Practitioner Diploma / “Curiosity has led me to many wonderful places in career and life”

14th December by Wendy Robinson

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Curiosity has led me to many wonderful places in career and life

This month we are delighted to feature an interview with Irene Hewitt, who completed her Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching with AoEC Ireland & Northern Ireland. Based in Belfast, Irene is director at Irene Hewitt Consulting Ltd and comes from a senior leadership background.

What (or who) introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching programme with AoEC NI/Ire?

I had the opportunity to be coached when I was working in a senior management role. The challenge and support of a good coach helped me to act with confidence. Subsequently, as chief executive of an organisation with a remit for leadership development within health and social care, I undertook training as a coach (2007). I have had the privilege of coaching with a range of leaders in various challenging positions. More recently, I began to think about deepening my practice as a coach and refreshing my skill set and approach. The AoEC Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching appeared to offer what I needed and so I signed up.

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

Our first challenge was that module one coincided with the early stages of coronavirus. It was good to meet everyone in the group for the first Module and then we shifted online. The online experience was different in a good way – our senses were heightened and listening skills honed in the virtual learning room, with greater focus on words, tone and facial expressions. There was great support and learning within the group as well as from the experienced tuition team. I really liked the emphasis on experiential learning.

What would be your top piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing a professional coach training programme?

Be prepared to learn about yourself and be open to changing your own behaviours and approach. As well as taking on board new ideas, I also had to unlearn some old habits. Giving advice is very seductive!

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

My personal coaching model is a blend of approaches designed to meet the needs of the person I am coaching. I am more goal focused in my approach spending time to clarify what the person is wanting to achieve through the coaching. I have become more confident in questioning and comfortable with the power of silence. So many answers arrive in that reflective silent space. I value GROW lite and wrap around other useful models such as Solutions Focused Coaching (OSKAR). Overall, my approach is underpinned by GESTALT and the idea of staying with the client in the moment really resonates with me.

What kind of impact is coaching having for those you are working with?

I believe that my coaching has become more impactful. I have a new depth to my understanding of coaching and have had some great feedback from people I am working with. I also feel more satisfied and confident in my approach.

What has coaching taught you about yourself and other people?

Coaching has taught me that I don’t need to have all the answers; I am not the expert in someone else’s life and problems. However, I can use my knowledge and coaching expertise to help someone find their best solution to a problem or identify ways to achieve their goal. Coaching has also taught me to explore someone’s level of commitment to action. If they are not committed, the action won’t happen.

What would your autobiography be called and why?

My autobiography would be called ‘Curiouser and Curiouser.’ Unlike Alice who found herself in a fantasy world of weird and wonderful people, my experience has been a real world of sometimes weird but usually wonderful people. Curiosity has led me into many adventures, both in work and with family. Ask me about motorcycling in the Congo or trekking in the Himalayas (husband in tow - or was I in tow?). Ask me about my work in health and social care, or commuting to London in my mid-fifties to work at the King’s Fund or driving to Limerick for a coaching session? Curiosity has led me to many wonderful places in career and life. Not all good…but all add to the learning.

If no one was around what would you like to do most?

Walking up at Fairhead, Ballycastle. Good exercise and scenery to nourish the soul!

Our deepest thanks to Irene for sharing her experience of coach training with the AoEC.