, I had no legislation. There was an initial legislation, but there was an actual legislation to move forward. We hadn't made a decision on what IT system we were gonna use, and I did it anyway.

So, for two years, from September of 2011 to December of 2013, I. Could not have believed more in what we were doing. I could not have worked harder at what we were doing. On October 1st of 2013, it didn't actually turn on and we were still able to enroll 300, 000 people during that open enrollment period.

But as the CEO of an organization, that's main focus was to implement the system. It made sense. I believe accountability and responsibility are in the same place. I lost my job quite publicly. During that time period, it was, I had in those two years I had become in, in my mind, I had become that person, right?

My identity was so 100 percent tied to being Obamacare in the state of Maryland. And it was a very public position. And when I fell, I felt very hard and it hurts. A lot and I spent the good news is I had 3 job offers within 3 weeks, which is amazing. Normally what happens for women and I landed on my feet normally what happens for women is.

Women fall and they're never seen from again. It's called the glass cliff. And so, I fortunately landed on my feet at a Medicaid MCO in the state of Maryland, which ultimately got bought by University of Maryland medical system. So, in the hospital system. So here I am back on my feet back in health insurance, ready to be CEO again.

I was ready to go. I'm still pushing down that path. I, it was just a minor bump. And in 2013 to 2015, I had slowly been losing my hearing. And the joke with my daughter who was six at the time was, you can't talk into mommy's bad ear. You gotta talk into mommy's good ear. 'cause I couldn't hear her whispering to me.

And I went in for a hearing exam. And to make a super long convoluted story short, I walked out of there finding out that I had a brain tumor the size of a golf ball and I needed surgery imminently. The time period between the time I got diagnosed and the time that I was on the table was 5 weeks and, so I spent all of that time trying to get all of my ducks in a row. What happens if I die? What happens? What's my husband going to do? What's my daughter going to do? All of those things that just constantly run through your mind in that, because it's life changing. I go for, in for surgery.

I wake up from surgery. They wake me up on the table. And the first thing I think to myself is Oh, my God, thank God I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive. I get just I'm alive. Like, how amazing is this? I spent the majority of 4 to 5 months learning to walk again. The entire left side of my body was weak.

It was as if I had a stroke. My face was paralyzed, completely paralyzed for a full year. I'm mostly blind in my left eye. I'm deaf in my left ear. I have consistent ongoing disabilities that are associated with what happened. And I'm still here, right? So, yay, benign and operable, operable, the best possible situation I could ask for after the word brain tumor turns out, so I spent that time recovering.

And I had to prove to myself that I could still do my job. I did not want to be that person that let the brain tumor win. I never want to use the word I can't ever again unless it's truly physically impossible. Like I can't actually hear out of my left ear that's physically impossible, but I can try to do other things.

So I had to prove to myself that I could still do the job. So I worked my way back to be a vice president within the system. And right around the time that I figured out that I could do it again, I went, What am I doing? I think I looked in the mirror. I think I remember looking in the mirror and thinking to myself, the only thing that I want to do is put my daughter on the bus one more time.

God forbid something happens again and I can't put her on the bus. What am I doing? So I walked in and I had a conversation with the then CEO and I said, I can't. I was slated to take the business over. I was like, I can't do this, but I often, I have this experience. I was often the only woman in the boardroom.

I got promoted before I should have been. I understand politics. I understand how to get things done. So how do I translate that into something else where I don't have to be the one stressing about all of the, big corporate decisions.

And so I went back to coaching school. Got certified as an executive coach and started extend coaching and consulting and everybody on our team is certified executive coaches have all held a corporate leadership position so that we can work with business owners and C suite executives to help them elevate their thinking, get out of the day to day and move forward.

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Gresham Harkless 08:01

Wow. I appreciate you so much in terms of, sharing that and how powerful that is.

So I know you touched on a little bit, but I want to hear a little bit more on like how and in different ways that you serve and work with your clients. I know you have the coaching. Are there any other kind of ways or how that process looks as far as somebody that might be interested?

Rebecca Pearce 08:18

Yeah. So we actually have several different coaching models. We have the individual coaching model where you're working with us, individually throughout the year. We then have group coaching models as well. We'll come into organizations and coach a specific cohort throughout the year. We coach executive teams as a whole.

So there are multiple different ways to get in from a coaching perspective. And the other thing we do is strategy work. We do a fair amount of strategy work that can be exit planning strategy that can be retirement strategy that can be business strategy from beginning to end.

Gresham Harkless 08:52

Yeah, that makes so much sense.

Rebecca Pearce 08:53

It's interesting because I think everybody goes through a similar type of arc. Normally what happens when somebody comes to coaching is a lot. For the most part, they're pretty good, right? You're successful to begin with. You've gotten to a specific point, but all of a sudden you go, something's not quite right.

I'm not sure what it is, but that's not right. And that's usually the when you enter coaching, it's you're recognizing that there's a chance that something you want to change something and you're ready to make that change. Then you go up and down depending on the challenges that are in front of you at the time.

And so that's why we have different models to sit, to support you wherever you are.

The International Coaching Federation says the number one thing that you need to know about coaching about whether or not coaching works is whether or not you like your coach.

I insert something above that, which is you have to want to be coached. You can't come in and think, I got this, I got this licked. You need to understand you need to be ready to look in the mirror. You need to be ready to have a conversation with yourself about what you can change. And if you're in that spot, that's when coaching works.

It's almost impossible to move somebody who's not ready to change.

Gresham Harkless 10:00

Yeah, that makes sense. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack.

So this could be like an Apple book or habit that you have, but what's something that makes you a little bit more effective and efficient?

Rebecca Pearce 10:13

So, what, what I would always put out there is there's a book called Marshall by Marshall Goldsmith called what got you here won't get you there. If you think about corporate America, and you think about, or even if you're a business owner, if you think about what got you here, right?

You've been very successful to get to where you are. But that's not gonna get you any further from where you are right now. And so, he talks about as a C.E.O. And as a leadership, he talks about the 15 mistakes that people make. It's a very easy read. It is just just the concept in general that what got you here won't get you there is just.

Absolutely should be a read for everybody.

Gresham Harkless 10:53

Yeah, that makes so much sense. So what would you consider to be a little bit more of what I call CEO nugget? This is a little bit more word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell to a client or if you happen to a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Rebecca Pearce 11:07

So I would So this is a CEO nugget for business owners. So after I left corporate America, I then went and started my own company as a small business owner. Your relationship with yourself is 100 percent different than the relationship you had with yourself when you were doing whatever it was before.

So I work a lot in the tech world, right? And so you've got all these doctors and all these people who come through radiologists and things like that. And they were amazing at their old job, but they've never. It took a business class, they have no idea what it's like to own a business, right? And run a business.

We go into business because we want to do the work that we want to do. Nobody goes into business because they want to run the business. And so it's. Really imperative that you recognize that it's okay, right? The things that you're doing, they're new, they're hard, they're different and stick with it.

Trust yourself, that's the piece that I think is really important for people.

Gresham Harkless 12:07

I think that's absolutely huge. So I appreciate you so much and sharing that. So I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And our goal is to have different quote-unquote CEOs on that show.

So Beck, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Rebecca Pearce 12:20

So. Being a CEO is really in my mind about setting the culture is being the leader of the organization, which obviously is very classic, but it's really recognizing the power that you have that you hold and the the impact you have and leaning into that especially as a small business owner, as you're growing.

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Leaning into the things that only you can do, because I often say when I was with a health plan, there's not a chance you want me answering the phone calls. There's not a chance. You want me picking up the phone and saying, hi, can I help you? Or how can I help you? There are people who are really good at that right within an organization.

If you're the CEO, it happens to be that you have the best. Abilities to manage that CEO role, but you have to tap into what that CEO role means, which is leading the organization, setting the culture, leaning into only the things that you can do thinking strategically, not getting caught in the weeds. So, really, that big picture thinking.

Gresham Harkless 13:22

That's absolutely huge.

And I don't know if you find this that I feel like. Decisions you make and things that you do, and even the things that you don't do set that culture. And that's why it's so important. No matter what decisions you're making or sometimes not make.

Rebecca Pearce 13:35

Yeah, absolutely. 1 of the things that I learned when I was the CEO is, there's an old saying, right?

They do what they see, right? If you're sending an email at 2 o'clock in the morning, you have just set the expectation that everybody else sends an email at 2 o'clock in the morning. Shame on you. So, they do what they see you do, not what you tell them to do.

Gresham Harkless 13:55

Yeah. And it becomes so powerful because I think that, I forget who has the quote, but in order to change the world, you have to change yourself.

Rebecca Pearce 14:01

And I think I, I need to be very clear. I was that ceo that sent the email at 2 o'clock in the morning. And then I would walk in and say, I don't expect you to respond until you're, until 10 o'clock in the morning. But that didn't help, it didn't make that difference because they're still waking up and seeing that email 1st thing in the morning.

And that was completely unfair. So, yes.

Gresham Harkless 14:23 Yeah. And that's why I appreciate so much. And, hearing your story and journey and talking about your transition and transformation, maybe a better word on in your life and how that has happened. Because I think so many times we see that we think that how am I even going to make this change?

This is how I've always been. This is how success is. This is what needs to be done. But in reality, you can have and achieve that success and you can divorce yourself of what we thought we needed to do in order to get there.

Rebecca Pearce 14:50

Yeah. Yeah. It's possible. I'm not gonna say it's an easy road. It was not, there were lots of bumps and, hurts along the way and it's still possible.

Gresham Harkless 14:59

Yeah, absolutely. So I love that's all the work that you and your team do, so. Becca truly appreciate that definition. Of course, I appreciate your time even more.

So what I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best people can get ahold of you and find about all those awesome things you're doing.

Rebecca Pearce 15:18

So the best way, thank you. The best way to get ahold of me is actually through our website, www dot extend coach.

com. And through LinkedIn, I'm very limited on social media very specifically because I don't want to. Yeah, get diluted. So it's really just linked in back appears and extend coach dot com. We do run yearly retreats that help people really dive deep into the things that they need to be focused on.

So people look at the website for retreats that are coming up and look forward to hearing from people.

Gresham Harkless 15:50

Absolutely. And we'll make that even easier. We're going to have the links and information the show notes as well, too, so that everybody can follow up with you and connect with you and find out about all the awesome things you're working on.

But truly appreciate you for obviously the work that you do. The quote, I think Einstein said, as you can see so much further by standing on the shoulders of giants. And I think that when we think about standing on shoulders of giants, we think about what they know. But I think a lot of times it's what they experienced, whether it goes great or not so great.

So I appreciate you and being that giant for us today and so many other people. And I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day. Thanks. You too.

Outro 16:23

Thank you for listening to the I Am CEO podcast. Powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I Am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at ceohacks.co. This has been the I Am CEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


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