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Jenny Challenger graduated from the 20th Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching earlier this year. Working at eg+ worldwide as CFO and COO, Jenny took some time out of her busy schedule to talk about her experiences of coach training with the AoEC.
You have quite a broad role at eg+ worldwide as CFO and COO. How did you come to be involved in coaching and what led you to sign up for the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma course?
I was first introduced to coaching when I attended a “Train the Trainer” course to learn how to create my own HR interventions. During the course, we paid special attention to the question of how people learn, particularly in groups.
The way the course was constructed allowed me to absorb so much more learning than the usual classroom experiences I’d had before. I realised there are much more effective ways to get my message across other than teacher to pupil. One of the books recommended to me at the end of this course was Coaching for Performance by John Whitmore. I read it and was hooked from then on. I completed the AoEC Practitioner Diploma and was very impressed with the whole organisation from admin to faculty. I felt very welcome all along the way. At the November graduation, I noticed the sense of celebration, solidarity and pride of the Advanced group when they collected their diplomas; I knew I would continue and do that too!
What did you find were the most beneficial learning experiences on the diploma?
The teaching was excellent, but the most beneficial learning came from the relationships created amongst the students. We got to know each other at a deep level in a very short period which allowed us to practice in a completely safe space and share our collective experience generously. It was a privilege to watch other coaches at work and observe their styles, it gave me so many new ideas to practice. Indeed, practicing is a large part of the course and the learning comes from every aspect of that, be it as a coach, coachee or observer. Many coaching topics are issues I face myself, so I learnt from the insights created and my own internal insights on the topics.
What advice would you give to those who are considering studying a programme such as the Advanced Diploma course themselves?
It is a commitment worth making. If you never do another day’s coaching, you will learn so much about yourself and other people, which in itself makes it very valuable. Prepare yourself for intensity and hard work. Bring 100% of yourself, you can’t show up half-hearted. Listen very carefully to the advice and instructions from the faculty from the beginning. Do all the prep work for the modules and write your reflections as you move through them.
What does your coaching model look like and how has this evolved since completing the advanced programme?
My coaching model adapts depending on the client’s preferences and challenges although I lean further toward Co-Active and Gestalt rather than Grow models.
Since completing the Advanced programme, I am more focused on my principles at the heart of my model than I am on any specific interventions.
The closer I keep to my principles and beliefs and how they show up in my coaching, the more confident I am. The more I can trust my ability to serve in the moment. This allows me to let go of the notion that I must have an idea or an answer and allows me to trust my instincts deeply.
Tell us about your work at eg+ worldwide. How have you built coaching into your people management strategies and who is receiving coaching within the organisation?
I am the CFO & COO at eg+ worldwide, a Production and Content company in the advertising industry. I am responsible for the Finance, HR, Operations and Production teams. Having such a wide remit within the organisation means I get to know almost all our 160+ employees. I’m grateful for that and being able to influence the culture in some way with my coaching training.
Along with my HR team we choose training partners that value coaching and keep it front and centre in delivering their content.
My main role precludes me from coaching my direct reports, but I am able to work with colleagues that I don’t have day-to-day interactions with. These are typically people that have transitioned into new roles following a promotion. For my own direct reports I have used outside coaches to support and that has worked well.
What typically are the challenges or opportunities you have been asked to help colleagues with?
The main challenges I’m asked to help with is managing teams and the individuals within the teams. Typically my clients have been promoted and find themselves responsible for larger teams. They quite often judge themselves harshly and assume their colleagues are judging them too. I help them with managing negative assumptions that get in the way of leading with authenticity and confidence. Many young managers especially struggle with managing team members that are older than them and may have more subject matter expertise. Here, I help with accentuating the strengths and qualities that have led them to promotion in the first place and how to use them in their new position.
What have the results been of using coaching for your colleagues and the organisation as a whole?
My internal clients have told me that they have really appreciated the different style of conversation that coaching brings. They enjoy the safety of discussing their topics without judgement along with the deepening of their own thought processes. The result that I love to see is the lasting impact coaching has on their confidence. I can see they have grown and continue to grow. Their new way of thinking goes on long after their coaching sessions have finished. The impact lasts way beyond the results achieved from the typical appraisal conversation where although positive, last about as long as you might expect from a pleasant compliment!
What difference has becoming a coach had for you in your style of management?
Becoming a coach has fundamentally changed the way I manage. In becoming a coach, the person you become closest to is yourself. In getting to know myself I’ve discovered what’s most important to me, my values. Now, whilst not always successful in the heat of the moment, I can remind myself what is really important to me in my given situation and bring that awareness to my challenges. I make less assumptions and I’m able to practice deep listening instead. I’ve radically changed the ratio of directing vs coaching and I’ve deepened my trust in my teams. I spend more time thinking about what I can do for my team rather than what they can do for me. I also believe that my continuous learning inspires others to continue with their self-development journey too.
What has your work as a coach taught you personally?
One of my deepest is learning so far as a coach is that you can never really know what another person is thinking. The beauty of the coaching conversation is allowing their truth to be told uninterrupted and unanticipated. This has surprised me so many times and really allowed me to let go of any desired outcomes I might have for a client or myself. It has magnified my curiosity and continues to motivate me to learn more.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
I recently saw an ICF article entitled something like “Changing the world one person at a time”. This resonated with me especially after hearing from the speakers at this November’s graduation ceremony. I could see how lives have been improved both physically and psychologically and that all started from one coaching conversation. It’s a ripple effect. If I help one person to help one other then I am rewarded.
A massive thank you to Jenny for sharing her inspiring story.
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