An African mum living, learning, and documenting the process in London.

Marcy Madzikanda: On coaching

Ever thought you needed a coach but weren’t sure what to expect? Read on. I hope this answers questions you might have. Please post any questions or comments you might have after.

In an earlier post I wrote about sponsorship and what I might have achieved had I utilised this tool towards achieving professional goals.

Several months later and as my professional coaching relationship comes to an end, I can say without a doubt that this is vital if you are committed to making changes in your life. I am yet to find a ‘sponsor’ as described in the previous post.

I will try to unpack a little of what coaching did for me and why I found it so useful and the reason I have been encouraging anyone I meet, ready to explore, achieve goals and not quite sure how to go about doing so, to invest in coaching.

I realise I have not posted for awhile. I didn’t ‘forget’. I chose to prioritise my family, work and finding a balance that worked for me. I made notes of topics I wanted to explore, but knew I had to sort my life out.

Has it cost me? Yes, and no. I was getting into a rhythm of posting, building my confidence talking about issues that mattered to me. Understanding my ranking, and SEO a little better (but seriously, who really ‘gets this’ before an algorithm change)? I am still in the process of developing the blog. One thing that was needed was addressing my work / life balance. I had to make changes and a coach was needed!

I’ve been talking to a number of women these past few months and the majority have never had a mentor or a coach to develop their personal or professional lives. This saddens me on so many levels….

I could have done with one after returning to work after maternity leave. I previously wrote about having a 6 month contingency fund before I got pregnant. I used this for 5 months after my post was made redundant and I knew I did not want to dip into other savings so it was vital I got a job. Any job. I successfully managed to get one for the organisation I was aiming for, however it was 2 grades lower than the jobs I had been applying for. I didn’t set out to put myself in that situation, but at that time it was necessary. In doing so I saved a month from my contingency fund and got an income.

I knew early on, I wouldn’t be in that role long. I didn’t feel guilty about that as it was a six month contract, which was subsequently extended until March 2019. What I hadn’t counted on was how taking that role killed me inside. Don’t get me wrong, my manager was amazing, (she will have an entire post dedicated to her style) My colleagues were exactly what I needed and helped me figure out what would work for me. It also got me off job seekers allowance which I will write about at a later point.

Returning to work, full time after 18 months, (a month off before I had my little one, 1 year on maternity leave, plus 5 months figuring out my next steps) was a lot!

I’d like to focus on the ‘need’ for a professional coach. Within a couple of weeks of starting, my manager asked me to think about what role I wanted next, she asked me to bring in job descriptions of those roles to our next 1:1 and identify my objectives for the role I was in which would be inline with the skills I wanted to develop for the next role! I nearly fell off the chair. At 39 years old, no manager had ever focused on my professional development so early on and in such a meaningful way. She also suggested I get a mentor and a coach, one within the organisation I worked in and one externally.

I set about doing this and (I won’t say where I work though this information can be easily accessed) within the organisation it was reasonably easy to do.

Step one: I emailed learning and development and asked for a coach. Because I was very specific about what I wanted, none were available. I was sign posted to an external site, still part of the organisation and focused on leadership development. This was all free! (Do tap into where you work, study, pray or network and ask if this resource is available). This was free as I accessed this resource at work. I did contact ‘coach’ I’d seen online and was quoted 5 figures within minutes [jaw dropped] for what? There were a handful of previous clients, no guarantee of success or money back I think. Also I looked into how one acquires accreditation for this and there is no regulatory body as it were. So be careful. I have paid for as personal trainers in the past, for fitness goals (again I highly recommend this… if the purse agrees)

Step two: Identify why you need a coach or mentor and what you want to achieve?

Step three: Identify the areas you want to work on or have a clear idea, so you can maximise your time with your coach. Examples include, be more assertive at work, have more confidence, next career move etc.

Step four: commit to it. There are times you won’t want to go, feel like cancelling but you will only be cheating yourself if you quit. Work through it.

Step five: allow yourself to feel vulnerable. I think a reason I never felt the need to pursue this wholeheartedly was that I felt that I had ‘it’ together. Whatever that means, and who was I trying to fool. I clearly don’t have ‘it’ together and I think none of us ever really do, we are all working on getting there and that is perfectly acceptable and a thing called life!

Our first ‘meeting’ was a call to identify what my my needs were, if we ‘clicked’ and would like to work with each other. It was an opportunity for me to know his credentials and be confident that he could help me achieve my goals. Equally for him, if he was able to assist me to achieve my goals. We both felt we could work together and he suggested meeting at the Royal Festival Hall a few weeks later. I knew we would have a great relationship! (I just love this area)!

Our very first meeting turned out to be an interview prep session. I had applied and been shortlisted for an internal position.(I might talk about this process at a later time) He coached me through pointers for that role. None of the candidates were offered the role at that time and we continued with the objectives I had set during our initial call.

We decided that the following sessions would be face to face, held a month apart. This gave me time to find solutions to what we talked about, implement and have feedback for the next session. This is what worked best for me, working full time with a toddler. It maybe that you need weekly sessions or are happy to FaceTime or talk on the phone. It’s what works best for you.

A few things I wanted to achieve were, to work closer to home and be able to drive to work. (I should have included park for free at work – but we’ll get there). I also wanted a day to myself so I can work on me and career wise be at the grade I was initially applying for. (There are a few more goals I want to achieve and will share them, once I’ve achieved them).

I achieved all four goals! In about 4 months. I am settling into my new role. Using my personal day to start working on my blog and other things. I no longer use public transport unless I’m heading into central London (and do not miss it for a second). I am more present for my little one and have more energy for her, which means we get to do more fun things together. I am delighted by this. It was hard at one time. I remember talking about wanting another job, but not having the energy to find another job after work or on weekends. During a session with my coach I identified the solution, wake up earlier. I already had an 8am start. So I got to work before 7 and used that hour to work on job applications.

I didn’t get a ‘mentor’ but my manager was that for me in my head. I listen to podcasts, particularly on my commute to work they have all been useful in getting my mind right. One of my favourite and most listened is Lewis Howes: The school of greatness. (I highly recommend this).

Update: We wrapped up our sessions last week. We did this on the phone, as our first was conducted. We used that time to evaluate the process from both sides. One note from my coach was that he found our relationship easy. He noted that I kept all our appointments, was punctual and he felt he could push me without me being offended. Because I was ready for that change. From his perspective, coaching someone is delicate as you never quite know how far you can push someone. He also pointed out that I came with very clear objectives which made it easy for him to help me achieve my goals.

Sometimes people come to him unclear about what they want and that is part of the process though that takes time to unpack. When I mentioned I may at a later stage need coaching again, he asked me why? My response was knowing I have a coach meant I had to account for my actions. I can be content and not push myself because I am in my comfort zone. I know this about myself.

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