Our Founder’s Story
I’ve always loved connecting with and celebrating people. As a five-year old, I learned that I could have an impact on them too. While riding a streetcar one day, I decided to make my way to the front of the car and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Met with smiles and applause, I realized I could make people happy!
As I grew, my sense of curiosity led me to notice that not all people had the same opportunities to succeed. As a people person, this injustice felt unacceptable. I decided to pursue a career in education and nonprofit leadership, wanting to do my part to ensure that everyone could shine.
Little did I know that my desire to have a positive impact came with blind spots. My hopeful outlook sometimes led me to sugarcoat and placate the painful realities others faced. One day, a member of my team called me out: “You just aren’t hearing us! When you tell us everything will be okay, you are brushing over our concerns!”. On another occasion, I found myself standing face to face with a Black male colleague who did the same. “You just don’t get it Marion. And until you do, this organization will never do right by our kids.” Feeling shameful, I did what so many leaders do when faced with hard feedback; I pushed it into the shadows. I wasn’t ready to shine a light on these parts of myself.
Realizing something was missing in my leadership, I became more courageous. With support from colleagues and mentors, I pursued and uncovered insights that would ultimately lead me to a new way of seeing myself and the world. I discovered that leadership requires truly listening to and validating the experiences of others. I began to see ways that my own identity as a white woman informed my worldview and how I was unknowingly helping to perpetuate the very systems I was working to dismantle. With this awareness, I became a more impactful and compassionate leader. My experience taught me the power of illumination, and my passion for helping others illuminate their paths led me to create my coaching business in 2015, now called Illuminate Coaching.
What I have learned through my own journey and in partnering with others, both as a non-profit leader and as a coach, is that in order to grow we have to shine a light into our shadows.
Illuminate Coaching exists to help leaders like you and me. When we explore and address things that are hidden or tough to see- such as our own limiting beliefs or the historical roots and the current realities of oppression – their power diminishes. We are then able to move toward liberation – becoming our truest, most free and whole selves, our most impactful organizations, and a world where everyone gets to shine.
Marion brings more than twenty years of experience leading teams and partnering with managers and organizations to be more effective in fulfilling their missions.
After graduating with a history degree from Southern Methodist University, Marion started her career as a 5th grade teacher through Teach For America in rural Louisiana, then became the founding executive director of Teach For America’s Chicago site. Marion went on to help found Teach For America’s Human Assets team, where she spent almost ten years building and ultimately leading the Business Partner team. In 2015 Marion launched her business, MHBiglan Consulting, now called Illuminate Coaching, and has partnered as a coach and consultant to leaders and organizations such as national non-profits, arts organizations and school districts.
Marion is a professionally certified coach through the International Coach Federation accredited program, Coach Diversity Institute. She is a trained facilitator of the Immunity to Change program, and leads the Philadelphia cohort of the international women’s leadership organization Tide Risers.
Marion is a proud resident of Cheltenham Township outside of Philadelphia, where she continues her journey to live and foster racial justice. She is the co-founder of a network of women who come together to build deeper relationships across race called Women In Community, and the founder of a network of talent consultants and coaches called Talent Impact Partners.
Marion serves as a board member of the United Parents Group and the Friends of Bache-Martin School, and advises MBA students through the Temple University Fox School of Business advising program.