“I’d prioritise this coaching training over any other kind of professional qualification”

22nd February by Lee Robertson

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Geraldine Butler-Wright

Describing herself as a team builder and growth accelerator, Geraldine Butler-Wright is chief people and culture officer at Healthily and also works as an advisor, mentor, coach and trustee. Completing the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching back in 2019, she talked to us about her time on the programme and how she is using coaching expertise in her current role.

You have worked in several people and advisory roles across industries – fintechs, government, education, venture capitalist firms and start-up/scale ups. You are currently chief people and culture officer at healthtech, Healthily. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I’ve had an awareness and interest in coaching from early on in my career. As a people professional, it quickly became apparent how adopting a coaching style added value when building strong working relationships across a business.

Business coach and author, Ted Simendinger, quickly became a coaching inspiration when I began working in the start-up world. His straight-talking yet warm approach is something I’ve tried to incorporate into my own practice from the get go. He most definitely planted the seed to pursue coaching in a more formal way; at the same time, two very good friends in HR had taken the course with AoEC and recommended it. I checked out the executive coaching course topics, they immediately resonated, and the rest is history.

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

Blending study with a full-time senior role in a busy start-up and being pregnant with our first child brought its challenges! Fortunately, I fell in love with the executive coaching course from day one and I could see the immediate impact and reward it was bringing to my business and personal life.

The exercise we undertook as part of the course - ‘who am I’ - was astounding in creating more intentionality in my life. It helped build the foundations of who I wanted to be as a coach and person in the present and in the future. I’ll always be incredibly grateful to Faculty tutors Karen, Anita and John for how they created such a safe and inclusive space to explore the theory of coaching and build out our coaching craft from there.

A further huge positive of the course is meeting some incredible people. We had such wide variety of course participants who added to the richness of the whole experience. My classmates became more than just a great network to have – they also became my friends.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Do it! I’d prioritise this coaching training over any other kind of professional qualification (i.e., CiPD etc.). The value of the course is immense and multifaceted. It’s not just about getting qualified to become a coach. I’d argue that the skills gained and understanding of the human condition in this course can be applied in any job and in life in general.  

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

As a person, I’ve learned to step back from rescuing tendencies, which has been very good for my general wellbeing at home and at work.

The introduction to Timothy Gallwey’s theory of The Inner Game through the course, has had a huge impact on me as a coach. In essence, this theory is about overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep you from your best performance. Sharing and working with this theory has unlocked so much potential with my coachees – especially with emerging talent. A great personal side benefit has also been that I’m now also now a far better skier because of the teachings of the Inner Game!

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

Beyond Gallwey’s Inner Game, I am influenced by the Co-Active model. Here people are treated as naturally capable, creative, and resourceful and we focus on the whole person – their heart, body, mind, and spirit. I like to get under the hood of what their beliefs and values are, so we can evoke transformation as a purpose of coaching, with a view for sustainable change.

I’m also a very big fan of Zoud’s ‘loving boot’ – being open, honest, and direct – to challenge and to be challenged. I anticipate that my Geordie and Irish roots play into this coaching preference and model quite strongly too.

These core components have remained constant in my coaching model. A key learning as my model has evolved has been to ensure that boundaries are very clear and set throughout the coaching journey. In my roles as coach, mentor, chief people officer and advisor, I wear many hats. I’ve learnt that it is essential for me to clearly signpost which role I’m playing at any given time and be confident to step back and refer elsewhere when needed.

How are you using your coaching skills in your current role of chief people and culture officer at Healthily?

100% - beyond coaching a wide range of people from across the business (career changers, emerging talent, senior leadership), I use coaching skills every day when interacting with the business. The course has taught me the true importance of asking questions and fully active listening, which has been invaluable in the remote/hybrid world we have been living in for the last two years.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach around?

How to achieve sustainable growth at a personal and business level is a constant theme. True to my model, it’s about supporting people to tap into their true capability and resourcefulness, and to train the inner voice of doubt no matter which stage of career a person is at, or job they are doing.

A theme that often comes about in coaching is finding the time and space to fit your own gas mask first – this is especially true for emerging talent when they are trying to learn a new role and deliver on daily stretching commitments. As such, coaching has become self-care in many ways. Reframing it in this way has been helpful in finding that precious ‘guilt free’ time for self-development.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of the coaching within your organisation?

It’s beyond promotions and successful business outcomes. I am delighted when I see or hear a newfound clarity and confidence in the way a person is presenting themselves, when they find a voice and navigate a way forward independently. They have let go of imposter syndrome and inner doubt that so many suffer from and are finding pleasure in the everyday.

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

I am a mentor with LeadersPlus, a social enterprise working with individuals during parental leave and beyond to progress in their careers whilst enjoying their young families.

This is an organisation very close to my heart and being able to coach parents as they transition into a new working life with confidence and with children has been a privilege and a joy.

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

In the pre-pandemic world, there was far more opportunity to have impromptu and unstructured coaching sessions with mentors, colleagues, friends etc, which certainly had their merits. The pandemic brought the need for coaching to be more considered and focused. Time actually had to be carved out to properly coach. I believe that this more formalised approach gives a greater chance of practises embedding with intention rather than through happenstance.

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

Seeing people’s confidence grow in their own abilities and doing something with it. It’s that simple and wonderful for me.

Our sincerest thanks to Geraldine for sharing her personal journey.