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Rob O'Callaghan Executive Coaching Q&As

Why did you consider executive coaching?

It was introduced to me via our CEO, and I thought it would be a good idea for personal development. Also, thinking of the business, the company, the shareholders and staff I thought it would be a good idea to explore.

Did you have any expectations? If so, what were they?

No not really, I kind of knew what it was as a concept but hadn’t researched it. I knew there were some psychology based techniques involved and I’m used to using those techniques in regards to business and interviewing techniques etc. So loose expectations but nothing solid.

Did the actual executive coaching meet your expectations?

Yeah, obviously taking the psychological questionnaires is one experience. But I think the analysis, the interviewing and the talking through them with the coach, well that’s a different level. I think that you have to make sure that you are uninhibited and approach it full on, being completely open-minded and not having reservations. I probably did have some reservations and it probably took me two sessions to overcome those.

What have been the benefits for you?

It has enabled me to progress as an individual and as an executive. There is without doubt a correlation between how successful I have been and how successful the part of the company I run has been. My leadership style, my approach, moreover is my thinking, planning and strategic style coupled with my leadership style.  I think it has benefited me massively.

Did you notice a benefit for your staff as well?

Yeah, I’ve been able to grow my people and have got them starting to think differently. I have been able to enhance their approach to different challenges, not just day-to-day operational challenges, but how to think in a more strategic, planned way. How to create visions and goals, and the plan to achieve them.

What have you noticed is the greatest impact from having executive coaching?

I think that there was an impact at the start with regards to being able to think in a different way. Being less harsh on myself, because I am so competitive. I’m often my own biggest critic, so I learnt to cut myself a little bit of slack and look at things in the round.

I think that over the last 12 months – four years later – the impact has been more on a strategic level, helping me to align where the company objectives and goals are, with where I want to get to personally.

Marrying those personal and professional goals together has helped to put me in a good place. I’m really confident in where I am going, I know I have a plan and a sense of purpose, so executive coaching has enabled me to solidify that.

How have you measured your development and success?

In a variety of ways. Firstly on the performance of the company, so the numbers, figures and the balance sheets which have been really good, combined with ensuring that we overachieve on those numbers.

Secondly, the impact of motivating people to do more, helping instil confidence in people and getting then to realise that there is a different approach to things; that they can think for themselves, create and realise their own visions and objectives. There has also been an impact on decision-making. I am a far better decision maker now than I used to be, less impulsive, more measured but also more committed to that decision.

Would you recommend executive coaching?

Yeah, and I do. I have recommended executive coaching to some of my senior leadership team and I have got them to take their first steps on this kind of journey. I’ve recommended executive coaching to the customers as well, especially at that senior exec level, who haven’t tried it before.

Has it helped overall with you sense of wellbeing?

Yes, again, relating it to understanding what is important, individually and personally. And again that goal alignment. So I would say, yes definitely.

What did you like most about executive coaching?

I think it expands your mind. It gets you to challenge yourself, to understand a different way to approach challenges, a different way to think, and to take some time out to put some theory behind the day-to-day mêlée of business. It helps to give a pragmatic approach to that work-life balance.

Is there anything essential that is necessary to ensure you have a good coaching relationship?

Yeah, I think that it is better if you have a good relationship with the coach. I’m a firm believer that if you are going to utilise an external coach, then you need to be able to buy into them as an individual. You need to trust them and you need to believe in their expertise because you are handing your soul over to that person to help you, and that is quite a tough thing. You are trusting them to help you get to where you need to get to, and that is important. And with Jaqui she definitely does that. She makes you feel at ease as well as challenging you and your mind, how you think, pushing you a little bit more, stretching you.

Did you find any part of the executive coaching process difficult?

Well yes, generally it is stretching. It is a challenging programme to join, so you have to be 100% committed and prepared to strip yourself back, to look at yourself to find out what you’re good at, and to work on some areas of improvement. You need to concentrate on knowing yourself.

Once you know yourself, you can understand how other people tick, and if you can do that then it is a recipe for success. But it is a challenge.

The start is particularly difficult as it involves digging quite deep into the past and why you are the way you are, and I think looking at your motivators, leavers and drivers is no mean feat. Once you get over that it opens your mind, you turn a corner and then you are able to think in another way. It then becomes a bit easier because you have got the right attitude towards it.

How frequently would you recommend having coaching sessions?

I think it depends on what level you are at and what you want to achieve and your personal objectives as well as the company goals. But bi-monthly, probably, as a rule.

How long do you think that each session should last?

Two hours, with a break probably.

Do you think it should take place over a long period of time?

Not necessarily, you could have some impact-type sessions to get to a certain phase, for maybe a middle-management operation level that would help. But if you are career-minded and you are on a journey and there is somewhere you need to get to, and you can tailor your programme to get there that would work.

Also, if it works for you and you find it a good way of working then you should keep doing it, even if it just once a quarter or a couple of times a year.

What do you think makes a good coach?

They need to be a subject matter expert; they need to have experienced business and have some experience of leading an operational type business, preferably at an executive level. They need to be engaging and they need to be a great listener. And I think they need to have a connection with their subject.

Do you think that providing executive coaching helps to retain staff and make them more committed to their job and/or business?

100%, totally. I have double digit numbers of staff in my senior leadership team who have engaged with executive coaching and this has enhanced their performance and made them feel valued within the organisation.

When would you recommend a person to have executive coaching?

I don’t think there is a scientific right or wrong answer. I think that there is a point in time where in their career they need to make a big step up or a conscious change in approach. They need to come to a stage where something needs to change for the better.

Is it important that your coach is qualified and part of a coaching federation?

Qualified, definitely. Experienced, definitely. Part of a federation I think would be a bonus.

Is it important to have ‘actions’ to complete after each session?

Yeah, it is really important, definitely.

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