Have you always been a professional coach?
No – I had a long and varied career in the financial services industry working in top tier Blue Chip companies. I enjoyed roles in the Front Office, Middle Office, Operations, Legal and Finance – fulfilling a need to understand the flow of transactions and how the different areas all fit together.
So you must have experienced some of the big upheavals in financial services?
Oh yes! I was in banking during the 1998 Russia financial crisis, the 2001 dot com revolution and the 2007-08 global financial crisis. I learned a lot about the extreme pressures and challenges in the industry, and became convinced that banking cultures have to be innovative, adaptable and accountable in order to move forward.
Did you try to change the culture where you worked?
Very much so – albeit I’d like to say “enhanced” rather than “change”. Let me explain – apart from a few rotten eggs the industry has a fairly good culture but one that can most definitely be enhanced. In fact, cultural enhancement has become an integral part of the regulators scrutiny – they now work at a much deeper level than process and protocols. The same scrutiny I see is also taking shape in the charity sector. Any service industry has to have culture as a top priority – if not I believe it simply won’t stave off the competition for very long.
Sorry, I digressed – the short answer is yes. I became heavily involved in enhancing the corporate culture from within the business (rather than within HR). From top talent retention, parent & carers network, graduate schemes to deepening accountability across the organisation. I’m still hugely proud of the global diversity award I received for leading an ongoing work life balance initiative – that was back in 2008, so you can see that I’ve been committed to cultural change for a long time!
Nevertheless, it’s a huge leap from banking to coaching and training, isn’t it?
You would think so, wouldn’t you?! But my career development choices in banking evolved quite naturally into my coaching career. It soon became obvious that my passion – and, fortunately, my greatest strength! – was for the people management and development aspects of my work. As I moved up the management ladder, I spent more and more time focusing on the people agenda and seized every opportunity to mentor and coach.
What triggered the decision to give up your banking role and become a professional coach and trainer?
The real mind shift – my lightbulb moment – came when I designed and implemented a six-week training programme for new hires in one of our new hubs being established. I got a huge buzz from seeing people fully aligned to shared values, identities and purpose. Individuals who felt cared for and important and the real positive culture that it set – it’s a two-way street. I knew that I wanted to focus on creating positive change in individuals, in teams, in organisations across the industry.
What do you hope to achieve by creating a coaching culture?
On a corporate level, coaching has been accessible for the few and not the many, yet there are huge demands on staff. Training and development is moving towards an online “broad brush” delivery model. Health and wellbeing is a priority and yet most interventions with those suffering from stress are reactive therapies. Managers are being told to “coach” their staff but they will undoubtedly have their own agenda – this is like getting relationship advice from your other half. By creating a culture of coaching we internalise those invaluable coaching skills so that staff have the motivation and ability to manage their own careers and their development – making it truly personal. Richard Branson said “train your staff well enough that they can leave and treat them well enough that they stay”.
I also want to challenge and change some of the old school deep rooted cultures in order to create greater accountability, agility and long term sustainability in banking. I want the best talent to keep walking through our doors – pressing the delete button on the image of bowler hatted men in dark suits forever.
I only want to work with those that truly want those same things for the industry. My style and approach is different to any training I received in my career – it’s a bit tongue in cheek but the message is clear: dinosaurs need not apply!
On an individual level, I love empowering people to discover their way forward, whether in their personal or professional lives. Observing a client’s “mind shift” is one of the biggest privileges I’ll ever experience. I remember an old boss “shielding me” from having to present in my job – clearly trying to help me instead she embedded my fear of not being able to present. I went on presentation skills courses to try and “fix” the issue (which by the way is the number 1 fear in the UK) but to no avail. An NLP coach finally helped me to overcome those fears – very simple techniques that I now teach – this is all shareware.
What three words sum up your core values?
That’s an interesting one – id say mischief, growth and community. Mischief because I like to let my inner child out to play and laughter is a great tonic. Growth or Personal/Professional Development in my mind is a must – when we stop learning we stop growing – we may be good now but how would it feel to be excellent. Community is a big part of who I am: I’m Vice Chair of local charity For Jimmy, which is dedicated to creating safe, peaceful communities for young people. I love participating in community events with my family, and I’m proud to have used local service providers to support my business. I very much feel part of our global community but Family is the most important community of all: everything I do is about being the best role model I can for my son, Lenny.