How to get the best out of me. This month: the executive coach

What do you specialise in?

In the corporate sector, I tend to specialise in a combination of life coaching, mentoring and counselling. In particular, one-to-one coaching for managers who are being asked to assume higher levels of responsibility as part of their career development, for which they have no formal training. I call this process ‘life coaxing’. Typically, HR will refer high-achieving individuals who have been promoted into positions of leadership, only to discover that the skillset which elevated them is inadequate to sustain them as leaders. My role is to enable them to develop a confidence-based value set to match their competence skillset.

Name some of your clients

Disney Corporation, Sir Robert McAlpine, Franklin Andrews and Cundalls, and Scott Wilson.

What are the information must-haves you need before running coaching for a client?

I think in terms of information must-not-haves. I like to form my own opinions of the client and not be too influenced by HR. I prefer to limit this to a ‘postcard’ of the client from the organisation’s perspective, and then ensure they manage the expectation of the client correctly in terms of why they have recommended the client be referred.

What is the nice-to-have information?

I like the postcards to tell me about the impact the client is having on their environment.

How can the HR or training manager help you to deliver the most appropriate coaching possible?

The crucial thing is to manage the coachee’s expectations. It is important that coaching is set in the context of career development and an investment in the coachee. The other crucial condition is for the sponsoring organisation to be prepared to rely solely on the fruit of the process rather than any reports or feedback. I insist on maintaining client confidentiality.

What contact would you make with subjects before starting coaching sessions?

I arrange an initial consultation. The nature of the coaching process is that the client must be able to relate and confide in their coach and they in turn must be able to relate and listen to their client. So I like to give both parties the opportunity to decide whether they think that they are well matched.

How long should one-to-one coaching sessions last?

Two-and-a-half hours, with a 15-minute break.

How many sessions are needed to make coaching worthwhile?

I would have five sessions – one initial assessment followed by four sessions. Also, I usually schedule a follow-up session six months after the final session.

How should organisations select candidates for coaching?

The type of coaching that I specialise in is a meal best served to those managers who are experiencing difficulties moving between transactional management and inspirational leadership.

Do you use particular coaching methods?

Life coaxing is an inter-changeable combination of empathic listening, assisted recognition and guided decision-making. I think most coaches use elements of many models, but I don’t favour one more than another. The key is being able to journey with a client sufficiently for them to take the emotional deep dive into their true self. Invite them into the room of mirrors, to take a long hard look at who they are, and consider any disconnects between who they perceive themselves to be, how they want to be perceived, and how they are actually perceived now.

What do you think of neuro linguistic programming?

It is one of the ‘marmite’ offerings among life coaches – you either love it or you hate it. If coaches use NLP techniques, it is important that they do not appear to be ‘mind-programming’ or ‘re-birthing’. To me, NLP is just another tool in the kit.

What book on coaching would you recommend for HR and training managers?

Stephen Covey’s Daily Reflections For Highly Effective People, and his latest work, The 8th Habit.

What are the most challenging sessions to run?

It has been said that 50% of the time people don’t realise there is a problem, 30% of the time they realise there is a problem but don’t know how to solve it, and 20% of the time they realise there is a problem but don’t want to solve it. Undoubtedly, sessions that involve the latter 20% are the hardest to facilitate.

What qualities must a coach have to be effective?

The pre-requisite is that the coach must care about people and have a genuine longing to see them fulfil their true potential. In terms of the necessary skillset, a good coach needs to be a good observer, be able to identify the problem, to demonstrate best-practice replacement behaviour, guide the client to solutions, monitor progress and offer remedial solutions.

Paul Anderson-Walsh, executive coach and counsellor, runs The Anderson-Walsh Consultancy, and has coached in the corporate sector for 10 years. He has also worked as a mentor and counsellor with many subjects, including young offenders

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