My first experience of being coached came shortly after being promoted to running an in-house legal team for the first time. Yes, I had plenty of experience working in legal departments, however now, as General Counsel, I was solely in charge of the department and on the company’s leadership team; my head was fully above the parapet.
Not only did I have to deliver a high-class and effective legal service for the business, but I also had to manage the team and think about more mundane things such as budgeting, reporting, appraisals and recruitment. However, the biggest challenge came with a new-found expectation on me to be on and contribute to the executive group as both lawyer and non-lawyer.
The business had the foresight to find me a first-class coach, someone with whom I still have a relationship today. Over time we developed a strong partnership; our strong rapport was based on honesty and trust.
Very quickly, my coach enabled me to identify and prioritise the key challenges of the new role. Being able to have an honest conversation with somebody who understood the context in which I was operating, yet who did not have a vested interest in the business, was fantastically useful. I was able to understand and explore the challenges at hand. This clarity enabled me to order my thoughts and to create a plan to meet my goals in an orderly fashion.
Early fears of being overwhelmed by this new level of responsibility begin to dissipate. Talking issues through and approaching them in a structured way quickly gave me the confidence to work more effectively as an individual and with others. I think this confidence rubbed off on my team, and as a result, we started to deliver more value for the business. My contributions on at leadership team meetings were well received – I was contributing as a valuable business person, and not just as a lawyer.
Pretty quickly, success built on success, which made me increasingly committed in a number of dimensions. Committed to the coaching process because I could see the results it was delivering for me and my team; more committed to the team because we were operating more effectively together; and, perhaps most importantly, more committed to the business because I could not only believe but see the results my new, considered approach was delivering.
Interestingly, out of that early coaching came a phrase that I keep with me today, particularly when I coach. I realised that the more I was “in the room” with whomever I was working with at that point in time, the more I got out of that discussion, and therefore that relationship.
I take that thought with me wherever I go now. Be that when I parent, with friendships, at work, and most importantly, in the coaching room. For me, this realisation, and being able to action it in an enduring way, is the best legacy coaching could ever give me.
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