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Louise Schubert is an executive coach, mentor, facilitator, coach supervisor and a member of the Global Accreditation team for the European Mentoring Coaching Council (EMCC). Working with organisations to develop their people strategies to build on talent and move towards the future, Louise is a graduate of the Resilience Accreditation Programme.
You have over 30 years of experience working in the executive development field and are no stranger to coach training having already done the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching back in 2006. What led you to resilience coaching and the Resilience Accreditation programme?
For many years now I have had resilience as a capacity marked in my mind. When preparing feedback following Leadership Assessment Centres, it was a competence that I had to speak to in the reports. I began to investigate it a little for myself and included it as a topic in a Time Management Training programme that I was asked to develop. I realised that I needed more material and whilst researching, I received an invitation from the AoEC to attend the Resilience Training programme. In the meantime, my husband had been diagnosed with Parkinsons and that meant many big changes in our lives.
We had worked together, and our roles were clearly defined. Suddenly I found myself in charge of everything, the finances, maintenance, what direction the business should take, not to mention our personal life and family. I have become a carer and need to support my husband, whilst a degenerative condition becomes more and more apparent. It is an ongoing journey.
I started the programme in early 2020 and was in London for module one in February, just before Lockdown was declared throughout Europe. The rest is history. It was one of the timeliest decisions I have ever taken.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced doing the Resilience Accreditation programme?
The programme has helped me reflect on my own needs and highlighted where I need to take care, slow down, change my approach and be less demanding on myself. In answer to my need for new content for my time management programme, I certainly found that and was able to use it almost immediately. I remember preparing an exercise based on my learning for the programme, on the flight back home after module one.
One of the challenges that we all faced was not being able to attend module two in person. However, Jenny and her team did such an amazing job in developing the virtual version of the module, that it inspired me in how to approach and adapt my own training programmes to the virtual world.
Another challenge was to find people with whom to work for the group/team exercise for the accreditation. I almost immediately found a client that was interested, but with COVID 19, everything was put on hold. I was eventually given the opportunity to run a pilot starting in December 2020 and that went very well. It was also good for me to be able to postpone my accreditation process. It should have been handed in by August 2020, but without the group work I was nowhere near ready.
What does your coaching model look like and how has this evolved to include a resilience focus?
The model I developed for my Advanced Practitioner diploma still holds. It is based on William Isaac’s “Safe Container” from his programme and book on “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together”. I ensure that I create a safe space for any work that I carry out, with individuals or groups. Perhaps sharing a little more or myself has crept in, and particularly with resilience work, I have found that sharing some personal elements allows others to open more and share their own vulnerability. I am now so much more sensitive to the multiple signals that clients or anyone with whom I engage in conversation, send out. Many people don’t realise that behind the issue that they bring to coaching lies one of the elements from the “Resilience Engine” that drives our own resilience. I find the need to inquire further, using the resilience lens.
Looking back at doing both the Advanced Diploma and the Resilience Accreditation Programme, what has been the lasting impact on you as a person and you as a people development professional?
I would say that the relationships formed during the two programmes. 14 years have passed between the two programmes and many life events have occurred. I remember key conversations from both programmes, self-discovery and particularly from the diploma, the environment where the training took place. It was amazing, residential, and lost in the middle of the Kent countryside, in an old manor house, so conducive to deep conversations and discovery. I am still in touch with some of my early coaching colleagues, so the networking element is always important. I have also formed some very special relationships thanks to the Resilience programme.
Never have I attended a programme that has had such an immediate impact on my personal and professional life, as the resilience work. It was as if it was just waiting to be unlocked and put into immediate use.
Tell us about your work at Schubert Consulting. How are you using resilience coaching and who are you working with?
For reasons explained already, I have had to consolidate my professional work. I am now totally home-based and how lucky I have been that I made that transition before COVID. The three main areas of my work are Coaching, Coaching Supervision and Facilitation of training programmes. I have my own clients and work as an associate for a reduced number of other organisations. To my delight, the work that I have been doing under my own label, in the world of science, seems to be taking off since I have been doing the resilience workshops. My 12-hour programme has been requested by other scientific institutes in Spain and beyond.
I probably need to think about how I now market it, specifically around resilience.
What typically are the challenges or opportunities you have been asked to help clients with and what impact is the resilience coaching having on those you are working with?
Much of the work that I was involved with last year, was around coming to terms with the impact of COVID as individuals juggled with working in the home environment, had to supervise home schooling if they had children, and struggled to make time for themselves.
In some cases, the client had recently arrived from another country and had very little support network in their new home city. Some people felt very cut off and isolated. I have found it very common that people set too high expectations of themselves and give little thought to pacing themselves in a different way.
In the group sessions that I run, people particularly enjoy sharing with others and finding that they are not alone with the challenges that they face.
The exercise “What makes my heart sing” is very powerful, as it helps people to realise what gives them joy and what they can do to build more of this into their lives.
I have had several situations where clients have recently experienced increased levels of responsibility, due to organisation changes. They struggle with setting priorities, finding their voices to give tough feedback, and setting boundaries.
I have started to include more work around assertiveness as a part of my resilience work. I ask people to practice ways of speaking up, saying no or even just expressing what is going on for them at a particular point. It is very liberating and empowering and then they start to have the conversations that they have been postponing.
Within my supervision work resilience has been a very big theme, particularly with two groups that I worked with before the Summer. I have introduced exercises working with the outdoors and this has been an excellent combination. I have run several group supervision sessions outside, all of us wearing masks. This not only brought people back to a face-to-face situation but being outside we were able to take a more systemic approach. Many answers were found to both personal and professional questions.
In most cases I find the need for resilience work emerges as I work during an existing coaching relationship.
How have you seen the need for coaching/resilience coaching change as we have gone through the coronavirus pandemic?
First, there is much greater awareness of mental health as an issue to be dealt with at all levels of society. I would say that there is now less stigma attached to admitting work needs to be done on this and people are realising the importance of on-going self-care.
This means people are more spontaneous when admitting the challenges that they have been facing. I would like to think that people find it easier to ask for help, but that might still be wishful thinking on my side.
What is your assessment of the key trends and challenges facing business leaders and organisations right now and what should they be doing to address them?
Everywhere in the world we are facing the aftermath of COVID and how this has shaped our lives at every level. In Spain, where I live, there has always been very little flexibility around working from home. With lockdown, leaders everywhere have been forced to accept the idea of “home office” and have seen that targets can be met, without everyone working on the company premises. There is a change in mindset and “blended” working methods are here to stay.
Recruitment methods have been transformed, and even after onboarding, a new team member, might still never have had physical contact with their leader or peers.
This means that leaders must develop new approaches to creating and maintaining team spirit, to ensure individuals are engaged, even whilst working at distance, across different geographies, whilst being sensitive to mental health issues and developmental needs. Listening skills and a coaching approach are essential competencies for leaders in their tool kits.
Having been plunged into home working using makeshift and cramped workstations, many people are moving out of the crowded city centres, in search of more space. Homes are being adapted or built to allow better conditions for the home office. The construction industry is enjoying a boom and there is a global shortage of supplies.
There are huge logistic issues worldwide, for several key reasons. Retail is being transformed and distribution hubs are being rethought on a global basis.
Digital transformation and climate change are perhaps the biggest issues that companies are now facing. COP26 has just concluded, and whilst certain industries will cease to exist, new businesses and the production of renewable energy will see exponential growth.
Cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and the use of cryptocurrencies will also have important impact on our lives.
With the restrictions imposed by COVID, those organisations that have responded with speed, transforming their business models, have shown the world how best to move forward. The development of the first COVID vaccines is an example.
Resilience which means, the ability to adapt and move forward without fear, is essential for survival and success in the future.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a resilience coaching situation that had an impact on you?
There are several, but one is where I did not recognise the symptoms of how close to breakdown my client was.
It was a coaching programme to support my client in her professional development, as she assumed greater responsibilities. During the session I noticed that we were going around in circles, and I felt a complete blockage. I was very concerned to see how she seemed to have slipped into old, unhelpful patterns. I took this to supervision to look at alternative approaches for the next session.
In the meantime, she had taken a long summer break and spent much time in the open air away from her professional responsibilities. On her return she was a different person, with a very positive energy and ready to move forward. I then realised that I had misread the clues that she had given me in the previous session. I had been more focussed on what she was not doing rather than how she was. I also took this to supervision to reflect on.
Now when I notice confusing signals or extreme tension in my clients, we stop and reflect, using different techniques. I will also hold up the mirror to share what I am experiencing in the moment.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
It is work that is vocational, where I feel I am helping others and hopefully contributing to making the world we live in a better place.
I particularly enjoy the relationships that develop and the conversations that take place over time with clients. It is particularly rewarding when clients come back after a break and ask for more sessions.
Or when through my questions or observations, I feel the shift in the room. I love to hear my clients report that thanks to work that we have done important insights have occurred. These then enable changes to be made. This could be a decision to move or a change in their way of working.
Working in partnership with other coaches or supervisors or participating in different networks is great fun and so beneficial. We share expertise, develop material and reflect together.
It is wonderful to be able to work across the world from my home office and feel connected with very special people all over the globe.
Our deepest thanks to Louise for sharing her very personal experience of coach training with the AoEC.
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