Seren is a Chartered Organisational Psychologist and an accredited executive coach with both the European Mentoring and Coaching Council and the International Coach Federation – the gold standard in coaching. She is a Master NLP practitioner and a qualified coach supervisor whose work as a coach has taken her all over the world. Assignments have ranged from running programmes on Emotional Intelligence for rocket scientists at The European Space Agency to Just Imagine sessions in Japanese for BBC Worldwide. As a member of the ICF, Seren keeps in touch with the latest insights in the profession and continues to develop her expertise in line with the highest coaching standards.
Seren works with individuals and organisations, coaching one-to-one in person (London) and via virtual platforms worldwide. She also designs and facilitates leadership development programmes, helping organisational leaders develop coaching skills to enhance their leadership style, and increasingly to become accredited coaches themselves so that they can support their organisations to develop and sustain a learning culture. She also mentors and supervises coaches to help them improve their coaching competencies. We hear more about her work and her point of view on the benefits of coaching for leaders.
What led you to become a coach?
I have had a lifelong interest in Psychology and pursued this academically for a number of years. The coaching profession represented the opportunity for me to combine my lifelong interest with a deep desire to improve the working lives of others. If I had to pinpoint one revolutionary experience along the way I would say that the first time I became truly aware of the power of a coaching style was thanks to an assignment I was given early on in my career at the BBC. As part of the world-renowned Making it Happen initiative led by Greg Dyke (Director General at the time), I was chosen to be lead facilitator for the Just Imagine events across BBC Worldwide. These events were to be run in a unique and revolutionary way. Rather than briefing the audience on the vision and way forward for the organisation as determined by the Exec, I was to encourage the audience themselves to dream; to visualise how they wanted their future to be, then to take a good hard look at the way things stood and identify what they needed to change in order to achieve this desired future vision. The session planned for Tokyo attracted particular interest and much scepticism. It was felt that the Japanese culture would not be ready for this kind of inquiry and that the Japanese would respond better to a more directive, instructive style. In fact, nothing could have been further from the truth. By allowing them to co-create their future and the journey towards it, there was a massive swell of renewed energy, and a commitment to behaviour change I hadn’t experienced before. People are much more committed to a course of action if they have arrived at it through their own internal work. This, for me, is the basic premise of coaching.
Tell us a bit about your coaching style?
I often get frustrated when I hear the terms coaching and mentoring used interchangeably. Although both offer huge value and both are about facilitating learning and growth, a coach is listening through a different lens to a mentor. When presented with a business challenge, a mentor’s focus will be on the challenge itself. They might advise their client on the best course of action using their relevant prior experience and wisdom, which is extremely valuable. But a coach will go deeper. The coach’s focus will be on the person bringing the challenge – What patterns are noticeable? What strengths, blind spots, values and motivations are present that might give rise to how this person is experiencing and responding to this challenge? As a coach, I aim to build insight and awareness so that my client can solve their future problems independently of me. They have accessed internal resources and developed transferrable skills that can apply not just to this specific situation, but to all situations.
As a coach, I aim to build insight and awareness so that my client can solve their future problems independently of me.
Why should more leaders consider coaching?
It is interesting to note how the view of coaching has changed over the years. In the past, the coach would be ushered in secretly through the back door. Increasingly now in companies, it is seen as a privilege to have a coach. In some forward-thinking companies, a necessity. The perception has shifted from something that was deemed as a corrective activity for the struggling few, to something that can be used proactively and widely to give the organisation and its leaders, a competitive edge. These forward-thinking companies recognise that when you get to a certain level, it is easy to stop improving. When you get to the higher ranks in an organisation, the circle of people you can confide in becomes smaller and smaller, and there is an even smaller number, if any, who will tell you the truth. A coach will be your external eyes and ears. They can offer a more accurate view of reality.
Many of the leaders I work with are in transition of some kind. They are navigating challenges unprecedented in their organisations, finding their roles have changed irrevocably. Support and challenge from a coach can be invaluable in these situations. But also, since the pandemic, I have found there to be an upsurge in my clients who are soul searching and reassessing what is really important to them. Many are in the phase of what is now being understood as “middlessence” (typically between the ages of 40-60) where they wish to reassess their career direction, explore their own career choices and identify options that might be more fulfilling for them. I call this mid-life reinvention.
In short, everyone can benefit from coaching. It is more a question of finding the right person at the right time.
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I love the fact that I am continually learning. Everyone I work with teaches me something. We are all muddling through this crazy world together and if I can accompany someone on part of their journey and help them on their way then that is an enormous privilege. Helping them play their incredible tunes with a broader range of piano keys is the most rewarding thing. I may not be a politician making major decisions that impact millions of lives all at once, but I can make a difference to the world as a coach – one conversation at a time!
I believe coaching is about creative conversations, connecting people with their own creativity and resources. It is about positive growth and forward progression. We need this now more than ever. The challenges of today cannot be solved by tried and tested recipes. We are now facing adaptive challenges that require exploration and innovative approaches. We need to constantly learn and adapt, and coaching is the major currency that will enable us to do this.
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