Coaching on the MBA

I had the privilege of coaching the leaders of tomorrow at UCD Smurfit and have been asked to reflect on the experience during the past year. The one-to one coaching experiences started a little earlier with the Exec (2-year) MBA students in November. As coaches we each met our coachees for this first coaching session at this stage. Most of them had a pretty clear idea of what they would like to achieve from the experience, although many were unsure of the process (as is the case for anyone who has not experienced coaching before).  The topics broadly related to specific business challenges, leadership style and career. This first session allowed us to gain a common understanding of the end goal as well as raising awareness of the challenge they faced. Most walked away with areas to reflect on before we would meet again.

By the time the 2nd coaching session came around (late January/ February), there had been a noticeable shift in perspectives. Due to the increased gap between the coaching sessions this year and the time available over the Christmas break, it was obvious that ample time had been available to the MBA students to consider their challenge. At the beginning of each coaching session I have a tendency to reflect back on where we left off so that the coachee can bring me up to date. At these coaching sessions I was invariably met with ‘Goodness at lot has changed since we last spoke’. At this point a path was emerging and during this coaching session we would continue to thrash out the situation and options that emerged.

Between session 2 and 3, my coachees went on their International Trip to either Brazil or China. They returned fulfilled by the trip albeit a little overwhelmed by virtue of the fact that so many things were now coming together. They were trying to keep the day job going, assignments were kicking in en-masse and the end of the MBA loomed. There was a mixture of relief (in terms of the juggling this necessitated) and also sadness at the prospect. These guys have juggled for two years now and many described the camaraderie in the class and the ‘hole’ they would feel in their lives which they wanted to fill with something else constructive.  We continued our coaching conversations reflecting back on the initial goals which were set. Broadly speaking we stayed very much on course and in the main, MBA students achieved what they had wanted from the process.

What strikes me from the experience is the concept of the coaching process being akin to stepping on ‘the balcony’. The Executive MBAs are endeavouring to juggle work, MBA programme and their personal lives for 2 years and the coaching process allows them a little time to step out of all this and reflect on a challenge which is important to them. For the coaches it is rewarding to see this journey and support them in the challenges which they face.

Eadine Hickey, Executive Coach on the UCD Smurfit MBA