What personal coaching can do: the coach’s perspective

Anthony Haynes writes: Our previous post (‘How coaching works — and what it can achieve’, 13 November) provided  case study of coaching and its benefits from the perspective of the coachee. This week, we tell the story of the same case from the coach’s perspective. The coach interviewed below is Alison France, who provides coaching services for FJWilson.

At the end of the interview, Alison provides a five-point plan for anyone considering taking on a coach. 

Alison-1What line of work are you in? What services do you provide?

I am a leadership and organisation development consultant.  I have qualifications in the application of organisation development (NTL OD Certificate) and an MSc in Occupational Psychology plus operational management experience.

I work with individuals, teams, large groups and whole organisations to enable them to achieve their potential.  The emphasis of this work is most often about professional relationships and group dynamics (including politics and inclusion) which can be developed to ensure people are performing at their best.

With my coaching clients I help them to understand what their ideal organisation and role look like.  I then enable them to build effective skills and relationships within those contexts so they can deliver results in collaboration with their colleagues.

I also enable teams and organisations to achieve healthy change by working with an internal team to diagnose where improvements can be made and then to implement and evaluate those improvements.  This creates a legacy of organisation development capability within their team.

How did you approach this particular case?

In this case I was invited to coach an individual who wanted to explore alternative career options and was dedicated to personal development to enable her to reach that goal.

As always, we began with an initial (free) consultation during which we could begin to get to know each other, clarify key goals for the client, and assess whether we were a match to work together.

We then had a number of sessions which were ordered and timed to reach these goals.  Between each session the client undertook to complete activities which were designed to achieve these goals.

We began by using Strengthscope (a positive based personality questionnaire), which helps people to understand what they are naturally great at and gain satisfaction from doing in a work context.  This enabled the client to understand her strengths at work and also non-strength areas that may hold her back.

Subsequent sessions helped the client to recognise and have the confidence to demonstrate her strengths, enabling her to grow into her role.  They also helped her improve some relationships at work, both with her key stakeholders and wider team.

Techniques used include using a strengths-based approach, goal setting, a holistic view of personal development, some visioning, and some cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to question and change unhelpful beliefs.

The result was that the coachee explored her options for future roles and identified the type of organisation she would thrive in.   Additional skills helped her to write a CV that got her shortlisted to roles twice – both of which she decided were not better than her current position so she withdrew her application.

Coaching helped her realise the satisfaction she was gaining for her current role as well as improve the relationships there.  Ultimately despite working through a difficult time of change she decided to stay in her current role.

What underpinned your approach? What kinds of decisions did you make?

My coaching approach is underpinned by a deep knowledge of psychology along with coaching practice, counselling theory and practice, sociology and anthropology, neuroscience, mindfulness, emotional intelligence, advanced communication skills, and many other approaches.  I use these as required to suit the preferences and needs of the person I am working with.

I always begin by uncovering the natural talents and interests (strengths) of the person I’m working with and clarifying their goals. I am not afraid to challenge to enable them to move forward. I then select from my toolkit of approaches to match the individual and goal in the moment throughout each of the coaching sessions.

Finally, I ensure the responsibility for personal development always remains with the individual involved, thus ensuring motivation, satisfaction and dedication to the process.

What do you enjoy about this kind of work? In what way is it rewarding?

The ability and dedication of people to develop their talents and achieve their goals inspires me.  To play even a small part in enabling this to happen, often improving people’s lives to help them become happier, is what I live for.

My strengths lie in using my empathy, creativity, persuasiveness and courage to enable others to achieve their goals.  My own continuous drive for self-improvement means I am always gaining knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve this.

Where, from potential clients’ perspective, do the greatest opportunities for coaching lie? Are you seeing any changes in how people use coaches?

As the job market has changed, people’s career paths and expectations have changed too.  Increasingly, individuals are taking responsibility for their own careers to ensure they are developing in a way which will achieve their own goals.

This may seem bad news for organisations, with employees more likely to leave for the next big opportunity.  However it does mean that the employees they have are much more engaged, productive and dedicated to their own personal development than ever before.

Having a coach who is independent of the organisation enables the individual and organisation to benefit from all of these advantages.

What would you say to anyone considering taking on a coach?

  1. Take time to find a person who you can get on with and trust to challenge you when needed
  2. Find out how the coach approaches their work: does this suit you?
  3. Have an idea of your goals and ensure that your first session focusses on clarifying those goals
  4. Be prepared to put some work in yourself. Ultimately this is your personal development: taking responsibility for this and being committed to achieving your goals will enable you to succeed
  5. Ensure you discuss expectations of each other clearly at the beginning of the relationship. This includes costs, frequency of sessions, timeframes and responsibilities.


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