Jan 21

Coaching works

Posted: 4 January 2021

Our CEO Oonagh Smyth reflects on the benefits of coaching.

I have always valued learning. Starting a new course or another learning opportunity causes the same response in me as opening the first page of a new book. When I did my Masters in Executive Coaching at Ashridge Business School, I started in this spirit.

But I was in for a big surprise. I gained knowledge, yes, but the experience was much deeper and more profound for me.

In my first session I was coached by Eric De Haan, who is Director of the Ashridge Centre for Coaching. During the session he asked me how I felt about something. I replied, “I think…”.  He asked me the same question three times and each time I answered in a slightly different way, but all my sentences started with “I think”.

When Eric reflected this back to me, I was completely flummoxed. Eventually I came to realise that I relied too much on thinking and did not listen enough to what I was feeling in work. That sounds so obvious, but it wasn’t to me.

This reflection was difficult at the time, but it was the beginning of a journey of development, mindfulness, and reflection, and understanding of myself that has had a huge impact on my professional and personal life.

Realising that I felt quite a lot but had been trained to ignore it and think a problem through, was so liberating. I started to be able to move through situations where previously I had been stuck, by understanding my own role in those contexts, recognising and being able to separate what was real and what was playing into my own pre-determined sense of how the world works and fits together. I was able to be honest and own what I was feeling in the moment and share that with others.

Sometimes it led to a deeper conversation, sometimes it didn’t, and we shrugged and moved on. I was able to see my own weak points, my need to move fast and the impact that has on others (I still do this – I didn’t say coaching was a cure!) and my inner critic, but also learned to appreciate and value my strengths.

To say that training to be a coach was life changing for me would not be an exaggeration.

Since that course I have kept two coachees at any one time. I now want to use my role as CEO in Skills for Care to coach two people in the social care sector.

One of my coachees, Sarah Niblock, CEO, said:

“I could not have found a more ideal executive coach than Oonagh to help me untangle a thorny knot at work…Her style is so positive and energetic and I was so impressed by how vitalised I felt after each session. I would not hesitate to approach again for executive coaching and recommend her highly.”

If you are a social care leader and think that you would benefit from five two-hour coaching sessions with me, please email me and we can book a conversation Oonagh.smyth@skillsforcare.org.uk