Thought Leadership
Prof Andrew George
Our partners share their career backgrounds and what brought them to coaching.

This week, Dr Andrew George describes how coaching is an integration of his professional life.

As an academic, my proudest achievements were the students that I helped. I keep on my bookshelves the theses of all my PhD and MSc students, and often I look at them and remember the individuals, the difficult patches in their studies, the highs that we experienced and the change that happened to them. For me, helping people achieve their ambitions has always been key to my professional life.

Over time I moved to having more management and leadership responsibilities. That changed the dynamic and I found (and continue to find) great satisfaction in ensuring that institutions and systems are successful at developing students and staff. But I also found satisfaction in helping individuals, both in terms of having and implementing their ideas and in getting on in life.

I left full time academic employment in 2018 and decided to offer myself as a coach. I looked for a training course, and with my background in science and education I wanted to have an education that did more than just train me to be a competent practitioner but which also gave me the intellectual underpinning to the subject. I therefore decided to do the MSc at Henley Business School.

Since that time I have coached many different clients from a wide range of areas, including universities, NHS, business and the charitable sector. It has been an immense privilege to work with leaders and help them develop their purpose and how best to achieve it. The course at Henley is different from some in providing training in an eclectic range of different approaches and techniques, rather than a fixed approach. This has given me a large tool bag that I can bring to my sessions with clients.
Coaching is only part of my professional life. I continue to do research, to hold leadership roles in Higher and Further Education, the NHS and medical charities. This is important for me, as I find that they enrich my coaching and ground my conversations in the reality of strategic and operational delivery.

I have also developed through my MSc a research interest in professional and personal development and have published in this area. In particular I have been working to understand how an understanding of moral purpose and character than help professionals reflect on what they do. This research informs, and is informed by, my practice as a coach and a leader.

So for me coaching is a rich part of my life, that is integrated in my background as a researcher, academic, leader and someone who wants people to be the best that they can be.

Next time, Steve Ludlow talks about his journey to coaching.
Dr. Susan Rose
Second in our series on how Essentic HE partners came to coaching.

This week, Dr Susan Rose reflects on the question "Why do I coach?" From a way of being to a leadership skill, Susan describes her growing interest in and use of coaching in the 2000s to her current passion for supporting women leaders.

Self-reflection is a useful and intriguing exercise. Something that coaching should trigger. So writing about how I got into coaching is an opportunity for a bit of my own personal reflection and insight. Why do I coach and how did it all get started?

I first became aware of coaching as a practice when working at Henley Business School in the early 2000s. It was a new and young discipline at that time, and I was fortunate enough to know and work with Dr Patricia Bossons who first introduced coaching at Henley. Alongside Patricia worked others in her team (notably the wonderful Alison Hardingham and Denis Sartain) and I noticed a few things about these people. First that they appeared to me to be very grounded, in control of their own feelings and responses and very effective communicators. They radiated serenity and were clearly comfortable in their own skins. There had to be something in this thing called coaching! I explored it more and in 2010 took the Henley Professional Certificate in Coaching course to learn and develop my knowledge and skills.

During my career at Henley I applied my coaching predominantly as a leadership skill while I held senior roles at the business school that required me to build and develop teams. Coaching is a process of working alongside someone, supporting that individual to progress and move forward and often make change happen. It is particularly helpful to individual performance development but also when building teams. During this time, I was responsible for leading a multi-cultural team overseas at a new university campus in Malaysia and was able to apply my coaching skills in what was a start-up situation. I used coaching in a number of ways – to support induction of new staff; performance development; dispute resolution; team building; as well as my interactions with other senior leaders.

By 2019 I was looking for a new focus in my life that would complement my work in business education and also leverage my coaching experience. I obtained my International Coaching Federation (ICF) accreditation and launched my own coaching practice with an objective to share my leadership experiences with others. I have a particular focus on coaching women in mid to senior level roles. This is because I have stood in their shoes and have personal experience of being a female leader. Now in 2022 I partner with my colleagues at Essentic HE to combine my coaching skills and senior HE leadership experience as a specialist offer.

I am a coach because I firmly believe in the effectiveness of coaching and the importance of supporting others. Coaching is now an accepted and much used developmental intervention that can be effective in both the corporate world, the professions such as academia, and in people’s personal lives. For leaders it provides the basis for self-reflection and personal insights that help us build our values and capabilities as we navigate change.


Andrew George will share his reflections on becoming a coach next time.

Sarah Gledhill
Essentic HE coaches reflect on their career journeys

Sarah Gledhill discusses her path from higher education fundraising leader to executive and leadership coach, from the South-West to the West Coast and back to East Anglia.

Ask any coach what drew them to the profession and you’ll receive a myriad of answers. However, there is likely to be one common motivation: a desire to help and be of service to others. This has been a key driver of my career path. Starting out in the tech sector, I quickly realised that I needed to be part of something that impacted the greater good of society. Somewhat by chance rather than design, I found myself working in a small team in the new field of higher education fundraising. I discovered my niche, working with like-minded colleagues who were similarly driven by the mission of universities! I was contributing to something that positively influenced peoples’ lives through education and research.

The 30-year career that followed took me from the University of Bristol and across the Atlantic twice, first to the University of California, Berkeley and then to the University of Cambridge. I feel fortunate to have worked in a field that has provided me with many opportunities to experiment, innovate, learn and develop. However, several years ago, a pivotal moment occurred as I became aware that there was something missing in my work. Reflecting on my career highlights, I realised that, while I gain the greatest sense of fulfilment in aiding others to learn, grow and reach their greater potential, I had hit a plateau in my own learning.

Deciding to train as a coach was a natural progression from the mentoring and coaching I had done throughout my career, formalising the knowledge gained from managing and leading large teams and combining this with my passion for helping others. It was daunting to join a Masters programme and realise how much I had yet to learn. My curiosity was stimulated by the theory, practice and evidence-base of coaching. I have become fascinated by the complexity of human behaviour and our interactions with each other, and how the seeming simplicity of a coaching conversation helps individuals to gain greater clarity. It’s a privilege to experience a client’s process of change.

Coaching fulfils my need to be of service to others, while Essentic HE’s manifesto to develop leaders in higher education strengthens the sector to which I have dedicated my career. And, my own learning journey continues apace. I look forward to this being a life-long process.

Dr. Susan Rose
The relationship between self-confidence and female leadership

An exploration of the relationship between self-confidence and female leadership: The role of workplace coaching in supporting gender equality

Gender equality in organisational leadership is still poor. Evidence suggests that women may experience lower levels of self-confidence than men and that this may influence the representation of women in senior leadership roles. Addressing this would play a role in the equalisation of gender differences in organisations and coaching can be effective in building self-confidence and the allied concept of self-efficacy. An exploratory qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was conducted with 12 workplace coaches experienced in coaching female leaders. The aim was to explore the effect of self-confidence amongst female leaders and the role that coaching can play in providing support that will encourage leadership progression. Low self-confidence was found to be ubiquitous in coaching conversations with female leaders, and was often a safer, surface level topic that masked much deeper issues. The value of trusted relationships that encourage trial of new behaviours was identified. A reflective coaching process of trial, reflection and adaptation is recommended to overcome low self-confidence and challenge leadership stereotypes. The study provides benefits to workplace coaches to understand the challenges that female leaders bring to coaching and how they may be addressed.

This article was written by Fioan Wilkinson and Dr. Susan Rose. It first appeared in the Philosophy of Coaching: An International Journal in May 2022

Download the article here  

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