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In June Bulletin reported the launch of the new coaching platform available to support staff to navigate the significant changes that the higher education sector is facing. Six months on, 51 colleagues have taken up the offer with those who have completed their programme giving an overall satisfaction score of 9.8 (out of 10). Staff also reported a 25.9 per cent increase in their wellbeing and a 57 per cent increase in their clarity on next steps to achieve their goals.

We talked to Natalia Gibczynska, Facilities and Community Manager at the Bayes Centre, about her experience of working with a coach from our partner organisation Know You More.

How did you discover that coaching was available through the University and what led you to take up the opportunity to work with an executive coach?

Natalia:  For the last couple of years I’ve worked in the Bayes Centre and it’s a dream job for me; to look after a community, a building, a service. During the disruption caused by Covid-19, I was stressing and feeling isolated at times and losing my previous sense of clarity about longer-term direction amid the daily routine. Sometimes I’ve also had some issues managing upwards. So I signed up for the Edinburgh Manager programme and that’s where I found out about the coaching opportunity. I’d heard about coaching from friends and colleagues – how it was a positive experience, a safe space and time to step back to think about things. I was a bit sceptical about doing it online; would it be awkward? Would it be useful to my work? But in the end I decided to go for it.

What did you hope to gain from the coaching?

Natalia: A chance to take time, get some suggestions on tactics, from someone who is experienced that I could learn from. A guide: not someone who would know all the answers but someone who would help me get to the answers myself.

What was the experience actually like?

Natalia:  I don’t want this to come across the wrong way but it has really been a life-changing experience for me. I was surprised that I was able build a good connection with my coach in the first session. I felt he understood what I was saying and what I was feeling too. There was the right amount of listening as well as talking and challenging. I didn’t feel judged or embarrassed. I’m surprised how such a strong way of working can be created using Zoom.  I got some breakthrough insights that I’m using at work and away from work too.

My coach knew exactly the reading material I needed –  if you aren’t educated on something, you can struggle with things but as soon as you find out some facts, it makes you feel better and take action. It’s strange how someone you have never met before can make you know yourself better. The name of the coaching company ‘Know You More’ is so apt.

What did you achieve as a result of the coaching?

Natalia:  The key thing is I am much better at managing upwards now. The coaching helped me to take a moment, put myself in someone else’s shoes and help me understand not only why they might have made a decision but also to understand my own initial reaction more deeply. It has been a complete change in mindset for me.

I am more reflective now, able to see wider points of view and manage things differently. My relationships are strengthened too: I’m giving, and getting that feedback from senior colleagues and from my own team.

What will you be taking from the coaching going forward?

Natalia: Definitely the self reflection practices and putting myself in other people’s shoes.  Pausing and taking time to consider. People often say “I’m too busy to think about that”. They don’t put time aside to reflect but there is major value in committing the time to do that regularly;  you can catch your mistakes, pick up your lessons and constantly improve things.

Before I was firefighting – this can be useful in a crisis but I wasn’t stopping and thinking about the longer term piece.  Coaching helped me understand that what I am feeling is ok AND I have choices to do something different. So now I not only know my longer term goal, I also know the small steps I need to take to achieve that. I didn’t have that before.

Is there anything else you want your colleagues to be aware of?

Natalia: People should go out and look for it. There is a really big value in having coaching available to you throughout your whole career. It should definitely be shared more widely and the experiences shared, there is a major benefit for the individual, the University and people also. It can make an incredible impact on their work and their personal life too. I really hope that this helps someone take advantage of this for themselves.

If you are interested or would like to find out more about coaching take a look at the HR webpages  for more information.