Leadership coaching – Janine Cole

Janine Cole, Director of Sustainability and Community – Great Portland Estates

How coaching helped this leader to become more strategic and build broader cross functional teams

My context for taking up coaching

Some years ago, I attended a leadership course which included some coaching. After this, it was agreed that I would benefit from some more regular coaching to support me as I started building my team. Up to that point, I had managed small teams but it was a new experience to be leading a broader team of professionals and we felt coaching could help me with issues like delegation and getting my team to step up and take responsibility.

What I was looking to achieve

This was about me being able to step out of my day-to-day operational work and focus on the strategy. And, I knew the only way to do this was to delegate more of the operational pieces of my role. Up to that point, I had been dealing with all of the operational work and the strategy pieces by myself, which meant I simply wasn’t putting enough focus on the strategic elements. As my manager put it, I needed to “get out of the weeds”.

In addition to this, I wanted to focus on my relationships and how to push my agenda forward. I already had some good relationships in the business but needed to work on finding my voice, effective storytelling and getting my message heard.

What stood out about Connor and their coaching

Our HR team selected Connor as our coaching partner and my initial experience with them was during my coach matching process. I was sent the profile of 2-3 coaches to match my needs and had the opportunity to have a face-to-face meeting to check the chemistry fit. What stood out about Carrie was that she’s completely genuine and, as a result, I felt an immediate connection with her. I was confident she would tell me what she meant rather than what she thought I wanted to hear.

What my coaching programme consisted of

In the early days of my coaching programme, we met monthly. Carrie also pointed me to relevant reading after our sessions so I could continue to build on my thought process. We worked on a number of challenges in the early stages such as how I could bring the best out in my team, and how I could give the best of myself to other members of the management team and the executive committee. We also focused on delegation and how I could get my team to take responsibility.

Finding my voice was also something that happened in the first 12 months of coaching. I found a way to message what I wanted, in the way I wanted to – finding the right ‘version of myself’.

I’ve now been working with Carrie for 18 months and my coaching programme has evolved with me and my role over that time. As I’ve stepped away from the operational work and more into strategy, my coaching has shifted focus. The area I look after has become significantly more strategic and central to business objectives and, therefore, the type of conversations I needed to have have changed. As an example, we have a revolving seat on our executive committee and I have recently stepped into this. As soon as Carrie was aware of this, she sent me some useful reading to help me get into the right headspace. I have now further extended my coaching support and one of my key areas of focus will be getting the most out of my seat on the executive committee and cementing those relationships.

What I enjoyed most about my coaching

The nice thing about coaching is that it’s a safe space to test ideas and thought processes. That’s because my coach has no pre-set opinion of anyone I work with. Carrie places no judgement on why I’m in a particular headspace (or not) and, as a result, I can have really honest conversations with myself. It can be difficult to have those conversations with colleagues or family in the same way as they will always have a judgement on the people involved or the wider context in the business, or they are likely to simply tell me what I want to hear.

It’s been incredibly helpful to have honest conversations with someone who doesn’t bring their own opinions. Coaching isn’t about opinions – it’s about testing thought processes.

How instrumental was coaching in helping me achieve my goals?

There’s no doubt coaching has not only supported me during the dramatic shift in thinking on sustainability within the business over the last 18 months, but also contributed to my ability to respond and thrive as a result of that shift .

It definitely helped me find my voice and, by doing this, it allowed me to start moving into a position of leadership. During my coaching programme, I’ve moved from Head of Department to Director-level. Coaching definitely supported that move because I’ve been able to communicate my message in a much more accessible way for other people in the business and develop clearer thought processes.

Coaching has also really helped me reset some of my relationships in the business, where there may have been challenges for one reason or another. I’ve been able to take those relationships to a healthier place which also helps me in being more effective.

In addition, I’ve been able to ask different questions of my team and support them in a different way. In the same way Carrie challenges me in our coaching sessions, I’ve been able to use those tools to challenge my own team and help them grow. Evidence of this is the way team members are, themselves, stepping into more strategic work.

My experience of working with Connor

The chemistry between myself and my coach has been key. Knowing that I can be honest with Carrie, that we’re on a similar wavelength and I can approach my sessions with an open mind has enabled me to get the best out of my coaching programme. That’s why I continue to work with Carrie now, and I can see how she and Connor can continue to support me moving forward. It was worth spending that time up front to make sure I had the right coach and it shows that the initial match was the right one for me.

It has been a wholly positive experience and worth every hour I’ve spent with my coach, Carrie.

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