Claire Singers is an executive coach, consultant and public speaker on diversity issues. As a graduate of the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching, we asked Claire about her coaching work where she specialises in working with directors, rising stars, senior women and maternity and paternity clients: with the aim of enhancing performance at work.
What is your career background and what led you to sign up for the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma course?
I was a publicist running my co-owned PR agency, specialising in the music and entertainment industries. After 30 years of working as a PR and with a ‘big’ birthday approaching (a time for reflection) I decided I wanted to create a portfolio career, and a major part of this was training to become an executive coach and building a successful coaching business. The AoEC diploma course was recommended to me by a friend, who was a coach.
What were the challenges you faced when studying for the Diploma and how did it help you to develop your professional skills?
Learning a new skill and wanting to master it, and sometimes having feelings of self doubt, did present some challenging moments. But the overriding feeling was loving the challenge of learning something new and feeling passionate about it. I also realised that everyone on the course was probably experiencing the same combination of enjoyment, inspiration, bafflement and a bit of trepidation. It’s amusing now to read in my coaching journal the worry about asking ‘good coaching questions’. I’m very thankful to have found the AoEC course because it delivered exactly what I needed to begin my new career as an executive coach, and crucially gave me the confidence to believe that I could be successful.
What advice would you give to those who are thinking about training to become a professional coach?
To talk to people who are coaches and ask them lots of questions, open-ended of course! And to choose a course that is highly experiential, this is one of the big strengths of the AoEC course…. you get coaching from day one!
How have you gone on to develop your career as an executive coach?
Networking and bringing in new business were a key part of my job at the PR agency and this resulted in me having a wide network of contacts at senior level, across several industry sectors. Fortunately, most of my contacts were interested to meet and hear about executive coaching, most said “I could do with one of those”. It did take a few months for all those meetings to translate into paying clients, but then it seemed to gain a momentum which has continued ever since.
You work with a rich and diverse range of clients. Can you tell us more about how you are using coaching and what issues are you helping coachees to address?
I coach one-to-one, and in person, I’m not a fan of telephone coaching. Coaching is often transformational and there are moments during sessions that this is evident, the ‘OMG, I’ve just realised that I need to be doing xxxx’ always brings a smile to me. Issues that coachees bring to coaching can include the challenge presented by a new role, the need to manage a range of stakeholder relationships, building self-confidence, increasing visibility within their organisation, creating a balance between work and home, and transitioning back into the business after maternity and paternity leave.
What are the most common challenges you face in your work as a coach?
When a coachee clearly needs some form of therapy or counselling and to gently flag this up. I find it frustrating when a coachee is clearly being poorly managed or placed in a role that is inducing undue anxiety and stress. There have been times, early on in the coaching relationship, where I feel the coachee is holding back, this is understandable, and I will ask about it. I have only disliked one client and she would never know, thankfully I work with some wonderful and talented people.
What results are you achieving by using executive coaching?
This question is probably best answered by my clients. What I can say is that the feedback I receive is very positive and that the coachee and client speak of the value they have derived from it. A common observation is that coaching has helped with big picture thinking, to get out of the weeds and step back. Another is developing empathy for colleagues and actively listening to different points of view.
Why do you think coaching can be so effective and empowering for coachees?
Coaching is intense, it forces the coachee to focus and to think and it gives them a confidential space to do this. The relationship that is built between coachee and coach is fundamental to the success of coaching, it’s a personal relationship built on trust and the knowledge that the coach is committed to supporting them in their professional development. I mentioned to my supervisor about when clients cry, and she said: “that shows that they trust you with their emotions” and that hadn’t occurred to me.
What has your work as a coach taught you personally?
So much. To listen and to let people talk, give them the space…in everyday life people get interrupted all the time or they’re ignored when speaking! My observation skills have definitely sharpened, body language speaks volumes. When I’m listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4, I sometimes just focus on how the presenter is framing questions and how much space, or not, the interviewee is given.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
To make a positive difference to people’s careers and feel trusted by them, is a great privilege. It’s wonderful to meet so many different people and hear their stories and be part of their journey. Those times when the coachee is in full flow, talking to themselves and putting the pieces of the puzzle together and watching their sense of achievement…. that’s rewarding.
Our sincere thanks to Claire for taking the time out to speak with us.