“I wanted to consolidate my coaching skills by gaining a reputable qualification”

31st August by Lee Robertson

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Alex Mullings is an accredited executive coach and chartered health and safety practitioner. Having previously worked for organisations including ENGIE UK & Ireland and the Co-op, Alex is currently employed as a full-time health and safety coach. Here he talks about his coach training and time on the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.

Your professional background is in health and safety in a variety of operational and strategic roles, Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I have worked in numerous operational and strategic roles as a chartered safety & health practitioner across a range of sectors.

I have led numerous initiatives including the design and development of cultural development programmes by applying a systems thinking approach to integrate health & safety management within the wider organisational context. 

It is during this time that I discovered coaching. I worked with senior leaders to design outcomes congruent with their goals and objectives. I experimented with a range of self-taught coaching models and creative techniques to support them through this process. I felt that I wanted to consolidate my coaching skills by gaining a reputable qualification.

I attended numerous open events including one with the AoEC. I was really impressed by the immersive learning experience. From day one you are immersed into a coaching environment. The programme encouraged much reflective work which was tough at times but really helped shape whom I am as a coach today.

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

The Practitioner Diploma has been a tremendous learning experience and the first step on my coaching journey. The programme has equipped me with the foundations to develop and grow as a coach and as a leader.

I have always believed that coaching has enormous value as a communication tool. A few months on, I have had time to reflect on some of the key learnings I gained from the Practitioner Diploma.

The Practitioner Diploma has helped me to understand the mechanics of an effective coaching conversation and highlighted the clear distinctions between coaching and other forms of communication.

The network I built with my cohort and tutors has been so valuable. As a collective, we were able to leverage our diverse backgrounds and experiences to support and learn from one another. These relationships have extended beyond the Practitioner Diploma and become a great support network in my day-to-day work.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Everybody’s journey into coaching is different. The best piece of advice I feel I can give from my own journey to anyone considering coach training is to commit to it.

Begin your journey with an open mind and embrace it. As well as learning many valuable skills you will learn so much about who you are along the way. It is very much like holding a mirror up to yourself. While at times it may feel uncomfortable, the time to reflect helps you grow so much as a person.

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

Throughout my career I have eagerly defaulted to the role of advice-giver without fully considering the wider implications. The Practitioner Diploma has challenged me to take a moment to step back and lead conversations with powerful questions with the aim of understanding more deeply and supporting others to forge their own solutions.

Also, being creative and having fun is an essential component of coaching. We all learn in different ways. Understanding different learning styles has enabled me to develop a wide range of tools and techniques to enhance my work.

Finally, I feel that I can more easily recognise and respect my professional boundaries. Being humble enough to know when to refer or ask for help is an important but often overlooked leadership skill!

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

I like to think of my coaching model as going on a journey – I am a travel companion who walks alongside the client towards their destination. I help channel their knowledge and experience to plan their route ahead. I seek opportunities along the way for us both to stop and reflect on what is important to them.

While I learned many coaching models and techniques during the Practitioner Diploma, I see learning as a continuous journey. As such, my coaching model is constantly evolving and improving.

How are you using coaching in your current role?

When I graduated, I positioned myself to embrace all coaching opportunities. I worked with private clients as well as undertaking volunteer coaching assignments.

More recently, I have been very fortunate to find an internal coaching role. My coaching skills have been so valuable during the first few weeks in building my network. The depth of questioning and having the space to actively listen has enabled me to grasp my new role and gain a deep understanding of how my role as a coach can best support the organisation.

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

There were a few common issues and opportunities I supported clients with:

Becoming un-stuck – Quite often, my clients felt that they had stagnated in their role and could not see a way forward. I helped them to look past their current challenges by taking a step back and viewing solutions from a different perspective.

Changing relationship with failure – Many of my clients refrained from trying new things in case they failed. I helped them to reframe the conversation around failure as a first attempt in learning.

Gaining confidence in own ability – At times, my clients did not feel confident in their own ability. We worked in creative partnership to help them realise they can be the change they want to see.

Navigating change – A few clients were embarking on a career transition. We worked together to design strategies to maximise their impact in the first few weeks and months in their new role.

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

Once of the pivotal moments for me was when one of my clients had a significant ‘a-ha’ moment. They faced challenges with the way their organisation approached an issue. Although they were a leader by title, they did not feel they could influence the outcome.

We undertook some creative exercises to shift their perspective and challenged their belief that their individual contribution could not effect change. This helped them come to the realisation that they in fact were in a unique position to cast more influence than they had originally realised. From this they felt a renewed sense of empowered that led to them taking decisive action.

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

The pandemic has given people the time to reflect on what they value most in their work and lives. The lockdowns isolated many of us from our colleagues, friends and family.

Coaching has provided an outlet for many people to get their thoughts and feeling out into the open in a safe and supportive environment that has help them build a plan for their desired work-life moving forward.

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

That moment when the client realises they hold most of the solutions. What makes coaching so unique is that it is led with questions rather than instruction or advice. The coaching process helps to unpick the constituent parts of a challenge by enabling to the client to take a step back and reflect on the issue objectively.

It is so great to see that moment when the client realises they already held the solutions and then decisively taking action!

A huge thank you to Alex for sharing his experience of coach training with the AoEC.