Learn about the results of the Fellow-led Coaching Network’s pro bono coaching pilot - and the continuation of the programme
Social entrepreneurs at the RSA have many ways to connect and exchange ideas about their business. But what about a space to confidentially discuss managerial issues such as working relationships with business partners or employees, personal issues such as self-confidence and self-management? To address this need, between October 2017 and February 2018, the RSA Coaching Network organised a pilot pro-bono executive coaching offering for social entrepreneurs called Coach Link. Participants have kindly agreed to share their thoughts about the process and what they have gained from being coached – from this, we can see the value in the programme and want to continue it with more changemaker FRSAs. If, after reading this article, you are interested in taking part, please contact Network steering group member Helene Seiler who can provide more information.
“It made a difference for us and for our business!” :
Feedback showed the social entrepreneurs who participated appreciated the opportunity to stand back and reflect. Additionally, it “allowed for the discussion to go where it needed to go”, explains Frankie, one of the participants. The coach acted as a neutral sounding board, offering instant feedback, which was sometimes dearly needed in a context where, “leading the organisation can often feel quite isolating”, says another participant.
In addition, they actively used the coaching space to achieve tangible outcomes. The social entrepreneurs reported having gained a great deal of clarity about the topics they brought to the coaching conversation. As a result, the coaching space became a platform to develop their self-management skills, gain confidence and practice coping mechanisms. This led to renewed optimism, focusing their energy on getting things done. “I now have a set of clear short-term objectives for the next six months”, says a participant.
“We learned or revisited key entrepreneurial skills”
As they were being coached, the social entrepreneurs reconnected with, or learned fundamental skills to carry them through the process of developing their social idea into an organisation.
To cope with overwhelming flows of ideas and to-do-lists at various stages of development of their enterprise, social entrepreneurs such as Ching-Yun, Frankie and David took away techniques to increase their personal and their team’s effectiveness. For example, being committed to “ask myself questions to clarify my own thoughts”, “cluster my thoughts”, “frame things in shorter timeframes with manageable goals” or “task-setting with staff”. In addition, to address the need to constantly reach out to partners and donors, the coaching conversations were an opportunity to discuss public speaking, pitching as well as networking tools and techniques.
“It was a unique process, tailor-made for me”:
The process of coaching, and what differentiates it from mentoring, had previously been unclear to most of our participants. At one end of the spectrum, some participants expected someone to listen to them as they talked things through. At the other end, “I imagined the coaching process would involve me identifying clear actions points [and] an accountability mechanism. In fact, it was through the coaching that social entrepreneurs discovered and articulated what sort of coaching they needed. As a result, no two coaching processes were alike. Looking back, all entrepreneurs stated that their coaching process fully met or exceeded their expectations, because they felt their needs had been met.
“It’s a transformative experience” :
All social entrepreneurs reported a breakthrough moment when they were able to let go of their old way of seeing themselves, which unlocked their self-confidence and energy to become more resourceful.
“When I fully understood everything I was [already] doing [for the business]. It was staring at me in the face!”
When we had “the discussion around challenging life experiences and how they can still impact upon my current self-esteem and image”.
When I started to “speak to other people about my ill-defined objectives, as a way of doing some informal research, rather than trying to sort out everything alone in my head”.
When I started to “reconsider all the resources I already have at my disposal to demonstrate the value of our work”.
So, what is coaching like?
Let’s give voice to the participants again:
“This is how I would describe the process: 1) connection, fostered by mutual respect and empathic approach 2) invested engagement, developed by active listening and open questions 3) empowerment, conditions are created that allow the client to accept guidance and support, whilst moving towards promoting their inner strengths and understanding”.
“I would describe it as a means of helping one to step back from one’s habitual way of thinking to see the bigger picture and alternative ways of problem solving”.
“Coaching offered a great deal of stress relief as I was able to open up about what I was struggling with, and work together with a coach to resolve these challenges together”.
“A very positive experience that allows you to reflect on issues and challenges in very productive and honest space. Often you will find that you have the answers yourself, but you just need someone outside your immediate network to play back what they can see and help you gradually identify what is important or a route forward”.
This blog refers to a pilot which took place in 2017-18. If you are interested in getting involved with the Coaching Network in 2019-20, contact Network steering group member Julie Flower to find out more. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are looking forward to working with you!
To join the RSA Fellow-led Coaching Network, sign up here.