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The Dolphin and the Giraffe

A collaborative piece written by Ali Kerr and Rachael Wallace-Lane

People often think that only a client is impacted by coaching but it is often much more of a partnership than that.

Accredited Coach, Rachael Wallace-Lane and Third-Sector Consultant Ali Kerr, reflect on the benefits of a short burst of coaching for everyone involved. Both challenged the other to answer 10  questions, separately. Here's what they said…...


1.     How did you meet?

Ali: Rachael and I had worked together a number of years ago and stayed in touch, despite our work taking different directions. When I was considering leaving the safety of a steady job for the terrifying world of self-employment, I chatted to Rachael, who asked if I’d thought about coaching to work out my next steps. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Rachael: July 2016, Ali and I met whilst working at Cyrenians, Ali was our Relationships Manager and the title really just summed her up.  A people person, with the most amazing communication and translations skills.  Not in the traditional, into a different language, translation.  I loved when she would take my words, very factual and pretty dull to be honest and she would turn them into something interesting and impactful.   Just one of her amazing skills.

2.     What were your expectations before you met?

Rachael: When I read this first I felt that I should answer, none.  However, on reflection I did want to make sure we took some time together to check out that we could and should work together.    Making sure you are the right fit with your coach is so important, for me making sure our values align, then agree to partner together to create a safe space for Ali and to really explore what it was she wanted and how we might get her there.    So maybe my expectation was to make sure Ali was going get something that would really work for her.

Ali: I was apprehensive – what really was coaching anyway?  I didn’t want to waste Rachael’s time with my constant Hamlet-style indecision: to be a consultant, or not to be a consultant … Although I was possibly just as anxious that coaching would help me to make a decision and I would have to step into that change. If I am honest, with hindsight I don’t think I really believed four sessions could make much of a difference. Oh me of little faith!

3.     Name two BIG feelings from that first meeting.

Ali: Surprise and excitement. Surprise about being excited mostly!

Rachael: Excitement  and Privilege I always get really excited when I start working with a new client, when they agree to invest in themselves, recognising that they are worth it.  With Ali, her ability to articulate where she wanted to get to, her willingness to invest in herself and her future vision; identifying the possibilities, opportunities was exciting to think we would be on this journey together.  I also recognised that Ali was going to allow me to flex my skills, giving me permission to challenge her thinking.  When someone is brave enough to even look at making a change, I feel privileged to be in that space with them.  

4.     What did (the other) do that helped the process most?

Rachael: Ali was always open to the question, curious and able to reflect, in the moment and ponder over time. 

Ali: Rachael has a set of tools which she uses with clients, but the ones we worked with felt really well chosen for me. For example, she had me complete a pre-session questionnaire which was really helpful to focus on what I wanted out of our initial four sessions. Part of the exercise was to pinpoint on a circular diagram where I currently sat with several aspects of my work and life and then connect all the dots in a line around the outside to create a kind of wheel. I had done this before in several other settings and never got much out of it, but Rachael explained something really simple that no-one else had and it really struck me for the first time what it meant; if things are out of balance and the line goes all over the place, that’s a really wonky set of wheels to try and move forward effectively with. Why had no-one explained that before??? It made perfect sense and in that first session I knew I needed to try and sort my wonky wheel, and I could easily see the areas where I could do that. She also kept me focussed on the goals we had set (decide in 4 sessions if I am doing it), and that is no easy task believe me!

5.     Any awkward/sticky moments?

Ali: Not many. I liked Rachael saying “I’m going to challenge you there.” Which happened quite a lot! One of the most awkward things was Rachael’s insistence that I identified some key strengths and defined my ‘purpose’ as part of creating a business plan. So uncomfortable, but she had a great tool for doing that and it was so worth it in the end! Those things ultimately became my website.

Rachael: Yes, thankfully.  One of the most important parts of coaching is the contracting we do at the beginning and then re-contracting regularly throughout our time together.  Agreeing how we will work together, finding out how much challenge is ok and deciding how to say when it is not ok.   Ali was open to all the challenging questions, taking time to reflect in this space that she had created, to invest in herself and her new venture.  Call me weird but I find doing the sticky, awkward stuff the best stuff.   

6.     What has changed most as a result of working together?

Rachael: I feel I have a stronger relationship with Ali, a bond of shared experience of being a business owner, woman and human beings on this planet. 

Ali: I now work for myself and my wheel is considerably less wonky!

7.     If you had to describe (the other) as an animal, what would they be and why?

Ali: I think Rachael is a Giraffe, calmly looking up and over the top of the many excuses I brought, and seeing the bigger picture and encouraging me to climb up and enjoy a much better view than the one I currently had.

Rachael: Dolphin - super intelligent, sophisticated, innovative, playful and a communication expert.

8.     Which 3 words best describe your experience?

Rachael: Honest, open, fun.

Ali: Four career-changing hours

9.     If you could change one thing about the experience what would it be?

Ali: I would be less apprehensive. Rachael is the safest pair of hands and I didn’t need to understand the process because she did.

Rachael: Make it longer!  One of my values is curiosity and I am always interested to see how things play out.

10.  What mark out of ten would you give the whole experience?

Rachael: 10+, Ali entered into the coaching with her whole self.  A joy to work with.   

Ali: 10! Thank you Rachael

If you are feeling brave and interested in a new beginning or making a change please reach out, I’d love to hear from you.

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