Improving leadership

Emma-Louise Elsey, CEO of The Coaching Tools, is a passionate leader, writer, and entrepreneur in the coaching field. We sat down with Emma-Louise to see how her company’s coaching tools can help people become better leaders – and happier individuals.

What are coaching tools and how do they help your clients?

The Coaching Tools is a world leader in providing simple, ready-to-go coaching tools, forms, and exercises. These lighthearted, brandable, and editable worksheets and handouts are created for coaches, but also used by counselors, fitness and health professionals, sales trainers, pastors, positive psychology academics, and more. Used in seminars, during coaching sessions, or as homework, the forms ask powerful questions that help the clients understand themselves better. The tools are always personal and practical, which help the clients apply their learnings to their lives. The coaching tools help clients get essential self-reflection time around a particular topic, such as dealing with interruptions, identifying personal or career values, creating life-balance, or setting goals. To go deeper, the client can also be coached around their answers to drive out further needs, goals, obstacles – and powerful “aha” moments.

When people think of professional coaching, they tend to focus on the executive or individual who needs help

But in your experience, do those professional coaches need help sometimes as well? I think we all need help sometimes. The most dedicated professional coaches will have a coach of their own. They know they have blind spots and that they also procrastinate sometimes! We can all benefit from additional accountability, support, and powerful questioning to help us get the insight and clarity to live our best lives. I have my own coach and sometimes two – both a life and business coach.

How have concepts like career paths, career goals, and ascending to leadership positions changed and evolved from years past?

People used to expect to stay in one career and perhaps only work for one or two companies for their career lifetime. People would join a company, work hard, and work their way up the organization through management; and eventually, some would network their way into corporate leadership positions. These days, our upcoming leaders and CEOs expect to move jobs. They will move if they have a bad manager, work within an unpleasant corporate culture, aren’t being paid enough, etc. Up and coming leaders need to manage their own career paths more than ever. And new to the game is that our future leaders – with all the social media and online footprints – need to manage their online brand or presence too. A final twist I’ve noticed is that many people are now making mid-career shifts, often to a more personally meaningful career, or becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own online businesses.

What are some common reasons why individuals would seek out a professional coach?

There are two reasons individuals seek a professional coach. The first is to achieve specific goals, such as to make a career move or shift, to find a better work-life balance, to make a decision, to start a business, to retire, or something softer like creating a more meaningful life. The second is to deal with a specific problem like leaving a job or career they’re unhappy in, finding inner peace, leaving a relationship, or losing weight. But really, these are just another type of goal.

Among the professional coaches you work with, what are they saying are the most frequently-cited problems or issues that they are trying to help their clients deal with?

There seem to be a few common threads. One is work-life balance. Stress levels are soaring, as are the need to keep up with the Joneses, be a good mom/dad AND a superstar at work, and technology that means we’re never offline. The second is career-related, either looking for new jobs and careers or wanting help to move up the corporate ladder. And leadership coaching seems to be growing massively. Both individuals and corporations want people to lead – and that means learning what it means to lead in your own life as well as finding your leadership style.

The third is physical health-related. With all the societal pressure to be healthy and look good, people seek coaching pertaining to improving fitness levels and nutrition, losing weight, and training for sports events. The final thread is spiritual health. People want meaning in their lives; they want to feel happy and satisfied. Our culture teaches us to strive for the perfect job, house, car, and relationship. When we get that and we’re still not happy, people want answers. And a coach can help with that.

How can your coaching tools or toolkits help people discover their own leadership skills and qualities?

I think becoming a leader is an art, and it is soulful work. Yes, a leader should be able to manage their time, prioritize, and communicate well. But there is an art to leadership which cannot be taught; it must be uncovered. To be a leader, you must first know yourself – your values and what matters most to you. And then you must live those values. A leader without integrity is not a leader. What do you stand for? Where are you going? What are the improvements you would like to make? What is your vision for this company and the world?

And then there is networking – or who you know. We are a species that thrives on relationships and trust. Some people are natural networkers and connectors, but many are not. A leadership coach can help with navigating politics and networking, too. Our coaching tools and exercises can help leaders get to know themselves while they’re learning about concepts like goal-setting and time management. Our tools are intentionally short and simple so that they’re not overwhelming to already stressed clients. And they’re also intended to be completed the old-fashioned way: with pen and paper. This avoids technological distraction and increases connection to self.

Can the process of learning to become a better leader actually be fun?

Absolutely! We learn best when we are having fun, and learning is stickier when we have fun too. Fun is one of my top values. So our tools are lighthearted while often being deceptively deep. Our forms can help people learn powerful time management concepts and apply those lessons to their unique habits and issues. Our goal-setting and visioning tools help people get clear on what they want from their life as a whole or regarding specific topics. And our self-discovery tools are my favorite. Self-discovery is often considered less important than goal-focused activities, provable methods, and facts. But it’s when we truly get to know, love, and accept ourselves that we become a powerful and authentic presence. People are naturally drawn to authenticity and authentic leaders.

Looking into the future, how do you see the professional coaching industry evolving?

how will the needs of their clients change in the years to come?

I believe one of the biggest issues individuals face is that we want a “successful” life – great friends, a great career, happy children and love life, a beautiful home, holidays, activities, to save the world, and more. But we also yearn to feel light and free and happy. The pressure we put ourselves under, and the things we do to be successful, are at odds with the way we are encouraged (from a young age) to live our lives. Looking forward, individuals will continue to want coaches to help them get better at their jobs/careers, have happier lives, get healthier, and achieve specific goals. So, I only see the professional coaching industry growing. People will continue to want and expect more from life – and more and more people will seek help to get it.

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