Practitioner Diploma / A great place of learning for me: Gary Buxton on coach training with the AoEC

24th October by Lee Robertson

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Gary Buxton AoEC Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching

Gary Buxton MBE, studied the AoEC's Practitioner Diploma Programme and is a Manchester-based executive and leadership coach and facilitator who works across all of Greater Manchester and the North West. We are honoured to share his inspiring story here of how he has been using his coach training since graduating in 2017. 

You have a really rich, interesting and diverse work history. Can you talk us through some of your work highlights and how you came to be involved in coaching?

My career has pretty much followed my passion for making a difference. I’ve always worked in industries that specialise in helping people to realise their potential and coaching just seemed like a natural evolution to the work I’d done over the last two decades. 

My biggest work highlights are that I’ve been lucky enough to set two things up from scratch. The first being a charity that I took from concept to employing over 1,500 people nationally and more recently a new division in a multinational corporate organisation which grew to hold a contract portfolio valued at £70m. I was chuffed to know that as I was wrapping up that role whilst also establishing my coaching practice that we were awarded an additional £135m of contracts which is a testament to brilliance of the team of people I worked with and coached over the years. 

In addition to coaching, I am also a governor and non-exec director for the University of Manchester as I still believe that education is one of the most powerful ways of affecting positive change – along with coaching of course!

What was your motivation for doing the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma course?

I remember doing loads of research before choosing the AoEC. I wanted a course that combined experiential learning with a theoretical foundation. The Diploma offered by the AoEC seemed to have the perfect balance. At the time of signing up for the course in 2016, I had already decided that my next move would be exclusively delivering executive coaching. Having a course that focussed on business leadership and enabled me to say I was a qualified executive coach was important to me. The other advantage of doing the Practitioner Diploma with the AoEC, is that it is recognised by the International Coaching Federation which fast tracks your ability to gain further credentialing.

What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the Diploma?

For me, the positives were about the people that you meet on the course and the experiential element. To have the chance to apply the models you’ve learnt in a live coaching session where you’re being observed by an experienced coach was a place of great learning for me. As for the challenges, it was definitely about balancing the day job with the course. At the time of doing the Diploma, I was leading a division with thirty supply chain partners and hundreds of staff, so squeezing everything into some of the days was tricky.

What would be your top piece of advice for anyone thinking about becoming a coaching professional?

Do it because you love doing it. Doing something you love gives you an energy and enthusiasm that cannot be replicated. Clients gravitate to you when it’s clear that you love the idea of coaching as they do!

My other tips would be:

  • Definitely log your coaching hours (I may have stopped logging my hours for a while and then had a gruelling seven hours of going through my diary and capturing them all!)
  • Connect, connect, connect… spend as much time as you can meeting people and telling them what you do.
  • Take on a NED position. Coaching skills are incredible powerful tool and when combined with your technical skills can add real value to any board. It also keeps you in a leadership role which enables you to appreciate more deeply the challenges your clients face.

Can you describe the kind of clients you are working with and some of the issues/development needs you are being contracted to help with?

I primarily work with CEOs and directors, often in organisations that are experiencing significant growth or change. I think it is often at these moments that having a coach helps to get your thinking in order and your intentions focussed on the things that will have the most impact. Looking through my client base, pretty much everyone is in the service sector of some kind (IT, finance, legal) or leaders who are delivering complex government-based contracts/services (health, education, housing). The kind of things which come up are often similar, regardless of the sector. Managing change, leading people, dealing with challenging situations, understanding how to be more influential and reflecting on how confidence levels vary in different situations and why that might be. I think being a coach is a real privilege as you get to help already very successful people to be more successful, whilst at the same time learning that they too have moments of feeling like an imposter or having self-doubt.  It’s reassuring to know that we’re all human and we’ve all been there!

How are you measuring the impact of your coaching sessions on the client’s performance/culture/behaviour/revenue etc?

Most of my clients book for 6-12-month programmes, and for these we’ll kick things off with a chemistry and contracting meeting where the client will identify the things they would like to focus on during our time with each other.  Once these ‘strategic aims’ have been captured, I conduct a benchmarking exercise where they get to score themselves on a rating of 1-10.  If it’s appropriate, the client might ask their peers or manager/chair to also score them. I do all of this through an online tool and aggregate the results into a radar graph which can then be animated and used to show distance travelled during the coaching engagement. Over time, this will help show me where my coaching is effective as well as guiding me to where new learning could improve the outcomes I can achieve with clients.

You are a Clore Social Leadership Fellow and received an MBE in 2014 for Services to the Young People of England. Can you share some background about the work you have done/are doing in the social impact sector and tell us how this led to you receiving such a prestigious accolade?

I think all of that started with creating the Charity Young Advisors. Young Advisors is an organisation that specialises in youth insight and helping organisations across the country to better meet the needs of young people. We achieve the insight by training and employing young people who have crammed a lot of life into a short period of time to become consultants and peer-to-peer researchers.  The idea was something that clearly struck a chord with local authorities, housing associations, charities and central government as the number of Young Advisor teams grew across the country and ultimately employed around 1,500 people. I loved that role as it combined coaching and training to enable young people to make their communities a better place to live whilst also giving me first-hand experience of the highs and lows of being an entrepreneur. Being awarded the MBE in 2014 was very exciting and it was being recognised as a Clore Social Leadership Fellow that encouraged me to become a coach! Whilst I no longer lead the charity, I am still connected with many of the Young Advisor team leaders across the country who totally inspire me every day!

What has your work as a coach taught you personally?

Being a coach has taught me that moving from consultant to coach mode is more difficult than I thought it would be, but when I see the impact coaching has on people, I feel ever more confident that it’s the next revolution in leadership development!

What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?

I believe that business can and should be a force for good. I love that the work I do with corporates helps me to deliver coaching and leadership development to our voluntary sector colleagues who may not otherwise be able to access such support. It’s also a great value add for my corporate clients. 

An enormous thank you to Gary for sharing his personal coach training journey with us.