Working as a Consultant Coach can speed up results! By Maria Biquet

Most of us are fed up with instructions, ready-made solutions and all the literature about “the X steps to success” that somebody else has tried (or just imagined) and presents them to us all as the Guru in the matter of self- development and success in life and business. For this reason, Coaching is the most effective way to self-development: it allows people to be who they are and express their thoughts and beliefs freely without being judged by any expert. And starting from being themselves they can pave the way to a better version of themselves: their balanced self and even their happy self.


The basic rules in the Coaching process include is that,

  • We should not be directive,
  • We should not give instructions,
  • We should not make decisions for the Coachee,
  • We should not provide solutions, and
  • We should not give the answers.

As Coaches we have to make the Coachee discover the path to their own development, take action and make decisions in their own way without us providing any ready-made solutions or answers (by knowing how to effectively implement the basic rules).

Coaching works really well and is very effective when the Coachee makes decisions and acts for themselves without us pushing him/her to specific actions; it is the best way for a person to take responsibility, engage in the process and have sustainable results. Yet, there are times when being directive in the Coaching process is a skill reserved to those few Coaches who are experienced and are able to do it without limiting the Coachees’ right to “be who they are”.

Working with high level Executives with advanced skills and potential

When our Coachee is a high level executive we are usually have to do working with a clever person with a lot of experience in their field and usually of a sound educational background. They know how to succeed and how to meet their goals. They often request ask for a Coach when the pressure in their role becomes exhausting or they are advancing further in their career and need behavioral adjustment or personal development. In such cases there is not much new to discover about themselves; the majority of them have been through a Coaching process in the past and know a lot about their personality strengths and weaknesses, their leadership style, their behavioral setbacks. All they need is someone who understands their situation and can act as a facilitator organizing their thinking and therefore lowers their pressure. This is where Consulting can help. We don’t have to give orders and instructions but when there is a clear answer or best practice we can offer it as an option.

For example, when they ask “what would you do?” we can be direct and offer our approach to those clever people who have the ability to understand that there are alternatives to their initial thought. They are the people who are ready to see the value in a new approach and consider it as an option for their style.

This approach is a Consulting approach where we act as a person that watches the situation from outside and can bring a fresh look in it. In this case we propose an answer or a solution knowing very well that our Coachee can see value in this approach and are responsible to make the decision for themselves.

An example of a real case of Consulting Coaching

In this case the Coachee was about to be promoted to a Global role in a multinational energy company and had to go through the interview with a member of the Board in the headquarters. When she came to my office she was stressed and slightly panicked with the idea of the interview with that high level Board member abroad. Although she already held an international role, the idea of the interview for an even higher position that would put her between the 20 highest positions of the company worldwide was extremely stressful to her.

We discussed about the system in which she is functioning in her current role, and then we also analyzed her expectations and aspirations. We also only had 2 sessions until the interview and she had to be ready and perform perfectly to get the position. As a Consultant I knew what she should do and as a Coach I had to help her develop her skills, but in only two sessions there is no time for “pure” Coaching; so I decided to literally direct her.

I redirected her attitude by advising her that the framework was completely different to what she thought it was. I presented to her that her main activities wouldn’t change that much since the main target of the work would remain the same but she’ll be acting from a higher level. How difficult can this be for an experienced executive? Not at all. 

So, this is not a new position. It is the same … just with a higher title! As simple as that! What would be there to fear? What would be there as a task that she didn’t know or was so difficult to learn? Nothing really!

Until she understood this approach and accepted the new scenario, she was panicking because she was thinking that she had “to win the new position”. After I redirected her thinking to “I have the position already and I am only here to present to you what I shall do in my ‘newly-appointed’ position” her attitude changed completely. Can you see the difference?

In her thinking it was all about “winning the position” and this it requires effort, a battle even competition mindset.

In Through my repositioning of “I [already] have the position and I am just here to present it to you” this allowed her to relax and strategically talk about how she does her job, how she uses her experiences and skills.

This is a completely different approach to which a Coach can deliberately direct a Coachee and immediately stimulate naturally a new behavior. From being in a panicked and stressed state she now turned up relaxed and self-confident. Needless to say that she got promoted and we are now working on the next step.

Don’t be afraid to be directive when necessary

As a Consultant and Coach I believe that we can direct our Coachees to speed up the process of their development and help them see the change they want faster.

Being directive in the Coaching process is a skill reserved to those few Coaches who are experienced and are able to do it without limiting the Coachees’ right to “be who they are”.

Being directive within Coaching requires:

  • A deep knowledge of the issue (as Consultants we have this privilege for certain issues),   
  • A special skill to be directive in a way that the Coachee listens to it as an idea not an instruction,
  • A deep understanding of the Coachee, their style and the situation so that the “direction” comes from an objective Consultant and not an emotional bystander who project their own issues (this is dangerous!)
  • Respect and a real interest for the person

My experience in practicing Consulting Coaching

I really enjoy working as a Consultant – Coach because I can speed up results and my clients see value in the work we do together. In specific cases I might be directive with my utmost respect for them.

My fundamental principal is that I accept them as they are and facilitate the process to their own truth; I just propose some clever shortcuts when necessary!

To connect with Maria Biquet

Maria Biquet.jpg

Maria Biquet is an experienced multilingual Business Consultant and Executive Coach with vast experience from diverse business fields. Maria has long experience in Strategic Marketing and in establishing companies in new markets. For more than 15 years she has studied various methodologies for self development and change including Systemic approach, Appreciative Inquiry Approach, NLP and mindfulness techniques.

Vice President of Marketing & Communication of HCA (Hellenic Coaching Association), EMCC (European Mentoring & Coaching Council). Currently is a Mentor at Orange Grove for startup companies and Cherie Blair Foundation.

Works in Greek, English and French.


Coaching myself as part of my career transition: Entering, and then sustaining, a transitional space by Caroline-Lucie Ulbrich

Understanding how I am developing my coaching practice has enabled me to become more aware and sensitive towards assessing how I apply what I do in coaching on myself, first, before advising others. I think it is important to “walk-the-talk” to demonstrate that a coaching approach is effective. It also helps with putting oneself in the coachee’s shoes – you have been there yourself and thus understand the potential difficulties of your counterpart. Let me share a bit more of how I coach myself.

Acknowledging a period of uncertainty


Entering, and then sustaining, my transitional space (as part of a career transition) requires resilience. Sustaining this period of psychological stress, it helps to remind myself that “this too shall pass”. To reiterate[1]: a transitional space is a psychological space which allows a professional to reconnect to his/her creativity while embracing uncertainty and engaging in creativity experiments (changing behaviors, engaging in (identity) play, being open to novel ideas, possessing an elevated level of autonomy) (Mitchell & Bridges 2003, p.2; Reid & West 2011, p.177; Ibarra & Petriglieri 2008 p.10).

I think it’s crucial to acknowledge that as part of the psychological reorientation, uncertainty will occur. As professional identity shifts and evolves, many questions (and potentially self-doubts) emerge. Depending on how much importance one ties to one’s professional identity, this process can consume energy and cause stress. In my case, I caught myself looking in the mirror and wondering who I was. If I was not a management consultant anymore, had I morphed into a banker? Or did an entrepreneur look back at me? A fashion designer? A blogger? (Note that due to my fashion interest, I could easily dedicate a blog post to the significance of wardrobe choices and how a latent professional identity shift becomes visible through the formal business wear choices one makes.) Herminia Ibarra, an accomplished organizational development professor, refers to a multi-step process of change as “lingering between selves,” a phase in which “testing possible selves, both old and new” occurs (Ibarra 2004, p.12), requiring flexibility and adaptability (Ibarra 2004, p.3).

Necessary disposition: growth mindset and self-awareness

Entering a transitional space requires a certain mindset, a combination of increased self-awareness and a belief that one can grow (= change). While self-awareness can be enhanced through activities such as reflective journaling or regular conversations with a coach, achieving a growth mindset is a question of attitude and persistence. Carol Dweck, a renowned professor with an interest in mindsets, summarizes it: “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.” Professor Dweck cautions one to preserve it, as “fixed mindset triggers” exist in abundance, leading one to “fall into insecurity or defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth.” The latter points out that persistence is required to enter and sustain a transitional space.

Allowing emerging insights to unfold

Entering the transitional space very often is not a conscious activity. It cannot be likened to an individual waking up one day and deciding: “Today is the day when I enter my transitional space.” Quite the contrary, a shift occurs in a subtle manner, leading to incremental moments of reflection regarding one’s values, sense of self, identity, and career progression. Interestingly, I do catch myself looking into the mirror and wondering which professional self I see. To illustrate how Herminia Ibarra’s notion of “testing possible selves, both old and new” can be applied in a (self-)coaching context, let me briefly describe the use of a related playful activity: taking pictures of oneself.

Using identity play to enter the transitional space

I entered my transitional space (and regained access to my everyday creativity, which emerged as a strong wish during my transition) by creating photographic self-portraits and reflecting on them in writing. The rationale for doing so was rooted in my subconscious, as my written reflections highlighted: “On the way to the MRT [subway in Singapore], I perceive the photo booth out of the corner of my eyes. I walked by it so many times, but never consciously noticed it. This time, I invest SGD 7 [Singapore dollars] and took a “fashion shot” picture – consisting of four pictures of me against the backdrop of a “fashion” magazine. This reminded me of similar pictures I took when I was 23 and 24 years old as a student in Strasbourg and Tokyo.”

 Strasbourg, 2000

Strasbourg, 2000

 Singapore, March 2017

Singapore, March 2017

I entered this transitional space in a playful manner, not quite grasping what it signified. It was only much later, when I engaged in reflective journaling, that I realized that it opened the door to a transitional space. My journal entry stated: “It’s funny, because when I did [taking the photographs in a photo booth in Singapore], I felt like I was reaching out to that person that I was back then, I feel like it’s still there, I just have to reactivate it.” This activity can be likened to visual “identity play” (Ibarra & Petriglieri 2008): “… personal photography has become a medium through which the narrative of identity is explored, confirmed and negotiated (Holland 1997)” (Bloustien & Baker 2003, pp.69–70 – discussing a study on visual auto ethnographic practices).

At the beginning of my career transition, my professional role as a management consultant was deeply ingrained in me: “I had become so good at being a person and playing that role, that it was really difficult to say no to it.” Taking photographs of myself in a non-corporate attire and a playful manner (note the “fashion” cover) helped me disrupt this perception and view my identity as less bound to a role. Entering and remaining in a transitional space was required for this experience to unfold. My insight showing the progress in career transition emerged during reflective journaling: “I wonder whether the fact that I always preferred four of these pictures (and not one big one) was a clue. Did I always prefer possessing several (professional) selves, and not one? To express the different elements of my personality?

Transitional spaces may serve as a “role-free” space, with professional roles losing relevance, and rapprochement to the self (or selves) occurring in the form of “identity play.”

Engaging in reflective journaling to sustain the transitional space

“RJW [reflective journal writing] promotes active and personal ownership of learning, critical thinking, understanding one’s own learning, facilitation of the learning experience, and the valuing of personal observation and knowledge.” (Estrada & Rahman 2014, p. 22). To be a powerful coaching tool, reflective journal writing should be combined with a personal goal to change – otherwise, there is a risk that the coachee will be cemented in a state of permanent non-action. Cognitive resources would be tied up by self-reflection as illustrated by a study of journal writers (Grant 2016, p.256).

What is your poison (your transitional space)?

Making sense of how I gave myself the necessary quality of attention to enter my transitional space mattered. I have created a fun and effective feedback loop that has helped me to grow and develop as an individual, taking accounts of the situation, reflecting on how I behave, and reconnecting to the outcomes I want to have more of in my professional and personal life. This requires time and resilience. Each coachee has a different approach to achieving this objective, e.g. it might consist of taking a cooking class, repeatedly drawing self-portraits, or listening to podcasts pertaining to personal growth.

As I still live in and confront the uncertainty tied to transitional space, I strongly recommend including a playful element to this chapter of professional (and personal) growth. Choose your poison well – you might require substantial quantities of it (and I am not referring to alcohol).

To connect with Caroline-Lucie Ulbrich


“Caro, you are so cosmopolitan” – this is what I often get to hear. German–French by birth, I have spent many years working as a management consultant and am slowly transitioning into more creative industries. Reflecting on transitions, career changes and the underleveraged roles of creativity and playfulness are part of this. I have a passion for maneki nekos (“lucky cats”), sustainable fashion and Vinyasa yoga. Slowly but surely, Asia has become my second home turf.



References & Bibliography
[1] Defining my transitional space as part of my career transition by Caroline-Lucie Ulbrich (guest)
Bloustien, G., & Baker, S. (2003). On not talking to strangers. Social Analysis, 47(3), 64-79.
Dweck, C. (2016). What having a "growth mindset" actually means. Harvard Business Review Digital Articles, 2-4.
Estrada, F. & Rahman, H. (2014) Reflective journaling writing as an approach to enhancing students' learning experience. Brunei Darussalam Journal of Technology and Commerce
Furth, G. M. (1988). The secret world of drawings: Healing through art. Boston, MA, US: Sigo Press.
Grant, A. M. (2016). Reflection, note-taking and coaching: If it ain't written, it ain't coaching! Coaching Psychologist, 12(2), 49-58.
Holland, J. (1997) Making Vocational Choices: A Theory of Vocational Personalities and Work Environments, 3rd Ed, Psychological Assessment Resources
Ibarra, H. (2004) Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, Harvard Business School Press
Ibarra, H., & Petriglieri, J. L. Identity work and play 2008. Fontainebleau. INSEAD, 2008.
Kaufman, J. C., & Beghetto, R. A. (2009). Beyond big and little: The four C model of creativity.
Knowles, M. (1978). The adult learner: A neglected species., 2nd ed. Oxford, England: Gulf Publishing.
Reid, H. and West, L. (2011) “Telling tales”: Using narrative in career guidance. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78, 2, 174-83

How sustainability leadership is redefining individual liberty: a new context for executive coaching by Geoffrey Ahern

Championing both individual liberty − as we do in coaching − and the sustainability vision are in conflict in the world today. There are signs that they could move ahead together, but that this would require a radical redefinition of what it means to be free!


Individual liberty, the signature of the Western way of life, is presupposed when we

  • make the coaching contract,
  • promise confidentiality,
  • follow the individual client’s agenda and
  • promise a safe space within which to engage fully.

The employee is coached within the particular company’s right to conduct business as it chooses.

In contrast, sustainability’s frame of reference is that of whole entities, not the freedom of individuals. The whole planet is in consideration when it comes to climate change, biodiversity loss, phosphorus and nitrogen flows, deforestation and other human breaches of environmental boundaries. Whole populations are considered: e.g. giraffes as a whole, not this or that one. Many ecologists apply this thinking to humans also.

Sustainability’s whole entity approach coincides with the totalitarian thinking, often neo-Confucian, of much of economically emerging Asia. Enabled digitally, sustainability within totalitarianism – in which there is no independent justice − is creating influential new ways of being: e.g. renewable energy education for Chinese young people. A global sustainability epoch, essential though it is for our planetary future, could enforce an authoritarian social vision which goes too far through curbing individual liberty unnecessarily.

Meanwhile the liberty of the individual is being fundamentally rethought, both in ceding and adding to freedoms, so that it becomes compatible with sustainability. Skilfully handled, this situation seems to me to be an opportunity for coaching, or for some near-relation, in new market conditions.

This article/blog examines the context of these developments. It suggests that what is happening now is a dance between three critical factors (the main headings to follow):

  • Business-as-usual, supported by the liberty of the individual, pragmatically resisting sustainability
  • The whole entity sustainability leadership vision becoming more energised
  • Redefinitions of liberty outlining ways it and the whole entity sustainability leadership vision can move ahead together

My own view is that the future will not be worth living in unless it’s both sustainable at the planetary level and supportive of individual liberty as redefined.

I write this after many years of being professionally engaged with sustainability and executive coaching. Having An ‘Anthropocene’ Mindset: Fits Between Coaching And Planet, People & Prosperity (Sustainability) This is the concluding (sixth) article/blog and draws together the previous ones.

Business-as-usual, supported by the liberty of the individual, is pragmatically resisting sustainability

We do much as coaches to free clients from self-sabotage; but at the level of the contract with the company, to what extent does our intervention have the outcome of unwinding the resistance to sustainability, as contrasted with enabling companies to make profits without regard to sustainability (‘business-as-usual’)? Like everyone else, we can place our contribution somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes of single-minded sustainability leadership and unrelenting resistance to it.

Resistance is embedded in the commercial juggernaut of short-term profits with institutional pressures for immediate dividends and executive pay packages to match. Thus there are:

Professions of alignment. It’s a public relations necessity to appear to be on the side of bequeathing a better planet to the baby in the pram:

  • In 2015 the delivery of the international Paris climate agreement and the new 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was transformational
  • Last year 225 global institutional investors controlling assets worth $26.3tn started pressurising 100 of the world’s more carbon intensive companies to do more about climate change [1]

Jargon-ridden ambiguities and compromises. Companies – and we coaches who are paid by them – face finding a way between foolhardiness and cowardice when it comes to the ethics of sustainability. The prudent middle ground usually doesn’t go far enough but it’s still worth having. It manifests in the ambiguities of sustainability compromise jargon. The jargon functions as an unofficial strategic ambiguity which allows both pro sustainability forces and the resistance to be presented as fully aligned.

The resistance is often obvious:

  • Nestlé uses the sustainability formula of ‘creating shared value’ but has been attacked for unethical promotion of its baby milk
  • Fake sustainability also combines with genuineness within other widely used formulas or systems like ‘CSR’ or corporate social responsibility and ‘GRI’ (the Global Reporting Initiative), which experts say is largely window-dressing
  • ‘Stakeholders’ is a useful concept but they are not owed a high duty of care
  • ‘Resilience’ and the word ‘sustainability’ itself are frequently used to support short-term, unsustainable profits

Dark and grey areas. The resistance involves denial, disavowal, coordinated untruthfulness, the dark side. Unique Ladders Of Sustainability – Coaching Company Leaders In The Anthropocene There’s denial in institutionalised consumerism and ideologically committed think-tanks. It may be ‘disavowal’,[2] i.e. entrenched denial. Or it may be deliberately disingenuous:

  • Some of the same ‘scientists’ who persisted in implying that tobacco isn’t harmful (the campaign basis was ‘doubt is our product’) went on to spread doubt about the very different subject of global warming. Oil producer ExxonMobil has been accused of spending USD2.9m on misinformation about climate change[3]

There’s also a dark – or grey – side to multi-corporate collaboration: e.g. in not paying a living wage (this could be achieved by companies agreeing together to make a living wage pre-competitive).

The whole entity sustainability leadership vision is becoming more energised

As the resistance of business-as-usual builds up, sustainability’s contrasting whole entity leadership vision is more likely to become more energised. I aim in this section to identify major aspects of its energising.

Sustainability’s concern with the planet as a whole. Superficially, sustainability can come across as touchy-feely only, a sentimental legitimacy of the moment spurred on by particular concerns like the plastics contaminating the ocean food chain (recently displayed by David Attenborough in Blue Planet II).

But sustainability is much more systemic and inter-connected than this. A click or so brings onto the screen an overwhelming scientific consensus that, as specified in the introduction, there are several grave and urgent threats to the Earth: e.g. the visual Nine Planetary Boundaries model; the IPCC report summary Moving on from the science the highly influential Oxfam eradication of poverty model focuses on whole entity social solutions.

It is characteristic of the planetary system that the sustainability task is about risk management not certainties. It’s a holistic picture with climate change ‘tipping points’, emergence and inevitable unpredictability.

From China to Europe, and maybe also in the Americas, environmental and social market failures are making the case for recasting profit-making so that it is underpinned by whole planet purposes. This resonates especially with younger consumers and employees and links back to last century’s history of ecology as a social movement. It has had more affinity with whole entity visions than with liberty at the level of the individual.  

History also teaches us to be wary of ‘us’ and ‘them’ polarising within whole entity visions. The elitist eugenics thinking of a century ago illustrates how ecology can be applied to prioritise some populations at the expense of others. Thankfully, since the genocide of the 1930s and 1940s, ‘ecology’ in the West (so far and with many exceptions) has tended to be much more insistently associated than before with the values of non-discriminatory universalism. “How We Can Balance Individual Freedom with ‘Ecology’ and Planetary Sustainability in Coaching

A further caveat: practising holistic sustainability vision measurably doesn’t necessarily mean that individuals become more ethical, thus rip offs can still be rife, rather like having spiritual sin alongside monastic rituals.

So far we have looked at the commercial resistance to sustainability and I have started describing the whole entity sustainability vision. These two, as I shall suggest later, are in a dance with redefinitions of individual liberty.

Humans shaping Earth (the ‘Anthropocene’). Moving on from sustainability’s concern with the planet as a whole, its energising deepens through the recent recognition that post-industrial humans have been unwittingly shaping the Earth. Geologists have accordingly given our epoch a new name, the ‘Anthropocene’: i.e. the new human-caused epoch. This scientific discovery is shocking: in Antiquity it would have been sacrilegious to suggest that Gaia the Earth Goddess could be affected by mere human behaviour.

A few path-finding multinationals have chosen to take their share of responsibility for the Anthropocene by deliberately breaking through the inherited mental taboo about perceiving Gaia’s fragility. For example:

  • Marks and Spencers has its sustainability Plan A: ‘there’s no Plan B’
  • Unilever motivates consumers through making sustainability easy, desirable, rewarding, a habit and ‘my world’ (e.g. giving the children a better future).

A ‘good’ (as it is called) Anthropocene will coordinate commercial success, human betterment and planetary health through low pollution technology in a circular economy which is inspired by nature (i.e.‘biomimicry’). A bad Anthropocene will see business-as-usual avoiding climate change until, too late, geo-engineering projects (lucrative for contractors) redistribute the problem: e.g. producing unwanted droughts in undeveloped countries.

Making the Anthropocene sustainable requires a collective approach: thinking globally while acting locally and, as portrayed in deep ecology (e.g. Arne Naess), protecting all the life-forms of the planet. Some (e.g. Thomas Berry) go on to propose biocracy.

Individual liberty may struggle.

The more business-as-usual resists, the more urgent and energised sustainability is likely to become, with the individual potentially squeezed out.

Explicitness, dynamism and the precautionary principle. The explicitness and dynamism of the precautionary principle energises the whole entity sustainability leadership vision further still.

The precautionary principle (that is, the version chosen here) asks if a proposed innovation would be better, or less bad, than not having it. It is supported by ethicists’ revival of regard for principle-based motivation and behaviour. [Integrating Coaching Ethics for the Anthropocene: ‘Gutfeel’ and 'On Principle' Coaching Approaches to Sustainability]

The precautionary principle above is dynamic because it does not aim to restore some arbitrarily imagined golden or past age, but instead attempts to pass on equivalent value. An example is the inability of organic farming to feed Africa (there’s not enough land), and the resulting need for innovation in food productivity.

The enchantment of the sustainability leadership vision. Enchantment can add a thrilling extra dimension to the already energised whole entity sustainability leadership vision.

Nature, the planet and the galaxy are displayed on screen as awe-inspiring. It takes daring-do to get close enough to convey their fascination, wonder and dread, whether this is actual as in hero(ine)s swimming with sharks, or through virtual or special effects as in sci-fi (e.g. Doctor Who).

In contemporary folklore, how we construct our planetary future is widely felt to be enchanted in:

  • Environmental dooms and utopias with short time-scales which have piggy-backed onto the traditional thought-forms of heaven, hell, physical resurrection and final judgment (heaven or hell), i.e. the myth of apocalypse: these have been energised by three and more millennia of Western − including Marxist and pre-Christian − history
  • Urban back-to-nature yearnings rooted in the newly sublime landscape visions created by the Romantics in response to smoke-stacks, factories and industrialisation
  • Development of consciousness progress myths which culminate in a planetary or ecological stage: these have antecedents in spiritual religion and gnosis

Narratives without enchantment about our future on the planet can come across as pointless narcissism. They include geological fatalism −  ‘humanity is done for but I’m alright’ − and the technological fix −  ‘science-led innovation alone will get us off the hook’. [Building Companies’ Sustainability Stories: A Role for Coaching]

Conceiving the sustainability leadership vision (or task) in itself[4] as enchanted[5] acknowledges that its energies emerge from within all world cultures. An alternative possible descriptor, ‘charismatic’, is strongly associated with a single culture (Christianity); also it has recently been much applied to ego-led business-as-usual leadership.[6] Both ‘enchantment’ and ‘charisma’ bring in the qualities of fascination, dread, wonder and awe[7] and thus add thrill to purpose.[8] 

Redefinitions of liberty outline ways it and the whole entity sustainability leadership vision can move ahead together

The longer companies resist sustainability, the stronger the coming planetary crisis, the more energised the whole entity sustainability leadership vision, and the more brutal its likely mass replacement appeal. The past tells us that utopias become dictatorships.

As I started at the beginning of this piece, coaching has a special interest because its process assumes the liberty of the individual. I believe that the ultimate sanction of independently applied law underpins the safety we guarantee clients as executive coaches. Even so I’ve had pressure put on me to disclose confidential client information. That I wasn’t dismissed, despite my refusal to comply with this pressure (put on me for commercial purposes) by the most powerful person in the consultancy involved, I put down to how the attempted confidentiality breach would have played out in a lawcourt.

How in the future can we avoid having myriads of situations like this, but with the liberty of the individual breached? Assuming that the health of populations as a whole is the supreme law, liberty should not be in conflict with sustainability. Losing some current liberties which contradict sustainability could legitimate not getting sucked into totalitarian control. Meanwhile new liberties could be gained. How We Can Balance Individual Freedom with ‘Ecology’ and Planetary Sustainability in Coaching

Possible sustainability-related closures of liberty include:

  • A recasting towards sustainability duties and a crime of ecocide
  • Convergence towards global non-discriminatory universalism to avoid the population proposed for ecological advantage being unduly nationally, racially, religiously or geographically defined or otherwise exclusive (this opens up liberty for the disadvantaged through reducing it for others)
  • Sufficient surveillance with safeguards to counter terrorism given the increasingly asymmetrical lone wolf capability afforded by technological development

Alignment with sustainability may mean radical change towards a more principle-based, less consumerist and more personally open (less shockable and blackmailable) society.

There are also opportunities for significant liberty gains:

Possible sustainability-related extensions to individual liberty include:

  • Relative freedom from the yoke of corruption (said to be the biggest obstacle to sustainability) through increased transparency
  • The reduction of excessive dependency and modern slavery through more representative participation in supply chains and within multi-national companies

Even more radical are proposals to protect both animals and future robots on the grounds that they are (or will be) sentient and individual, and maybe self-aware:

  • In cases of cruelty to animals, environmental ethicists criticise the fixing of ethics so that institutionalised industrial abuse cannot lose
  • Many in Silicon Valley think that future robots will be self-aware and autonomous and lawyers already discuss their rights

Many also say, myself included, that it would be liberating if businesses renounced the one-sided Frankenstein cult of technological dynamism for its own sake only, and instead integrated it into a whole-life precautionary dynamism.

The proposals to recast liberty outlined in this final section could provide a new context for us all.  The further and faster companies implement sustainability, the less likely they are to energise totalitarian sustainability leadership to the detriment of appropriately redefined individual liberty.

To connect with Geoffrey Ahern


[1] John Plender (2017), ‘Investors are demanding corporate action on climate change’, Financial Times, 16 December/17 December, p.11.
[2] Weintrobe, S. (2013), ‘Introduction’ in (S. Weintrobe ed.) Engaging with Climate Change. Psychoanalytic and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, London: Routledge; Jacques, P., Dunlap, R. & Freeman, M. (2015), ‘The organisation of denial: conservative think tanks and environmental scepticism’, Environmental Politics 17(3): 349-385.
[3] Abrams, M. (2009), ‘The Discover interview Robert Proctor’, Discover, 30(1):1; Bedford, D. (2010), ‘Agnotology as a teaching tool: learning climate change by studying misinformation’, Journal of Geography, 109:160; Hansen, J (2009), Storms of my grandchildren. The truth about the coming catastrophe and our last chance to save humanity, London: Bloomsbury:15; Ward, B. (2006), Email to Esso UK Ltd, Policy Communication, The Royal Society, London.
[4] Applying a suggestion in Jermier, J. (1993), ‘Introduction – Charismatic leadership: Neo-Weberian perspectives’, Leadership Quarterly 4(3/4): 217-233.
[5] Roszac, T. (1973), Where the Wasteland Ends, New York: Doubleday.
[6] Other leadership theories − distributed, situational and so on – can be applied in addition if they also fit (adaptive theory seems particularly appropriate for sustainability but has shot itself in the foot through its commitment in practice to business-as-usual: see for example, the assumptions in Heifetz, R., Grashow A., Linsky M., (2009),The Practice of Adaptive Leadership. Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World,  Boston: Harvard Business Press).
[7] I.e. the ‘numinous’: see Otto, R. (1950), The Idea of the Holy, trans. John Harvey, London: OUP.
[8] Kempster, S., Jackson, M. Conroy, M. (2011), ‘Leadership as purpose: Exploring the role of purpose on leadership practice’, Leadership 7(3): 317-334.

Delivering coaching workshops for groups of tech entrepreneurs by Katy Tuncer


Recently I have launched group coaching workshops, building on successful pilots in 2017. My core role remains as a Business/CEO coach, normally one-on-one, and I work extensively with senior leaders in the tech industry in Cambridge, UK – both on the investor side – Angels, VCs – and portfolio company CEOs and/or Founders.  Typically, they are ambitious, with areas of brilliance, creativity, and smartness but also self-aware enough that there are opportunities to get better both professionally and personally.

Initially I wanted to make coaching more accessible, to reach more people in leadership roles but perhaps can’t afford the fees for an intense 1:1 engagement.  And so, I pulled together small business leaders – ones who’s businesses have potential for great things, growth businesses, often VC/Angel backed – but who didn’t have a big budget for coaching.

They loved it!

They talked about lots of the same benefits as my one-on-one clients do:

  • more clarity on their direction,
  • better prioritisation, and
  • more personal impact.

But they also talked about some new things they valued specific to the group setting. So, I decided there is something in this, and to keep exploring.

Realising the added value tech business leaders get from group coaching

The top 3 values that have emerged from carrying out these group coaching workshops are:

  1. The ability to take an outside perspective, by coaching others in the group on challenges they have themselves.
  2. To draw on a group of peers to give each coachee a wider range of ideas.
  3. Accountability. To hold each other to account that makes them far more likely to stick with their plans!

The Set-up

In each workshop we introduce some new ways of thinking, frameworks and ideas, and then we invite people to share how these relate to their personal situation/leadership challenges. Each person who engages in the sharing will then be coached. My approach is similar to that of action learning through peer coaching as I’ve found that it’s the most efficient and effective way to bring out insight and wisdom from within the group. I facilitate others from the group to share their questions, experiences, perspectives etc. in relation to the coachee’s challenge.

Typically it’s through this process where trust and respect has been built within the group. When someone reaches a big aha moment, and then commits to some high impact actions, everyone learns.

I aim to have everyone in the group be the one being coached at some point. But as I said, those listening to the coaching and taking part will also have breakthroughs and choose actions for themselves as well.

Typically, we run a series 3-6 workshops for a cohort of 8-12 leaders. We see them have breakthroughs in their business leadership through out the programme. They report that they are performing better, getting results, getting people to come along with them and that they are more satisfied with their work as well.

Understanding those topics relevant to tech entrepreneurs/start-ups

In our group coaching work, we have boiled it down to four topics that provide the most high-impact and relevant breakthroughs for tech leaders in a group workshop setting. They are among many topics I have seen to be critical for coaching clients over the years, but these ones work especially well in groups.

  1. Firstly, we look at defining success. This is about distinguishing what we tell the world about our business, what we really care about and what we want to achieve for our businesses. Focusing on success really helps them to acknowledge what matters in the business when it’s stripped right down.
  2. Secondly, we look at the core operations. It’s about taking a ruthless look at the drivers of value in their business in a structured way and prioritising what they need to put their efforts into. What needs to be unstuck? What should we waste less time on? All this is very action oriented and practical.
  3. Third, we look at the team. We consider not just the formal team but the wider group of champions and supporters, investors, advisors. Participants consider how they are perceived as they engage team members and convince them to do what they want. We then also look at who they want on the team, and how to get them, as well as who they don’t want and how to manage parting ways when needed.
  4. Lastly, we do a workshop called “can’t do it all”. Participants look at allocating personal time and business time and resources cleverly. What do we say no to and how? What systems really make us efficient and effective – like sales pipeline, calendar and task lists? 

Where next

I find it incredibly fulfilling to support ambitious tech leaders as they face change and new challenge in their businesses. I won’t stop the proven, valuable, special service that is 1:1 coaching, with all the individual attention and benefits that affords…  

But innovation is the game in the tech sector and I take inspiration from my clients in my coaching practice! I am committed to experimenting on the portfolio of services through which I can apply my coaching approach.

The example discussed in this article, group coaching, has enabled me to reach a larger number of individuals. I intend to run regular group coaching workshops and I am also looking at creating mechanisms for peer coaching and accountability to further leverage what I can offer personally as a coach. I would be delighted to hear what other coaches are doing to innovate on their service offering and reach more leaders in ways that work for them.

To connect with Katy Tuncer