Laurie, tell us how and why you chose to study the PCEC (Professional Certificate in Executive Coaching) at Henley Business School
‘I’ve had a long career as an entrepreneur, journalist and documentary maker, and had always enjoyed helping and mentoring clients and team members, and I just felt that the time was right for me to formalise my credentials with an acknowledged qualification.
‘I looked at the programmes offered by Henley and spoke to Jonathan Passmore*, and was very impressed by the evidence-based, academic outlook. I definitely wasn’t looking for a touchy-feely approach, and the fact that Henley is accredited through the University of Reading was important.’
Did you have any concerns, and were they allayed?
‘I was a little anxious about the whole idea of formal learning, because I hadn’t done any since I did my MA 35 years ago! And I was also concerned about using Zoom for the programme. When I originally enrolled, the programme was face-to-face, but I suffered a serious bout of Covid and had to postpone my starting date. By the time I was ready to start the programme – in January 2021 – the next wave had hit and the programme was run entirely on Zoom.
‘I was really looking forward to visiting the Greenlands campus, and really connecting with my cohort, but I have to say that all my misgivings were set aside within a very short time. Learning – and coaching – online are every bit as effective as face-to-face, and perhaps more so because you’re both in your own safe space.
‘The group was made up of lovely people from a wide range of backgrounds and sectors – teachers, HR managers, ex-military, people from the arts, and from industry – and we bonded so quickly. The online environment proved to be very productive, and my only regret is that we were never able to meet in the bar after each day’s sessions were over!
‘I think I was also a bit sceptical that I’d learn anything I didn’t already know, but it was immediately clear to me how much I didn’t understand, and just how powerful and effective the coaching skills and techniques we learned could be. In fact I was quite shocked at the power of some of the tools we acquired – Nancy Kline’s listening approach, and open questioning, in particular – and these were something of a revelation to me.’
What impact did the programme have?
‘Learning how to give people the time to contemplate and reflect, and recognising – and seeing – the emotional impact was as transformational in me as it was in the coachees. I learned a great deal about myself, and I realised that the process was enabling me to peel back layers of my own self. It seems obvious now, but until you understand your own strengths, foibles and perspectives, you can’t expect to help others.
‘Like many novice coaches, I think I also suffered from ‘rescuer syndrome’ – the feeling that you need to find a solution for everyone. But I soon saw that this isn’t helpful to either party – you need to be able to facilitate change, not suggest or even impose it. And when you do facilitate change, the feelings of fulfilment you get yourself are quite extraordinary. All this has given me the impetus to set up a specialist coaching business to help young, ambitious people in the creative and technology spheres.’
So what advice would you offer to anyone thinking of taking the PCEC programme?
‘Don’t hesitate! This programme will give you confidence in a range of coaching techniques, but more than that, it will change who you are, at work and at home, for the better.’
*‘member of Henley coaching faculty