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Tom Shaw is a qualified executive coach and masters-educated HR professional with over 25 years domestic and international experience across the whole range of talent, development, engagement and inclusion activity. Putting his coaching prowess to good use at Experian, Tom gives us a flavour of coach training with the AoEC and shares his experience of completing the Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.
You are a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) and masters-educated HR professional with 25 years of experience across talent, development and engagement at organisations including the British Transport Police, Laing O’Rourke and Experian. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?
I worked for a leader at Laing O’Rourke who was passionate about coaching and the impact that it can have. He and I decided that it would benefit our wider function if we looked to consolidate our practice by going through external accredited programmes. Having researched the available options and attended an AoEC demonstration workshop, I was interviewed and then signed up for the Advanced Practitioner programme – it was an excellent decision in hindsight.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the Advanced Practitioner diploma?
The positives were the culture of support created by the cohort, the challenge from the faculty for us to improve as coaches and the opportunity to learn more about myself. The challenge for me was balancing a busy role and family life with the elements of the qualification that supported accreditation like reading and assignment writing. Achieving a ‘Merit’ was something that I remain proud of to this day.
What is your advice to others considering coach training?
If you want to learn more about who you are and are passionate about helping others, just do it! I really enjoyed the opportunity to gain a qualification that validated – and improved - my approach and practice in this space. It gave me confidence and also helped to develop my personal brand.
Looking back at doing your Advanced diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?
I am a more rounded person, I have more confidence and I am a better leader. My main strengths on personality profiles are around my self-awareness and environmental radar, and it was my time on the programme alongside some stellar participants that really honed these elements. This in turn has helped me to spot my own gaps and heightened awareness of how I may come across to others.
Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the Advanced Practitioner diploma?
My model is a simple one that is focused wholly on the individual, meeting them in the place where they find themselves and helping them think about ways that they can get to the destination they covet. Of course, approaches change and evolve over time (it is seven years since AoEC now), but it is greater experience more than anything that has enhanced my practice rather than any fundamental adaptations to my approach.
You are currently Global Head of Talent and Development at Experian. How are you using coaching in your role there and who are you working with within the organisation?
I use my coaching capability in a range of guises within my current role. I lead an esteemed Top-100 Executive succession programme which requires me to coach the participants, I coach my directs who range from graduates to directors and I use coaching with my mentoring assignees.
What are some of the issues you coach people around and how are you measuring the effectiveness of the coaching?
In my role some of the topics that come up regularly are leadership transitions, career coaching, balancing productivity and wellbeing, team leadership and performance management. I measure my effectiveness through both macro metrics such as grade promotions of programme delegates, as well as more micro measures such as feedback from the coaches about what they have taken away from our sessions.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that had an impact on you?
The biggest impact a coaching conversation has ever had on me took place when I was 30 years old. I had returned to the UK from eight years working overseas in Japan and Australia and was looking to kick start my career in a new market. I had a short session with a coach who asked some excellent person-centred questions about what my purpose and values were. The outcome was a focus on roles that gave me the opportunity to maximise the potential of individuals, teams and organisations – it remains my focus 18 years later.
How have you seen the need for coaching change as we have gone through the coronavirus pandemic?
I think it is recognised that leaders have been the victims of the need to compress during the pandemic, i.e. operate at a level below the one they are expected to. The unprecedented nature of our current circumstances that we are all experiencing mean that our leaders – political, business, community – have never been more challenged and in need of support. There is no tried and tested response so the flexibility that coaching offers as an approach gives it a real cache in 2022.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
The most rewarding elements of coaching for me are when a coachee has an epiphany of some sort. I remember a participant on an accelerated development programme who I was coaching saying to me, ‘that was like opening the curtains and the light flooding in!’. I wish I could have those kind of interactions more often – it was a genuine career highlight.
A huge thanks to Tom for sharing his personal story of coach training with the AoEC.
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