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Sophie Austin, Executive Education Coaching participant, shares how the programme both challenged and changed her

As Head of Talent in my company role, I was doing an amount of personal and professional coaching, but I began to feel that I wanted more rigour, more credibility as a coach. So I looked at a variety of courses and found Henley.

Executive Education, Coaching Programme

So what were your expectations?

I don’t think I had any particular expectations. I knew of Henley’s reputation, and I just wanted to develop my technique.

Were there any surprises then?

Oh yes! It was fairly immediately apparent that this was a programme that was more than just some tools and techniques - I knew it was going to challenge me personally and intellectually, which was amazing - although not always easy!

The whole programme just blew me away, to the point that I ended up doing the Masters programme.

I learned far more than just new practical tools and techniques; I learned an incredible amount about myself, which I’d never imagined to be a priority. And I especially enjoyed the second year, which was, for me, more intellectually-challenging, more psychologically stimulating. It was an amazing experience.

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And how has it changed you?

The end of the first year was a bit of a wake-up call for me; it really opened my eyes to who and what I am, my aspirations and motivations, When I came back for the second year, other people in the group were astounded by the change in me. I was a different person. I looked, spoke, acted and felt different. Looking back, it was a real epiphany. I felt far more confident and focused. My life had been turned upside down by some of the decisions I’d made, and I felt liberated by the programme.

At work and socially, the change was evident too. I found that I was able to build good relationships more easily, I was more reflective and I was comfortable operating at a whole new level.

At work in particular, the word spread! I was aware that I became much more valued for the coaching service I was providing.

What would you say to anyone considering going on the Henley programme?

Whilst I can’t compare the programme to any other, the setting at Henley is peaceful and calming – a wonderful learning environment.

The programme is very practical, which suited me and my learning style. It also felt really substantial. It challenges, questions why, and is very functional. You’ll develop a far greater understanding of yourself, your drivers, and the impact you have on others. It’s an intelligent, informed perspective, focusing on values and beliefs, and recognising the underlying reasons for a range of behaviours.

Looking back, what were the highlights?

The outside speakers in the second year were outstanding, and the programme went to a new level.

I met some amazing people - experienced real bravery and courage - some were an absolute inspiration. ‘The strength of the relationships I built with others in the cohort – when you are vulnerable, it’s incredible how close you can feel to some people very quickly and some of the relationship have continued.

It was a haven for me, a sanctuary and a place of tremendous learning, in and out of the workshops.

And what of the future for coaching? Where is it going next?

It seems clear that it has to become more regulated, to ensure that certain standards are met, and to differentiate people with different skills. There is just so much more to coaching - its a lifelong learning journey - and three is a real need to ensure quality of service and operation.

On a practical level, coaches will have to learn how to get to grips with communicating within the digital revolution, and adapt to more flexible working methods.

And return on investment will continue to provide a challenge and it is our role as coaches to develop our practice to rise to this challenge.

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