“It has transformed who I am”

19th July by Lee Robertson

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Haseena Farid is a consultant working in the arts, charity and creative sectors and professional executive coach. She provides organisational development support, fundraising, leadership and management training and facilitation to building virtual learning and development programmes, including executive and team coaching. Working with organisations, Haseena established her own business in 2019. Here she talks about her experience of coach training with the AoEC.

You have over two decades of experience in fundraising, leadership and building teams, specialising in the cultural, not-for-profit and creative sectors. Having worked with brands including the Guardian, the Royal Institution, The British Museum and the Young Vic theatre. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I heard about coaching from my sister who works in HR. The larger non-profits that she worked for would offer coaching to their management and leadership teams. My sister was a keen advocate and had a coach herself and recommended that I consider getting a coach to support me with my professional development.

It can be quite lonely in leadership. I remember as a manager there were many times where it was difficult to know who to talk to regarding a particular workplace issue/ challenge. When I started working with a coach it was great. Being invited to find the solutions to my own challenges and speak to someone who could help me make sense of my thoughts was really helpful. I could also see the difference between therapy and coaching and I realised that coaching would be of great benefit to me professionally.

In terms of signing up for coach training with the AoEC, I had just come to the end of my role at The Guardian before the pandemic and I was really interested to find out more about what it is like to a coach. I really liked some of the skillsets that were being used and I reached out to a contact on LinkedIn who was a coach and asked if she had any recommendations for coach training providers. She sent me a number through including the AoEC. Even though she hadn’t been on an AoEC course, she said she had heard a lot that it was a great course and that I should take a look.

I then decided to come to an AoEC Open Event and it was a great experience. From there I went on to doing the Certificate in Coaching Skills and it was a no brainer doing the Practitioner.

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

The benefits were huge. For me I think it was social connection, meeting with people from all walks of life and different industries and getting a sense of their purpose, what motivates them at work and where some of the challenges have been for them in the workplace. I really loved the way the course was structured, and I thought that the Faculty members were just brilliant. I was very impressed with the way that Faculty led that course.

I think the biggest challenge was mindset. I had to get over the fact that it was all going to be virtual because of the pandemic. I was tentative about the course because it was unclear how we could recreate the connection I had felt when I did the Certificate. Whilst it was a challenge, the focus on experiential learning meant that coachees worked very closely with each other and could build lasting relationships.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

I would say before you start any course, do some preparation, maybe some reading and get a good sense of what it is before you sign up. I think to get the best out of a coaching course, you want to be present at the sessions. One way to get out of your head could be by being prepared, so maybe take time to read the pre-reading they send you and that might be one way to feel present.

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

Coaching wasn't something that was in my everyday life. That has totally changed and not a day goes by without me thinking about the power of asking good questions or holding space for others, listening and all those things. It has transformed who I am because it has transformed the way I think about things now.

It has made me more confident. I grew up feeling that confidence meant you had to be sure of yourself, always having things to say. I was never really taught that being confident can also come from your presence, the questions you ask and holding space for others. Through coaching I have realised that I don’t have to be the person who always has the ideas or the solutions.

As a coach I am learning every day. It is crazy, it is like a rollercoaster! I am learning that the legacy for me is that those skills, the fundamentals of what we learn, never changes. As a coach, whoever I might be coaching, the principles/the model are the same and I can always fall back on that and they are the best skills to have as a coach are the fundamentals of listening, observing and reflecting.

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

My coaching model is co-active which at its heart is about partnership. A partnership between coach and coachee to create the best environment to help the coachee flourish and move towards fulfilment. It's as much about the coachee’s needs as it is about the coach and it's vital to me that I can be the best I can be to hold space for my client.

To do that, both of us must come together and have very frank conversations about what a partnership looks like. That is at the heart of my model and has not changed. What I have noticed through coaching clients is that some have different ways of approaching things, so I am aware and have these conversations very openly in the contracting stage. I listen, understand and might adapt my coaching style if it is required and bring in other models should there be need to.

You established your own coaching practice Farid Coaching and Consulting in October 2019; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

First and foremost, I am a consultant and my background is philanthropy, working in the arts and the cultural space and the not-for-profit world. A lot of my work has always been with senior leadership and boards trying to develop cultures of fundraising and philanthropy. When I did the coach training, I didn’t think that I would necessarily be moving into coaching but had hoped that I would bring the skillsets into my consulting, which has happened.

I have noticed that by adding the coaching element, more people are approaching me for leadership coaching, as well as fundraising consultancy. I work one-to-one with leaders who might be directors of development within these organisations, or CEOs of charities who are looking for a coach to work through some of the challenges they have.

I have also worked with artists who are thinking about how to commercialise their work and be entrepreneurial in the process.

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

The issues are mainly career focused or management focused. Through the sessions we may touch on deeper issues which are more personal.

In terms of impact, I'm hearing that clients feel more confident and have been able to meet their goals by taking an action-oriented approach. Some clients feel coaching has had a transformational impact in the way that they view things.

I also invite clients to provide feedback at the start of our sessions, so they are clear on what they want to get out the coaching, as well as sending a survey at the end. The answers to these initial questions give me an indication of their confidence levels, what they have tried from a career perspective and what the objectives are. Towards the end of our sessions together they receive another survey where they then look back at their goals and objectives and see how far they have come and then we look at our relationship as coach and coachee.

You are great advocate for diversity and co-founded the Women of Colour Global Network (WOCGN) in 2021. Can you tell us a little bit more about the work you are doing to help empower the women you are supporting at WOCGN?

It was after Black Lives Matter that we felt we had a responsibility here to talk about some of our experiences and see if we could start to shift the dial a little bit and support other women.

There are a lot of women who are facing a double disadvantage from a gender and race discrimination perspective, and we wanted to be able to offer them a space to come together and speak to another woman of colour who understands what they might be going through. We wanted to create an environment where they could be themselves.

We soft-launched on International Women’s Day last year and the response was amazing. We now have over 700 women of colour as part of the network and some great allies who are managers and leaders within organisations who recognise the importance of having these sort of spaces and networks for specific groups.

Through the network our primary initiative was about mentoring and bringing together senior women of colour together with other women of colour across industries because one of the biggest issues is that only one per cent of power positions across industries are held by women of colour. We were really interested to find out what is going wrong here in terms of what is happening within the informal practices in the workplace that is leading to that and start to understand what the lived experiences of these women truly are.

The purpose of the network is to support talented WOC's advancement in the workplace. We offer coaching and have a strong mentoring programme. We recently ran our pilot mentoring programme, with 50 WOC. Ninety per cent of those who went through our pilot programme said it has helped them significantly with their confidence. Some have specifically gone on to get more well-paid jobs, ask for and secure pay rises and find a job after periods of unemployment. Tangible changes that have occurred in the professional lives of these women that they felt would not have happened, had they not been championed by another WOC who has had similar experiences. So, the fundamental thing that we are hearing is that the solidarity these women provide each other can be transformational.

We have just launched our new website www.wocgn.com which has details of how we are working with organisations. That is a big part of how we want to take our mentoring and coaching programme in-house to be able to support organisations and help their women of colour, but also to help management really understand the unique challenges that women of colour face.

You are co-moderating the AoEC’s webinar on ‘Diversity and opportunity in coaching’. What message do you want coaches and the coaching bodies to hear around this issue?

I think the big message is that coaching by its very nature is inclusive, any hint of elitism or conscious bias goes against the ethos of coaching. So, in order for the coaching industry to stay true to its ethos, we must accept that more needs to be done to diversify our pool of professional coaches, otherwise, how can we serve a diverse workforce and population?

We must have these conversations; ensure we hold ourselves to account and look at what we as coaches and organisations can do to ensure people entering the industry feel more included. It is about being really cognisant, recognising what our coaching oath is and realising to serve a diverse population, we also have to be a diverse industry. We want this event to be an opportunity to learn and be curious. To listen to professional coaches about their experiences of feeling "other" in our sector and having a conversation around what tangible things we can do as sector to change this.

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

It is when a coachee comes to the next session, feels really happy with the action they've taken and is energised to do more work. It is seeing people learning more about themselves and making small changes that I find the most inspiring. I recognise that my growth has also come from introspection, learning, reading, talking and engaging with others. So, when I see someone go on that journey, I love it - it really resonates with me and excites me.

Our deepest gratitude to Haseena for sharing her personal story and experience of coach training with the AoEC.