My Approach to Coaching
For me, coaching is all about working in partnership with a client to help them identify, explore and achieve their professional goals through the process of structured conversations. It is a professional development tool that can help you to resolve problems, explore new ideas and reflect upon real-life learning.
As a coach, my role is to observe, listen, ask questions and provide feedback, without judgement, to get you thinking, taking you through the coaching process and helping to provide structure to the conversation. I take a blended approach to the coaching framework, drawing upon ideas from OSCAR, GROW and Management Future’s Kipper Tie. I may be quite direct at times, holding up the mirror and challenging you to test your assumptions or identify what may be stopping you from achieving your goals. At other times, I may simply listen and reflect back what you are saying to help you identify your own solutions and ideas. We may turn to some specific coaching tools or methods to explore particular issues or goals you may face, such as the “life balance wheel”, to provide visual clarity on how you satisfied you are with your life, strengths questionnaires or assessments to identify what brings you success at work, or “the meta-mirror”, which can help you feel empathy for another person.
I am happy to work with clients in any walk of life or stage in their career and I try to take a holistic approach to coaching, so as well as looking at your professional, work and career-related experiences, I may also suggest we explore personal values, life experiences and other non-work topics to see how this may apply to your professional goals. However, if you would prefer not to do this, that’s entirely up to you – we work to the client’s agenda and you will lead the way.
Particular areas of interest for me in coaching are career transitions, work-life balance issues and imposter syndrome or fear of failure. Helping people navigate these difficult, but totally normal professional challenges is one of the most rewarding things about being a coach. I especially enjoy working with clients that have faced major life events, such as serious illness or personal loss, who have realised this has changed what they may want from their career or how they view themselves professionally and are looking to work with a coach to create their future self. Having gone through my own serious illness early on during my career, I realise I would have benefited from coaching as I recovered and I would love to support other disabled or chronically ill people get the most out of their careers.
When working with a client, I expect them to come to the coaching session with an open mind, prepared to take risks and ready to be honest with both me and themselves. Whilst coaching works on your agenda, it is difficult to unlock new learning if you are unable to express your worries or concerns. You will need to be committed to setting goals and making plans to work towards these. Between sessions you will likely spend time reflecting on our discussion and testing out your thinking by taking steps or actions to reach your goals. I will also expect you to give me feedback so we can work together to improve the coaching relationship and help me meet your coaching needs.
I am currently working towards an ILM Level 7 Postgraduate Certificate in Executive Coaching and Mentoring with Management Futures. As part of my studies, I must work with a range of clients to build my practice and experience of handling different coaching issues. Whilst I have now completed the requisite practical hours for the certificate, I am still working towards building my coaching practice, so if you would like some free coaching sessions in return for supporting me with my professional development (by being recorded and providing feedback), I am interested in working with new clients. I am currently operating somewhere between Foundation level and Practitioner level in line with the EMCC Competence Framework and hope to achieve accredited status and membership in due course.
Boundaries & Ethics in Coaching
Coaching is highly confidential and I would only break your confidence if I had a serious concern about potential harm (to yourself, me or others) or illegal actions. The coaching relationship is not a legally privileged one, so I may be required to disclose information discussed in coaching if required to do so by law. If I ever felt you raised something of concern, I would flag this to you as part of the discussion.
Coaching is different to mentoring in that typically, a coach would not offer advice or guidance or share their own personal experiences. Instead, a coach simply helps an individual identify their own goals and solutions. It is also different to a therapeutic or counselling relationship, as a coach is not trying to “fix you” and is not qualified to provide support to someone experiencing significant mental distress. Whilst I have completed the Mental Health First Aider Standard qualification with MHFA England and am familiar with most basic mental health conditions, I am not able to diagnose or treat mental illness, merely listen and signpost you to alternative support. If during our sessions I become aware of any serious concerns about your mental health, I would refer you to other sources of advice, suggesting we pause coaching until you are well enough to proceed.
Some techniques used by coaches do overlap with other disciplines of psychology or forms of professional development and I am not overly precious about the boundary between coaching and mentoring. As a coach, I want you to draw upon your own knowledge, ideas and resources rather than mine, and I will always try to recognise and respect your own resourcefulness. However, there may be times I could step outside of a coaching role to offer advice or signpost you in the direction of other resources/people/support, if it is clear that I have knowledge, experience or information that you seek. In these circumstances, I would flag this to you at the time, seeking your permission to share and you can then choose whether you wish for me to proceed. If you would explicitly value my experience or knowledge as a mentor or HR professional instead of a purely coaching relationship, I am happy to do this too, but we should make this clear at the outset as part of our contracting discussions.
All coaches are expected to practice with supervision. A coaching supervisor is an experienced professional coach that can provide support and advice to another coach in dealing with difficult clients, managing their own emotions in coaching, maintaining ethical boundaries or improving their coaching practice. I may refer to things we have discussed in coaching in my supervision sessions or share recorded coaching sessions with my supervisor, but I will try to protect your right to anonymity and confidentiality. Supervisors are interested in how I practice, not what you say as a client, so they will not be interested in the specific content of our session. Supervisors are also bound by the same expectations of confidentiality as coaches and what is discussed in supervision, stays in supervision.
My practice is conducted in line with guidelines set out by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, in their Global Code of Ethics. As a Civil Servant, I am also bound by the Civil Service Management Code, setting out expectations around integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality, and therefore my coaching must be conducted in a way that does not create a potential conflict with my Civil Service role. For example, it would be inappropriate for me to coach someone who works for or represents a UK political party, because this may impact on my ability to demonstrate political neutrality.
Virtual/Remote Coaching or Face-to-Face
Coaching can be conducted both virtually and face-to-face. Clients may have a preference for either form, but may wish to switch between modes to meet their own needs and availability.
Remote sessions can be delivered on your video call platform of choice or telephone. Zoom, MS Teams, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and Google Meet are all good options.
When covid-19 restrictions allow, I can also support face-to-face sessions in the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean area, extending across Monmouthshire (South Wales), Herefordshire and Gloucestershire.
With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, all face-to-face coaching sessions will be ‘socially-distanced’ and ideally outside. For example, we can meet in a garden or park or for a gentle walking session somewhere locally in the great outdoors. Whilst walking may impact on our ability to build rapport in the same way as a traditional face-to-face session, there is evidence that suggests being in the natural environment and movement can improve thinking and learning, helping to support the coaching process.
Before we begin coaching, I recommend we have a short 30 minute chat to discuss my profile, logistics for coaching and your immediate coaching priorities. We call this the “chemistry chat”. This is part of the ‘contracting’ process.
We may find at this stage that we do not think we can work together. That is absolutely fine – sometimes the coaching relationship just isn’t right or it might not be the right time for you to begin coaching. It is important that you feel ready and able to commit towards working on your professional goals before we begin coaching.
I usually recommend we spend 90 minutes to 2 hours for the first session to give us enough time to establish a rapport and begin to explore your goals. The first session can often be less structured than other sessions whilst we try to identify your priorities and narrow down your professional goals.
We will also re-cap on boundaries and how we plan to work together as part of the ‘contracting’ process. At the end of the first session, we will talk about a plan for subsequent sessions.
Subsequent sessions may be longer or shorter than the initial session depending on your coaching agenda. Some people find more frequent shorter sessions helpful (e.g. 60 minutes), whereas others would prefer to work in-depth over a number of hours (e.g. half day).
It is normally best to have 2-4 weeks in between coaching sessions to give you time to act upon what we discuss, but we can decide what is appropriate depending on the goals you wish to work on or any personal deadlines you may have.
You may find that one or two sessions is enough to get clarity and establish a plan for your professional goals, whereas other people can benefit from a more long-term relationship. We will discuss the number of sessions and duration of coaching, as the relationship progresses and we develop a plan for your development.
I need to record some coaching sessions for the benefit of my ILM L7 qualification and to allow my supervisor to assess my capability as a developing coach.
If you are prepared to allow me to record a session, I will listen back to reflect on my own experience as a coach and I may also share this with my supervisor who will listen to the session, provide me with feedback and then delete the recording. They have no interest in what you have to say, but are instead looking at the way that I respond to your coaching needs and to check that I am practicing in line with my own coaching values, ethics and professional standards.
This may be audio recording or video and we can discuss the best way to do this at the time. I will usually use my mobile phone for this and then submit to my supervisor via email or Google Drive. You can always withdraw permission for a recording at any time.
Client Profile & Contracting
Before we work together, I will normally send you a basic form to capture some high-level information about yourself and your needs as a coaching client. This requests contact details and preferences for how and when we will coach, as well as asking you to provide some background information on your career and reasons for accessing coaching. This ‘Client Profile’ will form the basis of our agreement to coach. Key information set out above will be reiterated in our verbal contract, as part of the coaching process.
I must also keep a record of sessions for each client in order to provide a log of practical coaching hours completed. This simply details name of client, number of sessions, date of first and last session and total duration of coaching.
Note Taking & Reflection Log
In addition to this, I keep a reflection log, where I write about what I’ve learned from my coaching and how I feel I may need to improve or change my practice in future. I also keep private notes of our coaching discussions summarising the main topics discussed and any tools used to aid my memory between sessions and help me spot any key themes over time. These are for my benefit only and will not be shared with anyone else. You may of course request to see what I’ve written about you at any time, as per current data protection regulations, or ask for your data to be deleted.
All of my coaching logs and data is stored on either my personal or work PC, depending on the nature of the client relationship, and backed up to Google cloud storage to prevent potential data loss.
I recommend clients also keep their own notes and reflections of their coaching journey to refer back to between sessions. If we work with any particular tools or worksheets, you will be able to keep these for future reference.
Data Protection & Storage
By participating in coaching, you agree to me holding and processing appropriate data to manage and support our coaching relationship, recognising that some of this data may be sensitive and personal in nature.
My coaching logs and related data are stored on either my personal or work PC, depending on the nature of the client relationship, and backed up to Google cloud storage to prevent potential data loss.
You may of course request to see what data I hold about you at any time or ask for any of your data to be deleted, as per your rights under current data protection legislation.
If you are interested in working with me, please get in touch using one of the methods listed on the ‘contact me’ page, providing an email address and I will send you a ‘Client Profile’ form to complete and suggest some times that might work for an initial ‘Chemistry Chat’ or first session.