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Leadership coaching in the social sector with Clore Social

I am delighted to be involved in the Find a Coach pilot run by Clore Social for leaders in the social sector. You can find more details about this scheme at through this link. . Clore Social asked for some blog content from me in support of promoting find a coach which you can find here.

The Q and A below is a fuller version of my thinking that led to the blog content.

Jeremy, what persuaded you to become a coach?

As a tutor in the University setting I was renowned for my expectation that my tutees should solve the challenges they faced using the skills that they already had. I was a big one for talking about the importance of building an intellectual and emotional toolkit to help you to do this. Of course there are times where it is necessary for knowledge to be shared by someone with more experience to another person with less. A useful experience in its own right but be no means and impactful as applying your own existing tools in pursuit of a solution in a new area. Students started out by judging coming to me required too much time and effort from them as I required them to ‘work it out’. It was both amusing and flattering that they would return time and again as they recognised, perhaps in the quietness of their own mind, that what they gained from time with me was understanding, not simply knowledge.

Based on extensive professional experience, both mine and others, I have rarely seen people respond to directive as positively as they do to being trusted and empowered. I did my best to follow that route in my management and leadership roles. Eventually I decided that while adopting a coaching approach in a particular institutional setting was rewarding I had more to offer, and more to gain, from being a coach being challenging and challenged in all sorts of different environments.

Finally, I had seen in several environments how bad managerial habits were being handed from one generation to another. There were few role models of effective management and leadership in middle through to senior management levels. So it was that my first reason for exploring a coaching career was to support the development of the leaders of tomorrow.

I also have a strong memory of a conversation I had with a student many years ago. We had known each other only for a short while and she and I were both involved in an intensive summer school, myself as the lead tutor and her as a student delegate. The learning was intensive and I had high expectations of the delegates in terms of what I expected of them and balanced this by being clear that I would support them fully to meet those expectations. After a particularly challenging laboratory session this young lady, Emily, came up to me and said “I know how it is that you get the best out of us”. I said “Reeeallly, do tell!” with more than a little trepidation. Emily came be to me with “All you do is get us to choose to do what we already realise we should be doing!” I recall being a little peeved as she walked away – after all any sentence that starts with ‘all you do’ might be seen as a portent of something obvious to come! It took a day or two for me to appreciate the enormous simplicity of what she had said, and the truth of it. And appreciate it I did – what a talent it is to be able to help people make such a choice! That ability to help people to make the right choices for themselves or to change choices that are not serving them is central to the outcomes of coaching. The fact that I recall a 25 year old conversation in such detail speaks volumes in itself. I have a lot to thank Emily for!

How would you describe coaching?

Coaching is about creating a time and a place for you to think and to hear your own thinking. It’s about having that thinking heard by someone you can trust. It’s about your thinking and feelings being supported and challenged without judgement. It’s about you seeing new perspectives and then deciding on your own plan to make things happen. For me I see my coaching process as embracing trust support challenge and change, not necessarily in a linear sequence, yet always in alignment with the coachee’s agenda.

What is the power of coaching?

For the coachee it is the opportunity to have a time and space to challenge the assumptions and beliefs limiting them in moving forward or which are stopping them from building even more effectively from a position of strength. Hearing our thinking is a major step in developing awareness, to consciously thinking about habits that might not have been evaluated for years. Coaching is purposeful and clear with its expectation that the responsibility for action lies with the coachee. Breaking the dependency on background, environment and challenging a deterministic belief is hugely powerful. For me as a coach the power comes from not bringing my ego into coaching. I trust my coachee’s thinking and the coaching process yet am prepared to also trust my own intuition. The embodied as well as cognitive way that I am responding to my coachee is rich data for them provided that they are comfortable in receiving it.

Why is it important?

Coaching creates leaders who create leaders. It has the capacity to create solution finding communities whose capability goes way beyond the sum of its parts. Coaching can break the mould related to a model of power and influence that encourages isolation in thinking and fear of failure. It has the potential to deliver lasting benefits rather than quick fixes. It is an intervention that encompasses the whole of life view and supports finding integrated solutions.

Coaching can play a major part on supporting wellbeing and act as a positive influence on the mental health of the public. With the future of work being one where success depends on relationship building and on shared endeavour coaching will play a part of the journey from hierarchy and team membership to one of a truer version of collective leadership.

What would you describe as a successful coaching experience?

Being present as a coachee thinks out loud is a privileged position. Sensing them click into thinking that is purposeful for them often shows as a tangible change of state in their being. Simply witnessing this is a real time indication of potentially meaningful session for the coachee. I have learned not to expect drama if there is a sudden unblocking of thinking although or to ‘see’ that met