“I can change people’s lives for the better”

16th September by Lee Robertson

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Bruce Stewart has been engaged in launching and growing a wide variety of companies which enables him to provide strategic support and advice to help individuals accelerate the growth of their organisations. Having completed the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching in 2020, Bruce is now an executive coach and mentor who works with individuals, boards, and executive teams to help them improve their performance, with particular focus on improving the capabilities of individuals.

You did a BA in Social Psychology before going on to work as sales and marketing director and establishing various companies including Stewart Fenn Marketing and Pancentric Digital. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I’ve always been interested in people, what motivates them and what affects their behaviour. I had been to see an (AoEC qualified) ‘life’ coach for myself as I was wondering what to do next – and definitely wanted to do something different to digital consultancy. Both my coach and I felt I had an affinity for coaching and would be good at it. I had done a lot of mentoring and thought, then, it was pretty much the same thing.

At the same time, I had applied to be a Vistage Chair (a team coaching and mentoring business) and had been accepted. I thought and was advised that learning some formal coaching skills would be a benefit to this role.

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

I learned very quickly that mentoring was quite different from coaching and that coaching could be something I could really believe in and that could give me a new purpose and direction. I met wonderful people - both participants and facilitators - who opened my heart and inspired me.

My conviction grew throughout the course, and it was enough to set up my own practice rather than take on the Vistage Chair role.

I struggled with being coached and found it difficult to share the angst and issues with the people around me – who, unlike me, were all so open and full of integrity.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

It is a wonderful life skill – learning to listen properly and to be someone’s trusted companion on their unexpected journey. There’s plenty of imparted wisdom in the books you read and through the course – to change the way you behave for the better.

If you’re going to try to make a business out of it, it’s really tough – and it takes time, unbridled enthusiasm, a great support network and a lot of energy to get it going. I am by no means there yet – and I need to use my coaches to make my enthusiasm unbridled, and to inspire and re-energise me.

Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a people development professional?

It has given me the confidence that I don’t need to be anyone else than me. I’m ok as I am – and that I can change people’s lives for the better. That’s great isn’t it!

You learn to really engage with people and to listen properly – and to trust their ability to become a better human. It’s generally why clients are exploring coaching – they have an ambition to become a better version of themselves.

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

So, I went from being an ok mentor – to understanding that coaching can be a really powerful force for good. I have faculty member Karen Smart smiling on my shoulder – compassionately – telling me to get off my mentoring pedestal if I really do want to be someone’s companion – rather than their dad imparting his wisdom. You are still coaching and inspiring me Karen: thank you.

My model recognises that I do also have a wealth of commercial and life experience and that mentoring is ok in the right combination – as long as I keep listening to the sage advice in my other ear. Combining the two disciplines - if I am clear with my client about what I’m offering them – gives me the most potential to help people work better – in the broadest meaning of that phrase.

You established your own practice Enchiridion in September 2018; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

From plastic surgeons to insurance brokers, restauranteurs to digital specialists. Young, aspiring people are inspiring to work with. I would like more conflicted CEOs to challenge and to challenge me.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach clients around and what kind of impact is the coaching having?

I am getting into some team coaching which is a new and different challenge and one where you can positively affect the organisation as well as the individual. I’ll have some more of that too please.

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

There have been breakthrough moments when a client has suddenly recognised he or she has resolved something – has an answer – has made a decision. That wonderful moment shared can be magical and makes you believe you are doing something of real value. Especially when they report back on the success of the action they committed to in the session together.

How have you seen the need for coaching change as we have gone through the coronavirus pandemic?

In all honesty I haven’t really. I was born an online Covid coach. There are all the obvious ones about anxiety going back into the workplace and the thought of all that commuting. I think there’s questioning about purpose and meaning in work – but there always was, wasn’t there?

What is your assessment of the key trends and challenges facing business leaders and organisations right now and what should they be doing to address them?

Leaders need to accept that the future is uncertain – and to learn to lead without the need to show how in control they are of everything – including themselves. The coach with unbridled enthusiasm and passion for coaching sitting on my other shoulder is Julian Saipe and he has developed a wonderful programme to allow leaders to liberate themselves from the burden of not being able to seek the help of those around them. If you’re an emerging leader or an ambitious one, then join us at the Emerging Leaders Programme at Enchiridion.

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

Having people open up to you in the most extraordinary ways and to be there with them as they find paths and possibilities they didn’t know existed. And to recognise that this makes you as happy and fulfilled as any other job paying far more. Don’t get me wrong - that doesn’t stop me from buying the odd lottery ticket and I’m still yearning for the yacht.

Our sincerest thanks to Bruce for sharing his experience of coach training with the AoEC.