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As a trainer and coach, Marlien Ligtenberg helps young professionals to thrive. Her mission is to make young professionals the leaders of their own work life so that they are more self-aware, confident and efficient. Guiding them towards that with coaching and training, Marlien has been running her own London-based practice since late 2020. Here she talks about her experience of completing the AoEC’s Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching and how she is working with Dutch and British employers to build resilient young professionals in the workplace.
Your professional background has been in training and consultancy in your native Holland with roles at Andersson Elffers Felix and KSG Trainers & Consultants. Who or what introduced you to coaching and led to you signing up for coach training with the AoEC?
I deliver a lot of soft skills training. I noticed that the challenge for the participant was sometimes deeper rooted than the level of skills. Let’s say someone with a lot of stress signs up for a course in time management. And how brilliant the solution in the course might be, in some cases it doesn’t really stick. So I got interested in working on that layer underneath skills as well: like mindset, self-belief and values. That attracted me to the 1-2-1 guidance, to really work towards impactful change. I like to work in the professional context so that’s why I decided to sign up for executive coaching.
What were some of the positives and challenges you experienced while doing the diploma?
The diploma really gave me confidence as a coach. I learned a lot from just trying stuff out in the break-out rooms and learning from the group.
What is your top advice to others considering coach training?
I would definitely look at the way you learn, and what works for you in being a participant in a training session. I compared a few training offerings to get a feel for the approach and people who deliver the training. A lot of time to practice during the course was for example important to me. And I also checked what I wanted to learn as a coach, and if that was covered in the programme.
Looking back at doing your diploma, what has been its impact on you as a person and you as a coach?
What really helped me was to discuss boundaries. I am quite attracted to the therapeutic field, and I wasn’t always sure about the difference. I wanted to be ethical about it: not digging into something that isn’t my expertise. That boundary is clear for me now. And it really helps me to communicate with clients what to expect.
Can you tell us more about your personal coaching model and how this has evolved since doing the diploma?
In my coaching I look for the bits my client secretly wants to stay away from. For example, someone who always wants to deliver perfect work. It motivates them. But it also results in a lot of late evenings with work and stress. Letting go of the idea of perfect quality and for example stopping at 80%, can feel extremely unnerving for them. I challenge the client to experiment with the side that feels so scary. And accepting themselves as a whole, with all the imperfections. I experienced this personally as well. When I pushed away the things I didn’t accept in myself, it was always getting worse! Facing the scary stuff helped me move forward. I use Gestalt and a lot of creative techniques. I combine it with the solution focused approach, because I also feel it’s helpful to recognise the steps you want to make. And it enables the client to celebrate every little move in the right direction.
You established your own coaching practice Coach Marlien in December 2020; can you tell us about the type of clients you are working with?
I focus on young professionals at the start of their career. I mainly help the driven high achievers. Young people who want to get everything out of life. But they often don’t know when to stop; it’s never good enough. That results in stress, anxiety, and a lot of work in the evenings and weekends. I help young professionals to be in charge of their own life and actually enjoy it!
What are some of the issues and opportunities you coach clients around?
A lot of my clients have the tendency to be perfectionistic. They often don’t call themselves that, because their high standards are very normal to them. The millennial and Gen-Z generation might look confident and verbal, from the inside they are often not. Everything is possible in this world, so you feel like a loser when you are not top of class. Comparison on social media doesn’t help. I help the young professionals to go from ‘it’s never enough’ to a good balance in their week. To perform well, without burning themselves out. I work a lot with building confidence, positive self-talk and celebrating everything that goes well already!
How are you measuring the effectiveness of your coaching engagements?
At the start of my programme my client sets goals. During the sessions I check if we are working towards them. After three sessions I have a check-in evaluation. And at the end of the programme time I take time to reflect with the client on how it contributed to their life.
Whilst respecting confidentiality, can you tell us about a coaching situation that has had an impact on you?
Actually, a situation that impacted me a lot was when a client was not satisfied. It was a combination of how I approached the contracting, and the client was maybe not really ready for facing the struggle. At first I was really shaken by it, and later on I could detach, reflect and learn. Not every coaching relationship ends like a Disney story, and it was super useful to learn from this situation.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
For me it is extremely rewarding when people start believing in themselves. Often clients are caught up in their own thinking, mad at themselves for feeling stuck. And as an outsider, I see all the potential there. It is so rewarding when someone starts to believe that they actually have all that value. Then clients become powerful forces in their own authentic way!
Our deepest thanks to Marlien for sharing her coach training experience with us.
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