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Tim Wakeham – Reflections on a Career in Coaching

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Elite coach and now corporate consultant Tim Wakeham has had a long and illustrious career teaching leadership, spanning several decades with a variety of corporations, teams, and individuals. For someone who never expected to pursue a career in leadership/consulting Tim was influenced to change course by his family, peers, mentors, and clients. These influential forces in his life convinced him that not only was he capable, but he was an ideal candidate to inspire and skillfully teach others how to reach their highest potential as leaders. Without their belief in him and his abilities, Tim may have never gone down the path to becoming a successful leadership consultant.

Early Influences

 Tim Wakeham was raised in a middle-class family in a small town in Michigan. Both of his parents were social workers and worked hard to support Tim and his younger sister. Tim’s father, Dan, encouraged his love of sports, and during high school, Tim participated in track and field and football; he was an all-state pole-vaulter and a captain of the football team. Dan attended every athletic competition that Tim was in, regardless of work schedule or weather, and Tim never forgot that level of commitment.

“I remember far away games that were barely able to be played because of rain or snow, yet when we started playing, I’d always see him standing by himself in the corner of the endzone or track. There were some games when I think he was the only team parent who made it to the game. I learned the importance of loyalty and commitment from him,” Tim says.

It was Dan’s desire to help everyone, along with his empathy, that influenced Tim to visualize the best that people can be and to help them transform vision to reality. He has carried this character trait into his leadership consulting, where he works to help all of his clients to reach their goals.

Tim’s mother was also a steady force in his life, managing their household along with a career. He believes that she is the source of his work ethic, toughness, high standards, and attention to detail. Additionally, Tim’s younger sister Sherry believed in him at every turn, which he appreciated so deeply that he carried that same unyielding belief to others, especially during their most difficult circumstances.

First Forays into Coaching

When Tim Wakeham began work on his Associate’s Degree at Suomi College, one of his high school coaches invited him to work alongside him. Helping lead high school sports was an entirely new concept to Tim, and he focused his efforts on clearly communicating the basics, challenging people to reach his vision of their potential, and selling his belief in them.

After transferring to Northern Michigan University for his Bachelor’s Degree, Tim stumbled upon a position training the resident boxers at the Olympic Education Center that was located on Northern Michigan’s campus. Working with the United State Olympic Committee and the boxers helped to improve Tim’s cross-cultural intelligence, interpersonal communication, teaching skills, and confidence, all important skills he would take with him to his future coaching and consulting positions.

Next, it was on to the University of North Dakota for a Master’s Degree, where a professor named Bill would change Tim’s approach to coaching forever. Bill challenged Tim to back up his theories and ideas with proof from studies and to educate himself rather than rely on trial and error. A fire was lit under Tim, and he became a fixture in the library, memorizing leadership studies.

Changing Gears

Still unsure if leading and coaching was the right career path, Tim Wakeham took a job as the Director of Wellness for the faculty and staff at Michigan Tech University. In addition to teaching health and fitness, he also became the volunteer strength and conditioning coach for the Men’s Ice Hockey and Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams. It was during his short tenure at MTU that Tim began to act as a confidant and consultant for other coaches and leaders.

Tim’s experience at MTU was capped off by being honored with a Coach of the Year award by the Head Women’s Basketball Coach and the Head Men’s Basketball Coach. He was deeply touched by their appreciation of his service and counsel, and the moment became one of the most important of Tim’s professional life.

“It was because of my experience at Michigan Tech that I started to take notice of how important skillful communication, inspirational motivation, knowledgeable teaching, and collaborative leadership were to the success and failure of teams and individuals. It was after the MTU experience when I knew I wanted to coach leadership,” Tim recalls.

Tim moved on to Michigan State University, where he oversaw strength and conditioning for more than 20 MSU sports for more than 20 years.

Coaching as a Career

In addition to his experience at MSU, Tim Wakeham has acquired an impressive leadership resume across a myriad of sectors, including the corporate setting, the armed forces, the UFC, the NFL, the NHL, Olympic and collegiate.

After mentoring thousands of clients along the front lines of leadership, working with hundreds of teams, and acting as a confidant to hundreds of leaders, Tim was celebrated as a Master Coach in 2010 by his professional coaching organization.

Tim has published over 30 commercial articles, including two national cover articles, three book chapters, and one scientific journal article. An accomplished public speaker, he has spoken at over 60 national and regional coaching conferences and clinics around the United States on topics such as elite leadership and skillful communication.

Currently, in his final year of doctoral training for his doctorate in Leadership Psychology with an emphasis on the Neurobiology of leadership in the field of Organizational Psychology, Tim focuses on the development of elite organizational leadership and especially the underpinnings of communication, motivation, and teamwork. He calls communication “the oxygen of relationships” and relationships “the lifeblood of successful leadership.”

Thanks to his many influences and mentors throughout his education and career, Tim can confidently say that he has achieved many, if not all, of his goals.

“I have been curious about others’ signature strengths for as long as I can remember. Unearthing peoples’ unique qualities and helping put people in a position to believe in themselves and use their gifts has always been a passion of mine. Additionally, I have enjoyed bringing different types of people together to cooperatively achieve at almost unimaginable levels. I said I would successfully lead men and women, and I did for over 25 years. I said I would teach coaching classes at the college level, and I did for over 20 years. I said I would become a Master Coach, and I did. I said that I would get a doctorate in psychology, and I’m doing it. Furthermore, I have always wanted to partner with and help organizational leaders who are stuck living through some of their darkest hours and greatest challenges. I have certainly done a lot of those things,” he says.

But for Tim Wakeham, his measure of success is not in checking goals off of his list. “As it likely is for most people, my most satisfying moments were not the championship rings, the wins, the growth, the rewards, or the accolades. My satisfaction as a coach of thousands is in the phone calls, lunches, Zooms, and hugs from the relationships we have been blessed by.”

Without those standout influences in his life, there are so many lives that would not have been touched by Tim Wakeham’s unique brand of leadership.

Aidan Fitzpatrick is a software engineer, an entrepreneur, and contributor to Disruptmagazine, GritDaily, and other publications on topics of internet tech, business, entrepreneurship, data privacy, and many more.

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