Advanced Practitioner Diploma / “It literally changed my life”

25th August by Lee Robertson

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Trassa Meegan, Advanced Practitioner Diploma AoEC

Coming from a background in management consultancy, Trassa Meegan provided coaching and coach training in-house with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) before founding her own practice Space2Lead. We asked her about her time on the Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching which she graduated from in 2019.

You have a really diverse and interesting background of working in management consultancy, research, and the performing arts. What or who introduced you to coaching and led you to sign up for the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma course?

I’ve always loved learning, and trying new things. Many colourful years in academia as a researcher in Theoretical Physics, while also performing as a professional singer and actress in my native Dublin, gave me a combined love of creativity, intellectual rigour and building close working relationships. Which drew me to management consulting, and over a decade with Boston Consulting Group (BCG). There I had the privilege of working with world-class coaches. I was always slightly mesmerised by what they could do. So, I jumped when I was offered the opportunity to coach internally, and then to manage BCG’s in-house coaching programme. The more I coached, the more I wanted to learn. When two extraordinary coaching mentors, glowed about their experience with AoEC and the Advanced Practitioner Diploma, I applied. Little did I know that it was the beginning of a journey that would lead to me now running my own business.

What did you find were the most beneficial learning experiences on the diploma?

When I began the programme, I had no idea of the intensity that lay ahead. I remember Moira Halliday posing a question to the group on our first day – “What would it take to make this a transformational experience?” I remember thinking “I don’t need it to be transformational to still be worthwhile – just some solid theory and practical tools will be great.” Was I in for a surprise.

My Advanced Diploma experience was of two parallel, but interconnected journeys. The first journey was where I was indeed exposed to lots of mind-expanding theory and techniques. But the second journey was with my wonderful triads of peers, coaching and being coached, working on my own topics session after session, and re-absorbing all of that directly back into my own coaching. I became a better coach. But only via the uncharted path of working on myself and my own baggage on the way. It literally changed my life.

What would be your top piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing professional coach training?

Bring your whole self to it, warts and all. Take risks, don’t spectate. A well-structured programme will teach you skills to bring outward to your clients. But if you also embrace the invitation to look inward and work on yourself through a deeply experiential programme like the Advanced Diploma, then the return for your coaching is exponential.

What personal qualities and values do you bring to your coaching work?

Coaching, for me, is all about relationship. I care about people, I love to hear their stories and to build connection. I’m curious too, and love a good puzzle. As a consultant, I channelled that curiosity into detail, and solving problems for my clients. But now as a coach, I channel my curiosity into people, and giving them the space to solve their own problems.

My most cherished belief is that every client is whole, and has the capacity to grow and change, if this is what they want and are ready to do. My role is to create a space of warmth, empathy and supportive challenge where that change can emerge.

What does your personal coaching model entail and how has this evolved since completing the diploma?

Years ago, I completed a PhD in Theoretical Physics, looking at the fractal nature of electrodeposits. A fractal is a structure where each part, large or small, has the same characteristics as the shape as a whole. The further I went in the programme, the more I started to see my model as ‘fractal coaching’. My client and I begin at the macro level of their topic. As we work together, we use various tools to zoom in and out of the overall picture, observing different angles and levels of detail, noticing patterns and themes, exploring the interplay between figure and ground, but never losing sight of the whole – like a fractal.

The main difference in my coaching since completing the diploma is in my level of comfort with ‘not knowing’ – trusting that I can draw on a range of techniques without knowing where they will take us, but believing that the journey will reveal something of value.

You founded your own practice Space2Lead in July 2019 after nearly 12 years working at Boston Consultancy Group. Can you tell us about your experience of setting up your own business and the type of clients you are working with?

Founding Space2Lead has been a great adventure. After many years working with corporate leaders, I reflected on how little time they have for anything other than constant action.

But growing as a leader requires time, and space. My vision for Space2Lead is to give leaders at every level space to reflect, space to notice, space to grow, space to lead.

Becoming an entrepreneur has been a huge transition from the structure and security of corporate life. The biggest change is realising that I have to set my own goals, and my path to reach them, including everything from marketing to IT – it’s all me. My mindset has moved from ‘I have to’ to ‘I get to’, which is scary but empowering.

My clients are mostly corporates, engaging on a mix of individual and team coaching, with bespoke leadership development programmes. My next goal is to expand my client base to public sector and emerging business, focussing especially on women in leadership, an area close to my heart.

What are some of the issues you coach people around?

Writing in August 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has been both foreground and backdrop to everything this year. Over the Summer, I found myself coaching virtual teams with members dialing in from Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America, each of whom, despite their geographic differences, were sharing common experiences of life in lockdown, and many similar concerns personally and professionally.

Through this time, my coaching has focused more than ever on resilience and navigating change. Many clients are also working to develop virtual presence and ways of working in virtual teams, and to manage increasingly blurred boundaries between work and home.

What kind of impact is coaching having on the individuals and organisations you are working with?

More than ever, as we navigate the pandemic, coaching gives people a safe space to openly explore fears and challenges. Fears they might not express in virtual teams or elsewhere in the workplace. Working through their experiences, I see clients developing new strategies as leaders through pandemic and beyond. It’s tempting for companies to reduce coaching budgets right now, but I observe mindful organisations investing even more heavily in people. Offering employees the space to reflect and rebuild, frees them up to be even more present, empowered and impactful in their roles.

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

An early client of mine, a brilliant young woman, had a goal for our coaching sessions to work on a professional challenge and take her career to the next level. As we built our relationship, she also revealed that she was undergoing treatment for advanced cancer, which she had been quite private about at work. I was humbled that she brought this part of her whole self into our sessions over time, exploring this reality alongside her career goals.

It was hugely impactful for me as an emerging coach, realising just how much more may be happening in each person’s life than we see on the surface, what a privilege it is when someone shares that with us, and what a responsibility we hold as coaches to honour each person’s unique experience with respect and empathy.

What has coaching taught you about yourself and other people?

My most difficult but valuable lesson has been recognising how much of my professional life had been spent with my ‘game face’ on, avoiding signs of weakness. Training with AoEC taught me to be comfortable with my own vulnerability, to embrace it, and to realise that in it lay my strength, as a coach and in life.

Working with others, I’ve learned that everyone has a story, a soft spot, something hidden from the light. I love the realisation that in building a safe space of trust and empathy with another person, something beautifully unexpected almost always emerges.

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

Coaching is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. The privilege of accompanying someone on their journey to an ‘a-ha’ is like nothing else. At first, I was drawn to coaching because I liked the idea of helping people. In fact, I quickly came to realise this was the biggest challenge I had to overcome as a coach – deconstructing my career-consultant instinct to help and to ‘fix’ things. Now I have created Space2Lead, not for the feeling of helping, but for the satisfaction of working with clients to co-create a space where they can help themselves.

Our sincerest thanks go to Trassa for sharing her coach training story and time with us.