Iona Ledwidge, executive director of Spear and AoEC graduate, is the youngest ICF-accredited Master Coach in the UK and one of only ten in the world under the age of 40. We asked her about how she’s developed her career and what she’s learned along the way.
What is your career background and what led you to sign up for the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma course?
I studied English at university and went on to train as an actress, working for a few years in theatre and film in London. I then trained as a counsellor and started working for Resurgo – a charity committed to making a social impact – using coaching as a tool to engage and equip people in different sectors of society. Over the last 10 years, I have trained and developed as a coach working with young unemployed people on the Spear Programme, as well as helping business leaders and other professionals develop a coaching approach in their leadership style. I now oversee a team of 30 coaches working across London and Brighton, training and developing them to deliver high quality coaching support to young people, and in 2019 we will expand further across the UK. I also lead on design and delivery for our Resurgo Consulting programmes with corporates, including our flagship Coaching for Leadership programme.
A few years ago, I was challenged by my personal coach to consider how I could grow my professional confidence, and we discussed joining a programme alongside other coaches to stretch myself and to act as a benchmark for my skills in the sector. I thought the AoEC Advanced Practitioner programme offered a real opportunity for experienced coaches to grow and share learning with peers. After speaking with the faculty at the Open Day, I was motivated by the level of input that we would receive from the tutors and the opportunity to work towards accreditation with the ICF.
What were the challenges you faced when studying for the Diploma and how did it help develop your professional skills?
I found it challenging to develop my unique coaching presence and work out how to most effectively partner with clients. I was grappling with moving from a supportive coach posture to a more challenging position, and through the Diploma, I was able to shift my style to better serve my clients as I discovered new spaces within myself.
What advice would you give to those who are considering studying the Advanced Diploma course themselves and becoming a professional coach?
It’s a brilliant programme, taught at a really high level alongside excellent practitioners in different fields. If you are looking for a course that uses your experience but stretches you beyond that, this could be a great opportunity for you to grow. I really enjoyed being part of a learning community; I am still in contact with many of my peers from the course, and we continue to encourage and support one another in our professional development.
How have you gone on to develop your career and become the country’s youngest master certified coach?
Once completing the Diploma, I was motivated to develop further so I asked Duncan Coppock to mentor me towards the ICF Master Coach accreditation. The support and challenge that Duncan provided was key to my next level of growth. I am very grateful for the ways that he honed my skills so that I could achieve my MCC qualification.
Tell us about your work at Resurgo. How are you using coaching and what issues are you helping to address?
We use coaching across each of Resurgo’s three initiatives: the Spear Programme, with young unemployed people; Resurgo Consulting with leaders and managers in business and Resurgo Ventures with entrepreneurs hoping to have a social impact through their businesses.
On the Spear Programme, we use coaching as our fundamental approach to tackle underlying attitudinal issues that are holding young people back from getting into work and taking their place in the world. For example, this may involve having a conversation about a victim mindset and challenging them to re-frame their view of themselves and the opportunities around them.
Through Resurgo Consulting, we equip businesses to develop a feedback culture built on trust. Our coaching approach has been very well received by a wide variety of organisations as we help them explore team dynamics and management approaches.
Resurgo Ventures uses coaching to help entrepreneurs grow in leadership and become more effective in creating businesses with demonstrable social impact. One example is Luminary bakery, which offers employment and training to some of the UK’s most disadvantaged women, helping them regain independence.
What results are you achieving by using coaching?
On the Spear Programme, we equip young people to enter into and sustain employment. We have worked with 5,000 young people since we started 15 years ago, and we are proud to say that over 75% of Spear completers are in work a year after the programme.
Why do you think coaching can be so effective and empowering?
There is something very powerful about understanding your role as a coach, in contrast to the other roles we may occupy in life. To facilitate someone else’s exploration of an issue, and to observe their progress, without rescuing or needing to provide ‘answers’ is liberating and empowering for both the coach and the coachee.
What has your work as a coach taught you personally?
So many things… how to be kinder, more thoughtful, more present, a better listener, how to deal with the liminal spaces in our lives and how to manage ambiguity.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
I love it when people have the time and space to really think for themselves – so often we are quick to resolve other people’s problems – but we really have no idea! I love seeing people grapple with challenges and come through it with the support and effective partnership of a coach. I also really enjoy investing in others to help them develop as coaches, and I have recently mentored a number of my team through the ICF accreditation process to become accredited Associate Certified Coaches.
Our sincere thanks to Iona for sharing her story with us.