Coach’s perspective – Abigail Heathcote
BIRDS Conseil presents you each month a Coach’s perspective. Our goal is to introduce you to our Coaches and their expertise.
This month, interview of Abigail Heathcote, Coach & Communication Trainer.
Coach’s perspective – Abigail Heathcote
Tell us about yourself and your coaching methods
I was born and grew up in Kent, “The Garden of England”, according to King Henry VIII, and following studies in Andalusia and, what felt like even further afield, at the historic University of Durham in northern England, as well as a stint in film music publishing in London, I ventured to Paris, where I settled 14 years ago. Here I obtained a Masters in Philosophy.
Coaching for me brings together my strong interest in theory (I have studied musicology, aesthetics and philosophy), creativity (I have always been curious about art and the creative process), and the process of learning. The latter interest I developed through many years as an English communication trainer in French companies, universities and grande écoles. I have always held the belief that everyone is capable of achieving their learning objectives. The role of the trainer is then to constantly adapt to the personality, learning style and preferences of each individual. Welcoming what a person brings to a training session requires creativity and openness. My experience is that people who feel they are really being listened to and supported in a way that is adapted to them, grow in confidence, motivation and resourcefulness.
What tools and approaches do you like?
When working with teams and groups I find the systemic approach, which considers not individuals in isolation but the way in which they interact to create relational systems, particularly valuable. I am also fortunate to have been trained over a number of years by the international coach and expert in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Sue Knight. I am particularly inspired by her ability to engage people in real-time learning and to draw group learning from individual experiences, but also by the way she forges multicultural and international communities. Communicating across cultures and countries with an attitude of openness and curiosity is something that interests me very much as a bilingual coach and trainer working with international teams but this is also something I personally value on a much broader level.
One of my favourite tools when working with individuals is Clean Language, a coaching approach that valorises clients’ metaphors and representations of their experience, as these are mines of information! With questions that are simple and “clean”, and using only the client’s own words and expressions, the facilitator mobilises the client’s Right Brain, where they can find new solutions, new resources, which can go beyond what the Left Brain knows intellectually. Clean Language in coaching is a particularly powerful way of listening to clients at a deep level.
What subjects do you specialise in?
My background in in-company training has given me the opportunity to work with a wide range of profiles and levels of seniority, and also an experience of many different sectors: finance, luxury, energy, insurance, telecommunications, alimentation and fashion, to name some of them. I would say my professional experience has helped me develop the ability to connect with a wide range of different people from very different walks of life, and this is a skill I hold as extremely valuable for coaching.
In your opinion, what do people expect from a coaching session?
In my experience, people come to coaches above all to benefit from a space in which they can express themselves freely without fear of judgement, where they are truly listened to. People often say they do not have such a space in their everyday lives. Clients also expect to be asked challenging or revealing questions that move their thinking forward, particularly if they feel they are turning in circles or lacking clarity in a particular relationship or situation. The questions asked by a coach seek to help the client to move away from the domain of “vague” or impersonal language to increasingly specific and sensory-rich language, as it is at the level of experience that changes occur. I like the metaphor of the ocean for the role of the coach. If vague, impersonal language is the waves, the role of the coach is to help the client explore the ocean depths, the realm of experience!
What have your learnt through coaching?
The most valuable coaching tool of all is the coach him or herself. In a way, you bring your “whole self” to a coaching session. An awareness of one’s own limits, blind spots and “map of the world” as we say in NLP is therefore essential to the metier of coaching. Regular coaching supervision, individually or with peers, is key to reflecting on the impact of what one says or does during a session with a client and vice-versa, in particular in relation to the core notions of Autonomy and Protection. After a coaching session, I always take time to quietly take stock of the way I am feeling and allow any insights to surface.
Coaching is a creative process, both for the coach, and the client, and can be fun! It is not about sticking rigidly to preconceived techniques and approaches but about trying things out and finding what works, what resonates. Coaching helps me to be present to the other and to myself in real time and this is a very special and enriching type of interaction.