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Coaching Success Stories: Leading with your head, heart and gut

In this article Lucy Knight, Human Resources, Diversity, Change Leader (in multi-sector FTSE firms) shares her experience of coaching and the impact of her partnership with WDI.

Lucy’s key observations

  • Benefits professionally:  Coaching enabled Lucy greater access to and to fully integrate each of her centres of intelligence: head, heart and gut, into her leadership style. As a highly effective leader, Lucy demonstrated her ability to integrate data, objectivity and results into her day job with ease.  However, she was hesitant about how much she could rely on the signals and messages from her heart and gut.   Unpicking the ‘cause and effect’ of her inner experience, enabled her to decode and rely on her own ‘inner coach’ to enhance her effectiveness as an authentic leader.  “My distortion was to believe I always had to use head data to be credible at work.  The coaching showed me that head, heart and gut insights are all valid, and you need a combination to be most effective.”
  • Benefits to the organisation:  Listening more carefully to her head, heart and gut, naturally forced Lucy to be more reflective.  “When you are working at pace at the top of an organisation, quality time to think about unintended consequences and wider ramifications is rare and precious. Whilst the demand was still there for decisions to be made and the pace of work to continue, I managed to carve out some more good quality thinking space, for myself, my team  and the clients that I worked with.”
  • Benefits for colleagues /the whole team:  Having access to more of her authentic self enabled Lucy to invest more in the growth and development of others.

Leading like a coach

Lucy has utilised many of the skills observed, demonstrated by Lynn White, WDI Consulting during their coaching sessions.  These include:

  • Listening: “Lynn’s skills that I have tried to emulate are her listening skills, her ability to hear, really hear, and to play back to check that what she has heard is right.  That is a skill I have definitely honed since working with her which people have noticed. It could be as simple as in a meeting with many complexities, summarising where we are at and checking everyone is in the same place – that matters.”
  • Creating a safe space: “Lynn’s ability to create a space where you feel supported, and where she is prepared to go on a journey of exploration with you is powerful.  Her belief is that within you there is an answer, and the point is to bring it out. I adopted that approach with people I work with, as I coach them and with senior manager colleagues.”
  • Reflection: “Lynn reflects on the session afterwards with notes which helped me reflect further. In sessions you can have aha moments and then because of the flurry of the coaching you might lose some of the impact. Having a note on a piece of paper is very powerful. So I use those kind of confidential notes now if I really want to support or make an impactful point with a person.”

The value of a qualitative 360° appraisal

Many WDI clients have a 360° expert witness process as part of their coaching package. Lucy outlines the value she took from this process:

“The fact that someone from WDI was doing deep dive qualitative interviews as opposed to ticking boxes in a questionnaire added to the richness of the data and the insights for me.  I was surprisingly moved by it because I think we all as human beings, go to where we think the negatives are going to be and it was really positive to get a 360° which was actually balanced and data rich.

To see how much my colleagues appreciated me and, for them to be specific about what I was valued for, due to Lynn’s skilful questioning and listening, was empowering. It gave me great clues about the areas I should pay attention to or decide that perhaps a particular aspect of my work was not for me.”

Why recommend coaching?

“Coaching gave me the time to think.  Busy-ness gets in the way of that, and it is amazing how you can just roll on, keeping everything going and lose touch with what you want, what you can contribute and who you are. Coaching defines that space because you commit to a certain number of sessions, you know that you will have that time and will be given attention and that is so important – it is a luxury, but it is also an absolute necessity to help people be who they can be well. To carve out the time and to make the investment is really well worth doing.

Post coaching it was abundantly clear to me that there are many capable leaders who could be shinning more brightly if they were more relaxed and human themselves, using the heart and the gut more in addition to their brilliant intellectual capacity.”

Why recommend WDI?

“Lynn was a fantastic partner in helping me think through what I wanted to do next with my career.  She created such a good sense of safety. Some of the challenges from Lynn were quite tough because she read me very well and she did not let me get away with very much at all. I never felt I was being pushed beyond my endurance or what was safe. I did feel on occasions a bit uncomfortable, but it was always worth it because it opened up a whole area of understanding of myself that I had not accessed before.

What I particularly appreciated about WDI was the absolute affirmation of being a senior woman supported by other senior women. I felt that there was such an emotional and experiential connection that a lot of my experiences and things I had struggled with I did not really need to explain that much, because another woman – similar age and experience simply ‘gets it’. That massively helped enhance our safe environment and working through what was going to be a realistic way forward.”

Going forward

Inspired by her experience of working with Lynn, and her belief that coaching is an essential skill for every effective leader, Lucy has recently qualified as an Academy of Executive Coaching Practitioner. I am confident she will bring skills and practices further developed during that training, to her work as Human Resources, Diversity, Change Leader.

Many thanks to Lucy for sharing her story of coaching and the value for individuals, teams and organisations.  For bringing all of her head, heart and gut to this interview.  It was a pleasure to speak with her.

Interested in coaching for yourself, your team or your organisation – please do contact us.

Author: Sally Hargrave – WDI Consulting Limited

WDI’s passion is to help our clients create the conditions where both women and men thrive and then reap the business and social benefits inclusion can deliver.   Our core offerings include performance coaching, women’s leadership coaching, culture change and inclusive leadership.
In 2020, we launched our modular Women’s Leadership Online Programme which can be delivered through our online class-room or through a series of webinars tailored to our clients unique business needs.
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