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Pulling from 30 years of corporate experience and 14+ years of executive coaching practice, Claire d'Aboville is PCC level ICF-accredited coach working with global companies and institutions. Since 2020 she has been gathering knowledge and understanding about climate change and sustainability in a bid to help others do the same. We spoke to her about her work through her practice Partners in Coaching and her experience of doing the AoEC’s Certificate in Climate Coaching programme.
Why did you choose to do the Coaching in the Climate Crisis: A Certificate in Climate Coaching programme?
I had been learning about climate issues for about 18 months: reading the IPCC reports, discovering the stakes and urgency, attending forums, understanding who the players and stakeholders are.
As an established coach in the corporate world, I was very excited to see this course offered. Also, being part of the first cohort felt pioneering, which I liked. I really wanted to address the climate challenge in my work but had no idea how.
What advice would you share with prospective participants so they can maximise the learning experience for themselves?
There is no need to prepare. Some of your views and experiences will be unique to you, but many will be shared by other participants. Rely on the group. The stakes about climate change are so high, it can be overwhelming. Each of us will go through their own journey.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the climate certificate?
One of my biggest challenges at the time was to find the role I want to play as a coach in the climate crisis. This connects to identity and ethics, amongst other things. And it translates into practical questions: what am I going to say and how? What I am going to do, and how? Those questions are not solved in three days but are part of a personal reflection over time. The certificate helped me with this.
Three main positives to me are: connecting with the group and sharing, feeling up to date with the latest thinking and actors, learning and practicing specific tools dedicated to coaching around climate change.
How are you using the learnings from the programme?
My learning and application are somehow holistic. Currently I do not use specifically the tools we have learned – but I want to come back to them when the time is right, and it is great to know I have them. As a result of the course, I feel more confident about positioning myself as a climate conscious coach. I have also set up a buddy group for the participants of cohort one. We touch base every two to three months, and we share where we stand, our challenges and hopes, our steps forward and frustrations. It is informal and participants enjoy the chance to reconnect.
Why do you think it is important for coaches to bring the climate into coaching conversations?
To me, this is a very tricky question to answer. Climate change is without any doubt the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. Therefore, it is entirely part of the picture, of our shared experience as human beings. On the other side, we all have very different levels of awareness of this reality. Coaching helps raise awareness, yet it is not teaching and sharing data. To me, it is the hard facts, the data, that got me to realise, step by step, where we are. Through various awareness-raising workshops, I help people learn more.
However, as a coach, because of the ethical guidelines of our profession, I do not feel entitled to bring the topic myself. I have solved this dilemma through deciding to gradually shift my coach positioning towards becoming “someone who coaches sustainability experts, or leaders and organisations who deliberately want to improve their impact on the sustainability front, or people who are willing to include it as part of their thinking”. I want clarity upfront, not me saying “ok, I hear you want to become a more confident person, and where does the planet seat with this?”. I cannot see myself doing this.
Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how the certificate has complemented it?
Through the years, I have collected lots of ways, approaches, and tools. From NLP and TA to proprietary, to systemic, to common tools available to all. But because I put the person and the conversation first, I cannot really define myself through models I use.
Do you bring the natural world into our coaching conversations or use it as the setting for your coaching engagements?
Not yet. The corporate world, and many people of my generation, are often very disconnected from nature. We tend to forget that everything is interconnected, and that we humans are only just one link of the whole. At a later stage, I might want to bring the natural world and a wider systemic angle to my coaching.
How does being a climate conscious coach fit with the rest of your coaching work?
I am currently still working in my “business as usual” capacity, as a leadership development coach. At the same time, I am learning more about sustainability – which, given the complexity, I believe is both needed to me and reassuring to my clients. With a colleague I am running a research project to understand how individuals have pivoted from a “business as usual” activity, towards a more climate conscious role. This is very exciting and will help us communicate that “we can all do it” in some ways. With the learning from our research, we will develop ways to engage people and organisations further.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a climate coaching situation that has had an impact on you?
Before I took the course, I once had the opportunity to work with a client who could play a significant role in the global arena, in one of the areas related to climate change. Because I wanted to leave “my stuff” outside of the coaching space, I did not mention how critical I thought the topic was. As a result, this person, who had a reputation for being some sort of a diva, did not feel I was caring about his role and decided not to work with me! What a lesson!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Every day, the field of climate change evolves: from more extreme weather events to innovation and increased awareness. It becomes unavoidable to anyone, more so to coaches. And it is more than urgent to address.
Our deepest thanks to Claire for sharing her experience of coach training with the AoEC.
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