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Cécile Guinnebault is a graduate of the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching. Based in Paris, she runs her own coaching practice Atsumi. We had the pleasure of interviewing her about her time on the programme.
You had worked in consultancy and coaching for a long time before enrolling on the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma course. What prompted this decision?
I was an experienced change management professional, with over 25 years of consulting experience, 15 years of individual and team coaching experience, and training in various leadership, coaching and therapeutic approaches. The only thing I missed was a proper coaching diploma and accreditation, which was becoming critical in an increasingly saturated coaching market.
What did you find were the most beneficial learning experiences on the diploma?
Three things made this learning journey more impactful than all the learning experiences I’d done in the past.
1. Making a variety of learning experiences, with a strong emphasis on practise - in-room and online; in plenary, in quads, 1-to-1 with my AoEC tutors and ICF mentor; peer-coaching, group supervision, essay-writing, knowledge sharing, playing ; not to mention discussions over a glass of wine at the pub, sharing each other’s vulnerabilities in the park, doing chair yoga at 6am on an autumn morning or singing Pogues’ songs at the top of our voices! It’s the combination that made it unique. I guess the stretch of these experiences over time tremendously helped building and deepening relationships within the group. And the repeated observed and recorded peer-coaching helped me feel perfectly at ease on assessment day.
2. Being my own boss. The faculty provided us with some guidelines, but in the end, each learner built their own journey. I remember being told repeatedly by faculty members “That’s down to you, Cécile! What do you want to achieve?” A French teacher would never have answered my questions like that.
3. Committing to mutual success. The French learning culture is individualistic and competitive. Being told by a fellow learner “I’m here to help you succeed” was quite an unprecedented experience. This mindset was created by the faculty right from the start and quickly spread throughout the group.
What would be your top piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing professional coach training?
Do a 2-3 day-workshop to learn the basics and start practising before you engage in a more substantial programme. The theory you learn after having made mistakes is much more impactful than the theory you learn out of the blue. And make sure you have practise clients to train with as you learn, if you want the learnings to become practical skills.
What personal qualities and values do you bring to your coaching work?
From a relational point of view: sincerity, strategic empathy to support the person while challenging their limiting beliefs and behaviours, attentive presence.
From a methodological point of view: talent to identify systemic patterns, creativity to suggest reframing experiments.
From a professional point of view, experience across the whole change management span: training, consulting, facilitating, coaching and counselling.
What does your personal coaching model entail and how has this evolved since completing the diploma?
The Advanced Practitioner Diploma course had enabled my “Bridge the Gap” model to crystallise. I was trained in systemic thinking before joining the course, where I discovered client-centred approaches and Gestalt. Mixing these sources of inspiration required building four bridges, that became the principles of my model.
- Understanding behaviours systemically, to build a bridge between the organisational context and the individual psyche,
- Coaching with strategic empathy, to build a bridge between support and challenge,
- Communicating with the whole self, to build a bridge between cognition and emotion,
- Helping my clients see the world through a different frame, to build a bridge between logical and humanistic paradoxes of change
You set up your coaching practice Atsumi in 2013. What are some of the issues you coach clients around?
- Solving persistent relational issues
- Improving stakeholder management
- Building the resources to go from “manager” to “leader”
- Building and implementing complex relational strategies
- Finding a way forward in a dead-end or after a failure
- Being a working leader with a chronic health condition
- Coming back to business after long-term leave – maternity, illness, expatriation, sabbatical
- Adapting to new organisational rules – new role, new boss, new shareholders, new culture
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that had an impact on you?
Every coaching session teaches me something: about relationship building, about contracting, about listening, about adapting to my coachee’s pace, about organisational traps.
More than a specific coaching session, it is a specific moment in each one that has an impact on me. There is always a moment when I start feeling inadequate, tense. Generally, I don’t sleep well after such a session, and I can only hope my supervisor will be able to make time for me soon. Most of the time, I come out from supervision more aware that I need to trust the process. And most of the time, some magic happens in the following session.
How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching work?
By the quality of the relationship I keep with my coachees long after the coaching has ended. Those I have stayed in contact with have all told me the story of their most powerful breakthrough. Funnily enough, their strongest memories don’t always match mine!
I find it easier to measure success when the coaching relationship includes just the coachee and myself. When an organisation is involved (HR, boss, sponsor), goal setting and assessment becomes more of a stakeholder management process. It becomes more political, less coachee-oriented, if that makes sense.
What has coaching taught you about yourself and other people?
Every coaching intervention takes me to my learning edge. Knowing my theoretical basics is never enough, neither is experience. Every new coachee is unique and the same coaching never happens twice. Experience only helps me being aware that every time, my coachee and I embark on a journey into the unknown.
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about your work as a coach?
I hate feeling pressured by time, within a session as well as within a programme. When my coachee is stuck and I see the clock ticking, I can’t help feeling terribly anxious, even if I “know” that you don’t grow a plant by pulling its leaves!
What I find most rewarding is when I meet colleagues of my coachees, not involved in the goal measurement process, telling me they’ve seen the difference before and after the coaching. Or when a coachee tells me years after coaching how vividly they remember our conversations.
An enormous thank you to Cécile for sharing her experience of coach training with the AoEC.
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