The Coaching Academy Blog

Coach In The Spotlight - Dawn Cilssett

Posted 3020 Days Ago in: Coach Spotlight, In The Spotlight, Success Stories


I am a continuous learner which I regard as a good thing. I am highly reflective with a tendency for over-thinking – not such a good thing! I can be opinionated and openly share my opinions if I consider them relevant to a discussion! Although I can be highly energetic and pro active, my natural default setting is one of sluggishness and daydreaming. So why’s this relevant?

I am a continuous learner which I regard as a good thing.  I am highly reflective with a tendency for over-thinking – not such a good thing!  I can be opinionated and openly share my opinions if I consider them relevant to a discussion!  Although I can be highly energetic and pro active, my natural default setting is one of sluggishness and daydreaming.  So why’s this relevant?  Because it was my desire to retune my default setting and improve my listening skills that led me to coaching!  


When I began my journey with The Coaching Academy, I was providing 2 main services to public and third sector organisations as a self-employed facilitator of change.  I design and deliver learning and development programmes and provide support for projects (setting up, planning and/or managing them).  


The economic downturn impacted badly on me in 2009.  Budgets were being slashed to recoup £millions.  I lost my 2 main clients.


My roles require me to be a solution seer, an energy-giver and a motivator.  3 years ago, I found myself meeting more and more tired, disillusioned managers struggling with the fall-out from drawn-out organisational restructuring whilst having to keep their shows on the road.  People were reluctantly breaking away from their pressurised day jobs to attend downsized workshops (1-day to half), expecting to absorb and then apply their learning back in their workplaces.  In my eyes, the potential for professional and personal development was steadily being squeezed and longer term benefits minimised.


Please don’t get me wrong, I love training and believe in it, BUT the format and delivery style can have as much impact as the content.  Work with people in groups and individually at a time that is right for them, on matters and ideas that are priorities for them, using coaching to access skills, strengths, talents and meaningful resources, define goals, explore options and possibilities, create incremental steps to achieve goals and – whey hey – moods lift, breakthrough moments are achieved and people are equipped to take control and move forward with confidence, clarity and commitment.


The skilled use of powerful questions has been a major gain for me since joining The Coaching Academy (TCA).  I remember my very first coaching session delivered as a TCA apprentice over the phone.  I was incredibly nervous, pacing the room, re-reading sample questions spread out in front of me in case my mind went blank, clock watching, breathing deeply in pursuit of calm and the professional persona that had suddenly deserted me.  5 minutes into the session and my client and I had both found our groove, questions just flowed, the allotted 60 minutes whizzed by.  


Christine was a model first client with high commitment, high intention and bags of enthusiasm to boot.  The telephone had not inhibited rapport in any way (an initial concern of mine).  The T-GROW model had worked well and each stage had comfortably framed my questions.  At that moment, the power of coaching became real to me.  Whilst Accelerator Days provided masses of tools, guidance, shared wisdom and motivation, practise coaching sessions embedded my newly acquired skills and growing confidence.  


I kept copious notes, including the questions I asked.  After each session, I highlighted those that had elicited the greatest insights, checked where I had led the client – albeit unintentionally – and planned how I could improve next time.  I collected questions and started to pick up on how questions were used in everyday conversations.  I took to spotting where advice was automatically offered even though it was not being sought.  I still do this now and find it fascinating.  It seems to be a part of human nature to offer suggestions and solutions in place of listening fully! 


Laura Berman Fortgang’s Wisdom Access Questions (Living Your Best Life) have been incorporated into many of my coaching sessions.  Ditto, the purposeful questions included in Co-Active Coaching (Laura Whitworth, Karen & Henry Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl).  The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr has been a boon (a recommendation of Jan Lonnen – thanks Jan!). 


A favourite intake question, ‘What do you feel passionate about?’, often causes people to pause and take stock, sometimes reconnecting with things that they have lost sight of.  For me, it’s fantastic when a client refers back to a particular question because it has reached within and made a connection for them.  This can happen between sessions too, which can be even more powerful.


My challenge now is marketing my business and growing as a businesswoman.  Coaching is my third service.  In truth, I regard it as my primary service because it’s what I feel most passionate about!  


If I was offering any advice on running a coaching practice as a sole trader, it would be to invest in marketing as a core business function.  Expect it to consume the bulk of your time in the early days and a significant proportion of time thereafter.  It’s essential.


As well as trying to adopt the persona and attributes of an enterprising businesswoman, I am on a mission to get coaching regarded as a highly structured change process in the mainstream – one that delivers results, rather than how it can sometimes be perceived – as fluffy, indulgent and alternative.


My top tips for people who are looking at coaching:  it will impact on how you act and interact personally as well as professionally.  Be sure to experience the process as a coachee alongside delivering it as a coach.


For coaches in training:  keep practising.  In the very early days, a qualifying coach reassured me that you cannot deliver a bad session.  I soon discovered what he meant.  I would add to his wise words: you can continue to hone your practice and skills to deliver excellent sessions; make that your objective and carry on learning!  


Coaches who are about to qualify: keep going and feel proud of our profession.


I’m still enjoying my journey!  It’s stretching and rewarding in equal measure.  My motivation and energy come from my belief in what I do and my enjoyment of working with people who put effort into getting the most out of what they do.  Can it get any better than that?!


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