Inspiring Journey with Dr. Norrine Russell of Russell Coaching for Students

  • Published on:
    August 7, 2023
  • Reading time by:
    7 minutes
Inspiring Journey with Dr. Norrine Russell of Russell Coaching for Students

Dr. Norrine Russell, the visionary founder of Russell Coaching for Students, embarked on a transformative journey driven by her experiences as a mom of two neurodiverse kids. Recognizing the lack of support for parents like her, she harnessed her background in psychology, education, and youth development to fill this critical need. Over the past 14 years, Russell Coaching has evolved into a national and global powerhouse, empowering students and parents across the globe.

With a strong commitment to female empowerment, Dr. Norrine Russell’s coaching services cater to neurodiverse young women, focusing on ADHD, autism, anxiety, and learning differences. The Connected Coaching model nurtures executive functioning skills, effective learning strategies, and self-awareness, igniting newfound confidence in her students.

No geographical barriers can limit the reach of Russell Coaching, as Dr. Russell’s vision connects with students from the US, Canada, Dubai, and beyond. With technology and human connection as her allies, she creates a global village of support and empowerment.

As the sole founder, Dr. Norrine Russell overcame the challenges of pioneering a new type of service for neurodiverse students. The journey allowed her to redefine the narrative of academic and life coaching, leaving an indelible mark in the field.

In this captivating interview, we delve into the inspiring journey of Dr. Norrine Russell and the celestial impact of Russell Coaching for Students. Prepare to be spellbound by her wisdom and the transformative power she instills in the lives of students and families worldwide.

Can you tell us about your journey in creating and founding Russell Coaching for Students? What inspired you to start this business?

I started Russell Coaching at a time in my parenting journey when I was maxed out, stressed out, and just plain exhausted as the mom of two neurodiverse kids. There was no one to tell me it would be ok and there certainly was no village of support. I saw a critical need for help for parents like me and a niche I knew I could fill with my background in psychology, education, youth development, and parent training. Over the past 14 years, Russell Coaching, with our focus on neurodiverse students, has filled that niche across the country and started expanding across the entire globe, supporting parents and coaching students.

What unique services does Russell Coaching for Students provide to empower young female students academically, socially, and emotionally?

I’ve been committed to female empowerment for my entire career. At Russell Coaching with our specialization in neurodiverse students, with a focus on ADHD, autism, and anxiety as well as learning di  erences, we pay careful attention to how these disorders can manifest di  erently in female students. At the same time, we are careful to not overgeneralize about what female students need. We build an individual relationship with each student and that connection is how our students thrive. In our Connected Coaching model, students develop better executive functioning skills, more e  ective learning and study strategies, and stronger self-awareness and coping skills. More than that, they build confidence in themselves, often for the first time in their lives.

How do you ensure that your coaching services are accessible to clients in di  erent geographical locations, such as the US, Canada, and Dubai?

Several years ago, when I decided to expand from being a solo practitioner in the Tampa Bay area to a national company, I hired six professionals to join me, we refined our unique Connected Coaching model to work even better online, and now we are the largest student coaching practice in the US with more than twenty coaches. Our successful, effective model plus our customized coaching software mean that we can work with a student in California, Virginia, New York, Canada, the UK and anywhere we are needed. We’ve begun getting our first clients in Dubai and South America, which is really exciting.

As the sole founder of Russell Coaching for Students, what challenges did you face in building the business from the ground up, and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge was that I was really creating a whole new type of service for neurodiverse students and there was no road map. The great part of that is that, through Russell Coaching and the Connected Coaching model we’ve developed, we’ve gotten to write the narrative of what academic and life coaching should look like for neurodiverse students, which is incredibly exciting.

Can you share some success stories of students who have benefited from your coaching services and how it has impacted their lives?

– I met “Adam” when he had a very bad outlook on school and himself in the Summer of 2022. He is highly intelligent, has a great sense of humor, but really struggled after going remote in his courses. He had a job and felt that it was going to be hard for him to get back into balancing work and school. After going over his strengths and weaknesses, we decided to be realistic and ease into this process slowly. Adam enrolled in two online courses and one in person class at his community college. Together, we went over his work schedule and used it to help him register for his classes. Sometimes he can be impulsive and just sign up for things without planning. “Adam” struggled at first as he would get frustrated with the different expectations of each class, but with setting goals and advocating for himself, he was able to overcome it. “Adam” then enrolled for the next semester and took on four classes while still working. During this time, both his parents and I encouraged him to apply to various colleges. This was a little intimidating with all the requirements, but we were able to break everything down, task by task and he applied to five schools! He was accepted to all of them, including Towson, where he will be starting in August 2023. “Adam” went from not knowing if he even wanted to return, what he wanted to do, or if he could do it to applying and being accepted to the school of his dreams. He feels that breaking down tasks as well as advocating for himself has really helped him to feel confident in attending and succeeding in school.

– I had the pleasure of working with a family that had two children with ADHD, anxiety and confidence issues. They were in middle and high school. They were both very different children, but both needed a lot of support. Their mom informed us that she believed this was the best investment they’ve made in their children’s education and mental health. They had worked with quite the roster of impressive professionals, but we somehow were able to inspire some pretty amazing changes in both kids. “I am so grateful that I happened to stumble upon your interview on the Holderness podcast when I was desperately looking for new ways to support my kids. Thank you for making this very important work so accessible!”

How do you incorporate the principles of female empowerment into your coaching approach and the overall company culture at Russell Coaching for Students?

In developing my leadership style, I’ve worked very hard over the years to prioritize a healthy work culture psychologically; human connection that leads to people feeling good and being creative; and communication that is simultaneously direct and kind. At the heart of everything I do in life is the value of human connection. Work is no different–connection leads to collaboration and creativity. Those factors are what enable us to stay on top of the field.

What strategies do you employ to maintain a healthy work-life balance while managing a growing business and taking care of your family?

It’s all about knowing when you have to bust your butt to get goals accomplished and when you can relax. I’m goal directed, but I know when to lean in and when to lean back. For me, my down time often leads to innovations at work. My kids are great and they actually are very supportive when I have to work long hours–they really are committed to what Russell Coaching does for other families, which touches my heart and makes me very proud of them.

In what ways do you provide free, valuable insights to support families beyond your private coaching services?

I regularly accept invitations to be the guest expert on podcasts, all of which are available on the website for our practice, At this point, I’ve done over 40 podcasts just in the past two years on all kinds of topics–how to help your child with ADHD, how to connect to your teen with autism, how to make the shift from parenting elementary school kids to middle school parenting and dozens of other topics geared specifically to parents of neurodiverse kids.

How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in education and coaching to ensure the effectiveness and relevance of your services?

I read like crazy. I read several newspapers every day; I read publications in education, psychology, and business; I deep dive into the latest academic research in this field anytime I have a keynote address or workshop to do. I didn’t know my love for reading as a kid would be one of the single most important assets I have as a CEO.

What are your future plans and goals for Russell Coaching for Students? How do you envision the company contributing to female empowerment on a larger scale?

The potential for what we can do to help neurodiverse girls and young women overcome roadblocks and achieve their potential is enormous. By 2030, we’d like to be the first choice for academic coaching for students across the globe. That’s first and foremost. The second aspect of what we are doing is providing our coaches, most of whom are women, an opportunity for flexible, meaningful work from home employment opportunities. And, a third layer of female empowerment is the support we provide to moms who desperately need someone to tell them, you’re doing a great job, it’s ok, and we are here for you. Being a mom is never an easy task, and being the mom of a neurodiverse kid adds additional struggles. We are the village for those moms.

As a mother of two atypical children, how has your personal experience influenced your approach to coaching and supporting families with similar challenges?

My personal experience goes hand in hand with my professional training and background. I couldn’t do what I do without both of those. That being said, my personal experiences are what gives me compassion and empathy as well as motivation and drive. I don’t give up on my own kids and we don’t give up on the kids at our practice.

What motivates and drives you to continue providing valuable services and support to young female students and their families?

I’m motivated by optimism; I truly believe we can and do make a difference. As a girl and a young woman, I frequently felt out of place and lonely. I’d like to think that the girls at our practice have a better opportunity to understand themselves and find their purpose.

Can you share a personal anecdote where you witnessed the positive impact of your coaching services on a student’s social or emotional well-being?

I’ve watched multiple students not only gain academic success (success looks different to every student), but I have witnessed their ability to feel more confident in advocating for themselves as well as gaining self-worth. Many of our clients come to us not just with ADHD and academic struggles, but with self-confidence issues. One student entered an art show when he kept saying he never would, and he placed third! Another student handled situations with her friends better as she practiced impulse control. The mental health side is so important and seeing our students thrive in that area brings us so much joy.

How do you practice self-care and maintain your own emotional well-being while managing the demands of your business and personal life?

I don’t work on my birthday or my kids’ birthdays. I see a therapist regularly for emotional check-ins. I always make sure to have food in my house that I like to eat, including desserts. I spend time in nature. I surround myself with people who love to laugh and who make me laugh because I’m too serious most of the time. My partner is incredibly supportive of what I do and that alone is a big part of my self-care and well-being.

What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business and make a difference in their communities?

I have two pieces of advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs. The first is to be prepared for the business side of things. Everyone can have great intentions but if you don’t know what you’re doing and how to make it happen, your intentions don’t matter. You have to understand operations, accounting, human resources, management, legal, and other business issues. My second piece of advice is specifically for those who want to make a difference in your community. Remember that creating a non-profit isn’t the only way to do that. Starting a nonprofit sounds like a great idea in many cases but it can also be a huge headache and you can lose control of your vision. Start a business and look for investors.

How do you foster a sense of community and collaboration among the students and families you work with through Russell Coaching for Students?

Actually, a sense of team for each individual student with their team is what we excel at. What each one of our students needs is a team of their own, which might include therapists, teachers, doctors, school personnel, and of course their coach. The coach is usually the one to lead this team, pulling information together across the team members and ensuring that treatment is coordinated. A strong, effective, communicative team is one of the aspects of our Connected Coaching model that distinguishes us from other people trying to teach teens executive functioning skills.

Are there any particular role models or mentors who have inspired you in your journey as an entrepreneur and advocate for female empowerment?

I’ve been fortunate my whole life to have strong female role models! As a young girl, my grandma was someone in my life who showed me how to be strong, independent, and happy. During high school, my art teacher, Cyndi Madry, is the one person who kept me going. She too was fierce, pursued her passions, and made her own life. Since forming Russell Coaching, there have been so many supportive women–Anne who encouraged me to start doing coaching; Kristen, who is my business coach; and Isis, my partner in the technology business that developed our custom software. All three saw the potential in me and for Russell Coaching and their big dreams inspired me to keep pushing harder and harder.

How do you address and overcome any gender-related biases or challenges that you may have encountered in the business world?

I stay true to myself. Anyone who knows me knows that I am soft, empathic, caring, and passionate about helping. Alongside that, I am clear, direct, and don’t tolerate any crap. Whatever challenges that come up, I handle them as myself–with empathic listening and strength. I don’t focus on what the other person wants from me or what other people or women would do. I ask myself, “What do YOU want?” and “What is the next right thing to do?” and those two questions inform my responses to challenges.

Can you describe a situation where you had to make a difficult decision that had an impact on your business, and how you handled it?

Hiring people is a challenge for me. One of my best strengths is seeing the strengths of others and the good in them. I’m less adept at seeing the things in people that might be a problem down the road or in working as a team. One of the first people I hired really wanted to be in a leadership role and I loved her enthusiasm so much that I didn’t heed some warning signs. I eventually had to let her go, not just from her leadership role but as a coach, and I really agonized over how I could have avoided that. She became very angry and hostile, to the point of being rude and unprofessional, and the lesson I learned was to pay attention when people show you their true colors.

What is one message you would like to convey to young girls and women who may be facing academic or personal challenges and are seeking empowerment and support?

Stay the course. Coach Alysia at Russell Coaching always says that when she is offering advice to other coaches as well as to parents. Stay the course. Don’t go crazy running around looking for a solution. Sit tight in your knowledge, your values, your plan, and trust in yourself.

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