Practitioner Diploma / Interview with Justin Leigh

21st May by Lee Robertson

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Justin Leigh, AoEC Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching

We caught up with Justin to ask him more about his move into the world of executive coaching. Justin studied the AoEC's Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching programme and is an accomplished presenter, facilitator, advisor and consultant to board level executives. He now runs his own successful practice Focus4growth.

What made you decide to embark on the Practitioner Diploma course?

I enrolled on the Practitioner Diploma course having researched a number of executive coaching programmes. I spoke with my own executive coach who advised me that the AoEC programme was regarded as the best in the market. Even though he had not qualified with the AoEC himself, he said that if he could retrain, he would do so with the AoEC. I also attended an open day and was impressed with the programme content and the faculty I met. I was delighted with the training.

What were the positives and challenges you faced when doing the programme?

I thoroughly enjoyed the Practitioner Diploma programme and valued so much of it. The practical application of working with practice clients throughout the programme, the course content itself, the skill and experience of the faculty delivering the programme and the network of other coaches that were trained on the same programme as me. These are all key components of what created the most value for me.

The only challenge I faced during the course of the programme was simply creating time to be able to complete the work required for the final assessment. That was fairly easily overcome by starting on the final essay, presentation and coaching model almost immediately after I left the first days of training.

The sense of achievement I felt by the end, far outweighs any challenges I faced.

What new skills or competencies did you develop when studying the diploma?

There were so many principles and skills I developed during (and since) the programme. A year on, there are three main takeaways for me from the diploma:

  1. The research and application of my own coaching model, combined with identifying my ideal client, was incredibly valuable to my coaching.
  2. The structure of beginnings, middles and endings was really valuable in giving me a framework to reference and work on, with my clients.
  3. Getting into my “coaching zone” and having the opportunity to repeatedly practice; the three levels of listening, my questioning and listening and coaching tools and skills was all incredibly valuable.

From your own experience, what advice would you give to those who are thinking about training to become a professional coach?

If you’re training to be a coach, I would advise that you look to specialise in areas where you have experience. Whilst you don’t need to have “walked in your client’s shoes”, the coaching skills you learn will enable you to draw from your client what they need. However, having insight into their world enables you to ask the right questions and create the most value possible for your clients. This is a key part of the final stage of the programme where you identify your ideal client. That clarity is key to your future success as a coach.

You work predominantly with business leaders/teams - can you please tell us more about the issues or challenges you are supporting clients with?

My clients seem to have a common goal and that goal is growth of their organisation. The key distinction between business growth and the growth of the leader and their teams, is an important one to make. I am very fortunate that the majority of my clients recognise that the growth of the leader and the organisation, is a precursor to the growth of their business. You cannot have one without the other. Strengthening their leadership capability and helping them to determine the best way to do that through coaching, is the main area of focus and creates the most value for my clients.

Self-awareness is a key issue for clients once they become leaders in their organisation. Gaining feedback from their teams about their own capability can be very difficult. That is an area as a coach I have to be able to help them with, because of my objectivity (and sometimes bravery), in holding up a true reflection of their own performance as a leader.

I use diagnostic tools to help me do this, but sometimes as a coach you also have to have the confidence to “say what you see”. I’ve learned that clients seem to respect and appreciate this, if delivered in the right way.

What are the most common challenges you face in your work as a coach?

One of my biggest challenges as a coach is actually developing my business and gaining clients. The cycle time for identifying, engaging and securing clients is lengthy. Persevering and creating value for clients is the answer, but it can be difficult to maintain momentum and focus as it takes so long. I have been qualified just over a year now and I have three regular clients and a number of clients that I’m in discussions with. It’s a long drawn out process and I use a number of methods to reach my ideal client. It’s getting easier and better, but it is not straight forward. I believe that’s the number one challenge for most coaches I speak with.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your coaching assignments?

I measure effectiveness mainly through client feedback. I ask for feedback at the end of every session and continue to focus on improvement from one session to the next. I incorporate the feedback from previous sessions into improvements and that continues to elevate my coaching practice and increase value of my clients.

I have developed a scoring mechanism where, for longer programmes, I ask clients to score the quality of the coaching, the quality of the content and the quality of the impact on us on a rating of 1 to 10.

I am also working with a particular client to look at specific return on investment to determine if the value of coaching can be measured specifically in business revenue.

Why do you think coaching can be so effective and empowering for coachees?

Coaching creates the ultimate accountability for coachees. The fact that the coachee discovers their own answers to problems and solutions to challenges they face is the main reason why engagement is so high, and coaching is so valuable. Asking the questions that people either don’t ask themselves or aren’t aware of is also immensely valuable.

Having experience of the work and the life that your client lives enables you to dig a little deeper into the options that are available to them, that most times, they don’t realise exist.

What has your work as a coach taught you personally?

I’ve learnt many things in the last year. The principle that people have infinite capability has proven to be true in many of my coaching sessions. By asking key questions and then allowing my clients space to really dig deep inside themselves they have surprised themselves and me with some of the ingenious answers they are able to discover for themselves. I have also learnt to trust myself so much more and rely on my skills, experience and ability to ask the right questions even when I do not know the answers myself. I’ve learned I have greater perseverance and inner strength than I ever thought possible.

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

Seeing the transformation in my clients is without doubt the most rewarding experience as a coach.

Watching as my clients develop and grow their own skills and experience throughout a coaching cycle is quite literally incredible and inspiring.

Helping people break through limiting beliefs and expand their vision of what’s possible for themselves is fan-dabby-dozy. The impact you can make as a coach is life changing for your clients and for you personally and professionally.


A huge thanks to Justin for giving us a candid insight into his coach training and work as a coach.