Sue Coyne is an executive coach and specialises in leadership coaching and development. As a graduate of the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma in Executive Coaching and Systemic Team Coaching Diploma, we asked Sue about her busy coaching practice and brand new book 'The Zone of Connection'.
What is your career background and what led you to becoming an executive coach?
I am a languages graduate – I speak French and Spanish. I don’t use them in my career but my dream would be go live in Spain and continue with my coaching career from there.
My first career was in marketing and market research. I was a shareholder and director in a market research agency for 20 years. We grew it with venture capital funding to be in the top 10 in the UK and then sold it.
I was a workaholic when I was running the market research agency, worked silly hours and didn’t have any balance in my life. I had young children at the time and wanted to be the perfect businesswoman, perfect Mum and perfect wife. In trying to do all of that I lost myself and burnt out resulting in a breast cancer diagnosis in 2000. We sold the market research business in 2002 and my divorce followed shortly after. So I found myself without a career, recovering from breast cancer treatment and burnout and going through divorce.
In 2003 numerous coincidences happened to point me in the direction of coaching. I realised that I needed help so I decided to train as a coach. My purpose in becoming an executive coach was first of all to help myself through the transformation I was experiencing and to find a new way of being that brought more balance to my life. And secondly to enable the people I coach to find balance so that they and the people they lead can thrive, without having to have the sort of wake up call I had.
When you were looking at training programmes, what made you choose the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Diploma course?
The first task was to find an ICF accredited programme. Then I created a short list and started to do some research on them. As I was doing this, I attended a short course at which John Leary-Joyce was speaking. When I heard what he said about Gestalt I knew that I wanted to do a coaching programme that included Gestalt. I did the Advanced Practitioner Diploma in 2007 and have to say it exceeded all of my expectations and was a transformational experience.
You went onto study the Systemic Team Coaching Diploma. What prompted that decision?
I was often asked to coach teams in organisations and I decided that I wanted to be as qualified in coaching teams as I was in coaching individual leaders. When I heard that the AoEC was going to run the Systemic Team Coaching programme I signed up straight away to the first one they ran. Again it exceeded all expectations and took my team coaching to the next level. I still work with Peter Hawkins as my supervisor and contributed to his book Leadership Team Coaching in Practice.
What were the kind of challenges you faced when studying both diploma programmes?
These programmes are demanding both in terms of the time spent attending modules and also the practice in between modules. To do this on top of a busy coaching practice is very challenging.
The other challenge is that they cause/require you to do deep work on yourself. This challenge is very beneficial, as all coaches need to do this on an on-going basis. The support of Faculty and colleagues on the programmes made doing the deep work so much more effective.
What top advice would you give to those who are looking at training options to become a professional coach?
Make sure your course is accredited by the ICF. Look at the time commitment involved and make sure it is something you can manage. Speak to alumni to find out what their experience of the programme was like.
Much of your coaching work focuses on leadership. Can you tell us more about the type of clients you are working with and what kind of development areas or issues you are helping your coachees work through?
When I wrote my book Stop Doing Start Leading I analysed all my coaching files between 2003 and 2016. 83% of the leaders I had coached had been experts in their field and then found themselves in a leadership position in which they no longer felt like an expert. I support leaders in transitioning from being an expert to being a leader and the personal journey that involves.
I work with leaders in all types of organisation from all sectors. I don’t tend to work with very small SMEs but once they have got to about 40 or 50 employees and have a leadership team, I can add value to their business.
In Stop Doing Start Leading I share information on the key topics I coach individual leaders on:
- Being a Triple H Leader - Happy, Healthy and (sustainably) High Performing in all areas of your life
- Knowing who you are as a leader – confidence in yourself as a leader, your personal authentic leadership brand, leadership presence and gravitas
- How to manage your time and energy so that you can focus on what matters and energise others
- How to create an effective leadership mind set by overcoming limiting beliefs, letting go of blocked emotions and interrupting automatic reactions such as the stress response to maintain full brain power and emotional capacity
- Learning how to stop doing all the work yourself and to delegate to and empower others
- How to motivate and develop others to realise their potential
- How to manage your state so that you create an environment in which you and your people can thrive
- How to create a shared vision/purpose and engage people with it
- How to map your stakeholders and engage them to deliver shared outcomes
- How to lead change in yourself and others (in a brain friendly way)
With teams I support teams on their journey to high performance using Peter Hawkins Five Domains model:
- What is the team mandate from the organisation and what is the shared vision for the team?
- Does the team have the right team members to deliver on this mandate?
- Does the team have a clear, shared purpose that can only be delivered if they work together as a team?
- Does the team have clear roles, team goals etc?
- What are the levels of trust and mutual understanding in the team?
- What are the strengths and development opportunities of the individuals in the team?
- What is the purpose of team meetings and how can they be run in a way that energises team members?
- How does the team operate when it is not together?
- How does the team connect with its stakeholders and track their changing needs so it can continue to add value?
- How does the team ensure that both the team and the team members continue to learn and develop?
What are the most common challenges you face in your work as a coach?
- Managing my own work/life balance. Making sure that when I have had a really busy period I then have a period in which I can re-energise
- Making sure clients don’t become reliant on me and have the ability to sustain the growth/development resulting from the coaching
What results are you achieving by using coaching?
The results that are ready to emerge in the people I am coaching. Often they come to me ripe for the next phase of their development, they don’t realise this but I can see and sense it. So I create a space in which they can get in touch with whatever this next phase of their development is and allow it to emerge. They then experiment with this new way of being and get used to living it in their day-to-day lives.
How do you measure the effectiveness of your coaching assignments and what sort of evidence have you observed for the effectiveness of using a systemic team coaching approach?
I usually start a coaching programme with some sort of diagnostic – in the case of one to one leadership coaching I very often do some sort of 360 assessment. This makes sure the coaching focuses on the required areas of development and provides a benchmark against which progress can be measured.
With team coaching clients I use the 5 Domains Questionnaire as a diagnostic before we begin and then down the line to measure progress.
The systemic team coaching approach is very effective in helping teams to identify their priority areas for development in order to develop into first of all a real and then a high performing team. It is important that a systemic lens is used as a high performing team can only deemed to be such when it is adding value to all its stakeholders. This approach ensures the team looks outside of itself rather than just at how it is functioning on the inside. Team coaching as opposed to team development events is also important as it takes the team on a journey and ensures that actions are taken between coaching sessions. With team development events often very little happens when the team returns to the day job.
You are also a best-selling author and have just published ‘The Zone of Connection’ which you co-authored with Penny Mallinson. Can you share a little bit more about what you cover in your latest book?
Penny and I share our journey to being able to live in a fully connected state more of the time rather than living on auto-pilot. A key part of that journey for me was attending the AoEC. When I was doing the Advanced Executive Coaching Diploma in 2007 I was probably the least experienced coach of the group. The Faculty kept telling me early on in the programme that too much of my energy was with the coachee and that I needed to be more present. Penny and I had been studying with a lot of different gurus about energy and presence and so we decided to develop an approach that would support me during the programme to be more present and to manage my energy better. We developed what we now call The Connection Practice and I used it every day. In the live coaching assessment I obtained Distinction – it was quite a surreal experience, as if someone was coaching through me. We went on to share The Connection Practice and our approach with other coaches at coaching conferences and through Master Classes including some that the AoEC put on for us. This is years ago.
We continued to develop our approach integrating the latest thinking from Quantum Science and Neuro Science and a couple of years ago decided to put it all into a book to make it easily accessible to more people on a personal development journey and to coaches and trainers who want to maximise their presence and impact with clients. The writing of the book has been challenging and has meant that we have had to put all of our thinking about relationships into practice in managing our own relationship thus allowing it to grow and evolve.
The following is a summary of what we cover in the book:
The context - underpinnings of the 7 Fundamentals of Living in the Zone of Connection (ZOC)
- Psychological and energetic stages of development
Energy, frequency and vibration
The 7 Fundamentals of Living in the Zone of Connection
- Connecting Up – using The Connection Practice to shift from autopilot to living in the zone, in your true power
- Opening Up – overcoming limiting beliefs, letting go of blocked emotions, interrupting the stress response to put in place the mind-set that supports you to open to your true power
- Nourish your real self – how to connect with and live from your real self
- Nurture relationships – how to create fully connected real-ationships through which both people can grow
- Express yourself fully – how to use true communication to fully connect with others
- Create an abundant life – how to connect with your ability to create and manifest the life you want to live
- Transform your life – how to connect with energy and allow it to flow and transform your life
There are 20 different exercises in the book that guide people to do The Connection Practice and integrate it into different areas of their day-to-day lives. These exercises are all available as MP3 downloads when you buy the book.
What has your work as a coach taught you personally?
That creating a space for people in which they feel totally accepted and safe and therefore willing to open up to their possibilities and potential is the best gift I can give anyone. And that I need to start by doing this for myself.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a coach?
I have to say I can’t think of a single day when I haven’t enjoyed my work as a coach. What is most rewarding is seeing individuals and teams growing to realise more of their potential in front of your eyes. And of course the growth is mutual so every client mirrors something back to me that brings about growth in me.
Our sincere thanks to Sue for taking the time out to answer our questions.