Practitioner Diploma / “The impact has been that I am a better listener”

14th December by Lee Robertson

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Emily Gale is a certified executive coach whose aim is to help her clients build confidence and strengthen their leadership skills. She has spent the last 25 years working in the television industry, firstly creating high quality programming for the world's best broadcasters and latterly working in talent management. She became Fremantle's head of talent in 2012 where she was responsible for finding and recruiting the most sought-after people to work across some of the best brands on British television. Now running her own successful practice, here she shares her experience of the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.

You have had a stellar career in the television industry, initially in producing and directing programmes for the BBC and Warner Bros before moving into Talent Management with Fremantle. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

What led me to coaching was the pandemic. When lockdown hit the UK, I knew how tough it would be for the tv industry. There was so much uncertainty and insecurity as productions had to be suddenly shut down. I wanted to ensure that freelancers felt cared for in an industry that doesn’t always have the reputation of looking after its workforce. I also felt it was important to remember good things can come from tough times.

Mondays can be the hardest day to motivate yourself if you are not working so I offered free coaching sessions to people in the media industry and called the sessions ‘Motivational Mondays’. I ran them throughout the first lockdown.

I helped people on areas including the best ways to network whilst in lockdown, improving your CV, pitching yourself to new companies, how to get up the ladder, how to switch to making a new genre, how to move sideways and how to pick up new skills without paying for courses.

I loved doing the sessions and coached 80 people during the first lockdown. It was the catalyst for me to start thinking about becoming an executive coach. I bought the book ‘Financial Times Guides - Business Coaching’ and the AoEC course appealed the most. I liked the fact it is immersive as you are in at the deep end from day one.

What confirmed it was the right course was at the same time as doing my research, I spoke to several friends who are executive coaches and they had trained with the AoEC so that made it an easy decision.

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

I was surprised how easy it has been to build strong relationships with my peers and clients on Zoom. In terms of the challenges, I am the kind of person who finds it hard to open up in a professional setting. It was a challenge for me, and I think it’s still work in progress!

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Firstly, borrow from the library or buy - Financial Times Guides - Business Coaching as it gives an overview of the best coaching courses available. Before committing to a course, I would recommend trying out taster sessions online. They are free and give you a valuable insight into how coaching works and the tutors demonstrate their coaching skills during the session.

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

The impact on me as a person is that I try and hold myself more accountable if I am stuck on something I ask myself questions to try and work out why. Before the coaching course I think I would have pushed the emotion to one side and just felt frustrated and not tried to unpick it or take responsibility for how I was feeling.

As a coach I think (and hope!) the impact has been that I am a better listener and I challenge my clients and help them to question their own self critic and shift their mindset to become more positive and motivated at work.

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

When I first started, I think it was more prescriptive as a coach as I was sticking to the principles of my coaching model which is the GROW model with elements of OSKAR and Co-Active. As I take on more clients, they don’t always have a goal and want to work on finding one, so it has meant my coaching model has become more flexible.

I work with clients who have their own businesses, and they want me to guide them in terms of a business model, pricing, pitch strategy so there are commercial objectives involved. It’s not directing them to a pricing model or pitch strategy, it’s helping them to create it themselves.

You now work as an executive coach and have set up Emily Gale Consultancy; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

I am currently working with clients in advertising, broadcasting, tech, data, design and marketing as well as several clients who are returning to work after long career breaks.

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

When a client is promoted within their company, they can feel they are perceived as inexperienced or have their own doubts about their capabilities in the new role. It’s an issue that comes up frequently. I work with them on how to manage their inner critic and how to build on behaviours like communication skills, both verbal and written which then help them build confidence and manage their team and their boss more effectively.

Another issue that has come up is lack of visibility. Post pandemic means clients often spend a considerable amount of time working from home so they lose visibility within their company and can be overseen for promotions.

I work with clients on how to raise their profile within their company even when they are not physically in the same space.

When opportunities come up at work, clients can feel reticent about foreign travel or presenting to other areas of the business particularly for many who have been predominantly working from home and haven’t had to interact with large groups of people in the last couple of years.

As a coach it’s supporting clients to help them understand where the fear comes from and help them to develop the mindset to embrace the discomfort and be able to say yes to new challenges.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching engagements?

That’s a really good question. Firstly, I think by ensuring all my clients give me feedback. I have put together a list of questions that I ask them when we finish working together.

Secondly, if they recommend me to their network and I receive referrals then I think that’s an acknowledgement of clients having experienced the benefit of coaching with me.

I also check in with my clients, six months after working together so I can gauge the effectiveness of the coaching by the feedback they give me on how they are getting on.

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

One of my clients has worked for the same organisation for many years and as a result of the pandemic and remote working he felt low, finding the isolation from his colleagues tough and also not feeling valued for his work. We worked together on strategies to help him re-build his confidence, raise his profile both within his company and externally make new business contacts. I also helped him work out techniques he could introduce that helped him to feel valued. This is a small one, but he now finds it very helpful to keep appreciative emails from colleagues in a folder in his inbox so that if he needs a quick confidence boost, he can read them.

Watching him become more confident over the past year and appreciate what an asset he is to his company and also how his work has been valued by external contacts has been brilliant to see.

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

I think one of the most rewarding aspects of being a coach is working with a client who approaches the sessions wanting to confront the issues that frustrate them but find it so hard to that they will try and avoid them at all costs.

As the trust builds between us and the relationship strengthens, the client feels more able to confront the trickier issues head on and when they do, the sense of achievement they say they feel is fantastic. It’s liberating for them as they realise it is not as bad as they thought it would be to talk about the hard stuff and they come up with great ways of managing the issues in the future.

Our sincerest thanks to Emily for sharing her experience of coach training with the AoEC.