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Catching Fireworks

Deborah Henry-Pollard: Creative Coaching


What Would I Be Doing Without Coaching?

Posted on 25 October, 2018 at 5:35 Comments comments (1)

I was asked recently how I got into coaching and I told my story (as mentioned in a previous blog - link below).


I was then asked another question, which really got me thinking:


“If you hadn’t gone for coaching, what would you be doing now?”




Well, I can’t know what might have turned up if I had just kept going along the path I was on.  Who knows what other opportunities might have turned up? All I can give is the picture as I saw it from where I was then.  

I was a fundraising manager for a charity and the logical next step was to apply for jobs which were the next step up: Director of Development, for example. This would have been putting myself and my future in other peoples’ hands. Waiting for jobs to be advertised/become available; putting in my application to be weighed against others and found satisfactory/wanting; preparing for/getting stressed about interviews; waiting for the phone to ring to tell me if I had been successful or not.  And all this for a career that I didn’t really want to have anymore.


Having been employed all my working life, going freelance wasn’t even on the radar. Neither was bringing all my skills together and creating my own career.


Without the intervention of coaching, I probably would have carried on as I had for the whole of my previous working life - clocking in, drawing down a regular salary, getting bored every 3 or 4 years, moving on and looking forward to retirement. 

Instead, here I am 10 years on, having built a coaching practice, become a public speaker and written a book. In my freelance life, I can sit writing whilst looking out over London as dusk falls, having spent a morning with a marvellous client at their studio, before meeting up with a group of coaching colleagues and then going on to a Private View. Yesterday was totally different and tomorrow will be different again. I work hours I want and because I love what I do, health permitting, I don’t intend to retire.


You might not want to change your life completely. You may not know what you want to do. You may just have the feeling, as I did, that something needed to change. Whether that turns out to be changing your horizons, your mindset or a few unhelpful habits, coaching could be the way through.




How Big Should Your Vision Be?

Posted on 16 August, 2018 at 13:50 Comments comments (0)

If you read my blog or look at my website on a regular basis, you will see that I often talk about vision. It is quite a big thing for me as I know it helps me in deciding what I'm going to do next and it motivates me.  I am often asked if a vision has to be a huge thing, as often people find it difficult to think of a “big enough thing” to aim for. At moments like that, I tell them about a client I worked with a few years ago.

The client came to me with a single small project that she wanted to work on. During our conversations, we started talking about vision and she said that she didn't really have one. She was an artist, as was her husband; they got enough work to cover their living costs and to be able to pick and choose the projects that they took on. They were very happy and fulfilled, with enough time to enjoy all aspects of their lives.

I asked if there was any small change she would like to make in her life? She thought very long and very hard, then said, “I would like to go on a holiday that doesn’t involve a tent.”

Every year, she and her husband had very enjoyable jaunts to the countryside where they took time out, sketched, walked and enjoyed long pub lunches. Because they were on a budget, they went camping. My client didn’t hate camping, but she felt that when planning the next trip, she would like to have the choice between groundsheets and Egyptian cotton sheets, and not having to worry about rain and mud. We talked through the idea and because her desires weren’t extravagant, she said a nice little cottage would be fine.

She worked out the potential cost and how much extra money she and her husband (who was equally happy with the idea) would have to pull in to make it happen. They reviewed how much and what type of extra work they could take on, and looked at the prices they were charging for their works and fees, which they increased. Between these, it was less of a stretch than they had imagined and a few months later, they were on their holidays without a tent in sight!

Since then, they have been perfectly happy with staying in little cottages, with no desires to upgrade to the Savoy or The Ritz. However, having succeeded with this goal, it started them thinking of other small changes they want to make in their lives. Every year, they set themselves a joint vision, something which needs a little bit of effort to pull them forwards.

So, which metaphorical tent do you want to swap for a cottage this year?

Is Coaching About Making Me Better?

Posted on 5 May, 2018 at 0:55 Comments comments (0)

This is a question which came out of talking about coaching with a prospective client.

I did not question the meaning of ‘better’ in this context. It could have meant better as in opposite to ‘not well’ or better as in more accomplished. Neither is relevant to me because when someone, perhaps like you, wants to work with me, I don’t regard you as in need of being improved, of being fixed, of being made better. I come from the attitude that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.

You know your life, your business, your ideas best. You generally know what works for you and what doesn’t. You often know what you really want to do with your life. You often know what is holding you back. However, sometimes that knowledge, those instincts, have got buried. You could have so much going on that you just can’t focus. Or your thinking has been going along one track so you end up not being able to see the wood for the trees. Or you have been scared to voice your thoughts in case you look foolish. Or a thousand other perfectly sound reasons why you are stuck or unclear.

I am not a therapist. I am not here to cure you or tell you ‘how to’. My job is to create a safe space, be an objective cheerleader and ask questions to pull the answers out of the best expert in the room on you - you. I can offer different viewpoints for you to think about; ideas which might not be right, but which you can try on for size; opportunities to drill down to what you really think and feel about your situation; a place to be accountable so you can follow through on your actions.

It is not a coming together of fixer and fixee, like a mechanic with a broken bike. It is a collaboration between facilitator (me) and expert in the life of you. During the course of the collaboration, you may develop, have breakthroughs and find out new things about yourself, but that is only because it is all hidden inside you anyway, like the golden glitter inside a firework.

Sometimes, all it needs is someone to light the spark.

What If I Don't Know My Goal?

Posted on 5 May, 2018 at 0:50 Comments comments (0)

When I talk about coaching and the GROW methodology, people sometimes say, "but does that mean I need to know what my goal is before I come to you?"

The answer is no, you don't.

Some people, it is true, come to me with a goal or project they want to work on. Perhaps it isn't quite clear and they want to identify the exact goal. Or they know exactly what they want, but don't know how to put it into action. (I work with a lot of people who are tremendous "starters", having more ideas in a week than most of us have in a lifetime, but who are just not "doers" or "completer/finishers". Their frustration comes from their ideas being unrealised.)

At the other end of the scale are the people who are feeling a bit adrift. They know they want something in their life to change, but have no idea what, how or when. (This is something with which I identify, as this was my state when I first came to coaching as a client.)

With the people who know their goals, that's where we start and we build from there.  With those who have no idea, we start with the Reality and out of that, gradually the goals emerge.

The key with coaching, for me, is that although I use GROW as a tool, in truth it isn't about completing a stage, ticking it off and moving on. It is about a process and a flow. The GROW model is often drawn as a lovely, straightforward circle, but in action, because of the fabulously untamed way the mind works, ideas spark other ideas, which spark more ideas, any of which can fall anywhere within the GROW circle. My role as coach is to hold the space, let all those thoughts flourish and then help the clients to develop and organise them.

One of the fascinating things I have discovered through all my hours of coaching is that even when someone comes to me knowing what their goal is, there are often times when having had the freedom to talk freely, imagine and engage in the process, their goals have become bigger, altered or a whole new goal finally admitted out loud!

So whether you can see where you want to be in 5 years, or can't see beyond next week, the coaching process supports you and helps you define what you want to achieve.

Coaching, Not Telling

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 13:10 Comments comments (0)

I was once asked for advice on whether someone should set up as a freelancer, a limited company or another type of business model. I said that I didn't know.

The questioner was slightly miffed, as they wanted a quick answer, for me to tell them what to do. "But you coach people on their businesses, don't you?"

Yes, I coach, but I don't tell. I don't hand out ready made checklists of things to do. For one reason, that isn't my training and for another, the solutions my clients find for themselves are far more inventive and interesting than ones I could come up with.

Let me clarify the process with a real example:

A client was discussing a forthcoming meeting with a retailer. She didn't know what to prepare, what they were expecting from her, what sort of deal they might offer...

She was completely on the back foot and approaching the meeting as a "junior partner", almost as a supplicant.

Now in that situation, I could have given her a checklist (portfolio, CV, business cards, testminonials) which would in its' own way been helpful as she would have arrived at the meeting with a stackful of information.

And it wouldn't have changed her mindset. She would still have gone into the meeting hoping to be thrown some breadcrumbs.

As a coach, I asked her a question:

"What do you want to get out of this meeting?"

For a moment, she stopped dead. It had never occurred to her that she could set her own agenda, that she could have some control over what happened. She thought it through and identified three things she wanted to achieve as a result of the meeting. (These revolved around building a connection, discovering joint aims and collaboration.)

I followed up with:

"And what will you bring to the meeting?"

Because we had moved to a different mindset, she thought not of business cards, but her networks, reputation, social media profile, expertise...

She realised that she could go into the meeting as an equal with as much to offer as the retailers. (In her case it was a retailer, but it could have been a gallery, a publisher, a director, an interview panel.)

And this is what coaching is about. If I had given her information, I would have been taking control of her meeting. But by developing her own answers to the questions I put, she recognised her worth, took control and went into the meeting motivated and confident.

Is Coaching All About Solutions?

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 13:05 Comments comments (0)

All the clients who have come to me want something to change.  They can come with a ready formed goal or needing to find their direction. Either way, at the end of our work together the clients will, if the coaching has worked, have found solutions to their situation and can go away with the next steps in place. So coaching, at least with the GROW model I use, is about solutions.

However, within that process, I facilitate the session so that it is not "just" about getting to a solution as quickly as possible. As a coach, I ensure that the client has the time to talk through options, ideas, experiences, concerns, possibilities, etc. Sometimes, a client wants space to kick ideas around and then leave them to "breathe" for a while, perhaps until a future session, before locking them into a definite plan or action. My job is to create that space and then make sure to bring the thoughts back to the next session, to see how/if the client wants to work on them more, or leave them a little longer.

I was also asked if I provide the solutions and I repeat that my job is to facilitate the session. This is a major difference between a coach and a consultant. Some clients want help with, for example, becoming more adept at promoting themselves. If I was a consultant, I could come up with a checklist of "must dos" - social media tips, networking, public speaking, etc. However, many of us really know the things we need to be doing. We also know which of those things will never get done because of all the little fears and concerns which stop us. My role as a coach is to work with clients to find out who/what they already know, what they feel comfortable doing, getting them through those fears and self limiting beliefs that stop us all from time to time, and helping create a big enough picture which motivates them. That way, the solutions are self discovered and most of us are much better at doing things we have chosen to do, rather than those we are told to do.

So although one of the endgames of coaching is finding solutions, along the way it is also a place to think, explore, discuss, break free, dream and discover.

How Much Are Your Goals Worth?

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 13:00 Comments comments (0)

I love a bargain. I love finding designer labels in charity shops and at vintage fairs; or excellent apps for free. It all saves a few pennies and there is the fun and thrill of getting a great deal.

And then there are times when I need to spend the money. It is not a question of getting the cheapest, but of making an investment, particularly in oneself.

I have written before about my vision story, taking a year to come back to London from Chester.  But in reality, I had started planning my return long before the date I made my declaration of intent.  I knew that for the sort of job I wanted, although my experience was brilliant, one of the key criteria of every job I looked at was a degree. I had done enough hiring myself in the corporate sphere to know that in cases of high levels of applications, this was a way of sifting people out of the running. So in my 30s, I invested 3.5 years and several thousands of pounds (whilst on a low salary and with no grant) to get my degree. After I had got the job I wanted, I asked if the degree made a difference - I was told they wouldn’t have looked at my application without it.

When I hit a complete block (as I perceived it) in my career, I invested several hundred pounds (again whilst on a low salary) in coaching to help me find a way through.

Having discovered coaching was my vocation, I invested (and continue to invest) in my training and personal development. (This doesn’t take into consideration all other money I invest in my business.)

I often have people who want to take me for coffee, “for a chat”. What they really want is an hour’s free coaching; instead, I offer them an initial consultation which is 20 minutes over the phone. I am not offended by their request and don’t take it personally as it usually isn’t about me. If they want to talk to me for an hour about their situation, they have already decided I am a good coach for them.

The issue they haven’t resolved is how much of an investment they think they are worth. The investments I made were all at times when I didn’t have spare cash (I was employed full time, but the pay wasn’t great). My degree meant no holidays, no eating out, no treats. It was during this time, through necessity, that I discovered the marvellously good quality clothes you can find in charity shops. But I knew I had to “speculate to accumulate” - and I still do.

If you want to develop and grow personally or in your business, there are times you have to pay for the training, seminars, coaching, memberships, expertise, etc.

So, how much are you and your goals worth?

GROWing with Coaching

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 5:40 Comments comments (0)

The GROW methodology that I use as a coach is well established … but what does GROW actually mean?

G is for Goals

This is the “what you want to achieve". This can be expressed as your vision, your legacy, your target, depending on what you are working on (whether it is your whole life or your next mini project), and the terminology which most motivates you. Sometimes when they come to me, my clients already know what their goal is and want support on achieving it. For others, coaching is a chance to brainstorm and consider all the possibilities.

R is for Reality

This is the “where you are now”. This can often be a wonderfully surprising area for some clients.  They come thinking that they are so far from their goal and only see what’s missing. The great fun is finding out all the things already in place which they just hadn’t realised were there. These can include skills, experience, contacts, networks, etc. Yes, we look at the ‘missing’ things as well, but all in the context of a non-judgemental “nothing is wrong, this is just what it is”.

O is for Options

This is the “what could we do to get from reality to goal”. This is another area where we look at possibilities. We brainstorm all the practical, wild, inventive, logical, loopy, impractical, illogical actions which could be taken. Part of the fun is to come up with as many options as possible without censoring or diluting them. It is all “yes, and…”, not “yes, but…”.

W is for Will

This is the time when we move from possibility to action and out some concrete plans in place. We go through the Options and look at them with a more realistic eye and identify the ones you are really going to do. For example, I don’t like spiders. An Option to overcome my dislike could be to go to ZSL London Zoo For their Friendly Spider Programme where I could end up with a Mexican Red-Knee Spider on my hand. Will I actually do that?  Ummmm, probably no! However, I might have a go at watching a documentary about spiders. More seriously, an option for you might be to promote yourself through public speaking, but that might feel a step too far for you at the moment.  However, you might decide to record some videos talking to camera.  

This seems very linear and is the basis for the agenda for my Team Coaching. With individuals, however, it can be more fluid, moving back and forth between the four areas. Often when people have seen the realities and options, they change and/or refine their goals. Going through the GROW process, people find themselves taking more bold actions than they might have taken before they realised the possibilities and what is already in place. And it is also good to keep checking around the circle to review where you are and how much progress you are making.

How I Discovered Coaching

Posted on 4 May, 2018 at 5:25 Comments comments (0)

I wanted to share my first direct experience of coaching.

When I was 49, I was mentally and emotionally running around in circles frustrated about my professional life. I was a fundraising manager and my next step was to go further up the fundraising ladder. The only problem was that I had never wanted to be a fundraiser. Like many of us, I had fallen into a career which I was very good at, but which I had got into more or less by accident. I could only see the obvious, logical path ahead of me, which I didn't want to take. The word I used most about my situation was "trapped". I got to the point where I was miserable on a daily basis. I also didn't have a great deal of spare cash.

But times were drastic and something had to be done.

I decided I needed help, someone who could look objectively at my situation and help me find other possibilities. I signed up with a fabulous career coach, Cherry Douglas. I thought that although I was an intelligent person who spent a great deal of time problem solving and sorting out my life on my own, this time, I needed help to get out of my dilemma.

I signed up for 6 sessions with Cherry. She questioned, probed, and reflected my thoughts back. By the third session, I suddenly noticed that I was talking about feeling free to do anything I wanted. In just 3 sessions, we had altered my mindset, clearing through a lot of the doubts, apprehensions, fears and frustrations. We identified my transferable skills, my values and dreams, creating the foundations of my new future. It was all so valuable that I added extra sessions to my original 6 and ended by designing my perfect job. (And it wasn't always obvious how it was going to turn out. I clearly remember at one point, Cherry asked if I had ever considered becoming self employed. I crossed my arms firmly across my chest and said, "No."  Now look at me!)

Out of those sessions, I discovered many things, including that coaching was a tool I had been using throughout my career when working with people. Another was to create a big vision for my future which would not only give me a career I love, but which also supports other people in fulfilling their dreams and potential.  

I started my coaching sessions with Cherry in the April, resigned my job in August and started my new business in January. I trained with James Wright of Performance Coach Training and Deborah Barnard of Relational Dynamics 1st and still see a coach on a regular basis to continue my own professional development, both for my benefit and for my clients.

I am very clear that coaching has and continues to change my life in ways that would not be possible if I was trying to do it on my own. The investment of time and money then and ongoingly has repaid me several times over, both in money and even more in personal satisfaction. Now I am spending the rest of my life offering that same opportunity to the people whose creativity enhances all our lives.