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  • Ashana Crichton

My Coaching Approach

Coaching underpins who I am today. And who I am today is the foundation of my coaching approach. In saying this, I must acknowledge the journey I have been on, and the journey that will continue. My coaching approach is therefore moveable, flexible as I learn and grow; informed by my life experience, professional development, ethical dilemmas I encounter along the way, and never forgetting the importance of world context and place. It is fluid as I am fluid.

As a coach, I value perspective and strive to meet people where they are. Not in the trite way we often hear but believing wholeheartedly in the importance of world view and lived experience. It’s a value I didn’t know was so fundamental to me until I began my coaching journey and take pleasure everyday knowing I can provide people with the time and space to connect with who they innately are, consider what brought them here and what they are uniquely primed to achieve. It is a philosophy my executive clients appreciate to define and fulfil their leadership potential, my under-represented clients are empowered by when navigating systemic conflict, and that I use in my own life journey to ‘comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’.


So, in defining my personal coaching approach, I caveat that this is how I choose to coach today. Ask me in a year or so and I’m sure there will be something new, but equally fundamental that adds further nuance to this position.


Who I am


"Who you are is how you coach" (Coach Supervision Academy)


It is important I start here as it exemplifies why perspective is so key to my work with clients. My privilege was to grow up in a mixed-race family in a diverse community that included immigrants, non-immigrants, and asylum seekers. A part of London where middle class and working-class children went to the same comprehensive schools, at a time when a good education was free, and in a country that provides healthcare for all. In my little bubble I felt the warmth of acceptance and knew what it meant to ‘belong’. In coaching terms, it would be fair to say that I grew up embraced by ‘unconditional positive regard’ and didn’t question my ability to achieve what I wanted for my life. It’s a small luxury that I afford my clients, the acceptance of what they bring to the session.


Above all else, my goal through adolescence was to live a ‘happy’ life. My bubble began to deflate when I went to university; I felt different for the first time. It sagged further still when I started my first job in the creative communications industry. There were new norms, my speaking voice was rough around the edges, and I didn’t have the luxury of an allowance to supplement my meagre wage. But I was a people person, a hard worker, and I was happy. I was yet to recognise that my single, simple goal in life was the thing that held me back the most. My background didn’t value academic success, ambition and financial reward, we had working class values of Loyalty and a good Work Ethic, values that kept me in my lane.


My bubble burst when I made a mid-career move to the US. Being black and female carried more weight than ever in Trump’s America. My under-graduate degree (a family first I’d always been proud of) was minimised in a city of Harvard and MIT educated professionals. I was side-lined in an industry I’d thrived in and found it near impossible to make friends. Privilege, discrimination, and inequality are not feelings that can be reframed. My experience highlights to me that all clients will have external factors that may affect the impact coaching can have for them. (D. McKenna & S. Davis, 2009)


These insights are ones that I bring to my coaching. An understanding that it can be difficult to show up authentically when you’re under-represented, that beliefs can be limiting, and that bias can be internalised. As a result, my coaching acknowledges both real and perceived barriers that may hold individuals back. I make space for these realities leaning into intervention styles that support people to express painful feelings when a bias for action could prevent such psychological safety.


Who I am therefore informs my coaching approach in many ways. In its broadest sense, I take a person-centred approach, and this means being flexible to who I am coaching and what they bring to the relationship. That said, my first-hand experience of belonging, displacement, and privilege mean that I see a place for coaching to address power imbalance, challenging perceived wisdom in service of something bigger. Equality is important to me.


Why I coach

For me, coaching is a vocation, a calling. I like people, I like communicating, and I lean toward extrovertism, taking energy from being around others and thinking aloud. Coaching is so powerful, I believe, because it provides the space and opportunity to acknowledge thoughts and feelings we may otherwise avoid processing in full. It is a space of trust and safety where clients get to play out assumptions, grow in awareness, and game-plan life ahead of time.


My intention is therefore to create fuelling pauses for thought and the exploration of alternative perspectives. While I see that anyone can benefit from such an intervention, having worked in the corporate space previously, I understand the pressure competitive environments can have on individuals wanting to achieve their potential personally and professionally. For instance:

  • I notice that women benefit from coaching mid-career when what has made them successful to date will no longer serve them to reach new highs.

  • I notice that to be under-represented and ‘bring your full self to work’ can create conflict

  • I notice that executives are often measured by the health of their team, which is a new skillset that requires nurturing.

  • I notice that national crisis and pandemic creates new traumas that people have not previously had to ‘work around’.

These require moments to slow down and unlock fresh insight.


I am also mindful that coaching, as an intervention, represents western norms of individualism, putting the individual front and centre, ruler of their own destiny. In a 1:1 coaching capacity it flies in the face of the power of the collective to achieve a greater good. It leads me to be discerning about who I coach and the work I want to do with them so that reinforcing dominant and often outdated norms does not become my norm. After all, to bring about equality often means allocating resources disproportionately.


Who I coach

My ‘Sweet-spot’ is to coach under-represented/minority professionals and Executives wanting to embrace an inclusive leadership approach.


The under-represented

At its best, coaching is a vehicle of empowerment – to benefit from self-awareness and analysis of how experiences have been internalised. For minorities, negative experiences and treatment can be a reason to stay small… ‘the nail that sticks out gets the hammer’. Minorities working in mid-level corporate positions can derive value from coaching to address these imbalances, to feel success, to be recognised, and to know that they can be as big and influential as they would want to be.


Executives

Diversity and Inclusion initiatives have been prioritised in recent years and getting Inclusion right is key to most growing organisations. It puts pressure on Senior Leaders to assume ultimate accountability for a discipline that we’re all still learning. Coaching can help organisational leaders embrace the topic of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a way that is meaningful for them, considering their own live experience and potential for bias so they feel confident and equipped to engage more fully in the broad effort required of us all if minority voices are to feel the rights of full participation.


What this means in working with sponsor organisations

Conformity creates conflict in me, and I choose not to participate. My strong stance on working with sponsor organisations is not to play into a dynamic that rewards dominant group behaviours rather than valuing the opportunity for individuals to add value via their full selves, experiences, strengths, and talents.


I therefore contract with corporate sponsors for individuals to choose their own goals and outcome objectives based on the reason they have been put forward for coaching. There are many skilful coaches that don’t have this same conflict, but how we coach the under-represented (that so often feel marginalised) should be handled with care. As should it be treated sensitively when we want corporate Executives to open up to vulnerability.


How I coach

With the presence of my own values, beliefs, and clear sense of purpose, I am fully aware that how I coach requires a balanced, ethical approach:

  • To empower those that need empowering (Leveraging 2.8 of the AC Global Code of Ethics)

  • To open up perspectives and explore difference to benefit inclusion (See 3.5 of the AC Global Code of Ethics)

  • To challenge dominant, discriminatory norms (See 3.6 of the AC Global Code of Ethics)

I believe all clients, whatever their life experience and perspective are creative, resourceful, and whole (ICF) and naturally lean into a person-centred coaching approach. In practice, this means that:

  • I prioritise the relationship, creating the safe space for vulnerability

  • I develop my own comfort with perspectives different to my own

  • I coach the whole of the person, happy to speak about personal relationships or spirituality if it is the thing holding them back from the professional success they seek

  • I am vulnerable, flexible in the moment with tools and techniques that meet the clients’ needs

  • I offer flexible coaching logistics, adaptable to learning styles, time, place, and session cadence.

A Person-centred coaching approach also appeals to me as it leverages the evidence based Humanistic practice of those such as Carl Rogers to enable people to grow and achieve their potential. I complement this approach with various tools and techniques, practising a Universal Eclectic Coaching Approach (A. Hardingham, 2006) that leverages models that are known from the research of psychology to elicit a certain type of behaviour change.


Based on my coaching ‘sweet-spot’, I often draw upon the following:


Systems thinking – Using tools such as Constellations and Forcefield to help clients make step changes that consider the system they are operating within.

CBC – At times using the full ABCDE model to dispute limiting beliefs with evidence-based thoughts that empower mindset shift but often, just articulating the client behaviour in terms of a belief ignited by a specific activating event is enough to add direction to a coaching conversation.

Gestalt – This type of presence and utilisation of the Empty Chair technique can help a person connect with a variety of perspectives in the here and now that supports the processing of wider perspectives that empower new choices or clearer presence of mind.

Solution focused approaches – This is a natural tendency for me being, above all else, an optimist. Allowing ‘stuck’ clients to create a powerful vision to march toward is often liberating in the response in ignites.


For Executive coaching assignments, I also find that tools such as BATNA, the SBI feedback model, and the occasional SWOT analysis can help frame challenges in corporate methods that are as insightful as they are relevant.


In conclusion

As a result, I measure my coaching effectiveness based on the outcomes my clients communicate via feedback forms and LinkedIn recommendations (www.linkedIn.com/in/Ashana-Crichton).

This gives me the confidence to know that my flavour of coaching seems to be working. For my development, I intend to maintain my unique balance of coaching engagements, paying


attention to ethics, continuing to learn and develop in the D&I space, and digging into schools of thought that further complement my work. My plan is to attend the following over the next year:

  • Coaching for Social Justice (Charmaine Roche, Life Flow Balance)

  • Executive coaching and psychodynamics (Catherine Sandler)

  • Using Constellation work in Supervision (Richard Spence, CSTD London)

These will refine my personal coaching approach, I’m sure. And my intention is to progress to a coaching Supervisor, helping other coaches navigate the challenges of bias, values conflict, and embarking on the continuous improvement that is aided by reflection in a safe, nurturing space.


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