When leadership coach and author Terri Hughes finished her first quarter semester in college, she almost stopped right there. “I stayed out too late and came home with grades not so good,” Hughes says.
“I thought ‘college isn’t for me.’” But after having a heart-to-heart talk with her father, a professor at Ohio University, she got the best advice she’s ever received. “He said ‘I think you’ve learned a lot from this and I don’t expect grades like this again.’ To stop and reflect and think about where you’re going, that’s what I got from my father. That was a great influence,” she says.
Hughes was born in Oberlin, Ohio and had an idyllic childhood, she says. She was the middle child, with an older sister and younger brother. Her sister would create little plays they performed for the neighborhood and she recalls sitting with her friends and reading Nancy Drew books to one another. “We’d run across a good part and say ‘listen to this!’ It was almost a “Leave It to Beaver” environment. We’d come home when the fireflies came out,” says Hughes.
In college, she was on the debate and forensics team and “went to the Nationals in New York,” she says. And while she remembers “at one tournament I just went blank,” she says “once I got into my professional life, I never had the nervousness of speaking in front of people.”
Hughes spent the next 27 years in leadership development, and spent most of those years at Albertsons.
“Don’t be too locked into a path. Look into what’s possible – you’ll make changes as you go along. And don’t be afraid if you veer off your path – just think: what can I learn from this?”
As vice president of education and director of leadership development, Hughes managed a $50 million budget, began a pilot executive coaching plan and provided strategic direction in leadership development, among other initiatives. At Supervalu Inc., she was the director of organizational change from 2006 to 2010, coaching executives and leaders during transition and change.
In 2010, Hughes made a big leap – she started her own business as a leadership coach. “It’s my biggest accomplishment,” she says. “Starting my own business has been so rewarding.”
Hughes took what she had learned all those years and uses her experience to help others realize their own leadership potential. “The important influences I gained from my own leadership experiences, observations of technically brilliant leaders who were equally ineffective in their impact on others combined with my coach training gave me incredible insight toward understanding these behaviors and learning how to help people recognize and take action to change them. As a result, I created a simple coaching framework to help leaders make important change with less pain.”
Hughes wrote a book on leadership in 2014: Simple Shifts: Effective Leadership Changes Everything. She won the North American Book Award in 2015. She lists among other accomplishments: helping hundreds of leaders through her coaching and being the recipient of a Tribute to Women in Industry award from the Women’s and Children’s Alliance in 1996.
Michelle Choate, program manager, organizational development at St. Luke’s Health System, wrote a letter recommending Hughes for this award. “There are people who buoy you, people who challenge and push you, people who embrace you and all you are,” writes Choate. “Terri is the sum of that person.”
Hughes is married to husband DeWaine and they have “a very spoiled cat, Niko.” She loves bike riding, binge watched “Downton Abbey” and loves to watch reruns of “Donna Reed” and, not surprisingly, “Leave It to Beaver.”