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What connects chemistry and coaching?

This is quite a read so I am putting my contact form link here, and I am including a link to a webpage that gives some more information about what connecting chemistry and coaching might actually look like. I hope you will enjoy the read and get in touch!

Chemistry and coaching go together. Most of us will have used the term ‘chemistry’ when describing how well people interact with each other. The quality of a relationship between two people is described by the nature of the ‘chemistry between them’. Chemistry is a word often used interchangeably with rapport. Both of them capture a sense of the way we build trust, that essential ingredient in every effective coaching relationship.

I’ll stop there before going off on one about aspects of chemistry that align with coaching in general, and my practice in particular. You can read about that elsewhere! What I am interested in is that during my career I have been a chemist and a coach, and I am wondering how those two experiences might be better connected. To be clear about these two experiences. Currently I am a self-employed, experienced leadership and development coach working in all sectors, at all levels of leadership. I also think of myself as a ‘whole-of-life coach’ as coaching partnerships are richer for embracing what is personally and professionally important to us. The journey towards my present-day profession included a long period in academia where I was a chemist. Looking back this was where, unbeknown to me, I used coaching skills as in teaching and leadership setting. I have a wish to connect my chemistry and coaching experiences, just as the words ‘chemistry’ and ‘coaching’ have a meaning that connects them.

The amazing roof over the Great Court at the British Museum. It speaks of connection in a very practical sense as well as being a visual metaphor. Photograph by Jeremy Hinks

I recall the early days of the development of my coaching approach. Over many years, and from countless conversations, I learned that encouraging students and colleagues to be curious about their thinking and feeling had long term educational and personal development benefits. I look back on how my facilitative, supportive, yet demanding approach had an influence on many hundreds of students. I set high expectations, and then did everything in my power to support people to meet them by making best use of their own considerable resources. Some experienced the coaching outcomes as the slightest of nudges to encourage a change in their way of thinking. Others will have sensed a more dramatic shift in their perspective.

The fact that 25 years and more have passed since I worked with my first undergraduate cohort mean that many of those who graduated after working with me are now deep into their careers. These delightful people have moved through their different careers in an incredible array of jobs, spread pretty much all over the world. Such diversity of experience!

It was by complete coincidence that I was contacted by one of my chemistry alumni, Scott Twiddy, with an update on his career to date. I asked him what his reflections were of our work together all those years ago. His response, shared below in blue print, was generous and humbling. It absolutely reinforced my wish to make present day professional connections to strengthen our historical association. I am grateful to Scott and thank him for recollections.

This is a stained glass panel by Thomas Denny at St Mary's Church, Tarrant Hinton. There is something about it that speaks of connection to me, as well as being a beautiful work of art.

With Scott, as with other students, what I did was offer time and space to them to do their own thinking, whether in relation to academic or personal development. More often than not, I simply held a mirror up to reflect back to each of them what I heard. Having done so I encouraged them to be curious about how helpful this was to them and watched as they first noticed something needed to change, and then did something to make that change happen.

It was a great way to develop my coaching skills and I am forever grateful to everyone I worked with as I did so. Having some of my present-day work associated with the same people I built my coaching skills with is something that simply brings a smile to my face.

Scott described his memories of studying chemistry at the University of Southampton in the early 2000s as follows:

‘I first met Jeremy when, as a sixth form student, I dropped in unannounced to his office at University of Southampton. It was clear he was extremely busy since his desk was piled high with UCAS applications.

Instead of turning me away, we sat for 30 minutes or more chatting about myself, the University, and the course. It was an incredible first impression. This had more meaning to me than he could have imagined as this was the first University I had ever visited, and I am the first and only member of my family to have attended University.

After starting my studies at Southampton, it was somewhat of a culture shock and I questioned on numerous occasions if I was capable of studying Chemistry at University. Jeremy was always someone I felt comfortable turning to when I was struggling, and he was always able to help me pick myself up and find the confidence to get the best out of myself.

I joined the University for the 3 year BSc course, I moved on to the MChem 4 year course and graduated with a 1st Class degree. I then stayed at Southampton for another 4 years graduating with a PhD. A pivotal moment in my studies was when I moved to Singapore for 6 months as part of a 4th year placement, and again, it was Jeremy who played a critical role in this. This was an exchange program for three high performing students and, even though I didn’t feel like I was good enough to go Jeremy helped me find the self-belief to take on this challenge. I ended up excelling on this placement and my research was published.

Since leaving the world of academia, I have worked in pharmaceutical industry, banknote development, and I am now in charge of chemistry research and development at a 3D printing start-up company in Boston, USA.

My experience at University taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to, and Jeremy was there throughout my studies to help support me through many of the tougher moments. Looking back at that first visit to Jeremy’s office I had no idea what I had ahead of me or what I was capable of doing. I firmly believe Jeremy played a big part in me getting to where I am today. Jeremy has been coaching people to get the best out of themselves for as long as I’ve known him and I have every confidence that he will continue to get the best out of others as he has done for me.

If you have the chance to be coached by Jeremy, I strongly recommend you take it because he will bring out the best in you and empower you transform your life.’

I can’t really follow that so will simply end by saying it will be great to hear from you. You can reach out using the contact form on this website or by going to this webpage to find out more about how we might partner in connecting chemistry, coaching, and whatever it is that you are applying your thinking and feeling to right now.


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