Practitioner Diploma / “It was one of the best investments I have ever made”

20th February by Lee Robertson

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After starting her career as an audit trainee at KPMG, Claire Davis went on secondment into KPMG’s learning and development team. It was there that she discovered her passion for developing people and this started a long and rewarding career in various people leadership roles, including Smith & Williamson (now Evelyn Partners) and now Haines Watts. Here she talks about her personal experience of the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching and her work as a coach.

You have had a successful and long track record of creating strategies for people and learning and development having worked for firms including KPMG and now Haines Watts. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I had coached for many years, both in the UK and internationally, and signing up for coach training with the AoEC was motivated by a desire to ensure that I was being the best coach I could be for my clients as well as develop my beliefs in what coaching is.

A friend, an HR director at another professional services firm, recommended coach training with the AoEC after completing the programme herself and was so impressed by it, supported all her people team to attend.

I knew the programme required a lot of commitment and was concerned about balancing this alongside work and family. In January 2021 I was informed that my role was being made redundant and this was the impetus I needed to sign up and invest in me.

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

The positives were meeting a fantastic group of people from a wide variety of careers, many of whom I have kept in touch with. Everyone was very supportive and I know that two years on I can still reach out for support and advice from all of them, via our WhatsApp group or LinkedIn. It was also a fabulous opportunity to be coached as I transitioned out of the firm and worked through what my next career move would be.

In terms of challenges, being brave to ‘have a go’ at using creative coaching techniques with my practice clients. On reflection my anxiety came from my clients being accountancy and tax professionals and thinking that they may not want to do a creative technique as it is a bit ‘out there’ preferring traditional questioning and listening techniques within a set framework. I now realise this is not correct. I am brave to try different techniques during my coaching sessions and find that this brings a deeper level of discovery and awareness to clients. I have removed my self-limiting belief around the use of creative techniques if my intuition tells me that a creative technique may increase my client’s awareness, provide them with insights and learning then I will use one, always contracting for the client’s permission. No one has said no so far!

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Go for it! It was one of the best investments I have ever made and has had a huge impact on me both professionally and personally. Research different providers and speak to alumni to find the course that fits best with you and your learning style.

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

As a person, it has made me see the value of reflection and to take the time to do this.  Professional services is a fast-paced environment focused on action and my clients, like me, often leave themselves with very little time for personal reflection.

In terms of a coach, I was only focused on solving problems and coming up with actions with my clients. On reflection, this was influenced by my work, formerly within audit and latterly, L&D, where my role is to solve client’s problems and/or identify ways to improve businesses performance and/or achieve their goals. 

I have recognised that my role as a coach is to look at the whole person and deepen their awareness, insight and learning to create sustainable results after the coaching relationship has ended and not just support them with addressing the presenting issue. 

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

My personal coaching model comes from me. CLARUS is the Latin word for Claire. CLARUS means clear, bright, and illustrious and through the coaching process I bring clarity to my client’s goals and to be their best selves. CLARUS stands for:

Co-create a collaborative relationship

Leveraging the client’s unique Strengths

Aligned to the client’s aspirations/outcomes

Raising the clients’ awareness, inviting discovery, and deepening the learning

Using creative techniques, where it feels right to do so, within a

Safe space

My model is strengths-based as understanding my strengths has made a huge difference to me in all aspects of my life and I am keen to share this knowledge and understanding with others. Since doing the diploma I have learnt further creative techniques and incorporated these into my coaching toolkit.

How are you using your coaching skills in your current role as head of people at Haines Watts?

I use coaching in a variety of situations in my role. Within the people team I lead, in our individual 1-2-1s and team meetings, with my colleagues in our day-to-day conversations to help them develop their thinking and in formal coaching engagements.

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

What I love about coaching is the broad range of issues that you get the opportunity to coach around. Topics include, career progression, clarity around role and ambitions for future roles, leadership challenges, and people management. Even though the issue may be the same, each client experiences the issue in a way that is unique to them. I provide a safe space for someone to feel truly listened to without judgement and enable them to work out a way forward that feels right for them.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of the coaching within your organisation?

For formal coaching engagements we always agree objectives and success factors at the start of every engagement and review progress against these mid-way through the coaching engagement. I also ask for feedback from the individuals I coach and the team I lead.

For informal coaching across the organisation we measure effectiveness through the feedback colleagues request as part of our formal performance reviews.

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

Getting the balance right between work and family is a real priority for me and I have been fortunate to achieve this throughout my career, though there have been times when I have moved away from the right balance for me, and I am keen to support others to achieve the balance that works for them. 

One client was struggling to find this balance for them whilst dealing with the challenges of building a new client base and team and having a young family. Our work together identified how he could make small steps to spend quality time with his daughter at the weekends and I still recall the smile on his face and delight in his voice when he managed to do this.

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

Being able to create a safe space for individuals to think and seeing how this space enables them to improve their personal and professional lives is the most rewarding aspect of coaching for me. It is a real privilege to be completely trusted by my clients and for them to share their thoughts, many of which they have never expressed before, and work with them to find a way forward to achieve their goals.

A massive thank you to Claire for sharing her experience of coach training with the AoEC.