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Michael : Good afternoon Kathleen.
Kathleen : Hi Michael.
Michael : Firstly let me thank you very much for taking part in this podcast so our listeners can hear a little bit about who you are and what you do.
And just to start off, can you introduce yourself and actually say a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Kathleen : My name is Kathleen Sullivan, I run a coaching business which is KS Coaching. I’m also a co-director of the London Coaching Associates. And the work that I do is mainly with individuals, but also with groups. And I suppose it is a coaching strategy to give people better clarity – to give them the confidence that they need to make changes, but also the commitment in order to see those changes through, and it’s really in any area of life – whatever is important to them that they come to me for coaching.
Michael : And what experience do you have that makes you think that you’re credible as a coach?
Kathleen : I suppose that I’ve really built my coaching business around the background that I’ve had. In training and international project management. So for a few years I was visiting the former Soviet Union and coaching a group of doctors how to not just work individually, but as a team.
And before I set up my coaching business I was based at the Imperial College in The School of Medicine, and we were delivering a lot of overseas training and teaching in the former Soviet State. And I was also teaching participatory approaches to change, for some of the MFC students at the Imperial.
and I’ve always had a very strong commitment to help people and I have an MA from the University of London in Education and International Development in Health Promotion, but I also have a background in business studies and international sales, as I took a degree before I left the US to come to Europe.
I then went on to do a coaching diploma and then training with in NLP with you.
Michael :Can you add a little bit about the types of companies, and the sorts of people that you’ve coached, and some of the contexts that you’ve coached them in.
Kathleen : Well the contexts – I think one of the most glamorous contexts for me was – I was working with an International News Bureau Chief and he was being coached every Wednesday afternoon if I remember rightly. And at one point he told me that he was going to be heading over to Iraq as a Bureau chief, and he would be away for four weeks, so I said ‘Ok lets reschedule for when you get back.’
and he said ‘Oh no, no, no, no, no! I need to carry on my coaching while I’m away’
I didn’t know about these interesting army contracts…….
I’ve been working my way through some of the chief management staff and the support staff of the First London Primary Care Trust, so working with finance directors and teams, doing individual and group coaching – and seeing a lot of happier and more fulfilled people in that organisation as I worked through there.
I had a contract with a New York based client and that was really a whirlwind change job as I remember it. I mean, she was really able to turn her life around in just a few months, and as a result became a much happier and more successfully woman. I coached her through a tricky divorce, which wasn’t much fun but it’s what she wanted and she got there a lot quicker than she would have done on her own trying to figure out how to do it.
And another favourite – we all have our favourite clients. Another favourite was a GP client that I was working with, And I found that really rewarding because she really managed to make so many significant changes and really get what she wanted, both in her personal and her professional life. From going from a local to owning a few GP practices, and now having a baby and living with her partner – lots of different changes happened there.
Michael : Why do you think coaching is important in life and business today?
Kathleen : I think that the thing that coaches can really bring to people is really that support function, but also the time to really focus. I think that we are so fast-paced, and I know that everybody says that, but I really do believe it – the email, the web, everything is so immediate all of the time – and just to stop and think about your life and what you want to make better and different I think is very valuable, and I think for business’s – business’s are made up of individual people and I think our role as coaches is to support individuals who then in turn inject the right kind of professionalism into the organisation.
Michael : I have to say, I like your idea of getting people to stop and think. I think that’s incredibly important. Moving on, looking at some of the detail of coaching – you mentioned before you sometimes do it on the phone, I’m assuming sometimes you do it face-to-face, but where and when do you coach?
Kathleen : I coach on the phone, in the kitchen at my home in west London, I go to organisations, I go to their workplace and coach people – normally in a waiting room or some kind of chill-out room they might have with a comfortable sofa I also do group coaching with larger groups of people.
And my favourite I suppose is walking-talking coaching, so I actually do life-coaching on the trot so people can go out for an hour, get some exercise, their body is getting into gear, but they’re also being coached at the same time.So that’s for double-taskers, that one.
Michael : Moving on from that, what are some of the top level behaviours? What are some of the top level things that you do as a coach to help others?
Kathleen : You can’t coach without really respecting people. So I really do respect my clients and I really do believe in them, I believe in their dreams and I believe in their wishes – whatever they want to make happen in their lives, I believe that is is possible for them.
And I suppose there are some rituals that I go through – but that’s no so ‘top-level’, but I think that it’s important as a coach, to actually prepare yourself for a lesson, just as the client is preparing themselves for the session. So really taking my attention fully to the client, really making sure that they have all of their information to hand that they’ve had a session preparation form to set the scene.
And I suppose that the higher-level there is really letting them take the lead, letting the client guide me in order to get the right outcome for the session.
Michael : Moving on from that – what kind of skills do you think that you have that enable you to be a good coach?
Kathleen : I’d like to think that I’m good at establishing immediate rapport with people. So really being able to lock in with a client quite quickly is quite important, otherwise you spend a lot of time trying to get to know the client to see where they’re coming from. And I do that through all of the tricks of the trade really. They come quite naturally – matching the voice tone, matching the body posture, using similar words that they’re using, mirroring their body language – things like that.
And I think that I really do like people – and it’s not just people really, really successful, the real go-getters out there who embrace change – I also like people who aren’t feeling that great, and have had a bit of a knock-back, and really helping them see that they can make positive changes – I love seeing that happen, I love seeing the coaching working.
And I suppose there’s a bit of curiosity – I’m a bit curious about people and what makes them tick, and how they got to where they are, and where they want to go and why, and all that. There’s a little bit of a curiosity there as well.
Michael : If you were going to teach somebody how to coach what are some of the absolutely key things that you would suggest to them?
Kathleen : They have to absolutely enjoy working with people. If there’s somebody who likes balancing budgets, spreadsheets and numbers, then coaching probably isn’t for them – from nine to five, or nine to nine, they want to be sitting across from somebody and hearing other peoples problems.
I think for me it was about drawing on all of the experience that I had – so rather than throwing away everything that you’ve achieved in your life, actually seeing if you can use that in your coaching – maybe finding a niche that builds on a particular past experience. that you can have.
And really getting the best quality training that you can get. I think that’s one of the most difficult things, just constantly holding myself back from signing up for the next course or doing the next thing. Really, just keep training yourself. Keep believing that you don’t have all of the answers, that you don’t have it all already – and I think that’s a big danger, when you think that you do know it all, and that you’ve learned everything there is to know in coaching or whatever area of personal development that you’re working in.. That’s a bit of a danger I think.
Michael : That leads very nicely onto the next question. As you’re coaching somebody, what do you believe about yourself?
Kathleen : About myself, I believe that the approach that I use does work, and I have to believe in the whole coaching process and that me as a facilitator of that process, I can do it and do it well.
Coaching is all about asking the right questions or the powerful question, the questions that are really going to move the client on. And I suppose that’s one thing, not forcing it, just opening up to it. Believing in it, having faith that that question is going to come to you. Not preoccupying myself with that.
And I believe that I’m a really good coach, that’s what I believe.
Michael : And what do you believe about the people that you’re coaching?
Kathleen : I just believe that anybody that I’m coaching, they do have the answers, they do know what they want, and they do know how to get it. and they will get it.
Michael : Do you have a specific mission when you’re doing this – I mean, who is Kathleen when you’re coaching?
Kathleen :I think Kathleen is probably somebody with quite high standards, so I’m always going to aim to give my clients the same standards, that I would expect from my own coach, so I always want to give them my absolute best. And I also think that Kathleen is going to be somebody who is very professional in whatever they do, and I will take them very seriously, but I will also try and have fun with them and let them enjoy the session as well.
Michael : Ok, some different questions about coaching. Do you use a specific methodology?
Kathleen :I think generally I’m very none-directive in my approach, and if it’s right at the time I’ll use a particular framework that’s called T-Grow but with a lot of tweaks and changes that I’ve introduced myself as I go along.
I can go through that with clients that have an interview or a big presentation to give, then they want me to be very directive. And if that’s what they want than that’s what they get. I can be quite bossy with them I suppose, and really try and draw out, and extract the best in them.
But generally speaking I am non-directive, and that means that I don’t have a particular agenda with the client, that the client is actually going to set the scene. and i will go wherever they want to go with that session.
Michael : Looking at coaching in general, what do think are some of the biggest challenges that coaches face today? And how do you deal with those yourself? So firstly what do you think are some of the biggest challenges in coaching today?
Kathleen :I don’t know if it’s just today, I think generally in coaching, there is this confusion sometimes that when people think about getting a life-coach or a business coach, or an executive coach they think it’s like having a psychotherapist or a counsellor, and they’re a bit tentative, and they don’t want to go that way. They think it’s an admission of failure, perhaps.
So I think the challenge for coaches is to keep demonstrating constantly what we do. Whatever we’re doing, constantly marking ourselves out as an autonomous profession in our own right – so that would be about regulating the profession, and raising the standards at every opportunity.
I think today, in terms of now, the challenges might be about making coaching more affordable. So meeting the needs of more groups of people in more intuitive ways.
So maybe using podcasts, and online books and things like that, that can be a lot more accessible to a lot more people.
And I think it’s a fast-changing profession. there are just so many new approaches that are constantly changing. Like I said before about upping my skills and going on the next training, I think that’s another challenge – just how many different things there are out there to train in.
Michael : So how do you deal in that yourself?
Kathleen : Well, from my stuff I suppose I get recommendations from other coaches that I respect and I sometimes have to put them all onto my training budge – but always having that in the budget, that I’m going to have training, that I’m going to do it. every single month maybe.
So it’s about balancing it really, as best I can.
Michael : If you were going to choose a coach for yourself, or when you choose a coach for yourself, what are the characteristics that you look for?
Kathleen : I do like to take them for a test drive, I feel like I have to have a taster session or something with the coach, before I sign up for a whole group of sessions. I’ll look at their websites and their materials, and if they don’t have a professional, high-standard website, then I’m probably not going to sign up with them – that’s a personal thing.
I would look at membership in professional organisations. Some of the really good coaches out there, you here about them, it’s a word of mouth thing. So I would talk to other coaches to see what they were recommending.
But yes, taking them for a test drive is probably the place that I would start.
Michael : I appreciate that this is a bit of a strange question, but I’d like you to have a go with it. If you had to describe coaching as a sort of fairy tale story, with fantasy animals or cartoons or whatever – How would you describe the relationship between a coach and client?
Kathleen : That’s a very Michael question I think. Let me think.
Well there was this little cartoon character growing up in America, I don’t know if you had it or not – it’s called ‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ over here. So I would say that for me it would probably be something like Casper.
Friendly, obviously. But the Ghost as in that invisible character there in the background somewhere, that you can’t necessarily see but somehow you sense that their presence is in the room.
There’s the light touch of making some magical things happen, and it’s all quite mysterious, but it does happen. And i come out of the sessions feeling much happier as a result.
If that works for you then I’m going to go with Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Michael : I rather like that. I shall think of you in a whole new way now.
Now before I ask for your contact details – is thee anything about coaching that you would either like to emphasise, or is there anything important that you feel like you’ve left out and that maybe you’d like to bring to people attention?
Kathleen :Probably to answer that I would say that if we’re talking about Life Coaching, I would say that life coaches really need to reclaim their words, that title, ‘Life Coach’
I think there’s been a lot of trying to call yourself something else professional, an individual coach, a personal development trainer or whatever, consultant. And i think that if we just could just stick with the name ‘Life Coach’ because that is what we do., we coach people through their lives, and be proud of the title, rather than hiding behind some kind of mask.
So I think that would be one thing. And for clients I would say, perhaps just stop thinking about whether or not they need help from a life coach and just give it a go – give it a trial session, do two to three sessions and see what happens. Because I think it’s like a lot of things, that when you do try it, you see that it can help with a lot of things and get some really amazing results, and have a happier life as a result.
Michael : And would you like to give everybody your contact details?
Kathleen : It’s probably easiest to just go to the website. and that’s KS Coaching and they can send me an email which is [email protected] and if they want to take me for a test drive they can take me for a free coaching taster session and that’s just a 30 minute session over the phone, which can be arranged quite easily.
Michael : Absolutely excellent, thank you very much indeed.
Kathleen : OK, you’re welcome. Thanks Michael.
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