The first big change in my working life – after the shock of actually having to work for a living – was the jump from managing only myself to managing other people.
One day I was paid just for doing my job well, the next it was the output of my team that counted. The problem though, was that I had no notion of how to manage people; how to ask them to do things, what to do when they didn’t deliver on time, or even how to say thank you when they did.
The promotion didn’t come with any support either. It was assumed that since I was good at the job and had some creative ideas, managing the team would just happen. But managing people called for relationship skills and a level of self-awareness and self assurance that I just didn’t have, and so the experience was neither successful nor enjoyable.
Years later, when I became a coach, I could see how all that might have gone very differently. With the support of a coach, that early promotion could have been a constructive learning experience. Instead of assuming I was simply ‘not a people person’ and taking subsequent career decisions in the belief that I did my best work alone, I might have arrived much quicker at the point where I realised that working with others was what I loved to do, and was good at.
When we founded Cocomotion, I thought about that experience a lot. My business partner and I both believed very strongly that coaching should be available to everyone, and not just limited to senior managers, as it so often is. From time to time, all of us struggle with ourselves and with what we see as our limitations, and at these times, working with a coach has the potential to make a significant difference to how and what we learn, and to the path we choose to take as we move forwards.
This time, of course, when faced with another big change in my working life as Cocomotion started to become a reality, and my business partner moved on to pursue other goals, I knew what to do – I got some coaching!
How coaching has helped
I’ve engaged two coaches to support me at different times over the past couple of years, on issues around leadership, such as:
The belief that I had to have all the answers. I knew rationally that I did not need to have all the answers, but it was only through being coached that I was able to begin the process of living that knowledge. Without that shift it would be impossible for me to lead: answers have a very short shelf-life these days.
Valuing what I already had. Moving into coaching from a previous, technology-focussed career, I found myself trying to throw out everything I already knew and to start afresh, making a complete break with the past. Through the coaching I began to see new value in my previous experience, and to understand that it brings something different to my thinking and a richness to my role as a leader.
Accepting my demons! Coaching has helped me to understand that not everything has to be changed. Some things can be worked with, rather than overcome. Some are the imperfections that make us truly human.
Coaching has enabled me to step into a leadership role and make it my own. My coaches have consistently assumed that I am “good enough already”, have built on qualities I already possess, and have created a learning experience that’s been immensely positive and life-affirming.