Advanced Practitioner Diploma / “The experience of the programme was powerful, and a Rubicon moment in my life”

20th February by Lee Robertson

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Emma James came to coaching after a background in senior leadership working for a FTSE100 company in fashion retail. Having trained on the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching, Emma now works as a leadership coach and consultant and provides powerful 121 coaching programmes that support and transform senior leaders to be the best version of themselves. Here she discusses her experience of coach training and gives us an insight into her coaching work.

You were previously a leader within a FTSE 100 company. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I was in a senior leadership position, and as any leader will know these roles can be challenging and complex. I sought out leadership coaching to give me some much-needed support at a particularly tough time, and to consider my own development as a leader. This was a transformative experience, and kick started me considering coaching as a career.

I did extensive research to find a programme that would offer me a substantial stretch; this was because I wanted to work with executives and senior leaders which means being able to work at depth and have the meaningful conversations. The AoEC programme I chose provided an exceptional balance between coaching theory as well as providing practical experience, a sentiment which will no doubt be echoed by most people who choose this programme!

A pivotal aspect for me was the chance to assess coaching theories critically and build my own model. This process not only deepened my self-awareness but also enhanced my understanding of my coaching principles. All in all, it sharpened my ability to articulate why I coach the way I do, in support of my clients.

What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the Advanced Practitioner diploma?

The experience of the programme was powerful, and a Rubicon moment in my life. The programme stands out for its robustness, enabling you to work with clients at a deep level. However, the flip side of this, is that it’s a challenging process. Expecting clients to do the work necessitates having done the tough work oneself. But this duality is also an incredible positive.

The programme is very well designed. It incorporates several components to support your learning including extensive reading, group work, coaching practice, supervision and theoretical writing to name but a few!  It is an advanced programme and the learning requirement is considerable.

What is your advice to others considering coach training?

Do your research. It’s important to explore the options out there and assess what’s available in terms of quality, duration, coaching orientation, client base, research etc…. However, I found that there were insights to be gained from this stage alone as I appraised what resonated with me personally. I needed to make a cognitive decision but also an instinctive one too, so I would say ‘trust yourself’.

The other thing I’d recommend is to get a coach and work through what is important for you in your training. It might be an obvious soundbite, but who you are as a person, is who you are as a coach.

Looking back at doing your training with the Advanced Practitioner diploma, what has been the lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?

It was transformational for me. I believe that I was quite changed by the process. I understand myself far better. I’m able to work at depth with exec clients, and know what good coaching means to me and why I do what I do in service of my clients.

Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the Advanced Practitioner diploma?

By and large my coaching model has remained the same because there are principles that I hold very dear. Much of coaching is about gaining self-awareness and I’m not unusual in that being core to my model. I work in a relational way which is about how we connect to one another, how we engage with those around us and what we co-create.

I liked a lot of the psychotherapeutic components covered in the programme, and I certainly came out of the diploma being more psychologically minded. However, it’s now one lens of many; I also use movement and visualisation, some somatic coaching and a little bit of neuro-science. Working systemically is also key when partnering with organisations. It’s a bit like a honey pot that I dip into dependent on what surfaces with the client. So, if it is relevant, and I have the client’s permission, I use it.

The Advanced Diploma is accredited with both the EMCC and ICF. How important has accreditation with one of the industry’s professional bodies been to you personally?

I am going for my PPC accreditation right now.

I think that accreditation can be a particularly important factor if you want to work as an associate or be an employed coach, but it doesn’t change what you do as a coach.

However, what the accrediting bodies do is provide a crucial reference point for what we do as coaches, in particular providing an ethical framework.

You established your own practice in 2019; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

I work in a one-to-one capacity with senior leaders. My clients include CEOs, managing directors and members of senior management teams. My background is fashion retail, but I am pretty sector agnostic now and I work across many different sectors which I thoroughly enjoy.

What are some of the issues you coach people around and how are you measuring the effectiveness of the coaching?

I am commissioned either by the client themselves or by an organisational sponsor. Either way, I work with a systemic lens, because this allows us to consider how the leader is operating within their context.

At the start of a contract, the outcomes are defined and agreed, and this can be with or without the sponsor’s input. These outcomes provide a sort of north star to the programme around which the work navigates around. And the measure of success is directly referenced back to these.  

The issues I coach people around are as varied as the people themselves. Clients come to me when they need support to get to the next level, or to have greater impact as a leader or sometimes it’s just because being a leader is tough and they need a confidential space.

Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that had an impact on you?

I am always impacted by my clients and what we co-create. The relationship between coach and client is unique every time, and it’s a relationship that develops quite quickly. It is a sacred space because leaders can share things with their coach that they might not even share with their closest confidants.

I always feel very humbled and honoured by the level of disclosure I get from clients. I also learn from my clients, so in a sense, they all impact me in one way or another.

Who would I be if I wasn’t impacted by my clients?

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

Coaching has the power to bring people a little closer to themselves and those around them. They can go back into their roles and show up as a more integrated person and leader. I think this is the journey we’re all on in life!

It’s hugely rewarding when people are able to gain insights that serve their wellbeing and purpose. And I love working as an executive coach because organisations are exciting places and are always changing. They are living systems moving us forward and arguably they have a responsibility for improving things in people’s lives, and the crux of this is the leadership.

Our deepest gratitude to Emma for sharing her personal journey and experience of coach training at the AoEC.