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Coaching: “A space and time when you can reflect on your own practice”

Cleo and Jane are Consultant Social Workers leading Frontline Participant Units in Tower Hamlets and Harrow. As part of the training and development for this role they receive regular coaching from a Frontline Specialist. In the second year of the Frontline programme, participants also have the opportunity to be coached. Here, Jane and Cleo discuss their experiences of coaching and their advice for those thinking about taking up coaching opportunities.

On life as a Consultant Social Worker with Frontline

Cleo: “I’ve loved it. There’ve been challenges along the way and we’ve been learning as we go along, but overall it’s been fantastic.”

Jane: “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but I’ve reached a really good place with my participants. We’re doing excellent work and it feels really positive.”

Initial views of coaching and how those have changed

Cleo: “Coaching gives you time and space with somebody independent where you’re able to think constructively about dilemmas and how you manage them. For that reason I think it’s very valuable.”

Jane: “At first I was sceptical, coaching just seemed like another thing competing for my time, but I’ve found it really helpful. I appreciate it because I think I’d have dealt with certain challenges anyway, but it would’ve been more hit and miss. Coaching has helped me achieve better outcomes by giving me the time to think about what I want to achieve and how I go about it.”

On coaching conversations and their impact

Cleo: “Coaching is the ability to step away from the work and think about yourself as a practitioner.  I generally bring a topic I want to think about and my coach moves me through a discussion that unpicks that using a series of questions and prompts. We work through the different options to address that and end with an action plan.”

“Coaching helped me think about an issue a participant was facing and really aided me in generating ideas about how to best manage it. It’s also been a helpful tool to think about how to have challenging conversations that are necessary for participants’ own development. I’ve used it with my unit, and I think they’d say those conversations were helpful.”

Jane: “Coaching is a one-to-one where you explore challenges and strategize how to approach them constructively.  It allows you to look outside the fishbowl you’re in and see the dilemma clearly.”

“I wanted to make my working relationship with a participant even more effective, so I explored possible alternative approaches with my coach and then developed a plan.  I discussed this with the participant and we agreed a new way of working going forward. Coaching has been a professional development tool that has really benefited my practice, because it’s helped me work more productively with my unit participants.”

“I’ve used the space provided by coaching to consider how I can best help my participants examine their values, their practice, and hopefully made them more open-minded, empathetic social workers in the process, but it also translates to any professional connection or relationship where you might be experiencing difficulties.” 

Why Frontline participants should take up coaching in their second year

Cleo: “I recommended it to one of my unit recently. I said you need to do it, because you’re not going to get this opportunity again. It’s a space and time when you can reflect on your own practice.  It’s not about case management, it’s about you and your development. So if it’s on offer to you, make the most of it.”

Jane: “Initially I had limited expectations and didn’t expect it to be helpful. But I’m glad I stuck with coaching because I’ve taken a lot from it. I would really recommend it. It’s a once in a lifetime chance, and the ideas I’ve gained are ones I’ll take away with me for all of my professional development.”

Interview by Aurora Horwood