Practitioner Diploma / “One of the best leadership development programmes I’ve experienced”

11th September by Lee Robertson

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Mary Morgan, Practitioner Diploma AoEC Scotland

Mary Morgan is director: strategy, performance and service transformation at NHS National Services Scotland. With past roles in nursing and NHS management, Mary completed her Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching with AoEC Scotland in early 2020. With covid-19 meaning a swap to virtual learning mid-way the programme, she talks about personal experience of training with the AoEC and coaching in a pandemic.

You have a stellar career working for NHS National Services Scotland during the last 12 years and past roles in nursing and NHS management. What introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching programme with AoEC Scotland?

Prior to signing up for the Practitioner Diploma course with AoEC Scotland, I noticed that people at work would sometimes seek my advice and guidance in dealing with a range of challenges that they were presented with. In addition, I would support team members in a mentoring or coaching role. I enjoy seeing personal and professional growth in these colleagues and wished to enhance my offering to them by formalising my learning, validated with suitable qualification and accreditation, and developing confidence in my practice.

I am passionate about Health & Social Care services and I am committed to the experience and growth of people who work therein. I am also committed to supporting the evolution of a coaching culture as I believe it will help our people and teams to thrive and flourish.

I have experienced the benefits of executive coaching at several times during my career and wish to extend that opportunity to others, particularly less experienced or emerging leaders who would not routinely access executive coaching. 

I decided to attend an AoEC Scotland open day and signed up thereafter.

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

It was great to interact, network and learn with a like-minded cohort of people.  Everyone has chosen to be there and were highly committed to each other’s success. The practice element meant that we all got lots of “free” real coaching and lots of positive, constructive feedback about our developing skills.

Covid-19 emerged as we set into module one, which we were able to complete on a face-to-face basis. However, the rest of the programme was undertaken virtually by video conference. We all had to tap into our personal resilience and experience new ways of working – I suspect that has been a good thing when “in training” as we have adapted right from the outset.

Our facilitators were highly professional and supportive. They provided a safe place to learn, explore and grow.

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

Do research the opportunities that are available and take the step to make it a reality. I really believe that the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching has been one of the best leadership development programmes I have experienced and of much wider value than only for executive coaching. 

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

I am passionate about the NHS in Scotland and I love the role that I fulfil and the job that I do – and I believe that I do so very well. A strongly held tenet of mine, aligning with that of quality and teamwork in the NHS in Scotland and its framework, is “to excel and improve”, and I have sought to do so personally and professionally throughout my career. 

Care and caring for others, practically and within my own psyche, is, and has always been, an integral part of my make up since my early years. This aligns closely with the NHS values of care and compassion and commitment to each other that I strongly relate to.

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

The basis of my coaching model remains unchanged with three main pillars:

1. Clarity of purpose or thought: What is the client’s goal?; Where are they now?; Exploring if the goal is the right one for them; What actions (solutions) are needed to bridge the gap between current and future states? What are the possibilities for different futures than initially seen?

2. Identifying Resources: The skills, knowledge, and experiences they have or have observed that they can realise and use to help them. What has worked well for them in the past? What role models do they have and what have they observed in them?

3. Identifying support and resourcefulness: Particularly at the end of our coaching relationship.  What support (in its broadest sense) would be most helpful to the client?

    Core to how I coach is open questioning, along with deep listening, to help my client gain insight and clarity. However, my coaching practice may also involve helping my client to explore their own resources and gain confidence in using these through creative techniques or experiments.

    How are you using your coaching skills in your current role of Director: Strategy, Performance and Service Transformation?

    I am using my coaching skills to explore better solutions in day-to-day meetings, being more curious and adopting a more proactive “seek to understand” approach. I can approach and manage difficult conversations with much more confidence and competence than prior to the programme.

    I have improved 1:1 meetings/appraisal/PDP meetings with my team as I have adopted a coaching conversation approach. 

    I am a coach for the “Coaching for Wellbeing” initiative in NHS Scotland; A Covid-19 support programme and I am part of the NHS Scotland “Coaching Matters” network.

    What are some of the issues you coach people around?

    I am here to offer time out in a safe and confidential reflective space where clients may wish to explore feelings, thoughts and emotions and their reactions and responses to these.

    They may wish to strengthen their personal confidence and resilience through times of change or may be seeking to reflect on their career direction and opportunities.

    It may be that they are seeking to understand or improve their capacity to support others – their colleagues, direct reports, or wider team members.

    It may be that they simply wish to talk and be listened to.

    I am particularly passionate about supporting emerging leaders who would not routinely access executive coaching until a later stage in their career. 

    What kind of impact is coaching having for those you are working with?

    I am lucky to have received some very positive feedback about my approach as a colleague, manager, and leader both prior to and since completing the AoEC Scotland Practitioner Diploma. Co-workers are appreciative of feeling empowered and supported in their decision making.

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

    Every coaching situation has an impact on me. I find it hugely rewarding that women (and I have just noticed that it is all women that I have coached in practice), at the start of our coaching relationship, can be so emotional and at times distraught and uncertain, and can leave a session feeling much better about themselves in the situation they are facing.

    What has coaching taught you about yourself and other people?

    I have learned more through reflection, practice, and feedback about myself since I started the Diploma than I ever expected. More specifically, for some reason that I do not yet fully understand, I have been able to realise learning from reflection in a way that I had not been able to do previously.

    I have learned that we are all resilient and have an inner capacity to thrive, if we only tap into those deep resources; and I have also learned about the power of simple, open questions to unlock new possibilities and insights.

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

    I find it hugely rewarding that, as I say, women at the start of our coaching relationship, can be emotional and at times distraught and can leave a session feeling much better about themselves. To be able to witness people flourish after coaching is immensely satisfying.

    Sometimes it is really challenging for me not to reach out and give a coachee the answer I see for them – but I know that the sense of realisation and achievement is greater when they find it themselves – and it is not my gift to give.

    Our deepest thanks to Mary for sharing her story of coach training with us.