As an advocate for their clients, lawyers must develop a wide range of skills, over and above an expert knowledge of their legal field. These “soft”, often intangible, skills include the ability to tease out a client’s true goals and motives, to understand the context of their circumstances, explain all of the available options and support them to navigate the legal process. At the same time, they must be able to work with a range of colleagues – juniors, peers & seniors, plan their careers whilst also trying to balance a life outside work for themselves & their family. No wonder that it can sometimes feel as you’re on turbo-charged hamster wheel!

personal coaching So what happens when it’s the advocate who needs support? To whom does the expert turn when they recognise they need to acquire more skills? Who is there to support the guide when they get stuck or lost, or just need an independent unbiased sounding board to test out ideas?

There is a reason why the field of executive, personal coaching has increased substantially in the last 20 years – it’s because organisations of any size now recognise that senior partners, managers & directors are more likely to achieve peak performance if they have the benefit of experienced, outside coaching …. and the same is just as true for lawyers, doctors and other professional groups.

Have you found yourself, at some point in your career, unclear as to your direction or purpose? Maybe frustrated because of an unhelpful professional relationship? Perhaps unsure as to the steps to take or unable to find the motivation to take the required action? Has there been a time when you have recognised that there is a lack balance between work aspirations and the importance of family and personal time? If so, you wouldn’t be alone – many lawyers have found themselves in these situations and the good news is that professional personal coaching can help support you through all these challenges.

The International Coaching Federation defines coaching as a “partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential”. Imagine having your own personal inspiration in your corner? Someone whose sole role was to help you maximise your potential. Someone who through the power of gentle challenge, curious conversations and accountability can create an environment for personal and professional transformation and sustainable change.

Unlike mentoring, where the emphasis is on the instructor sharing their knowledge and skills, or sports coaching, where it is the coach that decides the method of training, style of play and overall goals and how to achieve them, professional personal coaching focuses on supporting the individual lawyer in clarifying their own goals, becoming aware of their own strengths, as well as areas for development, and creating their own solutions for progression. It is based on the belief that you are the best expert of your life, situation and challenges, and that you have within yourself the resources to reach your full potential. The role of the coach is to help you find those resources that, so often, may be hidden from view.

As a recently promoted new partner, Sarah recognised that she needed support to prioritise her commitments, develop trusting relationships, whilst delivering on expectations. With the help of an independent professional personal coach, these issues were explored, objectives clarified, underlying assumptions gently challenged and different strategies discussed and tested. Over the next 4 months, Sarah understood more about her own personal behaviours, was able to manage her workload and expectations of herself more effectively, find the boundaries to grow productive, mutually respectful relationships with colleagues and become more relaxed and effective.

Curious to explore more? Considering these questions may help you decide if professional personal coaching could add value to your current situation ….

How would becoming more self-aware be helpful to you?

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of personal coaching is the growth in awareness of oneself. This method can inspire a heightened awareness of your thoughts, emotions, actions and decisions, the reasons behind them and how they impact on yourself as well as those around you; it can also help you to assess whether those elements are helpful or obstructive to your ultimate desired outcome and, if not, what you can do to make it so.

What difference would it make to have more clarity about your goals and strategies?

In business, careers, relationships, and indeed in life, knowing where you want to get to and why you want to get there, are key ingredients to success. How else can you devise a route map or, perhaps more importantly, know when you’ve arrived? Personal coaching can crystallise those goals and the motivations behind them, as well as helping to keep you on track.

What might change if you had support with your action plan & accountability?

Coaching is nothing without action, and action is more likely to occur with accountability. Each coaching session will result in agreed actions to take and strategies to test out, and it is the client’s responsibility to “do the do”. A coach will hold a mirror to the client, reminding them of their goals, reasons and decisions, so that the client, in effect, becomes accountable to themselves. This approach has the benefit of building within the client the resource of self-accountability and determination – a truly powerful tool for creating change.

How do you ensure you get enough feedback and reflection time?

The coaching environment is a time and space when the client is the sole focus of any interaction. It is a great opportunity for creative exploration, self-reflection and independent feedback. Mature coaching relationships not only allow, but encourage challenging questioning to promote shifts in perspective, uncover assumptions and improve problem-solving.

Professional personal coaching is for lawyers who wish to raise the standard of their performance and be more successful both at work and at home. Lawyers, whatever their stage of career, can use coaching to help with a wide range of issues – for example business development, time management, career goals, achieving productive relationships, leadership and many more. Whilst often challenging, it is also hugely rewarding and enjoyable. It undoubtedly has the ability to enhance your personal development, and support you in reaching your full potential in many areas of your life. To get the most out of personal coaching, you must be prepared to be honest with yourself, to consider your beliefs, behaviours and decisions critically, be open to feedback and be prepared to explore different strategies – in essence, to go beyond your current comfort zone and step into your adventure zone, which is where our ultimate success lies. You must be prepared engage in a curious conversation & follow where they take you.

Want to know more? Listen to our podcast interview with Peter Campbell here.

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Catherine Reynolds
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