The value of a coach


In business, the value of coaching has been established for some years with executives drawing on their coaches to lead their organisations to high performance.

Are design business leaders using coaches and could a coach be useful for you?

I spoke with James Hurst, Executive Strategic Creative Director at DesignStudio about his experience of working with a coach and what he gets from the relationship.

James has taken an unusual route to his current job.

At first, he danced with the idea of having his own company. Then he worked in design agencies, then digital. Then he discovered that what he loved to do, wasn’t typical for an agency. “I found myself thinking about problems others didn’t get involved with. For this reason, there was not a huge support network- when you’re doing things others aren’t- it can take you away from them, remove you a bit.”

This lead him to ask 2 questions: “What shall I do in this situation?”  and “What do I do with my life?”

These questions were rolling around in James’ mind when he met his coach, four or five years ago. He was a consultant brought in when at a previous company and as he introduced himself, “I’ve had an unusual path to becoming a consultant. A gazillion careers, I’ve collided and danced around,” James saw something of himself reflected back to him.

What benefits has James seen from working with his coach?

Different and better thinking
James’s coach has enabled him to think differently and better.  To think about how he should consider certain digital technologies in relation to his clients. And he has been useful personally in figuring out answers to questions such as ‘What should my job title be? In fact, the relationship has been fundamental to making changes to job title:

“He knows where I’d love to be in the future. It’s useful to have someone to talk to. Someone who can spot when you are moving away from a stated aim and say, ‘hang on. Remember your stated intention was this. We’re going here. What’s causing the change?’”

Increased learning
James has seen increased learning as a result of the coaching. He says, “A big impact of the coaching relationship is that it reassured me that it was ok not to fit in to a tidy box at work. I’m not a traditional designer or a traditional strategist. When we started working together, I was petrified that I was skilling myself out of a job. I didn’t want to spend all day thinking about one thing. My coach was one of the few people I could talk to about this. He helped me to understand and explain what I wanted. That there was a place for my kind of brain. I could see opportunities that I could take without me having to change. The coaching gave me confidence in what I was doing.”

Better leadership
James’ coaching has had an impact with his colleagues. “Since being coached I have also become more used to coaching my team.  This has changed the way I interact with them. The way I respond to people and the amount of time I give them has changed. Before the coaching, taking a coach role at work was hard. Everyone was quite frenzied. I now approach this differently. I take responsibility for the conversation and in particular making space and time for it. We often leave the studio to talk.”

What to expect from a coach and coaching.
The term coach can mean different things to different people. Often it is used to describe something that isn’t in fact coaching. James’s experience of coaching is useful if you’re wondering what coaching might actually be like.

“When we have coaching sessions the relationship becomes very formal and serious. He guides me and I like that. I really listen in a different way and he respects me in a different way. Afterwards if we hang out, the balance of the relationship is totally different.”

“I cherish the relationship. Therapy is too strong a word. It’s more like validation, enabling me to answer questions like, ‘Am I making the right decision right now?’ It’s a privileged conversation. I shy away from talking about my dreams with everyone I meet. The hour with my coach is an hour just focusing on me.”

He says, “At first, if you’re a bit reserved it can take a while to get comfortable talking about yourself.  It takes time to get comfortable to say to someone: this is what I want to do with my life. You can sound a bit arrogant to yourself. Over time though, you become more honest with yourself about who you are and more realistic about ‘how’.

It’s a bit embarrassing at first but you do get comfortable. Your nearest and dearest are not the right people to have these conversations with. Get a coach!”

What’s your experience of coaching? Do get in touch.

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