Coaching, and creating spaces for unlocking intrinsic responsibility and liberating talent

Today I attended the Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research (WAPPAR)’s ‘Coaching Today for a Better Tomorrow: Flourishing Communities and Organisations’ Conference. A room packed with people, irrespective of coaching expertise who fundamentally believe in people and the transformative power of coaching.

Underpinned by a range of disciples and areas of knowledge there are many types of coaching practice (from life-coaching to leadership, through to team coaching), with variances in the degree of focus on individual or organisational agendas. With as many models again to frame these processes. Yet, there remains some core themes:

  1. A focus on improving self-awareness, and specifically the way one thinks about their thinking
  2. The means to clearly identify and define the real issue(s) at hand
  3. The freedom to explore possibilities for change
  4. with planning support to help achieve the desired rewired thinking and/or behaviours; building new habits

For me, simply coaching practice brings hope; the potential to improve self-efficacy and resilience, and the offer of compassionate support to address a specific issue. Coaching places value in the human, and faith in their ability to achieve positive change. So it was particular pleasing to hear today how richly human-centric we can still aspire to be, within and across organisations, irrespective of the need to show a return on investment. That there is increasing appetite by organisations, both in the private and public sector to place faith in the individual and collective ability to stretch abilities for individual and collective impact. A very hopeful message in a VUCA world where we are subsumed by messages of the impending collapse, in a technologically-dominated future, of value or need for humans.

The power for unlocking potential

Coaching…“liberates the talent that has been suppressed…enabling self-efficacy to impact on practice and learning” explained Dr. Annette Fillery-Travis.

The role of ‘experiential learning’ of coaching was highlighted by Dr. Peggy Marshall, Ph.D, CMBC of Imago Performance Consulting Group, with a focus on ‘mindfulness’ as the missing element for sustained behavioural change, offering opportunities for helping clients increase resilience, lower stress, improve work-life satisfaction and improve general health.

Coaching “deepens the level and engagement of connections, through embedded practice; creating space to build the habit of reflective practice…, helping with identity and confidence as people increasingly deal with disruption and more complex working conditions” shared Dr. Nigel Spencer, Saïd  Business School, Oxford University.

Deputy Chief Constable Claire Parmenter of Dyfed Powys-Police highlighted the use of an organisational-wide coaching programme in the build of positive conversations, which has succeeded in getting the best out of their people, further impacting on the level of innovation and ideas for positive change.

The power of trust and relationships

Success on an individual basis with coaching for a population of staff can often trigger the desire to import this into the wider organisational culture, one that will reflect a coaching mindset, and improve the overall quality of relationships and ideas exchange, as well as overall adaptability and resilience of the talent pool. A further theme highlighted across the day was the importance of trust and building relationships, particularly in creating an effective coaching culture. To quote coaching gurus Rafael Echeverría and Julio Olalla “without trust there can be no coaching“. Trust is clearly an essential ingredient of any one coaching relationship. Yet ‘trust’ and acceptance of ‘coaching’ can become a chicken and egg problem for organisations in the very early stages of wider adoption.

It was helpful that Dr. Annette emphasized coaching as not being a means to fix people or practices, but as a tool to unlock intrinsic professional responsibility, further highlighting the necessity to examine culture both as practice (how we do things around here), and discourses (what type and quality of conversation is occurring in the organisation, i.e. whether it promotes learning or task achievement). An important consideration too, is the need to recognize that organisations as organic systems which require a highly organic, emergent, rather than structured approach to coaching.

The power of silence

My last session with Gwyn Thomas, of Thomas-Hunte Solutions was particularly personally impactful. Gwyn spoke incredibly deeply about the communications found in silence. We all know that coaches must be able to listen well, but this was a powerful lesson beyond the art of coaching basics that mandates coaches neither direct, interrupt or disrupt a coachee’s flow. Instead sharing a powerful lesson in how a coach may gift a full presence and attention of mind, body and soul, in creating the right space for the production of important non-verbal communications. A reminder delivered too, of the complexity of coachee’s lives., and all that they bring with them into room. As coaches it is important to recognise the value of silence, as a liminal space; a space where transition can happen for people i.e. push people right to that transformational edge.

A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next. ‘ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing… where all transformation takes place, if we learn to wait and let it form us.- Liminal


This was a well designed and executed inaugural event for the newly formed Wales Academy for Professional Practice and Applied Research at the UWTSD, and genuinely delivered on its promise by Dr. Annette as sharing ‘cutting edges coaching practices for professional applications’ . The nature of breakout workshops unfortunately means you don’t get to experience all the offerings, which I would have loved to have shared in full. Check out the full list of speakers and presentations in the full Programme. This built on the previous day’s fantastic masterclass workshop on ‘Imagery Coaching’ by Prof. Stephen Palmer, but that’s a blog for another day.

I’m now downing tools for a while to immerse myself in silence.


Liminal (n.d.) ‘What is liminal space’ [online]. Available: [Accessed 28th November 2019].

Mug Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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