Practitioner Diploma / “The real value is the learning journey”

22nd May by Lee Robertson

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Andy Maddock is a leader, performance and executive coach and sports commentator. Having worked in high performance sport for seven Olympic and three Paralympic cycles, his experience in high performance sport is significant from understanding the performance needs of athletes to developing strategies, developing partnerships and funding submissions. Splitting his time between his role as head of performance operations at British Canoeing and his own practice Tamarisk Coaching, Andy took some time out to discuss his experience of the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.

You are currently employed as head of performance operations with British Canoeing. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?

I have been coaching in sport since the early 1990s and since 1997 I have had the privilege to work in elite sport, coaching some of the best British talent at various points in their athletic careers including athletes who have gone on to Olympic success.

As my role has evolved into a leadership role, I got further away from the ‘coal face’ of coaching and realised that I missed it. I had a chat with my ex-boss John Anderson (now an EMCC master practitioner) and he was really supportive and helped me to see that the skills learned in elite sports coaching are much broader and can be applied across business and personal lives and I wanted to use these skills to help people to thrive.

I looked for a course and the AoEC was where I signed up.

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

The cohort of people brought a huge diversity of background and the shared journey of learning was very positive and memorable. The faculty, Anita, John and Karen provided a safe learning space to explore the various models and exercises. There was lots of positives such as the way the course is structured, the learning journey you go on and the safe space you learn in. The real value is in the conversations you have with the faculty and the cohort and we had a good group. Hearing other people’s experiences of coaching as well as your own helps that learning journey.

The greatest challenge I found was my self-confidence and feeling like a bit of an imposter as I did not come from a traditional ‘corporate’ background, but soon realised that this can be more of an asset. Before I signed up for the diploma I did the AoEC’s open event and I can remember a really senior manager who made it all about them which was a little intimidating. It is only once you start the coaching journey that you realise that you are not sure how good a coach that person would be because it is about the skills of a being a good coach with high quality listening and questioning.

What is your top advice to others considering coach training?

Sign up – whether you want to work as a coach or not, the course helps you to improve your self-awareness and to have better conversations in everything that you do as a person. The course content is well designed and the real value is the learning journey with the rest of the cohort of people. For me the biggest recommendation is the skills you pick up doing the coaching actually help you as a person. The skills are important in life, not just working life.

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

Two things - being authentic to who I am and decision making in line with my values. Coaching is not about me and I think that one of the real strengths of who I am is that I don’t have much of an ego and that is the feedback I get when I talk to people.

Secondly being present and listening and in particular not being afraid of silence in a conversation. It is a strong urge for people to fill awkward silences. The single biggest impact is to persist with the silence because quite often it brings the best moments or brings people to focus on the question being asked, or to reflect on the conversation going on. The silence can be immensely powerful and lead to better conversations and some special coaching moments

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

My coaching model is a hybrid of the GROW and solutions models and focuses on the process rather than the outcome to achieve an objective.

I very much believe in coaching the person, not the employee. I have a strong belief in the importance of balance both professionally and personally and physically and mentally in helping people thrive and this is reflected in my coaching style. It continues to evolve and in particular my ‘coaching toolbox’ continues to grow as I develop as a coach.

I also use a visual reference that I used in elite sport that reminds me of my role as the coach. One of the first things I remember when I was being coached and developing as a sport coach is being given this vision of a good coach and I draw it out as a face with big eyes, massive ears and a tiny little mouth.

Part of my model is making sure that me as the coach is what I need to be for my client. To really observe, listen to what I am seeing and hearing. To be measured and make sure what I do say is really impactful.

How are you using coaching in your role at British Canoeing?

In my day-to-day role, I see it as having better conversations every day! Sometimes it is hard to have quality conversations due to time constraints but when you make the effort, it feels much more impactful.

In 2021 I went part-time in my role to enable me to develop my coaching skills outside of work too but I am only just getting to the appropriate balance to expand my skills outside of my role. I see coaching as a learning journey for me and for the client.

You have also set up your own coaching practice Tamarisk Coaching; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?

When I initially went part-time it was to grow my coaching portfolio but I ended up doing some part-time sports commentary work for a couple of years which was fun but I have stopped this.

For 2023 I am committed to growing my coaching presence and looking for opportunities to develop my client base and my coaching skills on my own or as an associate.

What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach clients around and what kind of impact is the coaching having?

To date my clients have mainly been around career decisions quite often linked to reflections following the pandemic with people evaluating their own sense of values and priorities. A lot of it is about confidence with people wanting to improve this in challenging circumstances. It is also around learning to ‘manage self’ to enable people to thrive.

You are currently working towards accreditation with the ICF - why is accreditation important to you and how easy or difficult are you finding the journey towards being accredited?

If I look at what I would want from a coach, then it would be credibility, knowing that person has had training, someone who knows the boundaries and has insurance etc. I see the coaching industry as quite crowded and unregulated and credibility is important as well as my own integrity and commitment to clients.

For this reason following a clear code of ethics was important for me from day one and I chose the ICF because I preferred its code of ethics. It is quite daunting starting down the road to accreditation and I have a long way to go, but I think that not only does it give me a framework to follow in growing my own skills, it also gives me a purpose.

It will be four years ago in September that I graduated from the course and I am still excited by the opportunity that it presents and I am now pro-actively taking the steps to grow my client base and coaching skills.

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

I have an example from a recent recruitment session where I used my coaching skills to ask the right questions and transform it for the better. The recruiting panel were quite split over who was the most suitable candidate and some of the feedback was more focused on how much the person was liked. I asked who was going to have the biggest performance impact and suddenly a couple of the panel members were like ‘oh!’ and it completely changed their answer.

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

I love the variety of coaching and meeting different people, but the most rewarding is hearing your client when they really own the follow up from a session and bring energy to the conversations. Whilst many conversations centre on work related issues, I find the most fulfilling conversations are when you see the positive impact on the whole person, not just the ‘worker’. Success is when you see the client running with it and seeing the energy that comes out from the coaching.

A massive thank you to Andy for sharing his experience of coach training with the AoEC.