Student Story: Steve

When a place became available on the Coaching Essentials course, I took it. I’m not one to pass up an opportunity for personal development and one of the senior executives I work with mentioned that I might find it useful.

I’d never thought about coaching in any great depth before and I didn’t have my sights set on becoming a coach.

I took up the place because I wanted to bring coaching techniques into how I communicate and influence within my organisation.

Not only do I manage major, complex projects valued in the billions of pounds in the defence sector, but I also mentor junior colleagues. Because effective communication is central to coaching practice and vital in every single profession, the assessment I made was that I had nothing to lose and much to gain.

I had no anxiety before the first session. I’m naturally extroverted and a bit of an oversharer anyway(!). Even if I had felt any sense of trepidation, it would’ve dissolved immediately. My group was a diverse and welcoming group made up of people from different backgrounds. Listening to their stories was an enriching experience.

One of the major things I took from the course was how to frame questions, how to stimulate the thinking in the individual rather than doing the thinking for them. Mentoring is about giving the benefit of your experience. Coaching is not reliant on the coach’s experience. It’s about creating an environment to enable them to develop their own understanding of their situation.

The other great takeaway from the course was learning the importance of understanding people’s learning styles, not least my own.

I’d once been described as ‘intellectually aggressive’. I reflected on it and I did have a tendency to be a bit of a bulldozer when it came to discussions. I can appear to be quite confrontational. What I discovered on the course was the different learning styles and my preference for learning is that I test ideas through experimentation in conversation. This can, for people in a discussion with me, be quite intense and intimidating.

Reaching that self awareness and appreciation of other people’s learning preferences means I can adapt better now. It leads to interactions which are more meaningful and my colleagues feel less trampled after a discussion with me!

I’ve put what I’ve learned into action already. One colleague applied for a job she wanted but had totally flunked the interview. She said she had done really badly this left her feeling really fragile and down. The role became available again. I asked if she was going to have another go. She said she didn’t feel up to it. I said, ‘Well, you want the job, so what do you need? How about I coach you through it?’ She took me up on the offer. It was great and didn’t take much, just a few sessions of really good conversation. She got the job which was great for her but also great for me too. It was gratifying to be able to apply what I'd learned to support her in a better way.

The techniques I picked up are all designed to create positive relationships. Positive relationships are the key to achieving anything in life. For that reason, I’d encourage anyone interested in Coaching Essentials to give it a go.

Considering Coaching Essentials?

  • If you understand your own learning style and you understand the preferences of others, you will immediately feel the benefits in enhanced conversations where independent thinking is supported and constructive.
  • I’ve done quite a lot of leadership courses but nothing specifically focussed on coaching in this way as a particular skillset. I think that’s the best way to view it, as a skillset and practice. Once you acquire tools and techniques, you really bolster what you can bring to an organisation.
  • You don’t know what you don’t know so it’s worth being inquisitive and giving things a go. The benefits are manifold: you will learn more about others in your group, learning frameworks and practical techniques to name but three.