“In that environment based on the coaching ethos, I grew in confidence, threw out some long held self-limiting beliefs, and voiced what I wanted to achieve.
It felt congruent, focussed, and life felt in flow.”
My first experience of coaching
When choosing a coach, people often look for some life experience in the coach which is similar to theirs or to what they plan to achieve. As such, it can be interesting to know a little more about a prospective coach. There are two ‘howevers’ though that I would like you to keep in mind.
- Coaching is not based on applying the same process that another might use and achieving the same outcome. Coaching recognises our marvellous individuality and that there are many paths to desired outcomes. You are in the best position to design your path, my role is to ask you questions, raise awareness and tap into values, drivers and motivation to help you do that. Another way of saying this is that you will benefit from my knowledge and skill in the coaching process, and this can be applied to many different aims, goals or contexts
- This biog is not exhaustive and you can ask me anything that will help us establish a good fit between coach and client in a discovery call.
When I was 15 and asked what I wanted to ‘be’ by a teacher I loved, I shared my ambition to become a piano technician, set up a music shop and school. She responded by telling me that I did not have ‘the ear’ to be a piano tuner and wasn’t that a rather odd job for a girl anyway…How foolish I felt for thinking I might have potential and that my aspirations mattered. There followed the sense of all-absorbing hollowness as a dream was wordlessly folded up and abandoned for a more able and deserving candidate.
Except…3 years later I was miserable, it was one of my lowest times. All my friends had moved on to the excitement and promise higher education brings. In Zimbabwe, where I was, that generally meant they were living in South Africa or abroad. I was left behind, faltering, not sure what to do, not sure what I wanted to do, and job applications to secure any sort of interim work while I tried to figure it all out, were refused. Refused for a job I didn’t want in the first place, not a good feeling. In fact, it was all so hateful I decided that failing (as I had been told I would) at being a piano technician seemed preferable. With some unconditional support and amazing bravery from my parents who let me go, I moved to Edinburgh to train. Three years later, I was living in London, working for Steinway, and tuning pianos in some of the most famous concert halls in the world.
From this end of the experience, I don’t for a moment think that the teacher was being consciously malicious. Intead, it is a rather obvious example of a younger me not having knowledge in or means to evaluate and decide what to use from the information coming my way. I have seen many far more subtle examples of this in my capacity as a coach. I have continued to support others and myself to grow through carefully evaluating the ‘voices’ around us – cultural expectations, well-meaning but potentially unhelpful advice, our own internal dialogue – identifying the words of wisdom, the lessons, and the stuff that simply isn’t needed, understanding and learning from experiences in a way that will enhance future opportunities rather than inhibit them.
Continuing on from working as a piano technician in London, I am also a pianist and educator. Music has always been central to my life; it was my piano teacher who asked that initial question about what I wanted to ‘be’. With a little more belief in myself, I branched out into teaching and performing. It turns out that I am as fascinated by what makes people tick as I was about what makes pianos work. So perhaps it should not have been a surprise when I started to ask what made some students progress so quickly and others progress more slowly when from the outside their starting points – eagerness, environment, opportunities – appeared to be much the same. These questions began a process of research into motivation, self-efficacy, self-regulation, performance preparation and anxiety. I also began developing teaching resources which helped students develop these skills as part of their piano studies. You can see these here. Eventually, this led to a PGCert in performing arts pedagogy and a lot of inspiring work training and mentoring teachers.
It was during my postgraduate studies that I had my first experience of coaching and it was transformational. I grew in confidence, threw out some long held self-limiting patterns, appreciated my strengths, and voiced what I wanted to achieve. Everyone has their own way of describing the impact of good coaching. For me, it felt congruent, focussed, and life felt in flow. Of course, life still presents challenges but the centre of the experience of life is whole rather than fragmented (pulled in a million different directions). There is an enhanced sense of sureness in my ability to manage outcomes of decisions, and in how I choose to fit the puzzle pieces of life together.
The impact of this was so energising that I wanted to know more, in fact, I wanted to offer it to others. As a mentor, coaching was a skill that would enhance my teaching work, so training as a coach was an easy choice. I was further into the process when I realised that coaching had become deeply embedded in all I do and that it aligned with my own personal values. I began working as a coach using these skills with clients from all different sectors. I belong to a supportive community of coaches and still look forward to my own sessions with peer coaches. (So if I am not the right fit for you I am very happy to refer you to one of them).
From concert tuning, to teaching and performing, to coaching there is a theme of listening to, communicating with, empowering, and enabling others that underpins all my work.
Coaching is not something I do, it is a way of being, how I choose to show up in the world. It shows up in my life, obviously, in my capacity as a coach and mentor. It also shows up in my work training teachers and musicians, in my capacity as school governor, in work meetings, in my conversations with my teenage children (I am eternally grateful for the impact coaching has had on my parenting) and with my family and friends. I coach because it is life affirming and I want others to have the opportunity to experience that feeling, whatever it looks like for them…
If you want to know more about my background in education and research, my teaching at post graduate level and mentoring for fellowship to Advance HE, you can read more here.
“Coaching is not something I do, it is a way of being, how I choose to show up in the world.”
What coaching means to me