Interview with Alexa Banks-Lyon

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of my clients and I’m delighted to share her transformation story.

What brought you to coaching?

I had recently been promoted to a new management position for the first time and also had the daunting prospect of having to manage former peers. I was given the opportunity to work with a coach.  Despite not knowing what to expect, I knew I wanted to work on leadership skills and that is what I took to the coaching engagement.

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 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 and I used this to prepare for each coaching session.  This helped to focus in on what would be the best use of that particular session. I found this to be extremely helpful in consolidating what learning and progress were being made in between sessions.

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 the destination and 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 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. We got everything out on the table and set the right tone for our discussions.

“The session pushed me beyond the boundaries of my thinking and 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 sessions?

Energetic, motivating and hugely powerful. I was 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.

“I was always challenged 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 expand my range. I felt pushed to become the best version of myself which was incredibly rewarding and gave me a sense of achievement. I expected every session to be hard work and to 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 to 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. I learned that one of my core values is curiosity and 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 new situations and open up new possibilities than I would have come up with on my own. 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.

What was the overall coaching experience like?

“Powerful, rewarding and motivating. For anyone considering coaching, I can’t recommend it enough.”

What did you learn about yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise have known?

I learned all about my core values; my guiding principles that drive my behaviour, action and emotion. I had an awareness of how I reacted to certain situations but I never really understood what influenced that until I understood my core values. For example, gratitude is a 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 core values are part of our programming and that everyone has different core values. Knowing and recognising my core values allowed me to recognise them in others and to understand more about how people operate.

“In addition to understanding my values, I learned that as an individual you have all the answers yourself; sometimes you need a bit of guidance but I learned that I’m more capable than I had previously believed.”

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 creates a huge element of accountability.  You must know 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 about yourself.

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”

Christopher Columbus

You may be an incredibly capable human being but you may not know how to surface that and use it to your advantage. 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 find out more about what your own personal coaching journey could look like I would love to talk to you.  Email me at [email protected]

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