CYGNA: The WHYs and HOWs of coaching

Reports on our 42nd CYGNA meeting on how you can incorporate coaching in an academic career as coacher and coachee

Since founding CYGNA in 2014 we have had 30 physical meetings in London-based universities, but when COVID-19 hit, we moved the meetings online. We alternate topics related to gender in academia with academic skills development. In our September 2021 meeting, we focused on how you can incorporate coaching in an academic career, both as a coach and as a coachee.

We had 45 attendees attending (part of) the 2-hour meeting, 41 of which can be seen above. As has become common in our online meetings, we had many international members joining us, including from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. Half of the participants were from outside the UK.

We also welcomed quite a few new attendees, including the two professional coaches who presented in the session: Lesley Hetherington and Rajia Salomaa. A special welcome to CYGNA members Ammarah Nagra, Doris Schedlitzki, Elisa Alt, Iiris Saittakari, Kumud Rana, Maria Pacurar, and Sara Chaudry who all attended for the first time.

Coaching in two parts

Organizer Linn Eleanor Zhang (Loughborough University London) had secured a stellar cast of presenters for this meeting, including four academics and two professional coaches. The six presentations provided us with an all-round perspective of coaching, and clearly outlined the difference between coaching, mentoring, and counselling. The team also prepared an excellent information package that was shared with all participants.

PART 1: How can coaching help enhance your career?

In the first part of the meeting, two academics and a professional coach talked about how coaching can enhance your academic career.

Why do I want to pursue coaching as a senior leader?

Axèle Giroud, Professor of International Business, Alliance Manchester Business School

  • Coaching offers me a different way to support colleagues: Using coaching skills, instead of sharing my own experience (e.g., mentoring) or directing colleagues, I can support them in finding their own solutions to research or teaching-related challenges. Coaching skills help me in guiding, rather than directing, and in encouraging learning to find own and novel solutions, empower colleagues and also make them more accountable for their own actions and results.
  • Coaching offers me a different way to support myself: Coaching skills help me as I can save time and avoid being overwhelmed with the diversity of activities and responsibilities. A coaching-style leadership helps me in pushing academics I am responsible for towards generating new innovative solutions. Finally, as a leader, coaching has taught me to be kinder to myself.
  • Coaching offers me a different way to support my organisation: Adopting a coaching-style leadership can help me and my colleagues in gaining more enjoyment out of our job, working in a more supporting environment, and reach higher performance at the same time. This in turn is good for the university.

Why would it be beneficial to enhance career capital through coaching?

Raija Salomaa, Senior Executive Coach, Coaching Supervisor,

Raija shared her research (Download slides here) on how coaching supports the development of expatriates’ career capital capabilities: "knowing-how" (see image above), "knowing-why" and "knowing-whom"). As an experienced coach with experiences of coaching individual executives and management teams from a variety of industries, she demonstrated how the career capital framework can be used in coach training and education, and for any career related discussions.

PART 2: How to get started as a coach and coachee?

In the second part of the meeting we dived a bit deeper into the roles of coach and coachee.

Why would accredited coaching be my choice?

Nathalie van Meurs, SL Business & Management, Middlesex University Business School

Nathalie shared a range of views from University executive, three coaches and a corporate client on whether an accredited coaching qualification is necessary. Views were mixed, but in a highly competitive arena, certification by EMCC or ICF stands out, it is considered more ethical towards the client and it allows the coach to build a network of support.

Why do successful top performers work with coaches?

Lesley Hetherington, Owner of LESLEY HETHERINGTON LTD 

Lesley asked us to reflect on some very pertinent questions (see the first one above, more in the slides your can download here). In doing so she provided us with a very nice taster of what being a coachee could be like. With academic careers as frantic as they are, we don't often give ourselves enough time for reflection (see also be proactive, resilient & realistic!)

How to make the most out of coaching sessions as a coachee?

Athina Dilmperi, SL in Marketing, Middlesex University Business School

Finally, Athina provided us with a very nice overview (Download slides here) of coaching from a coachee's perspective. She talked about the essential role of trust in coaching and outlined the seven ways in which coachees can ensure that the coaching partnership is beneficial for them.

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