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Reshma Karia is an accredited executive coach and mental health employment advisor with 20 years of experience of providing one-to-one coaching and psychoeducational workshops in the mental health and wellbeing sector. Working at City & Hackney Mind, Reshma very kindly gave us an insight into her professional development as a coach with the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.
You have been working with City & Hackney Mind in a variety of roles and are currently working as an executive coach and a senior mental health employment advisor. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?
As a result of working with people facing mental health and other challenges in the workplace, it felt like a natural progression to develop some knowledge and experience of executive coaching more formally, and to expand into executive coaching.
I also have a friend of a friend who is a senior faculty member at AoEC and the course came highly recommended when I was carrying out my research on different courses, and my organisation agreed to fund the course as they felt it would be of value to me also in my current role. For a long time I have been interested in the psychology of people and organisations, and I felt that coaching would really add to my skill set in this regard.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?
During the diploma, there were many positives and challenges. As with learning anything new, at times I was filled with self-doubt, it was out of my ‘comfort zone' and I had to manage my inner critic. However, moving through those challenges and discomfort was actually where I found the growth and learning takes place.
It is such a supportive learning environment that I constantly felt supported and inspired. I particularly liked the psychological aspects of what stops people from fulfilling their potential. I feel this is rich and vast, and I remember feeling very inspired and curious by this.
What is your top advice to others considering coach training?
I would say, to have an open mind, be prepared to bring your ‘full’, authentic self, be prepared to be vulnerable and be prepared to be inspired. You may find yourself surprised as to what coaching is, and how transformative it can be on many levels.
Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?
It is deeply transforming as an experience and this also benefits me in my personal life as well as my work. I feel more confident and empowered when having challenging conversations both professionally and personally. I feel like I have more tools and resources to facilitate people creating lasting change, and an understanding as to what blocks it. I feel I am more comfortable with sitting with discomfort in the coaching space, allowing space and silence and not feeling like I need to ‘solve’ something. I also find that I am holding myself to account more in a way that I previously had not.
Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the diploma?
My coaching model incorporates various aspects and models from the course, such as Co-Active and GROW models, in addition I added an element of a Psychodynamic perspective / lens from my previous work and training as it gives me an additional lens to understand the blocks that might be getting in the way and what is stopping someone from fulfilling their potential. It allows for the fact that the client’s subconscious thoughts and feelings are relevant to coaching. I try to listen at a deeper level to notice certain patterns or themes that are emerging for the client.
I do pay extra attention not to cross over into therapy and maintain that boundary.
My model also includes an understanding of how different leadership styles respond to stress and conflict in the workplace and this has been very useful for me in my coaching. I also have incorporated elements of Motivational Interviewing techniques which pays specific attention to and provides tools for working with ambivalence or ‘stuckness’, and I find this really useful to explore with clients.
You now work as an executive coach providing one-to-one coaching and psychoeducational workshops in the mental health and wellbeing sector. Can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?
Since completing the diploma, I have been lucky enough to have the experience of being involved in a project specifically aimed at providing therapy and coaching to BAME staff working across the Greater London Authority (Mayor’s Office), at various levels within the organisation. I also coach clients who have a mental health diagnosis around managing workplace difficulties and stress, so this can include assertiveness, stress management, emotional regulation, managing conflict and managing anxiety.
There are some key themes coming up in this client group, around race and belonging, finding their voice, avoiding burnout, dealing with imposter syndrome, perfectionism, building inner trust, and managing wellbeing which are impacting on their achieving their potential in their roles or progressing.
How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching?
I currently use a GAD7 and PHQ 9 form at the beginning of our sessions which provides a score for general wellbeing, the extent to which a client feels depressed or anxious which I review midway and at the end. The reason being is the coaching I am currently doing is specifically to address mental ill health and burnout. I also review midway and at the end against the specific objectives set at the beginning of coaching. Although I have not yet concluded coaching with any of my clients I would like to review after three months of stopping coaching to also measure the sustainability of the impact.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that has had an impact on you?
I have worked with a female client of south Asian origin who would like to transition into a more senior role but it struggling to find her voice in certain meetings, and also struggles with talking with a sense of authority. On further exploration of this, the client made the connection between that and also the general cultural norms and expectations of females from the South Asian community, to not speak out, to not challenge, to keep herself ‘small’ which are all showing up in the workplace. This really had an impact on me as I reflected of my own experiences of being a female of south Asian origin and my own experience of struggling to find my voice in certain spaces/ situations, and how themes of race can play out within organisations.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
I really enjoy the opportunity to be curious about my clients and their experiences, to be fully present and to listen at a deeper level and in doing so to facilitate their own awareness and insight. I find it rewarding when a client is beginning to integrate this awareness into their behaviour and actions for lasting change. There are so many things that my clients bring that I can relate to.
Our deepest thanks to Reshma for sharing her personal experience of coach training with the AoEC.
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