Bringing Coaching Conversations to the Tech Sector
Marc Henry is a Toronto-based sales development manager with a successful Canadian high-tech company, and a 2018 graduate of the UBC Certificate in Organizational Coaching. We spoke with Marc about his experiences in the program, his personal growth and the career successes he’s had following the program.
What led you to enrol in the UBC Certificate in Organizational Coaching?
I was interested in the program because I’ve always been someone who has gotten a lot of satisfaction from helping others. I felt like I was doing ad-hoc coaching for friends, but I didn't have any academic foundation in my approach. I wanted to learn proper coaching techniques. I also felt that the program would help me reach my goal of moving into people management and building a team.
UBC has a strong brand as a university and I found the program offering unique. I liked the idea of a program with two components: one half on individual coaching, and the other half looking at team and organizational coaching. Finally, I thought I would meet likeminded peers in the program who had the same passion for developing others and personal growth. It seemed like a great opportunity to build a network through the program.
Did you have any big ah-ha moments or were surprised by anything in the program? How would you sum up your experiences?
A big ah-ha moment for me was just how powerful coaching can be. I was able to experience this first-hand through the practicum. To have a 30-minute conversation with someone I’ve never met before and see a lightbulb go off in their head, to ask a question that opens their horizons and allows them to see their challenge in a way they haven’t thought before – that’s a very satisfying feeling. It’s deepened my appreciation for the art of questioning.
The program also allowed for a lot of personal reflection. You can’t coach others unless you’re grounded and know yourself. It’s a lifelong journey to understand what you can contribute to others and be the best that you can be.
[I was also surprised by] the community that came out of [the program]. I would look forward to spending time with classmates at the on-sites. This connection is pretty impressive given that most of the program is done online virtually or over the phone.
How has coach training changed your workplace conversations?
I have gotten better at noticing when someone asks me powerful questions. I have a vocabulary and a framework that I didn't have before, and it has helped me find impromptu coaching moments.
The contracting that takes place at the beginning of a conversation – aligning goals, roles and expectations – is something that I take with me now to workplace meetings. I developed a new appreciation of what it means to be an active listener from the UBC program: simple things like paraphrasing or repeating back what you heard is a great strategy as a coach and a colleague. You build better connections with people. Oftentimes we just want to be heard. If you can give people that opportunity, you’re already doing wonders for the progression of their challenge.
How has your coach training helped your career?
The coach training helped prepare me for my transition into management and has positively shaped my personal brand. People now know that practicing coaching and leadership development is an area that energizes me. And they often look to me as someone they can ask advice for when approaching coaching conversations.
What opportunities do you see in the high-tech industry?
A lot of high-tech companies and start-ups go through rapid change and growth. It’s often hard to step back and have meaningful coaching conversations. We’re always chasing a to-do list. Ironically, coaching is most needed in this kind of environment. I’m excited to be someone who can role model coaching as an important skill for other people leaders in tech.
What advice about coaching do you have for other leaders?
Coaching is a powerful leadership tool. It might feel intimidating, but at the heart of it, it’s about being a good communicator, which is easy and hard at the same time; being fully present with somebody, not thinking ten different things when you’re talking to them, eye contact, paraphrasing, showing empathy to what’s being shared. The program teaches all of these things. In the long run, taking the time for coaching conversations will drive results and builds capacity within teams.