Why Coaching and What to Expect

Stress is the number one cause of burn-out and fatigue in the workplace today. Stress is not the result of overwork; it's caused by trying to manage or avoid situations that cause us a lot of anxiety, challenges that we feel we have little or no control over. For most managers, this means stressful relationships, with staff, peers, or colleagues; conflict that leave us feeling threatened, isolated and overwhelmed. Our productivity suffers, we spend so much time thinking about the problem that we struggle to focus on anything else, we lose sleep, we struggle to turn-off even when we are at home. Over time, the symptoms will start to wear us down; anxiety, bitterness, negativity, isolation, procrastination, self-sabotage, and eventually, burn-out.

Under these circumstances, we often make the mistake of thinking that there is something wrong with us, that we are the only ones going through this when in fact it's one of the most common challenges for all managers in the workplace today. We may start to beat ourselves up, we lose confidence, and the more our self-esteem drops, the harder it becomes to take the necessary action. It's perfectly natural to practice avoidance in these situations, unfortunately the less we do about it the more anxious we get. Some of us sadly spend our entire careers on the run, trying hard to not only avoid those situations that make us uncomfortable, but working just as hard to ensure that no one else catches on; it's exhausting. At the heart of these challenges for all of us, is underlining belief systems that don't serve us very well.

When it comes to the way we think, we all tend to stick with familiar patterns, what we know and what our parents taught us when we were growing up. Faced with a challenge, we make the same choices over and over again and never question it, and in doing so, repeat the past and keep taking the same fall.

Leadership training has some value, but it also has limitations. Of the billions spent globally on leadership training each year, most of it is sadly ineffective. There are several reasons for this, such as:

  • The training lacks context. There is no one size fits all solution that managers can apply to every situation, so they don't know how, where, or when the training could be useful.

  • Successful leadership training will result in a noticeable and lasting behavioural change. To achieve this, leaders need to explore their inner worlds, what makes them tick; underlying beliefs systems, sensitivities, assumptions, negative self-talk, all these things impact our behaviour and the quality of our relationships. Who amongst us is comfortable raising our vulnerabilities in a room full of peers or strangers? No one, not even the trainer wants to go there, and that's perfectly understandable.

That's where coaching and mentoring comes in. A good coach helps their clients to overcome unresourceful patterns of thinking that hold them back and keep them stuck in the same old story. They do this by helping their clients to tap into unconscious belief systems, those taken-for-granted assumptions within each of us that lead to conflict and that deprive us of choice


A good coach will create awareness in you of what is within your control and influence, to open up choices when you didn't realise you had any. Together we will bring to the surface those unconscious belief systems, unspoken values, that may keep you stuck in unhealthy patterns that don't serve you very well. As your coach I work with the certainty that you are already complete, perfect in your unique way, everything you need to get through this challenge is already inside of you, we just need to find it. I will work with you to uncover new ways of thinking that serve you better, expanding your options, empowering you to take the necessary steps needed to turn your challenge, into opportunity.

A coaching conversation is a conversation like no other. It's not a social conversation, the kind where you share your thoughts with a friend and can expect the standard sympathetic response. It is not a counselling session, where you have the opportunity to talk over your story again and again. A coach will ask you lots of questions, questions that you have likely never been asked before, questions that you probably have never asked yourself before. These questions help you to dig deep, explore your values and belief systems, so we can discover together what makes you tick.

The questioning will expose any unresourceful thinking that stands between you and your desired outcome; those taken-for-granted assumptions you picked up somewhere along the way that have never been revisited. I will work with you to reframe those belief systems, help you to develop plans and strategies to take the kind of meaningful action required to grow through the challenge. I will also, where appropriate, share my insights and experience, suggest to you specific tools or a course of action. Everything happens at your own pace; you're in control. It's all about small steps, and nothing happens before your ready. A task may be as simple as asking someone for help with something (a common challenge), or looking someone in the eye when you talk to them, it takes practice to learn new behaviours, and when we see the results, then we are motived to keep practicing and make it our new habit.

Mentoring is all about sharing my insights. I'll share what I've learned about leadership and human behaviour on my 25-year journey, both through education and as a leader. Often my clients come to me in crisis, so we usually start with mentoring, getting solutions to those immediate problems so that they can turn that situation around quickly, or lose that anxiety so that they can achieve the best possible outcome in challenging situations. Once the crisis has passed, if the client chooses to continue, we move into a combination of coaching and mentoring. A program designed to equip clients with a compelling set of mindset and communication tools that will ensure they can stand confidently on their own two feet, tools that will continue to serve them throughout their career.

I work with the belief that everyone is unique and has within him or her everything that they need to be the person they long to be. What that means is that you the client are ultimately responsible for the results that you get. I will work as hard as you do, but I need your 100% commitment to the process for us to succeed. Enter this relationship prepared to accept that you are contributing to the circumstances that are challenging you, be open to change behaviours that are sabotaging your success, and you can expect some fantastic results. It's never about who is right and who is wrong, it's about what works and what doesn't. If you're stuck in the same old pattern of difficult staff, difficult relationships in the workplace, or are struggling with high levels of anxiety, then you need to accept that whatever you have been doing, is not working. It's time to try something else.

Coaching/Mentoring sessions are 100% judgement-free zones; you have nothing to prove and nothing to defend here, we are all of us struggling with the same workplace challenges, and that's OK. Just as important, we all need a champion, someone we can talk to who is on our side and invested in our success, someone that knows we are good enough right now. And someone who understands that when it comes to leadership and communications, the problem is not that we are not cut out for it, the problem is simply that we don't know how to do that yet.


I'm answering questions on Quora daily. Follow me at Step Up to Leadership.

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