Coaching Conversation 1: The Coach

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Coaching Conversation 1: IB

A group of leadership coaches and mentors reflect on the highs and lows of their role in support of the continuous professional development of senior executives.

One of the benefits of the sometimes maligned social media platforms is that they can lead to unexpected and positive collaborations.

A conversation within the HR community between myself, Meg Peppin; Lorna Leeson; Garry Turner and Kelly Swingler last week resulted in this thought piece.

In the spirit of reflection and continuous improvement, the group of five experienced coaches, challenged each other to come up with one question about the coaching experience they would most like their fellow coaches to answer.

What follows are our personal, unedited thoughts and reflections on those five questions:.

What are your favourite "this is why I coach" moments?

The privilege of human to human connection. Realising time and time again how magnificent human beings really are.

When I don't say anything as their mind is on a roll.

There are many but at the top of the list is when they contact you with news that they took the risk, felt the fear but did it anyway and their career path and home lives improved exponentially as a result.

Seeing others realise something new in the moment

The ones where it’s bigger than work. “This has changed my relationship with my daughter”. “That thing we discussed has changed my marriage”. “I’ve realised I can just be me and still be successful, but also happy”. These moments are priceless.

What do you learn about yourself by coaching others?

Your work with yourself is never done. That's why supervision is critical. And gin.

That I'm good enough.

That, no matter how capable, people genuinely benefit from a mentor, a sounding board, an impartial voice and to ensure that I have the same.

That I have the ability to remain deeply present, but that I have to keep working on staying at listening levels 3/4

It’s always different - perspective, clarity, courage, integrity, wisdom, kindness, compassion, love - either how to develop these things, or to realise I need to develop them (more)

How does compassion inform your work?

It's core to my practice, and an ongoing practice itself. You can have all the accreditations, knowledge, technical expertise and insight in the world, if you don't have compassion for yourself and your coaching clients you may as well go home.

Finding it hard to answer this; I think compassion is a state; not something I can use to inform how I approach work.

We all have vulnerabilities, blind spots, weaknesses, fears, insecurities and we all make mistakes, take wrong turns and make bad decisions at times. All of us. Traits like empathy, compassion and kindness help build trust, bonds and connection.

In a major way. I try to come at all of my work with compassion.

I try to live, lead and work with compassion and I'm practising self-compassion every day. Being present, being there, just being. Being there, at the moment, for another person and holding space for them to grow.

What emotion was strongest for you yesterday and why?

I had a rush of excitement yesterday working with likeminded people on a new venture. There was hope & passion in the room. Gorgeous.


Frustration, unfortunately. Many of my current coaching conversations involve trying to help leaders deal with what seems to be a succession of socio-political own goals that are undermining their universal desire to take a longer-term view of their businesses and careers.

Yesterday - happiness. A lot of awesome work and connections led to this. 10 mins ago however I felt fear - fear that I was an imposter in this group due to a lack of experience (was close to posting that I should remove myself from this group) but then remembered, I am ok to be here.

Anger. A lot of personal shit hit the fan that should have been under control and it wasn’t. I got angry, and sadly kept holding onto it.

What does coaching success look like?

Change. A shift. Momentum. Possibility unlocked. (And getting paid on time)

That the coachee is able to describe what is opening up for them.

Establishing a productive rapport and then scoping the coaching journey as a sequence of milestones and goals. Then achieving them, together. Then receiving calls months or even years later that remind me exactly why I coach....(ref Q1).

That the coachee leaves a session feeling that the time was well spent, whatever that means to them

For me or the client? My coaching success comes from the client achieving success as a result of the coaching and changes they’ve made. Coaching is about them, the client. Not me, the coach.

Got you thinking? Considering some form of mentoring programme? Do you coach? Well why not play along with us in this professional parlour game and answer the questions yourself?

The coaching relationship and process is rewarding but it is always challenging. Hopefully the exercise, the first in a series, will at least stimulate personal reflection, critical thinking and possibly some reassuring, if remote, camaraderie.

Please do join in the conversation by adding your comments here, and do look out for #HRHour on Thursday evenings when we are joined by a network of fellow professionals to discuss and debate this and other hot topics in the HR space.

About Ian Buckingham

Ian P Buckingham

Former Omnicom director, consultant and author Ian P Buckingham is the founder of the Bring Yourself 2 Work fellowship and Elder Management Consulting. 

They are founded on the principle that true engagement, especially employee engagement, is a vital component of brand and organisation performance and that involvement and authenticity are key to sustainable engagement. 

He previously established Interbrand Inside at the home of probably the most respected brand rating, employer brand and evaluation agency, Interbrand, and was a pivotal member of the partner team at the ground breaking internal communication and change management consultancy SDL.

He has so far written two of the three seminal, case-study based texts in the employee engagement/employer brand space which occupy the intersection between HR; Marketing and Communication now known as the brand trilogy and has featured in many more.

Ian is a CIPD columnist, respected and prolific writer and has partnered with clients across sectors to support many leading UK and global brands whether they’re ltd companies, professional services partnerships, not for profit organisations or places/countries. Through his consultancy and his case-study-based writing, Ian has earned a reputation as one of the most insightful and influential champions of authenticity in the workplace as a powerful way of unlocking employee engagement and underpinning sustainable, high performing organisations.

He's also recently written a trilogy of children's fiction books based on Joseph Campbell's hero's journey model.

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