Aug 16

Coaching for success

Posted: 4 August 2016

Sharon AllenOur CEO Sharon Allen reflects on what she learnt from her coaching course and is now offering coaching sessions to the social care sector.

A couple of months ago I was listening to an episode of Radio 4’s The Bottom Line focusing on coaching for senior executives.  One of the searching questions posed to the coach taking part was ‘what is the difference between mentoring and coaching?’ 

The answer was one of those light bulb moments for me. It seems “a coach has great questions for your answers; a mentor has great answers for your questions.”  The reason I was particularly interested in this programme, and that useful definition, is because I had just enrolled on a programme learning how to be an effective coach.

Now, as the CEO of Skills for Care, you would expect me to be a fan of life long-learning – I won’t disappoint – I absolutely am!  What, though, was the impetus for me to develop my skills as a coach?

Whilst we are still the Department of Health delivery partner for leadership and workforce development, the reality is like many organisations Skills for Care now have to think about different ways of raising money. We have to ensure our long term sustainability so are developing and evolving our business which means we can continue to reinvest in the social care sector. 

One of the things my organisation does really well is to support the well-being of Skills for Care colleagues.  One of the ways we do this is to support colleagues with a contribution to a well-being option of their own choosing – a simple idea that my team repeatedly tell me is highly motivating. 

So I used my contribution toward the cost of having some coaching, and it really helped me work through the options as Skills for Care develops itself as a social enterprise.

Luckily the person who coached me was incredibly skilful in asking great questions which really helped me find my own answers. It was uncanny as it was the exactly the process described on The Bottom Line.

She was also a great sales woman and suggested that the skills I already had developed from my social work background, and my different leadership roles, was the perfect fit for a Coaching Mastery course.  I took the plunge and am so glad I did.

I’d signed up for six months of intensive learning with the most challenging group of peers and tutors. All that effort paid off as I am now the proud owner of a Diploma in Coaching. 

I learnt a lot from those people, but most of all they really made me think  about the amazing power of people to achieve change and my aim is make our team see now the previously insurmountable is achievable.  The outcome I am most excited about is that I am now offering coaching to the social care sector as part of Skills for Care’s commercial offer and, guess what, I’ve already got my first coachee!  

From my own experience and my learning, I know that coaching is a great investment for leaders at every level of an organisation.  It does take time, commitment and resource, as anything worth achieving does.  So given the other demands on my time, I will only be coaching two people at any one time, so if you think that five or six sessions with me could help you, or a colleague in your organisation, develop your leadership skills and qualities, I’d love to hear from you.

But don’t just take my word for it as I coached Gary Lashko, Chief Executive of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, who said: “Sharon was skilful, enabling, and very effective in helping me focus quickly on what I need to do, and how I might best achieve it.  Although it was a fast and quick engagement, I felt really looked after by Sharon who took care to understand me and bring out my potential. 

“It helps that Sharon really understands how to run a large organisation and the importance of delivering quality for customers.  I have had a lot of coaching in my time, but none has been better than Sharon’s.”

Time and time again I meet people in our sector who have really got the learning bug and it seems I still have a bad dose of it too. This course was a fascinating reminder you can always learn new things no matter where you are in your career so if you want to know more about my coaching offer email me Sharon.allen@skillsforcare.org.uk