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Michael : Good morning Mary.
Mary : Hi Mike.
Michael : For our listeners can you introduce yourself and say a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Mary : Yes, thank you. My name is Mary Gregory and I’m a leadership coach and change agent, and I work with leaders in business to make changes happen within their organisations, transform their results, and particularly work with their teams to help them be aligned to their visions for the future.
Michael : And what gives you credibility as a coach?
Mary : Well I’ve been working in this area of personal and organisational development for over eighteen years now. My background is quite psycho-therapeutic. Originally I worked in child and family psychiatry, as a play-therapist, and then moved into the travel and leisure industry where I gained a lot of commercial experience, and became a trade manager.
And for the last fourteen years I’ve been running my own consultancy, working with trainers and the more lately as a trainer than coach. So I’ve worked at some quite specific change projects to support organisations being more active.
Michael : Building on that, let us know some companies and contexts that you’ve coached in.
Mary : More recently I’ve worked with HBOS, who are implementing a culture change programme so that people could push back and give their opinions back to their leaders, rather than the one-way-down type of cultures. And I was involved in coaching the leaders in that particular division to enable them to develop themselves and the behaviours that might be effective in that new culture.
Michael : Why do you think that coaching is important in business today?
Mary : Why is it important in business today? Well I think that a lot more is expected of everybody in business today. That it’s still a pretty competitive marketplace, people are having to innovate and constantly looking to do more in the services they’re providing.
Coaching is not only a means of support, but also a really unique relationship that helps the clients to step and really have a look at what they’re doing and what they’re achieving in a completely different way.
Michael : Do you use coach yourself?
Mary : I don’t have a coach at the moment, but I have had coaches in my time, yes.
Michael : What have you got yourself out of using a coach?
Mary : I think the freedom to just say exactly what I want to say without feeling that I’m going to be judged. Also there’s the unconditional support which is absolutely invaluable. And also the ability to step back and take a different angle on things – you know when you’re looking at something and you can’t see it through the trees? Being coached is so valuable to help you look at it from a different perspective.
And then also being held accountable for taking the actions that you want to take.
Michael : Now lets look at you coaching others. When and where do you coach? Is there a type of location that you prefer?
Mary : I tend to go out to see my clients. And I can see them on their work site, but I prefer to see them off site if possible. Because I think that supports my clients, and is more relaxed and free. I might see them outside the organisational setting, I might see them within it, it depends on what the context is.
Michael : Moving on from that – very top level answer – if you were going to teach me, or teach somebody to coach what are the key things that you’d ask them to bare in mind? Or to do?
Mary : Well there’s things you do and there’s also things you’re being. You can’t leave that alone, you can’t let go of that bit. But what you’d actually do is listen. I think that the most important thing is to listen. And to be able to listen really effectively you have to be really present with your client.
We all have things going on in our lives, and there are times that we can be really present and other times that we’re not. So quite often we can go up into our head and have conversations with ourselves. Like when you’re stuck in a traffic jam, and you want to get somewhere, and you go up into your head and you’re talking to yourself, you’re not really present at that moment -because you’re having a conversation in your head. When you’re with a client, you need to be clear of all of that.
You need to create an open space so that you can listen to the client and come from nothing in order to listen to them, to support them to take things from a different perspective.
It’s like the term ‘getting into the flow’. When they get into the flow, they’re really present and you’re really working with the ‘what is’ with your client. And that’s a very powerful way to be when you’re coaching.
Michael : So you’ve got flow and listening, what other behaviours do you think is absolutely essential as a coach?
Mary : The ability to ask really good questions. Questions can serve all sorts of different purposes, like gaining information, in terms of coaching I think questions that will stretch your client to consider things from a different perspective. And to access information and ideas that they wouldn’t necessarily of accessed before. So questioning is really important.
Michael : What skills do you think that you have that enable you to do this well?
Mary : Well I think I have all of those skills. I certainly can listen well and I’m pretty good at asking questions.
I think the other things that I bring to the table, or that my clients tell me that I bring to the table is that I can create rapport instantly with people, so I can really get them to feel comfortable, and okay to open up about things that they want to talk about.
Also I’m particularly perceptive and give good feedback. So if people want to know how they’re coming across, I can tell them pretty accurately. And on top of that I think I’m pretty tenacious as a coach, so I won’t be beaten, and I won’t let my clients be beaten either.
Michael : Was there anything that happened to you that enabled you to be good at this?
Mary : Is there one ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment? There isn’t, no. I would say that what has enabled me to become really good at it is just working on my own development.
It’s about developing mastery, and that doesn’t come overnight without having discipline, and to keep flexing those muscles that will enable me to be skillful at it. You don’t go to the gym and expect to transform your body in one visit, it takes a good few months and a lot of hard work, or similarly to be a really good coach I think you need to be working on your self – I think you need to have a high level of self awareness, and also that you’re comfortable in refreshing and renewing your skills.
Michael : What do you believe about yourself when you coach?
Mary : That’s a really interesting question. I think – what do I believe about myself? I believe that I’m there to support and enable clients, so I’m always looking at how a client can make a difference for themselves, I don’t encourage the client to be dependant on me, I want them to be able to take things up and do them for themselves. So I believe that I can enable them.
I believe that I always come from a place with good intentions around a client, and even if I’m giving, what some might say is tough feedback, it’s all from a place of wanting to contribute to them and make a difference.
Michael : And what do you believe about your clients.?
Mary : I believe that they have the solution. That they can do it themselves. I believe that they want to find the right answer for them and make a good job of it.
Michael : Do you have a personal mission or vision when you’re doing this? Who are you when you’re coaching?
Mary : Do you know – it’s funny – stepping out of coaching I’ve had very clearly had a personal mission creating organisation and places to work, and really unlocking peoples potential. But when I’m actually coaching, that all disappears, I really focus on just being with that person. So I’m not coaching for a particular mission when I’m coaching.
Michael : Some more questions about coaching – do you use a particular methodology?
Mary : I have a variety of methodologies and various models that I can call on at different times. It all depends of what shows up in the space – so I’m trained in Neuro-Linguistic Programming I also use Transaction Analysis for Parent-Child Communication and Gestalt therapy, I’ve got a real broad spectrum that I can draw from, and it’s all integrated for how I work with my client.
Michael : So how do you choose what to use?
Mary : I think from a very intuitive place. This is why I think being present is so important, because if you’re being present with somebody it will just all flow – and if something comes up it must be really appropriate to share with them – for example if a client is having problems with his team being very dependant, or that might be something you’d share about parent-child communication – because if you communicate in a parental way, people may respond in a child-like, more dependant way.
Michael : What do you think are the biggest challenges that you face as a coach – or coaches generally face – and how do you handle them yourself?
Mary : One thing I think coaches can say, and one reasons in training myself to be a coach is that we get too close to the issues and sometimes we can get too close to a client in a way because its very easy to find yourself sometimes canoodling. I wouldn’t say that anybody does that intentionally, but when dealing in the psychological field things go on in all sorts of different ways and sometimes you can’t see what’s going on, and that’s I’d say that supervisions is a very big part of any coaches business development – they need to be regularly supervised, so they can share what’s happened with their clients and so that they can get another perspective.
Michael : If you were to work with a coach yourself, to work with you, to further develop your skills, how would you know who to choose?
Mary : Well for me – how would I know who to choose? Well I’d like to think that they’re a pretty experienced coach. I’d want someone who is genuinely interested in others, and won’t spend the whole time talking about themselves and what they’ve achieved – that would be the complete opposite as to what I’m looking for. I’d be looking for someone that can stretch and challenge me, but not in such a way that I feel demoralised.
Michael : This may be a curious question. But if you had to describe coaching as a story with a fairy tale, or fantasy characters, how would you describe it?
Mary : I can’t think of a specific fairy tale that would illustrate coaching, but I would describe it as you being the Good Witch. So it’s like the client is going through a forest, because they want management change, and all sorts of challenges are ahead of them – they can’t see whats around the next corner, they don’t know who’s friendly and unfriendly, all of that – and what a coach will provide them with is different tools, that will help them deal with whatever challenges they’ve been faced with.
The Good Witch might give them the shield of Valor that protects them from whatever dangerous forces there are around or – I think I’m thinking about the film Narnia, how they all have different lotions and potions that they used, that helped them get through all of the challenges that they were facing. So it’s a bit like that I guess.
Michael :Before I ask you if there’s anything that you’d like to plug and for your contact details, is there anything else that you’d like to say about coaching ?
Mary : I suppose what I think is really important about coaching, particularly coaching in business is that you might at times go on a journey with your client and what’s happening is an emerging process -but when you’re coaching you always link it to the organisational goals – there has to be something in it for the business as well as the client – I think it’s important to emphasise that. Because often I think people can take the view that coaching is a bit airy-fairy, it’s not business focused, I think it’s really important in the corporate world that it does have a very deep benefit for the business, in order for people to buy into it.
Michael :And what are you doing now that you’d like to plug for our listeners?
Mary : A few things. We’ve just had our website launched, which is www.playhamlet.com and PlayHamlet is our product which is all about team alignment, which with leaders, enables them and their teams to create a compelling vision and then to do that together to make sure that vision gets implemented.
And for my own site which is Executive Coaching / Leadership Training / Life Coaching / UK which is at the moment being revamped, I want to go about setting up a blog on that site as well, so I’m quite excited about that.
Michael :And your contact details?
Mary : Phone number, 01923 261964, or my email is [email protected]
Michael :Thank you very much indeed.
Mary : My pleasure thank you.
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