Business

Work This Way: Freedom Park is work space for Joan O. Wright

“Are you up to something?” That’s what executive coach Joan O. Wright asks clients to learn if they’re doing something that will stand out. Here’s one of her own: Wright was recently named the first female chair in Charlotte for Vistage, the peer mentoring group.
“Are you up to something?” That’s what executive coach Joan O. Wright asks clients to learn if they’re doing something that will stand out. Here’s one of her own: Wright was recently named the first female chair in Charlotte for Vistage, the peer mentoring group. cesmith@charlotteobserver.com

Executive coach Joan O. Wright knows a distracted CEO when she sees one.

So when a leader arrives at her home office for an appointment, she’ll often suggest taking a stroll around nearby Freedom Park.

“A lot of executives really do struggle with focusing,” says Wright, whose company is O’Sullivan Wright Inc.

“They are multitasking, they’re operating from adrenaline. … It takes 20 minutes to walk around the pond down there.”

Then they’ll sit by her fireplace or library: “I really have the beauty of having a space that feels peaceful.”

Using movement is a familiar work strategy for Wright. While writing her book, “Up: Pursuing Significance in Leadership and Life,” she used mountain climbing as a metaphor for how she works “as a Sherpa for CEOs and their teams to help them reach the summit potential of their business.”

Wright, who is 58, then felt a strong desire to summit a mountain herself. That happened 21/2 years ago. She and her husband, Tom, raised $25,000 for charity in the process.

“Once I did Mount Kilimanjaro, all of these things that I’ve written about and coached around really (did) make sense.”

Here’s more on how Wright works:

Uniform: Business casual or a suit if she’s meeting clients. “I get dressed for work even though I work at home.”

Daily dose: Up at 4:30, heads to a workout, then tends to “office staff” – “head receptionist” Duncan, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, and “security officer” Mollie, a Jack Russell terrier.

Secret weapon: In 2008, she hired executive assistant Darcy Wylde, whom Wright credits with a career coup. After Wright met journalist Maria Shriver during an airport encounter, Shriver asked for her book. Wylde made the right connections that ultimately led to the book being featured on Shriver’s Igniting Architects of Change website.

Staying on task: Wright follows strategic coach Dan Sullivan’s methods for breaking up time into free days for being off the grid, focus days for top-tier work and buffer days for planning.

Sounds at work: WFAE for the Mike Collins show and NPR; traditional doorbell chime on her iPhone 6 for incoming calls.

“Are you up to something?”: What she asks clients, to learn if they’re doing something that will stand out. Here’s hers: Wright was recently named the first female chair in Charlotte for Vistage International CEO peer advisory group.

Coach’s tip: “Look at the week you just had. Where did you have your biggest wins? If you don’t look at that, we don’t realize the progress that we’ve been making.”

Everybody works differently. Know a savvy Charlotte-area professional with interesting ways of getting things done? Email Celeste Smith at cesmith@charlotteobserver.com.

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