Debbie Davenport Executive Coaching Q&As
Why did you consider executive coaching?
I suppose there probably wasn’t only one reason. I think the business was looking at how they could improve their leadership in general.
A lot of people in Rethink, and a lot of people in recruitment, come through the ranks from being graduates through to seniors. So you go through a transition from sales, to management, to leadership. I suppose, when you get into management, you start to look a bit more into yourself, and you start to think about the differences between being a manager and a leader.
I think having an executive coach has helped me to understand me. I used to be on the other side of the fence, I’m quite precise and I like detail, so I would read books that tell you what you are supposed to be like as a leader. What executive coaching did, when I looked at an opportunity to take it, was think not about what I could be, but how I could understand who I am, how I could best utilise my strengths and where I could improve.
This helped me to realise what it takes to be successful rather than trying to be a person somebody writes about in a book. So, that is probably why I considered executive coaching, and now I know me.
What were your expectations, if you had any?
I didn’t have any! I was probably one of those people Jaqui really had to work with in the early days. Not because I was negative about it, but because I probably wanted a lot.
I didn’t quite appreciate just what I would get from it because I used to read a lot. I thought to become what I read about I would be told I’d have to do X, Y and Z.
But, when we started doing executive coaching, Jaqui took me back to the beginning to see why I am the way I am today. I think it was a big shock, I wasn’t expecting that.
In terms of overall expectations, I wanted to be a better leader. I wanted to be somebody who achieves the aspirations that I had for myself, and I saw it as a vehicle to do it, so those are the positives.
The negatives were I hadn’t worked that way before; I almost had to be coached into being coached because I have never experienced anything like it, and I can hold things back.
What have been the benefits for you and your staff?
The benefits for me are that I know me now, and I know why I behave the way I behave. This means I know why I respond and react.
I’ve always been a person who is quite self-aware but when I had executive coaching, I realised I wasn’t as aware as I thought I was. I was aware of others rather than myself.
It is important for me to be aware of the impact I have on others in my job because I’m in front of staff, and also in front of customers. So I have to be constantly assessing language – both verbal and body – the atmosphere, the culture, all of that. When I’m in front of a customer I need to best maximise the opportunity, and then with staff, I want to maximise performance. What executive coaching has shown me is, if I understand me more, and my behaviours, and actually how these can naturally impact on others, without having to work at it these aims just happen.
So I’ve become a more positive person and probably friendlier too because I think I used to be scary to people. I’ve become more approachable which I enjoy so much more.
How this has benefited others is all from my own experience. I have a library of information that I can pass onto people if they ask me, and not because they have to, but because they want to.
Would you recommend executive coaching to other people?
Yes, and I have, several times. I’ve recommended Jaqui personally as well, to my friends, my family and my customers, because I’ve said you think you know you, but you don’t!
Has it helped with your overall sense of wellbeing?
Yeah, definitely. You can tell can’t you just from what we’ve been talking about.
Is there anything that you think is essential to ensure that you have a good coaching relationship?
Honesty and confidentiality, because there are things that, when talking to Jaqui, I sometimes say actually I don’t mind you sharing that bit because I know Andy Lord has put this in for two reasons. Firstly he wants to create more leadership within the business, and secondly he wants to ensure the exec team are high on wellbeing and are getting something out of it. I know that he must ask Jaqui how it’s going.
So in some sessions I say that Jaqui can share as much as this as she wants with Andy because now I’m so far into the coaching I’ve already learnt about me. So, some of those more personal bits have already happened, and they are between Jaqui and me. On a more personal level, I think it is important that it is someone you can get on with.
How frequently would you recommend having coaching sessions?
I think that some people think you should have coaching when negative things are happening or when things are changing and there is something that you have to work through.
I think that’s probably the first chapter of how Rethink uses executive coaching. I think it is something that we should have access to all of the time. I personally try and meet Jaqui every quarter and sooner if I think there is something I want to go over. Because I’m in a new role this year I wanted to show her my new strategy, and I wanted to bounce ideas off her. Not as much the operational strategy, but more how I work with the exec team. So what Jaqui has helped me do is develop the best methods for communication, for building rapport, and for people understanding that I’m not doing more for one or the other.
How long do you think each session should last?
Definitely a couple of hours and I definitely probably end up going over. I don’t think there is an optimum time because some people might find it harder to open up while others are completely the opposite. I don’t find it difficult to talk. I think two hours is a good benchmark, but I know Jaqui would never go “two hours, time to go”, and equally I wouldn’t go “it’s not been two hours yet.” You just know when you have got what you wanted to get through.
Do you think providing executive coaching helps to retain staff and keep them committed to their job?
I think it is probably one of the vehicles, not in isolation, but I think it sends a really strong message from the business that they believe in leadership and that they want to turn poor performance into good performance. And the senior team can help in driving good performance. I think it can help retain and help people to feel more committed.
At what point would you recommend a person to have coaching?
I think when you aspire to be somewhere in your career, coaching can help you to focus more or on the skills you have got for that role and the skills you might need help developing. I think we recommend it when we see that we have people who are natural managers and leaders and that we should invest in them.
Do you think it is important to have actions to complete after each session?
Yes, I do because if you don’t then I don’t think you have used the session properly. Even if they aren’t actions that you report back, Jaqui will ask you if they made a difference, which is the same as checking I’ve done it. But yes, I think it is important to complete actions.