by Ewan Robertson, General Manager, Specialist Service Delivery, Scottish Water

I am generally an outgoing and positive person and find engaging with people easy, interesting and a positive experience. After 5 years of relatively successful coaching in Scottish Water, having completed the initial Certificate qualification, I decided to challenge myself to become a better coach by taking on the Diploma course, focusing on the key theme of positivity in coaching.

I have always been up for a challenge but perhaps not the best at planning, and so, in my usual style, I ploughed into the course with a huge amount of enthusiasm, perhaps oblivious to the realities of the challenges, in terms of the time commitment (whilst having a very busy role as a General Manager in Scottish Water), the emotional journey, the requirements for reflection and the impact it would have upon my leadership style going into the future.

It is almost a year since I completed the course and an appropriate time to reflect upon how I have evolved, and how my coaching has changed for the better, since I took that first step into the unknown on day one of the training.

Improving as a leader

The first big transformation I’ve noticed is that I have so many more tools and techniques to draw on, when coaching my coachees, and I feel much more comfortable when doing so. My sessions now flow better and I am more able to help them find their own way forward.

I think that I have always been approachable as a leader and that I have tried to be a coaching leader. I realise now that there is always room for improvement and so I try to continuously evolve my coaching style. I take time to think about situations and scenarios and try to understand what I could have done differently to affect a better outcome.

The challenges and rewards of reflection

I don’t find reflection easy. It was the hardest part of the course for me. My normal work life leaves little time for reflection and so I have had to work very hard to find a model for reflection that works for me. I had to read lots of articles and books, do some hard research, plagiarise selfishly and then test and experiment to find something I felt worked for me.

The value of this trial and error exercise is something I have taken in to other aspects of my work. The vast resources of the internet give quick and easy access to lots of materials which can be assessed and either binned or adopted very readily. The key thing is to try, learn and improve in all aspects of your work, not just your coaching.

A positive response from coachees

I also experimented with strengths cards following a session at a European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) conference in Edinburgh. The whole philosophy behind their use just fitted with me, my personality, my demeanour, my team and Scottish Water’s vision and values. Whilst I don’t necessarily use the cards all the time, the approach of focusing on the coachees’ positive experiences and using these to build self-esteem and find positive ways forward, has helped them fulfil their potential, and also been so valuable to me.

It is reflected in both my coachee and leadership feedback and it is great to see the people I have worked with moving forward in the business and starting to achieve their potential. If I have played even a small part in that then all the hard work was worth it.

What next?

Since completing the diploma course, I have been trying to adapt my coaching in line with the positivity aspirations, which was the thread of my diploma research. I have picked up a few new coachees and am feeling back in the groove.

Whilst the Diploma was very challenging, especially for me as a busy general manager in Scottish Water, I really feel it has opened my eyes to many different aspects of coaching. My new skills are benefiting my coachees, my organisation, and myself so I would recommend it to people but a word of caution: go in with your eyes wide open because it is quite a challenge. On the positive side – it is well worth it!

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