Coaching Goals: Be the Architect of Your Own Building

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Three years ago, sales executive Deanna Farrugia realized that she wasn’t fulfilled professionally. She was making excellent money, she enjoyed the work, and she even loved her job. As a high-performing sales executive on Wall Street for over 20 years, servicing high-profile banking clients such as Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, UBS, and Wells Fargo, she led a busy professional life.

“It was starting early in the morning,” Farrugia tells CircleAround. “At night, it was a lot of entertaining clients and adding value to their business, and it was all-encompassing. I loved it. I loved it for so long.” But something was missing.

Farrugia pauses as she reflects on the “pivotal day” that changed everything, and started her on her journey to launch her executive training company, the Perspicacity Group. She notes that her boss called her to say that an account she was working on had come through to the tune of $51 million, “one heck of a payday.”

After popping the champagne, Farrugia noticed that the thrill wore off very quickly and she began to realize that she was not connecting. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute.’ It gave me pause, and I said, ‘There's something missing here,’ ” she recalls. So she set off on a personal journey of self-discovery to figure out how to introduce purpose into her professional life. “I would ask myself every single day, ‘What did you like?,’ ‘What did you not like about today?’ ”

After completing the Gallup strengths training course and DiSC training to become a strengths and motivators coach, Farrugia, who also has a certification in investment management analysis from the prestigious Wharton School, realized her passion. “I really started the journey of learning that the interactions I was having with people meant more than any product I can ever sell,” says Farrugia. “What it really narrowed down to was I was more excited about the engagements that I was having with my clients than the products that were in my bag.”

Building up her business from her New Jersey home, Farrugia has offered her clients a range of training to increase their business productivity by focusing on companies’ most important resource: its people. She notes that only 15% of employees are actively engaged in their work, and that it takes only one disengaged employee to disengage five more. “We all have our different experiences,” she says “So, now is a time to really understand where everybody is. We all are resilient in our own way.”

"What it really narrowed down to was I was more excited about the engagements that I was having with my clients than the products that were in my bag."

The Perspicacity Group’s executive training and onboarding workshops put the employee at the center as the backbone of the company. In-person contact workshops were central to Farrugia’s business before the pandemic hit, and it was a part of her work that she really enjoyed.

She reflects on one of her favorite moments in a workshop when she realized that one of her course participants couldn’t stop shaking with nervousness — she needed help boosting her confidence. “It was my mission for that day, and, after the five hours of the workshop that I delivered, she wasn't shaking anymore,” she recalls. “I just went up to her and I put my hands on her shoulder and I just said, ‘You make what I do worth it!’ ”

While Farrugia initially focused her courses on CEOs, she has since redirected her attention toward emerging executives. “I found that the emerging executive is really who I speak best to,” she says, “because it's more effective and more open.”

A core attribute that Farrugia points to is her sense of responsibility. “When we have an obstacle like COVID, we have tragedies going on in our world, and it's up to me to step up to help in any way that I can,” she says. Once the pandemic hit, Farrugia went into crisis-management mode. Not to save her company, but to reach out and help other people who had been laid off and needed coaching help, offering one-on-one sessions. “I stopped selling my program. I was actually coaching people for free,” says Farrugia. “I wanted to be able to help them. It was not about profit for me — it was about the people … I just really put my boots on and jumped into the mud and helped people out.”

Everyone reacts to crises differently, and it became her task to try and get people onto their own paths. “I love finding where people are having challenges and then offering solutions,” she says, “or just helping them move the path to a better direction and helping people identify what their travel guide is, because we all have a very different path and very different motivators.”

Not Her First Crisis

The pandemic isn’t the first crisis that Farrugia has faced. She was in the World Trade Center on 9/11 when the planes hit. She recalls how her former employer, OppenheimerFunds, took care of its employees after that deadly, impactful day. As she recalls it, the company really supported its employees. “When 9/11 happened, they cared about their employees, they brought in psychologists and psychiatrists,” she remembers. “I really felt like a human being.”

That became a model for how she believes all employers should treat employees: with care and regard, especially in a time of crisis. Months into the pandemic, Farrugia has restarted selling her program, pivoting to hosting her workshops online. “I understand [there is a] new normal. I understand this fear is not going to go anywhere, it's going to just be different. And people are going to be living their lives differently.”

Farrugia acknowledges that it has been a learning curve to adapt her course to online-only and getting used to engaging with technology, but is excited that she has wrapped up recording and will launch her new course on her website next week. It includes a number of training modules, including professional brand-statement training, motivators training, and blind-spot training, as well as a course called “Best of Me.” Farrugia is also putting her newfound technological skills into hosting a new course at New Jersey’s Brookdale Community College in the fall.

We are in a completely different business landscape now, and she recognizes that, noting that she is excited to continue growing her business and assisting as many companies as possible to reimagine themselves as people supporters and to ensure that professionals are fully engaged in the workplace. “Now, more than ever, I think companies need to show their employees how valuable they really are,” she says. “The more you show them, the more they're going to want to produce for you and the more they're going to want to go above and beyond."

Especially important to her is to help emerging executive women harness their talent and power to achieve their career goals. “I want to meet all those women and let them know, ‘You got this,’ ’’ she says encouragingly. “We have to write our own narratives. We can't accept anybody else's narrative or the fragmented moments that people have of us.”

Farrugia says that she’s never allowed working in a man’s world to hold her back, and women too often internalize sexist comments and attitudes. Through her work, she strives every day to roll back these negative narratives. “I need to get ahold of those women who take that inside and make a narrative: You can't own that,” she says. “That's about [other people] and their insecurities or their experiences.”

Her parting message is one that is particularly empowering, because it gives ownership to the individual over their own future. “You create your own life,” she says. “You are the architect of your own building that you're building.”

Tags: Navigating the Pandemic, Tips from Women Executives, Start Up

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Poppie Mphuthing

Poppie Mphuthing is a news and digital media professional. She is well versed in reporti... See Full Bio

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