Practitioner Diploma / “I experienced a real sense of community”

20th February by Lee Robertson

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Jason Collins comes from a prestigious background in investment management where he worked for brands including Wellington Management and Deutsche Asset Management. Having completed the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching in 2020, Jason now runs his own successful practice and is accredited with the EMCC at Senior Practitioner level. Here he shares his personal experience of coach training with the AoEC.

Following a 23-year career in investment management with positions in client services, fixed income trading and talent development at organisations including Wellington Management, you are now running your own practice. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I was going through a particularly challenging time in my career, and it was suggested that I get some coaching to help get me ‘unstuck’. During these sessions, I got the assistance I needed to get me focused on the direction I wanted to head in.

Coincidently, these sessions confirmed that what I had been doing as an extension of my role at the time was actually coaching others. I’m still deeply grateful to that coach for their professionalism, insight and welcoming nature. That experience is a key part of the tapestry that drives me to pay forward what I received. As I walked away from that engagement, I knew that I wanted to coaching to form a more central part of my responsibilities.

With this newfound direction, I spoke to some people in the talent development space and got a couple of recommendations to get certified through the AoEC.  

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

This question prompted me to dig out the journal notes that I took whilst on the course. I can remember the personal goal setting session we went through.

The main things that I wanted to achieve from the programme was a sense of good structure for a coaching engagement, a robust understanding of psychological safety and coaching frameworks. Last, but by no means least confirmation that I belonged in this profession.

The diploma gave me all the above and more. I experienced a real sense of community with the other participants on the course and still keep in touch with a couple of them. One thing that I continue to realise is that you cannot underestimate the power of community in any given situation.

The biggest challenge I faced was managing the inner critic. There is a lot of theory, practice and general concepts on the course. This meant that I needed to keep a positive mindset that spoke louder than the voice questioning whether I could take everything in, retain it and practice in a responsible way.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

  1. There is a plethora of courses out there, so be clear about what type of coach training you are looking for. The most common types of course are around life, executive, or business coaching and it’s important to be clear with yourself about what you plan to use your certification for.
  2. Spend time thoroughly researching the courses. Most training providers either have their syllabus online or you can request a PDF copy by signing up to receive information. It’s important to know how long the course is, what coaching frameworks are utilised, and whether the course is accredited by one of the main coaching bodies. If it is accredited, there should be a number of hours that count towards your coaching education.
  3. Speak to other coaching professionals and ask them to share their experience of courses they have been on. In the event that you do not yet have an established network, LinkedIn is a great place to glean advice in this area.

Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its lasting impact on you as a person and you as a coach?

The diploma has been foundational for my understanding of what coaching is, ethical considerations, and the expectations of me as a coach. Below are some of the concepts that still serve me as I prepare for sessions and work with clients.

  1. The client owns the process: One of the key things I highlight in the chemistry and foundation sessions is the concept of accountability. As the client and I discuss what they want out of the engagement and how we’ll work together, I explain to them that they cannot reap where they have not sown. In other words, the work they put in heavily impacts the outcome.
  2. Setting up for success: As a coach, a key objective is to set the client up to succeed. What this means is that my role is to help to tease the direction, answers or ideas out of the client’s head and into action. There’s an age old saying that ‘good coaches don’t make assumptions, they ask questions.’ I aim to raise a client’s awareness of their choices and decisions so they can endeavour to make better ones. A client is more likely to follow their own ideas than somebody else’s.
  3. Fluidity of the process: As a naturally organised and detail-oriented person, I lean towards structure in all areas of my life. A critical lesson learned on the course which I continuously remind myself of is something one of the tutors said. This isn’t verbatim as it didn’t write it down at the time, but it went something along the lines of “coach with a loose structure where you can comfortably deviate when necessary.” What I took from that is that we must be willing to defer to the client in terms of the direction of the session. Coaching with too much structure may mean that you miss vital clues. The knock-on effect of this is that you blow the client off course by putting your preferences before their needs.

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

My coaching model is underpinned by the Co-Active model’s four cornerstones and three principles.


  4. EVOKE TRANSFORMATION of the coachee



My coaching model was initially a hybrid of the GROW, CLEAR and OSKAR models which mix goal and solutions focused coaching as I found no one model that totally aligned with my style.

As I look back on my journey, I became more aware of and started to incorporate the framework of the Challenge and Support model. Using the matrix, I was able to have conversations with my clients at the contracting stage as to the level of challenge they were comfortable with and where the ‘stretch zone’ was to prevent them becoming resistant to the coaching. I find as a coach that I can challenge more effectively once I have built up trust with a coachee, and that trust starts from partnering with them at the outset of the engagement.

I have also built-in time after each of my coaching sessions to conduct some behavioural analysis by attempting to calculate the balance between supportive and challenging interventions. As the relationship with the client builds, I tend to push further into the challenge area as I perceive higher levels of receptivity.

I have also become much more selective with the tools I incorporate into my coaching:

  • Chair work: Originating from Gestalt Psychotherapy, chair work is important to incorporate into my coaching framework (where appropriate) as this technique allows a client to acknowledge their inner state which results in a truth-telling environment. Communicating our internal states via the empty chair bears our vulnerability.

In conflict situations, when the truth is expressed in a vulnerable way, we can experience the other person’s point of view.

  • Psychometrics: Through peer and supervision discussions, I felt convicted to combine the use of psychometric tools with my coaching practice. I concluded that having a range of tools to help facilitate learning was essential to the way I authentically wanted to run my practice. The psychometric assessments I use are based around motivations, strengths, thinking preferences, emotional Intelligence, and risk.

You now work as an executive coach and have set up your own practice D’Cern Consulting; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

I work with different clients cross-industry but still serve the majority within the financial services industry. Over the past six months, I have coached high potential individuals, and middle managers to senior leaders.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach people around?

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but some main themes with clients are:

  • How to prepare for the C-suite
  • Conflict management and resolution
  • Time and task management
  • Receiving and delivering feedback
  • How to utilise your strengths most effectively
  • Gravitas/executive presence
  • How to build, develop and maintain high performing teams
  • Bouncing forward from disappointment

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching?

This is a great question and something I think about regularly. I always come back to a similar conclusion that client satisfaction is one of the best measures of effectiveness. If doing work through an organisation, there is usually a survey that the client completes post-engagement and that is normally shared with the coach. If my client is a private client, I have a customised form that I ask them to complete.

Another way of measuring effectiveness is by having regular supervision and talking through my thoughts, steps and actions in the coaching space. This gives me another perspective to consider and challenge my current practice.

You have gone onto be accredited with the EMCC. Why was becoming accredited important to you and what value has it brought your practice?

Since starting on my coaching journey, I had resolved to gain an accreditation with a leading coaching body as I wanted to continue to benchmark my practice, boost my self-awareness, and work on my growth areas. Having an accreditation also adds credibility as more and more organisations are looking for coaches with this designation.

The accreditation has brought so much more rigour to my practice. I have been challenged not only to understand myself better but be able to communicate this higher learning to others. It has focused me on how to manage the contract, build the relationship and enable learning and insight in clients.

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

I was coaching a mid-career professional who had become demotivated after missing out on a promotion. This had come as a surprise as they believed they had done everything they could to secure this position.

Whilst working with them, some gaps in their skill set emerged around presence, networking and presentation skills. The work we did became more complex as there was a personal situation that was impacting the energy and concentration brought to the sessions, as well as how they were showing up at work.

This was one of only three of four times that I felt compelled to combine my specialist relational coaching model with my typical model in order to deal with the personal and professional nature of this assignment. It reminded me of the multi-dimensional and complex nature of our clients, and how important it is to consider the whole individual.

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

The sense of fulfilment and genuine joy I get from seeing a client move one step closer to achievement, clarity or awareness is inexplicable. It seems fitting to conclude this interview by leaving you with one of my favourite quotes: “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” – Albert Pine.

Our deepest gratitude to Jason for sharing his personal journey of coach training with the AoEC.