Why did you consider executive coaching?
I decided to get a coach when I was moving roles. I was in a large corporation with a large support network. I had a mentor, I had lots of peers, and I knew that I was coming to a much smaller company. And that I was coming in to do a management role without anyone at my level.
I knew that the gap for me, in terms of what I was losing from the old company, was support. I decided I was going to need something, because you don’t necessarily want to talk to your boss about things that are concerning you, or things that you are struggling with.
I had some coaching sessions before I moved jobs to get me prepped, and then I’ve had them sporadically as I have gone through.
What were your expectations?
I think it was to have someone who was going to challenge me, and I suppose just to give me some guidance. To help clarify my thought processes about my own goals and aspirations.
I have never really had a five-year plan, and I wanted a bit more direction. Also, someone to help with the day-to-day, to hold a mirror up to me and say “why are you doing it like this” or “what about this”. That kind of thing.
Were there any surprises?
The biggest surprise, which is actually quite interesting, was that when we started the coaching, it was all about my career and my life goals. However, about three-four months in I got pregnant, so the approach we took completely shifted.
What we talked about then was more about preparing for motherhood, and then returning to work. Now there is a lot more focus on getting balance in my life, rather than my work life. I went into coaching thinking it was going to be very work focused and actually it is more life focussed then work focussed.
What have been the benefits for you?
The real benefit is having interventions every six months. It’s an opportunity to just stop and take stock of where I am at. Time to consider am I on track and what do I want? I don’t think I would do that had I had not got a coach.
What have you noticed is the greatest impact from having executive coaching?
I feel more confident and in control of what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve got a plan, even if that plan changes. What was really interesting was that, when I was going for my last session, I looked back at the notes I had made before the first sessions. I put in that “by 2015, I really want to be a director”. I remember thinking that as I’d had a baby and had taken a year out, that wasn’t going to happen, but actually I have achieved that. So I have gotten further in life than I had planned to. I don’t think I would be there were it not for the coaching.
How have you measure your development and success?
Getting the promotion, definitely. In terms of balancing coming back to work, I thought it was going to be very difficult after having been off on maternity leave, but actually, it has not been as challenging as I thought.
Would you recommend coaching to other people?
Has it helped with your overall sense of ‘wellbeing’?
Yes, I am more conscious of the need to balance everything, because historically I have been very work focussed, and my work has been the biggest driver. Coaching has given me the perspective that my overall success is not just defined by my work achievements, but is also defined by how much time I spend with my son and husband, and the stuff I want to do.
What did you like most about executive coaching?
I like having some time where I focus on me which I wouldn’t naturally do, I tend to put everything else first, particularly as a mum. So actually being able to sit down and talk about what is important to me, my goals and my aspirations I find really beneficial.
Is there anything essential that is necessary to ensure you have a good coaching relationship?
I think if someone is considering getting a coach they should definitely meet them first, because you have to pick someone you like and trust. You need to have a relationship where you can be honest with that person and know they are going to be honest back. I said from the start I wanted someone to tell me what’s what. I need someone to be straight with me, but you have got to have that trust there.
Did you find any part of the coaching process difficult?
I have had to have some difficult conversations outside of coaching as a result of some of our sessions, so it has made me go “you really need to do this even though you don’t want to”. So, that’s been hard and I probably would have shied away from some of those conversations.
How frequently would you recommend having coaching sessions?
Depends, I tend to know when I need one. It tends to be when something is really bothering me or at strategic points. My last one was when I was just coming back to work, and I had one just before I went on maternity leave. I seem to know when it is the right time, but I do think you need to do it at least two-three times a year to keep the momentum, but not for the sake of it.
How long do you think each session should last?
Two hours, definitely. They are quite draining, but I don’t think that one hour is enough as you are just getting into it.
What makes a good coach?
I think you need someone who is similar to you, they need to have a reasonable understanding about the industry in which you operate, so they get the business. They need to understand what your day-to-day life is like. They have got to be honest and not be afraid to challenge you.
When would you recommend a person to have coaching?
I think that is very individual, it is good for managing change. I think anyone who is in a senior management position always has politics and difficulties to manoeuvre, so when you get to that level, that is when I would suggest coaching.
Do you think it is important that your coach is qualified and part of a coaching federation?
The coaching federation makes no difference to me. I want them to be experienced, but I don’t need someone who has letters after their name.