We spoke with Rachel Abel, a graduate of the most recent Executive Central Coaching Academy, about her experience. A GM in a large organisation, Rachel talks about how the program has created a significant shift in her team leadership style, and about the experience of being thrown into the deep end with a ‘live’ client.
What brought you to the Coaching Academy?
I wanted to develop my coaching skills within my own role. I’d previously had a transformative experience of being coached myself, with Executive Central’s Reyna Matthes. The coaching was great for my own professional development and I wanted to support my team in that same way.
I’d always taken a coaching approach to team leadership, wanted a more structured approach – something tried and tested, so that I could be completely confident in the outcomes for my staff.
Did you get that structured approach from the Coaching Academy?
Yes! I was able to bring the learning back into my everyday practice immediately. I’ve been able to have some great conversations about issues like delegation, communication and career planning. One thing I really like about the program was that after every workshop I was able to bring something new back that I could put into practice and I saw the positive impact straight away.
We talk about the Four Hats model of coaching: facilitator, mentor, educator and consultant. Which hat do you use the most?
I think the Educator role comes most naturally to me. I’m always sharing articles and snippets of learning. The Coaching Academy helped me build the other three roles more. The training really expanded my awareness about the importance of balancing between the four roles and I think I’m now much more versatile in my approach.
You need to tailor your approach to the person you’re working with. The program helped me think about this – what aspects I can package for the ‘coachee’ to support them in achieving their goals. As a team leader, I have to think about what’s right for that person, and for the team when coaching a group.
Is it about using coaching in a more conscious way?
Yes. I bring more mindfulness to my role as a leader and coach. I think about which tool provides the best approach for that person and context. Executive Central provides a range of diagnostic and developmental tools, and what I like about them is that they are relatively simple and easy to apply for both you and the coachee – important when you are there in the room working together. You don't want to be struggling with some complicated process. But they are also really effective and get results.
Did you have any hesitations about the Coaching Academy?
Being new to coaching, I wondered what the profile of the group would be. Would they be experienced coaches? Would they have a similar background to me? As it turned out, they were a diverse group of intelligent and interesting people. A very supportive network of newbie coaches! The course leaders – Rob, Reyna and Glenn – are all expert facilitators, and made everyone feel comfortable.
How has this program changed you as a manager?
I think I’m more willing to offer coaching and mentoring to my team. I’m more likely to say, “Would you like to have a coaching conversation around that?”
I’m confident that I have something useful to share. I’ve already seen the impact on people, and it's lovely to watch their progress, especially with the younger staff.
I’ve brought the coaching skills to my mentoring role as well. Mentoring younger staff is also very rewarding. And with the Executive Central tools, you know you’ll get results. It’s more structured than a free-flowing conversation. And I think I’ve become a better listener, using funnelling techniques and so on. I listen more, and pick up on a lot more.
What about the format and structure of Coaching Academy?
You get a ‘live’ client straight away. I think for all of us in the group the thought of this was daunting, to be frank. Although I’m more comfortable being completely competent at something new before practising on someone, I do thrive by being thrown in at the deep end! I trusted the three facilitators, and in retrospect I can see that it was the best way for the group to learn. They carefully match you with a client and of course brief that person on your trainee status!
So it turned out brilliantly. I’m still in touch with my coach. Even though the official engagement is over, we’ll have one more catch up in February to do some career mapping, and get him set up for the year.
What value does coaching add to your role and organisation?
I think that all leaders have a responsibility for leadership development amongst their teams. Coaching and mentoring are often relegated to HR, however I think all managers should be able to put those skills into practice. That way you get the best out of your staff with really high performing teams and they get the sense of empowerment that coaching brings.