Vision to Victory: Coaching as a Leadership Game-Changer – PODCAST

Explore the role that coaching can play in empowering you as a leader, uncovering your strengths, and allowing you to live by your values.

Vision to Victory: Coaching as a Leadership Game-Changer – PODCAST

Explore the role that coaching can play in empowering you as a leader, uncovering your strengths, and allowing you to live by your values.

Meet the author

Sophie Brazell- Ng

Managing Consultant

Sarah Partridge

Founder & Director of The Change Academy

Dr Kristina Curtis

Behaviour Change Expert | Consultant | Lecturer | Researcher

In this episode of Nevermind the Pain Points, host Sophie Brazell-Ng and guest experts Sarah Partridge and Dr. Kristina Curtis explore the critical role that coaches play in unlocking the full potential of leaders. Tune in to discover how coaching can be your ally in navigating challenges, identifying your strengths, and steering your career towards success.

Listen here or read on for an edited transcript.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Welcome back, everybody. Hello. Hello. So we’re back again, this time talking about coaching. Just as a quick introduction to myself, I’m Sophie Brazell-Ng.

I am one of the management consultants at Clarasys specialising in the people and change space with actually a particular interest in coaching. So I’m really, really excited to interview one of our guests today, Sarah. 

Sarah Partridge: Hello. 

Hello. I’m Sarah Partridge. I’m the founder and director of the Change Academy. We are a consultancy working with leaders to develop their skills, experience, and approach, as well as working alongside organisations to help them with strategy.

I’m also an executive coach, hence why we’re talking about coaching today. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Awesome. 

Christina Curtis: And hi, nice to be back again. I’m Dr. Christina Curtis and I’m founder of A Boutique Behavioural Science Consultancy specialising in helping organisations leverage the latest science in behaviour change to develop behaviour change interventions and I’m also an Associate and Honorary Lecturer at UCL’s Centre of Behaviour Change.

Decoding Coaching: More Than Just a Buzzword

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Awesome. I think we’ve got good at introducing ourselves now. Well done guys. So as I said, today we’re going to be talking about coaching. I think this is of particular interest, especially in the Clarasys space, as we really, really do pride ourselves on our internal coaching model. Something that we think is really important and has helped us grow as a business.

We have Sarah with us today and as part of introduction, a qualified coach who we’re going to be asking a ton of questions about coaching today. So Sarah, I think First obvious question first, what is coaching? 

Sarah Partridge: It’s actually, I mean, it’s not an obvious question because I think that there’s quite a lot of complexity in it and it’s used in various different contexts.

So, I think the most widely used context is when we think about sports coaches, right? And actually what we’re doing in business has some overlap with, you know, the kind of sports context, but it is different, right? So, if you think about someone like, I don’t know, football analogy, someone like Pep Guardiola, for example, what a football coach is doing is working with the team, but they’re very focused on winning and they’re very focused on results.

And they’re quite directive in terms of telling people what they should be doing or how to get the most out of their players. Whereas I think in an executive or life coaching context, coaching is very non-directive. Okay. So it’s not about telling someone what to do. It’s not about giving your opinion.

It’s not, certainly not about winning as such. So it’s kind of, it’s not about competition. And so it’s important to get that clear, I think, to start with, because sports coaching is probably the most prevalent style of coaching. But if we think about the actual definition, I mean, one of the biggest coaching organisations is the International Coaching Federation or the ICF.

And their definition of coaching is partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential. Right. Which is a really nice definition, I think, because A, it’s a partnership. So partnering with clients. Thought provoking, so the coach is having to provide or create an environment which allows those thoughts to be provoked. 

It’s a creative process, right? So it’s about Challenging existing mindsets, you know, helping a client to shift their kind of ingrained way of behaving and think about things in a creative way to unlock potential solutions, but also the inspiring them to maximise their personal and professional potential.

We’re working with whole people. So even when I work with, I mean, I work mainly with, with leaders in businesses, I’m not just working with their work selves, I’m working with them as a whole person, right? Because we’re not two different people, right? Who’d have thought it, right? So it is about maximising personal and professional potential.

The difference between coaching, training, and mentoring 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Amazing. Interesting that you started off also talking about the sports. I hadn’t thought about that before, but we are very much talking about coaching in organisations here and in business. I think a lot of people sometimes use coaching interchangeably with a lot of other terms, but can you share what the difference is between training, teaching, mentoring, and coaching is?

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. So, coaching, as I said, is very non-directive and it’s all about unlocking potential. Whereas training is about imparting skills and knowledge and essentially directing someone in terms of what to do or how to do something differently. So training is a lot more tell, coaching is a lot more ask.

And we talk about this idea of push and pull. So coaching is very pull, whereas training and teaching is very push. And mentoring is almost like a combination between the two, right? So you’ll probably push, do a bit of pushing and do a bit of pulling within a mentoring conversation. Coaching is quite, you know, the, in the purest sense of the word.

So when you’re trained in the world of executive coaching, You know, it’s very much about pulling from the client’s existing knowledge. So there’s a real belief as a coach that the person that has the right answer is the person sitting in front of you. Not you as the coach, you don’t have the right answer for them. They have the right answer for them. 

So you kind of really believe in that inbuilt, inherent sense of knowing. like they’ve got the answers they need within themselves and you as the coach are almost helping them to unlock that potential. Does that make sense? 

Christina Curtis: Yeah. No, that’s, that’s really interesting.

Because I deliver training, I teach and I mentor. So from what you’re saying about the kind of pulling, I feel like a lot of the time, it’s actually students and other people meant to pulling things from me and a lot of advice and supporting them rather than me pulling things from them. So I think that’s a really good way to kind of differentiate it.

And also when I was sort of years ago, sort of studied psychotherapy, again, it was a lot about that kind of person-centred approach and it’s about the person having that, you know, the answers, isn’t it? 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. You know, very similar to that. Yeah. Definitely. 

Why coaching is a game-changer in today’s workplace

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Wonderful. And this might seem a little bit of a daft question because it’s probably very obvious to you and also very obvious to the clients that you’re working with. But why do you think that coaching is important in the workplace? 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, I mean, it’s such a great question. And I think it’s one that we don’t discuss enough in business actually. And the more that I work as a coach with leaders in organisations, the more I believe it’s becoming important. And that’s because the way that I describe it is that when we’re working as a leader in an organisation and we have a hundred priorities that are competing, we’ve got a team of people who all want time with us.

We’re juggling many, many balls, right? When we’re kind of operating in that state, we’re generally operating reactively, you know, we’re thinking very fast, right? 

And we’re kind of just go, go, go, go, go, go, go. And there’s not really much time for reflection. 

Christina Curtis: I’m not often thinking differently either. I’m like, I’m having to go with things I know that work and get me that quickly.

Sarah Partridge: Well we can’t. We have no space to think differently, you know, and that’s just, Completely understandable, right? And I’ve been there myself as a leader in an organisation, but I think what coaching allows is for people to slow down. And actually, I’ve got a coaching client I’m working with at the moment, and she’s an MD of a big music company, and she talked about this idea of being on the hamster wheel all the time at work.

And actually, when she comes into coaching, it’s her slow down time. And I think you might be aware of the famous. Daniel Kahneman book, the fast and slow thinking, right? It’s like when we’re sort of reacting with fast, fast, fast, fast, fast, and then we come into coaching. It’s giving or providing that environment where slow thinking can be embraced, right? And that’s where we get our best ideas. That’s where we can reflect on ourselves, you know, in that kind of metaphysical way that only humans can do, right? To think about how we are as individuals. It can’t happen inside that reactive environment. We have to create a different space for that.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: As someone who has had coaching on a couple of topics and often I sometimes think, Oh, you know, that’s the one thing that I might be able to get out of my I’m so, so busy and I’m like, no, right, go to the coaching. And you walk in with about a million problems. And I come out of that having talked with my coach and I’ve actually solved all of them.

I feel a lot calmer than actually if I’d just been go, go work. And I’ve thought about it in a very different way in a different approach that I wouldn’t have been able to unlock myself. It might, as you said, have been there, but I needed someone to help me kind of get it through and think about things in a different way.

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, definitely. A hundred percent. So I think that as we become increasingly busy with less resources, you know, businesses are demanding more from their professionals. With less resource, let’s face it, you know, the coaching space becomes even more important and not just for leaders. You know, I think that traditionally when organisations have budget for coaching, it always goes to the very top of the company, you know, the executive team, but actually, you know, you’re seeing more organisations who are trying to create a culture of coaching.

Like Clarasys, for example, you know, you talked about your culture of coaching and certainly other large organisations, they’ll have quite a few internal coaches where they’re sort of training up people who’ve got a different day job, but they’re also an internal coach. So that there’s coaching available to anyone and everyone that wants to kind of experience that across the organisation. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: And our model at Clarasys definitely relies on that. I can definitely say we’re a better organisation and a healthier bunch of people because of that, that coaching model. I can’t say we are professional coaches, but we do have some training in that conversational style, which I think is extremely important.

And I’ve seen it in value in terms of our own style. Staff, but also when we’ve introduced our clients, to coaches and, and brought them in as part of, of projects, it allows them to pause, stop, think about things in a very, very different way, and ultimately gets us to there with quite often a lot less stress. 

Christina Curtis: Yeah. No, I think it’s absolutely crucial for this self-reflection and this time to pause, but also human interaction. Having, you know, that human touch with someone to kind of talk things through, I think is really important as well. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, and just on that one thing that we were talking about in the last podcast that we did, we were talking a little bit about listening as leaders, right?

Like being a listening organisation. And it’s such a small thing, but one of the largest, greatest benefits of coaching is, for the client, is being truly listened to. I mean, it’s a really simple thing, right? And anybody can do that. Anybody can do it. It takes a lot of effort. It takes concentration, but even when we think we’re listening, we’re not actually listening. You know, there’s sort of different levels of listening, right? There’s a sort of surface level, there’s a kind of, okay, I’m listening to your words and I’m also listening to your emotions. But really when you’re in that coaching space, it’s listening on an energetic level, which is a whole different ball game, right?

Sophie Brazell-Ng: And not applying my own judgement. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. I’m not applying my own judgement. It’s difficult, you know, and it takes quite a lot of practice to not sort of go into that spiral of it being about you as the coach, it’s that nonjudgmental. listening space that can create so much benefit for a client. Even, you know, I’ve had coaching conversations where I’m not saying a lot.

What I’m providing is a safe space for someone to be truly listened to, which is similar, I suppose, to a therapeutic type environment, although coaching and therapy is, is different, but even that is really beneficial to someone who’s busy at work and struggling to cope and needs a bit of reflection time to figure things out for themselves.

That in itself is quite a big benefit. 

Elevating and inspiring: coaching’s impact on leadership

Sophie Brazell-Ng: I think something that you’ve really importantly touched upon there is the importance of coaching for all. I think what we are seeing now is more and more companies are actually providing budget behind that, but it’s often being kind of sequestered to more of those leadership types of roles.

Again, it might seem a little bit of a silly question, but do you see there is value in coaching leaders? 

Sarah Partridge: Oh God, absolutely. I mean, you know.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: I’m glad you said that. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, look, hugely. I understand why businesses would focus their budget on leaders. I mean, that just makes absolute sense. I think what I’m talking about, it’s an and rather than instead.

So it’s, it’s like, okay, let’s coach leaders and their teams, you know, and work with, high potentials, middle management, everyone, if we have the budget to do so. But yes, I mean, I think ultimately starting with your leadership population is hugely important because if you are leading people, for me, the fundamental, like the most important aspect of that is self awareness.

A leader with no self awareness is never going to be a good leader. They’re just not. You know, and self awareness and emotional intelligence go hand in hand. And we can develop both of those skills or mindsets and behaviours through coaching conversations, particularly the self awareness part, because part of a coach’s job is to reflect back what they see.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Which can be a real challenge.

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, it’s a challenge. And I think, you know, it’s something that I struggled to do when I first started coaching, but now I feel very comfortable to do so because there’s no agenda. There’s no judgement. It’s, you know, there is no agenda with that. It’s just, you’re just reflecting back what you see.

and it’s up to the client to decide whether they want to take that on board or whether they want to dismiss that. That’s not part of the agenda. It’s just like, I’ve just noticed blah, blah, blah, blah. I’ve noticed ABC. Are you aware of that? 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: And that’s such a powerful role that I can see coaches and yourself playing, especially when you’ve got leaders who often have to come across as, I am right, or I can’t let my guard down.

Actually, you have someone who’s; Is that what you mean? Is that the right thing? Do you want to do it this way? Something that can actually challenge, but there’d be no consequences behind it as well. 

Sarah Partridge: Definitely. But always open questions. You know, the what’s, when’s, how’s, rather than the do you, have you, because that’s a leading question in a coaching environment.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: That’s already making me panic. I’m like, no, I’ve not. 

Sarah Partridge: But, you know, really using those open questions, but also I think a really important aspect of coaching is the contracting at the beginning of that relationship. And I always have a conversation with my clients to say, right, you know, how challenging do you want me to be, right? If I notice that you’re doing something.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Do people say, Oh yes, I’d like to be really challenging. Then actually when you start that, they’re like, oh God, no, no, no. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. I mean, that can be the case. That can be the case. I mean, generally people like, no, no, I want you to absolutely challenge me. But then I’m working with senior leaders who tend to be pretty open to challenge more often than not.

So they’re like, no, just. Give it me warts and all, you know, tell me what you see, tell me things that you think I can’t see or what, you know. So generally people want to be challenged, but I do always ask that question and I always contract that at the beginning because it’s important to have that shared understanding before you go into a coaching relationship.

So yeah, it’s good to frame things up front. 

Christina Curtis: And do you ever get, I guess, challenges where you’ve kind of identified areas for improvement, but. Perhaps they don’t agree or can’t see that, or generally kind of through the process of coaching that that has led to this self awareness where they’ve been able to identify along with you.

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. And it’s a really good question. I mean, I wouldn’t probably give feedback that directly in terms of, I think you need to improve this, or I think you need to improve that. Because that’s not really my job as a coach. I might ask them what they think they need to improve. And we’d use a lot of, you know, we could use tools to help us to do that.

So I’m a big fan of psychometrics. I’m also a big fan of 360 feedback. And I think ideally, if I’m working generally with a leader. To start with a 360 is a really helpful way to, again, frame the conversation to look at, okay, this is how you’re seen by others in the organisation. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: I was going to ask, what is 360 feedback and psychometrics for those who aren’t kind of familiar with the coaching world?

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, really great questions. So a 360 is essentially an assessment that is done around your leadership style, your behaviours. It can be bespoke to certain aspects of leadership, or it can be, you know, across the spectrum of leadership behaviours. Usually, you know, I’ll work with a HR team to create that because certain businesses have certain leadership behaviours that they expect that, you know, fit within the culture and that they’re different from organisation to organisation, but a 360 is, is completed by the individual themselves.

So they rank themselves on the spectrum of behaviours and also they’ll nominate 10 to 15 people normally to complete it about them. And what we say is, you know, ask your line manager, ask people who are your peers, and also ask people who report directly into you. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Ah, 360. Okay, I’m there now. 

Sarah Partridge: That’s the 360 part. And then generally what you see is the results are presented in such a way that you can see the contrast between how I scored myself and how others see me. And one of the most interesting, fascinating things that I so resonate with is generally when I’m working with female leaders, they always rank themselves way lower than all of their colleagues do.

So on pretty much every single leadership behaviour, they see themselves to be presenting this behaviour less than their colleagues feel they are. Which is really interesting and kind of plays into some of the work that I do around confidence. So generally the 360 feedback is a really nice introduction to, Oh, that’s interesting.

So what, what are you noticing here? I’m noticing that I’ve marked myself lower than every other group of people. Okay, that’s interesting. What’s that about? What’s going on there? You know, what, where’s that coming from? And it really opens up that conversation around inner critic, around lack of confidence, around imposter syndrome.

And then you’ve got some really deeper work to do then around mindset and around overcoming that imposter syndrome. So, but you know, the other great thing about a 360 is it really highlights strengths as well. You know, it’s usually a mixture of statistical kind of quantitative information and also qualitative verbatim feedback.

So you see themes and stuff that come through. It’s just, it’s a rich place to start a coaching relationship. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: That’s really interesting. And it’s interesting you mentioned strengths as well. When you start to figure out those strengths and share those with your leaders or those who you’re coaching, do you kind of advise for them to start actually playing to their strengths?

And does that make a difference to how they show up? 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, no, absolutely. I mean, I love the kind of concepts that have been born out of strength psychology. So there’s a company you probably, Well aware of called Gallup who? 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Oh, yeah, yeah. 

Sarah Partridge: So Gallup created what they call their strengths finder assessment. And that, that’s my kind of go-to, that I work with when I’m working with clients. But essentially their theory of strengths is that as a, you know, as a society, traditionally we’ve been told to focus on weaknesses. So in, in businesses, when you go in for your annual appraisal, however your business does it, it’s like, okay, well Christina, you know, you’re not, you’re not brilliant at analytics, and you’ve really got to work harder on being more analytical. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to be good at it. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah. So traditionally that’s where we kind of put our time and energy. Let’s make Christina a great analyst. Right. But that’s obviously not her strength. It probably is, by the way, Christina, I’m just using that as an example.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Christina going… 

Sarah Partridge: Actually, I’m very analytical, I’ll have, you know. But what Gallup is saying is that essentially Our time and energy is way better spent in focusing on the things we’re naturally talented at and taking those from being an 8 to being a 10 out of 10.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: You’re probably happier doing it that way, right?

Sarah Partridge: Well that’s the thing. So, not only will we be playing to our strengths and get better, like become an expert or something we’re naturally good at, we’ll also, I think it’s like we’re four times likely as to be engaged in our work and our levels of well being are going to be so much higher. 

So as a leader, A, what are your strengths? Are you playing to them? If you’re not playing to them, why? You know, and how can you bring more of that into what you’re doing on a daily basis, whether that’s inside of work, outside of work, how can you really lean into those strengths? 

But also what about your team? You know, are they playing to their strengths? Are they utilising those strengths? What do those strengths look like as a collective? Right. So sometimes we’ll have a team of people, they’ve all got assigned roles, tasks, responsibilities, and actually the person that’s brilliant at analysis is out there doing all the creative stuff. And the person that’s great at creativity has got the analytical job or whatever it is, right? So it’s like, how can we look at that team dynamic as a whole, and make sure that as a leader we’re sort of aligning the right people to the right tasks based on their strengths. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: I think there’s a fascinating crossover there also in your space, Christina, with behaviours and creating great teams as well, based on what people are really good at and therefore actually people showing up to work in, in the right way, probably much happier at work as well.

Christina Curtis: Yeah. And it also comes down to the engagement, you know, for any behaviour has to be there. And it’s much easier if you do, if you’re kind of focusing on behaviours that you already have your strength and have some enjoyment with and engagement with than starting with something that’s completely not on your radar.

But it’s so interesting. I think, you know, we’ve heard how crucial coaching is for the self awareness, for kind of increasing confidence. I wonder, how does it work with the actual kind of change process? So once you’ve, I guess they’ve, you know, identified some strengths you’re going to continue to work on, how do you kind of put things in motion?

Do you set some goals within your coaching session and then see whether they’ve, you know, work with how they’re going to achieve those goals? I just wondered what 

Sarah Partridge: So there’s a lot in that, actually, in that question. The first thing that came to my mind as you were talking is this idea of limiting beliefs.

So we work with limiting beliefs in coaching and limiting beliefs can be a barrier to change. “I can’t do it. I’m not good enough,” or whatever it might be. Every individual, doesn’t matter who you are, will have some levels of limiting beliefs they have about themselves and what we do in coaching is to first of all, uncover what they are. 

What is it? What is it that you actually do believe? Because a lot of the time, it’s subconscious, like it’s buried deep within, and suddenly it will come out in a coaching conversation and people are like, 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Wow. I mean, I do believe I’m not going to be an astronaut, but I think we’re thinking about slightly deeper things than that.

Sarah Partridge: It’s more the kind of narrative that we all have in our head. You know, the inner critic of I’m not good enough, or if I’m going to be good, I have to be perfect or you know, it’s the things we look at in cognitive behavioural therapy, right? But, you know, those inner narratives that are just habitual and actually aren’t based on any kind of evidence or reality.

And so, so you kind of, by uncovering those limiting beliefs first and foremost, and then working with the client to challenge them and actually sort of rewire your mindset to go, actually, you know what, that limiting belief, there’s no real reason for me to have that anymore. I can let go of that now.

That can be quite freeing when it comes to change. The other thing that came up as well, when you’re talking about setting goals and that kind of thing, goal setting is a thing in coaching. I don’t tend to use it, necessarily, apart from what’s your goal for our conversation today? Like by the time we finish this conversation today, what do you want to have achieved or how do you want to feel at the end of it?

And then also what’s your goal, like longer term for our coaching relationship. But one of the things a coach can do is to be what I call an accountability partner. Right. So if you’re in a session with me, Sophie, and you say to me, right, I’m going to go and block out my diary every day from nine till 10 so I can do some strategic thinking.

Right. This is a common conversation I have with leaders. Not enough time to be strategic and being too operational and being too reactive. Okay. I’m going to go and block out time in my diary to do that. Okay, great. Would you like me to check in and see how that’s going yet? “Yeah, love you to check in, Sarah”. So I’ll check in a week later.

How’s that going for you? 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Yeah, “well you didn’t do that.” 

Sarah Partridge: But it’s, you know, it’s, it’s provide, it’s just you’re that person that helps someone to stay accountable to what they’ve committed to do, because, you know, it’s hard, isn’t it to sort of commit to doing something differently. But if you’ve got someone there saying, how are you getting on with that? How can I help with that? What is it that’s getting in the way of you doing that? That can be really helpful for people to change. 

Christina Curtis: Yeah, and accountability is extremely important. You just think, going to the gym. I know that if I’ve booked a session with a personal trainer, I won’t cancel that session. Whereas if I’ve just booked it for myself, sometimes other things will get in the way and I won’t go. 

Sarah Partridge: Yes, definitely. So it’s so important. Absolutely. So it’s a cheerleader and accountability partner, I think, can be a big benefit to that relationship. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Huge. We’ve touched upon, I think you said psychometrics, 360 coaching, Gallup and some other methods you’ve got there, but are there any other great tools and methods that you use that can support coaching?

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, I mean, I think the one tool that I use a lot actually with clients, particularly around career coaching. So if someone’s at a bit of a crossroads and they want to make a change in their career, they’re not happy and they want to explore other opportunities. Strengths is definitely a go to.

It’s like, what are you naturally good at? But the other thing that’s almost even deeper than that is values, right? And when I say values, I mean, what is it that’s important to you in your life right now? You know, in every aspect of your life. And values are really almost like, for me, that they’re the compass that navigates you on the right journey without getting too spiritual.

But it’s so important to have clarity on what your deepest values are in life. And again, it sounds really obvious. It’s like, you know what your values are, of course you do. But actually, when was the last time you really sat and thought about what your values are? 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: “I don’t know what my values are.”

Christina Curtis: It’s because it often gets taken up with our sort of social identity, you know, our prescribed roles; in the workplace, as a parent, as you know. But actually then again, it comes back to that self reflection piece.

Do we spend enough time thinking about, actually, what is our personal values? What do I really want from life? 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, definitely. It comes back to that fast, fast, fast, fast, fast. I’m just being swept along. on the river of… 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: And then crash. 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, and then crash. It’s like actually stopping and going, hang on a minute, is this the direction I want my life and my career to be going in?

Is this really conducive to the kind of, A, the person I want to be, B, the kind of life I want to live? And a lot of the time, all of this stuff is buried deep down because it’s the only way that we can survive, and what I try and help my clients who are doing coaching is to kind of really surface that to a conscious level and go, let’s just go back to basics here.

You know, what are the things that are most important to you in life and what priority do they sit in? Because the interesting thing with values is that they often conflict, you know, it’s not simple. It’s like, you know, I have a value of, say, being successful all my career, but I also have a value of family and that kind of, you know, that’s really important to me too.

So these two things are constantly feel like they’ve got a tension between them. Christina’s nodding. And so I’ve got to think about, well, what’s my priority? And when I do sit and reflect and think about it, my family always wins. Right. It’s always like, you know what, this is my priority. And actually like, that’s part of the reason why I ended up leaving my big corporate job and setting up the Change Academy was because I actually did this values exercise for myself.

I went, what is it that I want? What’s most important to me? And it just made me realise that it’s like, okay, you say you want this, so why aren’t you doing it? Right. And it kind of gave me the courage. and the clarity to make a change in my life. 

Navigating the coaching landscape: ethical considerations and finding the right coach

Sophie Brazell-Ng: That’s really thought provoking. I think that one’s hit kind of a chord for me there. Really, really interesting. I think what we were talking about before this is, you’ve mentioned some great tools and methods there, but, and coaching can be a very powerful tool using those as well. Things that people need to be aware of, with coaching. I’m quite conscious of people might be listening to this and thinking, oh, I might go and get myself a coach, or I might go and do some of these activities with some of my employees.

What would you, kind of say to anyone that’s looking at that, that they should be conscious? 

Sarah Partridge: That’s really, it’s a really great question. It’s very important in terms of the ethics around the coaching industry. So unlike the therapeutic counselling world, coaching is still today an unregulated industry, right?

Which means that anyone can go and do a £9.99 course on Coursera and say, “Hey, I’m a life coach. I’ll charge 100 a session. Thank you very much.” You know, and I’m not saying that that goes on a lot, but it does go on. So if you are out there looking for a coach, you know, it’s really important to make sure that your coach has trained with a coaching school that’s probably either accredited by the ICF, which is the International Coaching Federation, the Association for Coaching, which is the AC, or the EMCC, which is the European Mentoring and Coaching Council. 

So generally most coaching qualifications these days in the UK, like there’s some big coaching schools and they generally all follow the guidelines and frameworks of some, if not all, of those coaching bodies.

So I’d say that’s really important to look for when you’re choosing a coach. 

I’d be a little bit wary of coaches that charge extortionate amounts of money. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. 

Sarah Partridge: More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. I have my own ethical values around that, you know. Coaches, unfortunately, cost more than counsellors or therapists, you know, which doesn’t sit particularly well with me if you’re working in a private coaching capacity.

So just use your instincts and be a little bit mindful. If you go into a coaching conversation with someone and they’re trying to direct you or to give their opinion. They’re not coaching you. They’re not coaching. If they’re not listening and asking questions, then that’s generally not coaching. So that should be a bit of a warning sign as well. 

But just do your research on that coach. You know, in terms of how they’ve trained, how long they’ve been coaching for, look for testimonials and that kind of thing. But it is important just to be on your guard a little bit because it is unregulated and people are practising and they don’t have the experience to do that. 

The Future of Coaching: AI vs the Human Touch

Christina Curtis: Yeah. No, it is unregulated, unfortunately. And I think now that the latest potential threat. It’s now AI tools, AI coaches coming in. 

What’s your take on that and the sort of future of coaching if we’re going to have more AI? 

Sarah Partridge: It’s really interesting, actually, and myself and some colleagues are going to collaborate to talk about this very topic, you know, in terms of what, what, you know, AI means for learning, development, coaching, you know, all of the sort of talent development type stuff.

Okay. So I’m not an expert in this. 

I don’t think anyone is yet. That’s the point. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Yeah, like find me an expert. I don’t think there is any, yeah.

Sarah Partridge: My own personal view on AI in coaching is that it could be really beneficial and as well as there being, you know, pitfalls, challenges that we need to look out for. The benefits for me is AI could potentially give everybody access to a coach at the touch of their fingers, right? So you could kind of go on to…

Sophie Brazell-Ng: To a coach, but not necessarily a person. 

Sarah Partridge: Not a person. No. So to a coaching process, right? I mean, I could go on to probably Google’s you know, Gemini and say, let’s have a coaching conversation about my career development. And that could probably happen right now that I could put some questions in and maybe I would get some questions back.

Right. I don’t know. So I think that there’s real opportunity for people to access a coaching process. through AI. But obviously what would always be lacking there is presence. And one of the things that you train in when you’re training to be a coach is this idea of presence, which is that energetic connection you have with another human being, whether it be in person or virtually, that presence, that energy is there. That feeling of being truly listened to, that human compassion and just sense of being held in a coaching conversation.

You’re not going to get that with a robot, right? You’re not going to get that with AI. And so I think there’s going to be limits to what AI can do in coaching. I think if it’s very kind of performance and just practical coaching tools, then perhaps it could be a good starting point, very light touch coaching.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Yeah. Or a way just to get some quickly out of a mindset, you know, I’ve not got access to a coach immediately, or maybe I can’t afford a coach right now, or I’ve got a particular problem that’s come up that I just need. to change my way of thinking. I could see some value in that. 

But I think you’re right. Like, a truer human connection, and also in a lot of the things that you’ve said, the importance of coaching and what people can get from it, particularly about how we are one person, we’re not just a work individual and a home or other life individual. That’s something that I’m, you know, I don’t think it, AI is going to be able to read or see.

I mean, I might be wrong. Someone might tell me I’m wrong, but it feels like for something that’s quick and needed, it might be really, really great. 

Sarah Partridge: And I think as professionals, you know, as coaches, we need to embrace new technology rather than kind of try and pretend it’s not happening in the sand. Right, so it’s like, how can we combine traditional human centred coaching with perhaps the AI technology led coaching, it might be, you know, it’s off the top of my head, but maybe I’ve got a client I see once a week, you know, we have our session, but then in between our sessions, they can use some kind of a tool that has been created to help them to keep that momentum going, you know, so there could be some real benefits to trying to encapsulate it as part of your coaching practice.

Christina Curtis: No, I think you’re absolutely right. I think it can be a complementary method for you. And I, you know, my background is in mobile health. So, you know, I’ve been for the last decade delivering behaviour change interventions through digital health because it allows that increase in accessibility and scalability of your intervention.

But yeah, there is obviously the kind of ethical side and not, you know, being able to replace that human interaction. That said, we almost need another podcast on this because we are seeing huge developments in generative AI and what’s called biological AI, humanoids, digital people that are coming in now.

And they are delivering behaviour change interventions. So, that’s what some of my work is, is looking at at the moment. So we perhaps need to have another podcast on that.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: That sounds very interesting. Well, uh, kind of just to close up today’s conversation, I think Sarah, I just want to say a big thank you for coming here today and to chat to us about coaching.

You’ve answered all our questions and actually we’ve probably got tons, tons more to keep going through. I just want to end on one final question for you. And I know you did talk a lot about this a little bit in terms of ethical considerations, but I think quite a lot of people listening to this might be walking away thinking, ah, this is going to be something really, really valuable for me.

I want to go and find myself a coach. So any just quick tips or advice for someone looking to find a coach? 

Sarah Partridge: Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends whether you’re looking as an executive in an organisation and the organisation are funding your coaching for you, because most businesses have a coaching company they work with who they trust. They know that the coaches are all accredited and have been trained appropriately. However, if you’re looking for a private coach, I mean, obviously there is, there’s coaching directories. If you go onto the ICF website, you will find coaches listed there who have been credentialed or accredited with the ICF.

So they actually have a program where you can become an ACC. So you’ll see some coaches have got an ACC after their name, which means they’re an Associated Certified Coach. 

Sophie Brazell-Ng: It rolls off the tongue. 

Sarah Partridge: I know. Those coaches generally are the ones that work with executives, right? Because they kind of go down that route.

So it can be quite difficult if you’re looking for private coaching. You know, it might be best just to sort of find someone in your area that works with the particular type of challenge that you want to look at. So, you know, you’ll have career coaches who specifically work with career transition, right?

You’ll have life coaches that just work on every aspect of your life in general. There’s business coaches that actually work with small businesses to help them to, you know, expand and develop the business. So it just sort of depends on what you’re looking for, really. Which I know isn’t a very helpful answer, but just look for the right credentials, look for the right training, look for specialists that are probably in your area would be my advice.

Sophie Brazell-Ng: Do your research. Well, obviously, Sarah, you are a qualified coach as well yourself, so we will put into the show notes as well your contact details for anyone who is looking to find a great coach. 

Amazing. Well, wonderful. Thank you both again for another wonderful podcast and we hope to see you guys all next time.

Sarah Partridge: Thank you so much. 

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