I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of my clients, Alexa Banks-Lyon. I’m delighted to share the story of her coaching journey.
What brought you to coaching?
I had recently been promoted to a management position for the first time. I was faced with excitement, nerves and the prospect of having to manage former peers. When I was given the opportunity to work with a coach I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I knew I wanted to work on my leadership skills and establishing my personal brand.
How did you begin your coaching journey with Gail?
Gail and I completed a face to face Discovery Session together in London which was the starting point after an introductory call. This gave us a great opportunity to get to know each other better creating a strong relationship from which to take the coaching relationship forward. The session surfaced a lot of food for thought in terms of focus areas. It quickly became obvious that I needed to consider what would have the biggest impact for me.
What preparation was required?
There was some preparation work to complete beforehand which allowed me to start thinking about my goals and what I wanted to focus on. We delved into inspiration and aspiration and Gail challenged me to get clarity around what I wanted to achieve and what was holding me back.
“There were many powerful questions that made me think.”
The most pertinent of these being “what drives you crazy” and “when do you relinquish power”? That really opened me up to understanding how I tick and operate i.e. what makes me who I am. Gail provided a preparation template which I used prior to each coaching session. This helped to focus in on what would be the best use of that particular session. I was able to consolidate my thoughts into focus areas and it proved to be a lovely way of reflecting on the learnings and progress.
What happened in your discovery session?
We spent time talking about me; how I operate and what makes me who I am. We also spoke about my end goal which I found difficult to articulate at first, highlighting the lack of clarity I had and how important it was to change that. I would describe the session as intense yet 100% necessary at the same time. We were able to go deep very quickly in the 2 hour session and it was fundamental in laying the foundation for a productive and effective relationship going forward. Everything was laid out on the table from the start and this set the tone for our discussions.
“The session pushed me beyond the boundaries of my thinking and outside of my comfort zone at times but I never felt unsafe or judged. Gail created a very supportive environment. I felt that I could trust her implicitly and be entirely myself without any fear of saying the wrong thing.”
What was your overall goal for the coaching relationship?
Following the Discovery Session, I was able to narrow down the topics I wanted to focus on and create an overall agenda around two important aspects of my leadership, specifically confidence & credibility. I decided I wanted to understand what was stopping me from being a confident and credible leader and be able to take action to address that. I wanted to better understand myself and why I react the way I do in certain situations to allow me to better self-manage. This, in turn, would lead to more confidence and credibility.
How would you describe the regular coaching sessions?
Energetic, motivating and hugely powerful. I prepared for every session and knew exactly what I wanted. Every session delivered. Gail and I always had a natural flow and our relationship developed further over the course of the engagement.
“Coaching challenged me but in a way that was rewarding and which lead me on a journey of personal growth.”
Gail used powerful questioning techniques that really made me think and she pushed me to become the best version of myself which was incredibly rewarding. I expected every session to be hard work and I knew there would be times where I’d have to dig deep so don’t expect an easy ride. I was challenged on the reasons behind the way I reacted or thought about something and this is incredibly powerful. It gave me so much to take away and reflect on. I learned to not just accept the status quo.
What did you learn?
I learned so much about myself, my core values and why I behave in certain ways. From there I was able to determine how to understand and modify my behaviour or self-manage which included playing to my strengths. One of my core values is curiosity and I learned how to bring more of that to my leadership to drive to a successful outcome.
“I had previously considered myself self-aware but coaching took this to a whole new level. I learned to recognise what I was doing, understand the reasons behind it, reflect on that, challenge myself and then use all of that process to get myself back on track. For example, I’m now able to handle really tricky conversations at work much more effectively and with less anxiety than before.”
As a new manager, I was constantly faced with situations I’d never encountered before. Coaching gave me the opportunity, in a safe environment, to plan how to approach those situations. I was then able to find more solutions than I would have found myself. It was good to learn that you can change your approach without losing the essence of who you are but still get to a positive outcome. An additional benefit of being in the presence of an exceptional coach is that I learned to adopt a coaching style myself. That’s had a positive impact on my leadership style and my team.
Gratitude is another core value of mine. I’d never really understood why I got so rattled when someone else didn’t express gratitude. Coaching helped me to realise that we are all programmed differently and when it comes to core values each of us has a unique set. Knowing and recognising my own core values has allowed me to recognise them in others and to understand more about how people operate.
“In addition, I learned that as an individual you have all the answers yourself; sometimes you need a bit of guidance but I realised that I’m more capable than I had previously believed.”
What was the overall coaching experience like?
“Powerful, rewarding and motivating. For anyone considering coaching, I can’t recommend it enough.”
What impact did the coaching have?
It had an enormous impact. I felt more confident and capable of handling situations I was faced with, in specific work situations and personally. It was motivating coming to the sessions every 2 weeks and to see real progress being made. I would take a tricky situation to a session and find myself coming away feeling energised and ready to tackle it head on. I would work on the resulting actions for 2 weeks and maintain a huge level of excitement about reporting back to Gail in our next session.
How would you summarise your coaching journey?
Exciting and eye-opening; I went into it with an open mind and quickly saw the benefits. When I compare where I was at the start to where I finished, I would say there was a huge difference in my style, confidence and approach; it really is a journey. In many ways, it was transformational: in the way I approach things and in how I understand myself. I am now much more considered, self-aware and forgiving of myself. I am much more appreciative of small wins. Overall I have a sense of achievement and recognition from my leadership team.
What makes coaching different from other forms of development and training?
The onus is on you as the individual to do the legwork. It is hard work but so rewarding particularly when you have ‘penny drop’ moments and can see things falling into place. Gail is great at holding you accountable and you must go into coaching knowing that it will take effort, preparation, hard work and commitment. But, if you put that in then what you get out is greater than the sum of all the parts.
What would you say to someone that is considering coaching but isn’t sure about it?
You will never know what it can do for you until you try it for yourself. Everyone’s journey is unique but that is what makes it so powerful and rewarding. It gave me an amazing buzz.
“I found myself excited about things I would have previously lost sleep over because I had a suitable framework and increased confidence.”
I would challenge anyone to give it a go. It is a safe environment, you really can be yourself and it’s amazing what you will discover.
I think the best way to sum it up is with this quote:
“You can never cross the ocean until you have confidence to lose sight of the shore”
You may be an incredibly capable human being but not know how to take advantage of your strengths. You don’t need a coach because you are failing or not good enough. Rather, you need a coach to help you recognise your own ability and inner strength and ensure that plays a central role in your leadership & life. You have to leave the shore or you won’t be going anywhere.
Alexa Banks-Lyon leads a team of Customer Success Managers for Adobe Systems Europe Ltd based in London.
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If this story resonated with you and you’d like to talk to me about starting your own journey I would love to talk to you. Email me at [email protected]