Once upon a time, a train was heading out of London towards Kent. As it passed through a tunnel, it ground to an unceremonious halt. The passengers were stuck. And – horror! – they had no internet connection.
Four individuals sitting around a table take the radical step of introducing themselves and striking up a conversation. They discover that they’re all headed for the same leadership conference. After a while, one passenger notices the parallel to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and proposes that they each tell a story to pass the time. The winner will get a free drink in the bar when they get to their destination.
Yasmine volunteers to go first and, as they’re off to a conference about leadership, decides to tell a true story about some recent leadership coaching she has had. She explains how her company offered her some ‘new parent coaching’ to help her transition back into the workplace following the birth of her daughter. There were complications during the birth and Yasmine continues to experience health issues. She is a Director in a tech organisation and felt overwhelmed by the high expectations as she returned to work.
She related how the coaching enabled her to understand the huge pressure she was placing on herself – the high expectations were mainly her own. Most importantly, it empowered her to ask for help. Yasmine was a ‘self-made woman’ and was unaccustomed to relying on others. Her health issues meant that, to be successful in her multiple roles, she needed to ask for help. She overcame her self-limiting belief that ‘I have to do everything myself’ and, not only transitioned successfully back into her role, but was promoted within six months.
The travellers were impressed by Yasmine’s tale and turned to the next passenger, Peter, to continue.
Inspired by Yasmine, Peter also chose to share a coaching story. Peter was a Director in Healthcare Services coming up to retirement and was wondering what ‘life after paid employment’ might look like. He was excited and daunted by the prospect in equal measure.
His coach helped him to set out what ‘fulfilled retirement’ might look like and to consider what currently felt daunting about it. Through his coaching he recognised a passion for mentoring individuals from under-represented groups and decided to explore the opportunities in this area, alongside learning to speak Italian (whenever possible in Italy).
Not to be outdone by her travel-mates, Jess excitedly spoke about a coaching experience too. She had recently been promoted to a management role and was struggling to raise her profile with a senior director in her function.
She said, “My coach did this exercise where I sat in different chairs and stood in different places, in order to see the situation from alternative perspectives. I was sceptical, especially as our sessions took place via Teams, but it was fascinating! I saw how it was actually my behaviour, as much as the director’s, that needed to change. I was inadvertently giving away my status and minimizing my value. At the next divisional meeting I enacted the behaviours I’d discussed and practiced with my coach and there was a marked difference – it was like he was looking at me as a new person!”
“I’m on my way to the conference to learn more about adopting a coaching approach to management.”
Finally, Oskar took to the, somewhat sticky, train-carriage floor. He had a coaching story too, so how could he not share it?!
Oskar was an extremely talented, though humble, senior leader who had been promoted from Sales Director to MD within a regional business unit of a global organisation. The senior leadership team, his former peers, were fully supportive of his promotion and he was mindful of getting the balance right between delivering the objectives of the MD role, and keeping them on board.
He used his coach as a sounding board – he was usually confident of his plans by the time he came to coaching and yet it was always useful to talk them through out loud. It can be lonely being at the top of the organisation and simply having someone to listen was hugely valuable. His coach challenged him to notice when his natural humility – normally a key strength – was being overplayed. His business unit was a small fish in a big pond and Oskar’s unassuming nature sometimes caused him to downplay their contribution.
As a result, Oskar stepped up to host a visit from the European Chairman, which went extremely well and has definitely put Oskar and his region on the organisational map.
The four passengers were so stimulated by each others’ stories, they didn’t notice that the conductor had been listening in. She came across to them to explain the cause of the hold-up. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. It sounds as though coaching has had a profound, and yet still practical, impact on your lives. What would you say were the common themes?” (Let’s imagine she was a very enlightened conductor who had been on a coaching skills course!).
The group reflected and summarised: they had all been experiencing a transition in some way; and they were all ready to make any necessary changes to succeed. They had all had coaches who had delved beneath the ‘presenting issue’; had truly listened to and supported them; encouraged them to find solutions that were specifically tailored to them as individuals; and challenged them when necessary.
“Where can I find out more about this coaching?”, the conductor asked.
“Management Futures”, the travellers said in unison. As they stared at each other in delighted surprise, the train began to move off. They agreed that they were all winners and would share a drink together (and to talented coaches everywhere) when they arrived at the leadership conference.
Whilst the setting of The Coaching Tales was fictional (though inspired by a recent disrupted train journey!), all the coaching stories themselves were real. Names have been changed.
Finding out more
To learn more about how Management Futures coaching packages can support you with your transition, contact us on 020 7928 4841 or info@management futures.co.uk.