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Nigel Smith - Finding Myself: Developing 'Soft Skills for Hard Outcomes'

THE COACHING ACADEMY BLOG

This week's Coach in the Spotlight is Nigel Smith, a project manager who was sceptical at first about the power of coaching but decided to enrol and experience this himself. Now he is the Agility Coach for Project Professionals, helping leaders in the project management field and not only. Nigel is also a gifted storyteller, so enjoy his thoughts on the coaching journey!

A copy of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ sat patiently and proudly on the uppermost shelf of my bookcase, reserved exclusively, as a one day ‘must-read’ title. 

It had remained there for longer than I would care to remember. And alarmingly, it was part of a growing collection! Its spine and the top of the unthumbed pages gently gathered a layer of dust as time danced by. Its inner wisdom would continue to escape me, for a few more years at least.

You see, I had considered that I understood everything in my world; about other people, my purpose, even me. Numerous corporate courses and seminars on leadership and self-development had equipped me with a ‘professional signature’, a toolkit of impressive models, approaches and techniques.

But I always felt that there was ‘something’ missing. I knew things, but I didn’t feel them.

Then one day, in early 2018, I would finally dust down Stephen Covey’s masterpiece, and with eager anticipation, flick the pages for the very first time. Habit 1: Be Proactive. Time for change, for action! My journey was starting…

"Once I realised the powerful outcomes, it gave me that starker clarity, that picture on the box was becoming not only clearer, but also more colourful."

At that time, I was working as a consultant, an IT Project Manager within very task-based industries such as Automotive, Manufacturing and Aerospace. The personalities of these ‘command and control’ organisational cultures were very focussed on tangible deliverables, more so than the people element. 

Surely, it was people who deliver stuff, not just processes and policies? And whilst, together with my teams, I did deliver some amazing work, that ‘something’ was still missing. How do I get people to willingly embrace that journey of business change? I had this ability to deliver huge transformational change projects, but how could I do the same thing for myself? Perhaps that’s where I should start?

I had an inkling of what I needed to do, but it felt like I was trying to complete a tricky jigsaw, without even knowing what the picture looked like on the box. Enter Stage Left, The Coaching Academy.

I undertook the immersive Introduction to Life Coaching back in July 2018. Seeds of possibility and improvement then began to germinate. Initially, I was incredibly sceptical about the power of coaching. What? The client does all the heavy lifting and works out their own solutions? Surely, they can just do it for themselves? 

Still, just intellectualising wasn’t going to prove anything to me. I had to experience it and to see it work. Once I realised the powerful outcomes, it gave me that starker clarity, that picture on the box was becoming not only clearer, but also more colourful.

The realisation finally dawned, I could ignore it no longer. I needed to become more relational and less task focussed, in work, life and play. I coined a term, to develop ‘Soft Skills for Hard Outcomes’. This was to become my new mantra.

Most people become a coach to change the lives of others… How has coaching benefited your own life?

For the very first time, I was now able to ‘walk my talk’, and I mean in a genuine way. I allowed myself to become more vulnerable, discard that ego and become more approachable. This really seemed to work in terms of gaining connection, trust and empathy with others. Now, I show up for everyone in a much more authentic way. It makes a huge difference. I also have a much more positive attitude to everything. 

Remembering to just ‘control the controllable’ has made a huge impact in terms of me letting go of things I simply can’t influence. One because I should. Two, because these things are so heavy to carry around!

Fitting the training into my life

I didn’t totally abandon my task focus! Once I had decided that I was going to sign up, there was only really going to be one outcome. It would get finished. Whilst Coaching did educate me to become more of a ‘recovering perfectionist’, I did remain determined to gain a Distinction. Thankfully, I did!

The most rewarding parts of the Coaching journey

This was threefold; 

First, the purposeful change I made in myself. Second, the change that others made for themselves. And finally, all the great feedback I received. This cemented the positive change I was making. Often, you don’t see the change in yourself as markedly as others see in you. This helped me to ‘find my tribe’ of like-minded people, enabling me to grow exponentially. 

Feedback, of course, is a gift. A gift you don’t always want to unwrap. 

But when it comes from your trusted advisors, look in the box every time. You might not always like what you see, but it will always lead to new learning and awareness.

Coaching also gave me permission to redefine my own values (which incidentally are, Trust, Responsibility and Energy). This enabled me to seek out the ‘radiators’ and ditch the ‘drains’ in my tribe.

Choosing my coaching niche

Funnily enough, it chose me. 

It was hiding in ‘plain sight’ for quite a while, just like the ‘7 Habits’ on my bookcase. I just didn’t see it, until it hit like an express train! 

I just combined the things I had a passion of and was known for. That’s Project Management and Presenting. Add Coaching to the mix, and ‘Voila’, you have the essential ingredients for ‘The Agility Coach for Project Professionals’! This is a true servant leader role, which itself embodies coaching principles. 

Here, I focus on helping people get their message across and take their teams on a journey at the same time. To find their voice, overcome fear and develop confidence in creating their signature speaking style. Communication is a vital and instinctive human skill.

But, most of us will, for some reason, start to fall apart when we’re asked to speak powerfully, purposefully and positively in front of a group of people. If your team sense that you’re nervous or not showing up in the right way, they instinctively, will feel the same. They become a mirror back to you. The result? 

No buy-in, and as we know, you can’t lead without followers. Thankfully, that’s where I come in. I start by challenging leaders with the stories they keep telling themselves and then coach them to best convey their message, to truly connect with their audience. 

This, still fitting in nicely with my ‘Soft Skills for Hard Outcomes’ mantra. You can find out more on my website www.nigelsmith.coach.

Using the coaching skills today

I use my coaching skills to keep myself honest and to help those that want to help themselves. For my business, I have melded these within a Consulting approach, flexing as I need, to address a client’s pain.

My main channel to market is via on-line webinars. As well as delivering content on presenting and coaching themes, I also collaborate to sponsor, produce and host on-line events for my target audiences. From this, I have connected with some fabulous additions to my ‘tribe’, ranging from authors to corporates, to universities and fellow peer coaches, all worthy and potentially future working partners and clients.

Next step? Add more professional credibility. Aspire to become a ‘Thought Leader’ in my field. 

Maybe a book? Granted, a step up from the articles I currently write, but as Habit 2 reminds us; Begin with the End In Mind! A tantalising prospect and one which Coaching has certainly prepared me for.

Final thoughts for those currently training with The Coaching Academy

See Habit 1, be proactive!

 Get yourself;

  • A Coach and Accountability Partner
  • Access to a Coaching Community
  • Time to Practice. Practice. Practice.

Oh, then there’s the most important thing. Do at least one thing each day that moves you, just that one step closer to gaining your qualification.

Empower others with Life Coaching

Take your first step towards a rewarding & fulfilling Coaching career, just like Nigel did, with our Introduction to Life Coaching online training.

If you would like to know more about what Coaching is and how it can benefit you and the lives of others, or if you feel that Coaching could be a potential full or part-time opportunity for you, join us in this live training. Choose from available dates here.