Could coaching be what your career needs?

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Taking back control

I wrote a previous blog about setting goals, in it I mentioned that I would write about my experience of being coached. After taking a long break from publishing my personal writing whilst I got to grips with my new job here it is finally! I’ve written many drafts, because sharing a personal experience felt difficult. I hope you find my final version interesting.

I should probably start with why I wanted to be coached… My interest in coaching came from reading posts on Twitter from other senior female leaders, like the inspiring Hannah Wilson, who said that it had a profound impact on them, for some it was life changing. At a time when I wanted to explore what my future could look like, it sounded ideal.

So, I applied through the Women Leading in Education initiative, a scheme set up to match coaches with women who are in or aspiring to hold school leadership positions. Once I had signed up and been accepted, I was given access to a portal which held the details and bios for those who had registered to be coaches. The coaches were a mixture of serving school leaders and professional coaches.

When I was going through the profiles, there were names of people that I knew personally and professionally. I decided early on that I would prefer to work with someone who I did not have an existing relationship with and that I would prefer to work with someone who was a professional coach.

I picked someone from the list, that I thought would be a good fit and then checked out their social media and online presence, because I wanted to get a sense of their personality and whether we would be a good fit. I felt that getting the coach/coachee fit would mean that the process was likely to foster better success. I wanted to work with someone who like me, looked for the positives and didn’t dwell too much on the negatives.

Once I started to read Therese Hoyle’s social media posts and the details on her website, I felt like we would be a good fit and I reached out to her to approach her to be my coach. I was very pleased when she agreed to be my coach and instantly felt that we would work well together.

The initiative allowed for six sessions and I had my first coaching session in early March. Coaching is a personal exploration in to the topic that you want to explore. I decided that I was proud of what I had achieved to date, but I wanted to explore my potential and to come away with ideas of what I could consider doing in the future.

We discussed so many topics, reflecting on the notes that I wrote at the time, I don’t know how we fitted in so much. We talked about branding, building a profile, consultancy, research, problem solving, portfolio working, barriers, short and long-term goals, immediate challenges and financial planning. Each session started with a pre-meet exercise of deciding what were the three most important topics to discuss in the session.

I did a DISC assessment, my results showed that I am a blend of Dominant (D) and more strongly Cautious (C) traits. This assessment and analysis helped me to realise that it is a strength of mine to get things done quickly. I found the coaching process emotionally draining at times, particularly as we discussed more personal matters. As a professional business person, I wasn’t used to talking about deeply held personal challenges and barriers.

As recommended by Therese I kept a separate notebook during the coaching sessions, which have become useful reference notes. At the same time as I was having coaching, I wrote and published The School Business Manager’s Handbook. In my notebook I have two pages of feedback from the first people to read the book, which I like to look back on.

I have learned how to be ultra-focused and to stop concentrating on lots of things all at once. I also accept that change takes time and lots of small steps. The key technique that I am still using now, is to challenge myself with the question “what is the most important thing that I need to focus on right now?”

During and since the coaching sessions I have made changes and I am grateful to have an ongoing relationship with Therese. I am still learning what to say ‘no’ to, but I have removed some of the issues I was facing, and I have found new ways to tackle challenges. I now consider how I will celebrate and recognise the positives. I realised that I wasn’t looking after me very well, but I have made changes and taken back control. The opportunity to be coached came along at the perfect time for me and maybe it could help you too.

My life is not perfect, but I am working at being the best version of me. If you have read my post and are thinking about getting a coach, I thought it might be useful to share some tips on how I think it will be most successful, here are my top 3 tips for getting the most from it:

  1. Spend time researching coaches and select carefully who you want to work with, getting the fit between coach/coachee right is important.
  2. Be honest and open, because the more honest you can be, the more beneficial the coaching will be.
  3. Keep a diary/notebook of the experience, to keep reflections of important points and actions discussed.

And if you would like to explore the subject of coaching more I would recommend the Amazing If Squiggly Careers Podcast,listen to episode 84 ‘How to coach yourself‘ (, there is a great section about coaching circles and the 7 question technique which I think would be ideal to use with peers.