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Gavin Sharpe is a UK qualified psychotherapist, relationship/psychosexual therapist and executive coach. Based in Monaco, where he runs Riviera Wellbeing, Gavin works with organisations to assist them develop and implement executive and coaching and leadership programmes. He coaches senior leaders including CEOs, main board directors and other key executives to unlock their potential and maximise performance. Here, he shares his experience of the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.
You have had a really diverse work history, beginning your career as a lawyer in the City of London and you subsequently started your own international recruitment business before progressing onto your current life as a qualified psychotherapist and executive coach. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?
There was a gap in my skillset. By the time I undertook the diploma in 2015, I had sold my stake in my recruitment business. I was advising the board of another city-based recruitment company. However, I’d never had any formal coach training. I realised that “making it up as you go along” was not the most ethical option!
Not many training organisations offer triple accreditation, and the business focus was important to me. That led me to the AoEC.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?
The mix of learning theory and the experiential bias suited me. The emphasis the course places on self-reflection is paramount. If we are going to invite our clients to be self-aware, we owe them a duty to do the same.
One of my challenges was appreciating the differences between therapy and coaching. There is a valuable overlap which can be an asset in the work but there are also some crucial differences. Working with the here and now as a coach, albeit with an eye on the rear-view mirror, is different to working as a therapist.
What is your top advice to others considering coach training?
If you can afford it, pick a leading, accredited institution such as AoEC. Apart from the quality of the training, it will differentiate you in a highly competitive field. As with many things in life, approach it with an open mind. Being a coach will give you a skill set for life whether you choose to work as a coach or not. Being with the process is as important as the outcome.
Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its impact on you as a person and you as a coach?
In my early business career, I focused on the performance of others often to the detriment of seeing their potential. The diploma freed me to believe in the potential we all have. We are born with that potential. If we are lucky enough, we can find a coach who facilitates the unlocking of our soul.
Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the diploma?
I have become braver! There is a lot to be said for experience. Working integratively allows me to select from the models that suit the client in-front of me.
That said, senior leaders expect their coach to challenge them and take risks together, perhaps as they are often the most defended. During my training, the FACTS based model spoke to me. I think there is much to be said if we can tolerate uncomfortableness and embrace the unknown. When a coach and client can sit with their being and let go of the doing, change can breathe.
You now run Riviera Wellbeing in Monaco - can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?
My coaching clients tend to be mid to large size companies, private and public. Given my background in business, I am typically invited to work with senior leadership teams, often who are having to adapt to rapid change. I have also been asked recently to coach a board to help them work cohesively. The work is unsurprisingly a mix of in-person and online.
My focus was the therapy for a while with some coaching. When the pandemic hit, that reversed. Overnight companies seemed to wake up to the fact that the corporate landscape had changed. Old school leaders were not necessarily well equipped to tackle the new volatile world. Given my experience in mental health, I was approached to address some the mental health issues impacting their leaders and staff.
What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach clients around?
It truly varies. It can be onboarding a new senior leader, leadership efficacy, improving communication with peers and subordinates. A lot of work in the last six months has been around mental health and specifically burnout.
There is a saying I learned from a supervisor in my therapy work – look for the function of the dysfunction. There is often a stuckness which holds someone back. Once we understand not just what keeps us stuck but also the payoff of staying stuck, we can unlock the obstacles.
How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching engagements?
As well as regular reviews with all the contracting parties, I tend to use psychometric assessments (I am a trained assessor of a Canadian based instrument). They can provide a valuable benchmark for behaviours and crucially how others observe the behaviours of an individual. I re-introduce the assessments between the middle and end of the work so we can see what changes have taken place.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that has had an impact on you?
I worked with a managing director of a global yachting business. They had lost their confidence during the pandemic, and it was impacting their performance (and personal relationships). The more revenues fell, the more they doubled down on their default management style which happened to be shooting from the hip and with all guns blazing!
When they learned that they could pivot their management style, act more mindfully and look at the options before acting, their whole stance changed. It also created psychological safety in the boardroom. The work led us to look at their core beliefs, most of which were fear based. As I have studied financial disorders, we looked at this individual’s relationship with money and how their compulsive relationship with money fed their shame based core belief that they were not enough.
You also appear on Riviera Radio with the Wellbeing Window show. How is that enriching your work as a coach?
Most of the shows have been around mental health (although I have some planned on leadership). Many senior leaders still view this as a taboo or think mental health is the same as mental illness. As my shows are all free and uploaded to my website, I often invite clients to listen to a podcast between sessions and reflect. The shows on burnout and narcissism have come in handy. I also asked a very compliant CEO to listen to my podcast on people pleasing. Of course, she wanted to please me and listened, but it gave her a huge aha moment.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
It’s a privilege to be a witness in someone else’s life story. I never take that for granted especially as the work requires the client to be vulnerable. It’s a boundaried relationship and yet within that boundary, life-changing work can happen.
Are there any other words of wisdom you would like to share?
A wise supervisor told me, “Gavin you are an unrepeatable miracle of the universe”. I love that. I share it with my clients. We are all unrepeatable miracles.
Our deepest thanks to Gavin for sharing his experience of coach training with the AoEC.
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