By Trudy Arthurs, Senior Consultant, Taylor Clarke
Why five reasons? Why not ten? Twenty? There are surely more than five reasons to become an Executive Coach
Think of the last time you went walking amongst trees. How many different types of branches did you see in the trees? Different shapes, sizes, directions.
When I began to explore the reasons to become an executive coach for this article, it struck me as a similar challenge. There are so many reasons why people choose to train as executive coaches. All different, yet all having similarities. All strengthening each other, each in their own individual way.
Rather than just offer my own reasons for having trained as an executive coach, I decided to ask many of my professional coaching colleagues for their original reasons, asking them to loosely consider three core questions:
· What are the reasons that prompted you to become an Executive Coach?
· How has it/they worked out for you?
· What do you feel is the best gift to you of becoming an Executive Coach?
The replies were inspiring, humbling and heartwarming. For reasons of space, I’ve chosen just four responses from these international professional coaches, along with their geographical locations. I offer my own response at the end.
I hope you find these responses and experiences as stirring and exciting as I do.
The Gift of Self-Reflection [Amina Esperji, Hungary]
“When I was working as a native English teacher in Hungary my clients were mostly c-suite executives leading multinational corporations. In the English classes we had conversations about many things. they usually opened up to me very quickly about their problems, difficulties and doubts regarding leadership and organisational issues. I realized how lonely it must be at the top and how eager they are to share their burden with me, when sensing trust and safety. I also noticed how helpful this was to them even though I didn't know much about their situation as I have never been in their shoes, but I was genuinely curious, empathic and kind. But it wasn't enough for me, so I decided to look for tools that would help me become a better listener and a more constructive support to their thinking. Executive coaching was the obvious answer.
The best gift to me of becoming an executive coach is, hands down, the art of self-reflection. I had already engaged on the journey of self-awareness around that time but having to learn to become the thinking partner of such high ranking leaders put me right into the spotlight with them. I couldn't reflect things back to them without noticing my own reflection along the process / and it was just what I needed in my life at that stage. Reflection is still my strongest tool and self-reflection is my biggest ally!”
My Development as a Leader and Executive Presence [Orla Scott, Ireland]
“As a Global HR Leader, I noticed that when working with leaders on a day-to-day basis there was an element of dissonance and sometimes dysfunction when they outlined specific issues within their team. I understood that time and my competencies didn’t always support them in tackling the situation. Many of the issues were also linked to their own beliefs, mindset and leadership behaviours. As a ‘vague’ understanding myself I knew that whilst I saw these traits in others, I was also noticing similarities within myself (even if I wasn’t always prepared to admit it at the time!). So I pursued becoming an executive coach at the beginning from a desire to support others. And whilst this definitely was part of what transpired once I had my qualification, the deepest impact was on my own development as a leader.
This was crucial in being able to work with leaders and support their development, because I could demonstrate, model and give them experiential evidence of how entering a coaching development space had on how I showed up as a leader. They could see it themselves; I now had the skills to be able to support them on a much more practical but also a more impactful level. And they could see it worked because my work, my mindset and my behaviour had changed, and I was successfully making strides in my own global leadership career. I also found on a day-to-day basis that the skills of coaching contributed to better clarity around goals, performance targets and overall impact.
Together with supporting my desire to help others, and the impact of executive coaching on me personally and my executive presence, the biggest gift was the strong development of an abiding interest in human behaviour, human spirit and neuroscience. The combination of being able to understand the reasons, impact and outcomes of certain behaviours, mindset and level of consciousness for us as humans allowed me to work with leaders who were experiencing both within themselves but also witnessing with others, ‘strange’ or dissonant behaviour. This had an impact on personal performance, confidence in their own abilities and a real curiosity around tackling complex issues.”
Helping Leaders become more Human [Darrin Bridge, San Diego]
“As an Executive Coach, I work with leaders to master uncertainty. It sounds technical and fancy - but in my opinion, leadership is code for our ability to form vulnerability and trust with other human beings. I help executives to grow their leadership by releasing the pressure they put on themselves to perform, and learning to become more human instead.
What I notice about executives is that they are brilliant, driven, hardworking - and love a challenge. They make the choice to work all the hours it takes to ascend the corporate ladder, and generously provide all that their family needs. But soon find that they are unable to step away from their obligations long enough to enjoy the Utopia they create. The very reason they made the choice in the first place.
Like most humans, they eventually become limited by the choices that were once empowering to them.
I have the honour of guiding folks to step outside of the pattern they are trapped within - back home to their families and the lives they actually intended to live.
Growing a coaching business is no different than this journey. And fulfilling on my purpose, while helping others fulfil on theirs is what keeps my business growing and alive.”
A Realisation of Identity [Karl van Hoey, Belgium]
“The most authentic - I would even say ‘intimate’ - way, to start this testimony is to literally quote a mail I sent in August 2019 to all the people that had been supporting me towards my ICF/MCC credential.
"Dear friend, coachee, mentor, it is with the deepest feelings of humbleness, satisfaction and happiness that I can share with you that I have obtained the credential of Master Certified Coach (MCC), as granted by the International Coach Federation. “Coaching is my life, and my life is coaching”: This is for me the accomplishment of a life-mission that I have (un)consciously cherished and sought for many years. The journey (first PCC, then MCC) took all together 11 years, more than 3000 coaching hours and almost 300 training and mentoring hours. I want to thank you from the deepest of my heart because your part in this journey, in any possible role you have had, has been absolutely essential ! Very Gratefully, Karl”
It took me half a lifetime to discover that coaching and more and more also mentoring are an essential and necessary part of who I am. And therefore, my motivation is a matter of identity: it is hard not to be motivated for doing something that directly manifests one’s identity.
I believe that coaching is (or should always try to be) an immensely powerful and co-creative, transformational process between coach and coachee bringing coachees to their own outcomes, whatever they may be.
As an executive coach I actively live and experience this energy every single day.
Confidence, Clarity and Self-Acceptance [Trudy Arthurs, MAC, MICF, Ireland]
“My initial reasons to train as an executive coach were completely pragmatic, centered around the need and want to be able to confidently increase my fees, gain more credibility with clients and upgrade my skills to better support my organisational clients. I’d already been working as a coach for about nine years.
The initial training challenged me to really look at myself firstly as a human being, then as a coach, and who I was being within that role. It enabled me to acknowledge my strengths, weaknesses, values and everything that was becoming important to me as a professional coach. The learning hasn’t stopped!
My two biggest gifts from this life-changing training are (1) self-reflection and (2) self-acceptance.
Like Amina above, I have found the awareness of the gift of self-reflection one of the most powerful gifts. Written self-reflection and working with my coaching supervisor help keep me ‘clean and clear’ for my work.
And this in turn offers me a peaceful self-acceptance of my coaching strengths and gifts, allowing me to fully own those as well as my gaps. I have stopped trying to be all things to all clients. I know the type of clients with whom I do my best work, and those are the people I work with.”
Trudy Arthurs is a coach and trainer offering 1-1 and group coaching programmes. As Faculty Member of The Academy of Executive Coaching, she co-facilitates on the Executive Coach training programme in Ireland on behalf of Taylor Clarke. Her executive coaching clients have come from a wide range of sectors including School Principal and School Leadership Teams, government, Police Service of Northern Ireland, hospitality, healthcare. Her approach encompasses compassionate confidence, mindfulness and somatic awareness. “Clients are investing time, money, energy and reputation when they choose to work with me, and I honour that by offering a practical, flexible, focussed and supportive environment. I have also been told my occasionally quirky humour helps as well.”
If you would like to find out about becoming a qualified executive coach, please click here for information about our ILM 7 Certificate and Diploma programmes. Both programmes are delivered virtually and we welcome applications from coaches around the world.