Robin Chu is the CEO and Founder of CoachBright, a national social enterprise, and an executive coach. Using coaching, his organisation helps young people become independent and resilient so they can realise their potential. A Shackleton leader and a fellow at the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Robin has kindly shared his personal journey with us and talks about his time on the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma.
You started working life as a sports producer and reporter with BBC Berkshire before moving to roles with Year Here. What introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching course?
In one of my first roles supporting Year Here launch their first social leadership programme for recent graduates, I received an executive coach. An amazing guy called Nick Nielson. Nick was the founder of Envision, a youth charity and I imagined coaching would consist of him telling me what to do and giving top tips on how to manage a team. Of course, what happened was Nick offering a listening ear, allowing me plenty of time to think and to be accountable to my own actions. As a result, I loved the power coaching can give you in figuring out what motivates you and how it can help you take action.
After those coaching sessions, I trained as coach with MOE Foundation initially, set up my organisation CoachBright which is about using coaching to support disadvantaged pupils in schools become more independent and resilient. A few years later, I was introduced to the AoEC and loved the high quality, personable nature of the team and also ways that we could collaborate together supporting young professionals. This led me to sign up for the Practitioner Diploma.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?
Starting with the positives – the ability to watch live demonstrations of different coaching activities and models, followed by the opportunity to practise those models and receive instant feedback, was invaluable. Similarly, the chance to reflect with a group of like-minded people who were learning at the same time, was a great way to stay motivated, get peer-to-peer feedback and pushed me to be braver in my coaching styles.
The challenges – definitely the essay! Having to sit down and write 2,000 words was a challenge – I thought those days were over. In the assessment we had to give a presentation on our coaching model and then demonstrate that model in a real coaching session. I had to think deeply about what type of coach I really am, and then show this to the assessors. Having said that, I truly believe this pushed me to be a better coach in the long run.
What would be your top piece of advice for anyone thinking about doing a professional coach training programme?
To get as much practise in between training days as possible. The more you can try out different models and activities - in a real-life coaching session – the better.
What personal qualities and values do you bring to your coaching work?
Courage and kindness are the most important values to me. I strive to challenge my clients to push themselves creatively and resourcefully while also making sure they’re taking care of themselves.
Who inspires you in the coaching world?
Paul Van Geyt – he’s a master certified coach with over 3000 hours’ worth of coaching. A real heavyweight who is an empathetic listener with great humour and incredible skill in making sure you don’t stay stuck.
What does your coaching model look like?
A mixture of the GROW model, Gestalt and John Blakey’s Challenging coaching principles – I call it Lift-Off but really it is stealing from these!
Can you please tell us more about the fantastic work CoachBright is doing to support young people?
We’re a social mobility organisation supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their best whether that is in school or the workplace. In schools, we use a coaching approach to allow young people to figure out the answers for themselves when studying in Maths, English and Science. This means they’re more independent and resilient and can deal with challenges after their coaching programme finishes. We work with over 50 schools around the country to make sure your postcode does not determine your future.
For organisations, we support their young professionals understand who they are and crucially how they want to come across and be in the workplace.
What are some of the issues you coach young people around?
In our programmes pupils are paired with university students or young professionals. While our school programmes are focused on academics and the pupil’s grades; in a lot of ways there are common themes that consistently come up that are similar for adults. Themes around motivation, lack of self-belief and confidence.
What kind of impact is coaching having on the young professionals you are working with?
Responsibility and Independence. I think when you are new to the workplace you’re very much finding your feet and figuring out where you fit in and what value do I add to the team. Adopting a coaching approach allows young professionals to take ownership over that discussion so rather than waiting to be told where they fit in, it allows people to understand their unique strengths, behaviours and how they can complement the organisation. That way, young professionals can be far more proactive in ‘showing’ the organisation where they fit in rather than the other way round!
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that had an impact on you?
A recent one in fact for one of my clients was about ‘embracing the grey’ and how life does not need to be seen through a prism of black or white/ideal or awful/good or bad. A fantastic reflection on how, especially now during these times of uncertainty, there is joy in being good enough, fun in accepting things as they are rather than reaching for perfection.
Now you can work out what the content was!
What has coaching taught you about yourself and other people?
It has taught me the power of trusting in people and fundamentally how most people will have plenty of the solutions and answers from within. Therefore, as a leader you don’t need to have the most creative ideas but rather such a large part of leading a team is giving individuals the space and time to think through their own challenges in a safe space.
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about your work as a coach?
Most challenging has to be the desire to help. Still now, I have a strong tendency to want to jump in and offer some optimism or solution. I believe, fundamentally all coaches are high empathetic individuals, so this still sits with me and needing to quiet that inner voice.
Most rewarding is the reverse of that for when you trust an individual and they come to their lightbulb moment which can sometimes be in-between sessions how clients can feel transformed by their own awareness. Their whole attitude and mindset just shifts – that’s such an amazing thing to be a part of and why I love the power of coaching.
Our sincere thanks to Robin for taking the time to tell us his story. If you would like to know more about CoachBright and the AoEC working together, check out Robin’s recent interview with Training Journal here.
If you would like to discover more about coaching and training as a coach, do come along to one of our free upcoming virtual open events or webinars.
Have a look at our website if you would like to know more about the Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching.