I am a great believer in coaching as the single most effective intervention in building and supporting a senior career – whatever field you choose to work in. I have first hand experience of the difference a good coach can make, and of the power of a strong coaching relationship – I have worked with my own coach over a period of twenty years and would certainly put my later career success in large part down to his skill and insight. I haven’t used him a lot over the past five years or so, but his was the number I rang whenever I wanted to just check something out or reassure myself about a challenge. Or just to ask his wise advice when I had a dilemma in my own coaching practice with others. A gifted ‘helper’, a consummate professional, and over time, one of those people who become friends even though you rarely see them face to face, and never socially.
Earlier this week, I received some news about ‘my’ coach. After a relatively short encounter with a brain tumour, he died last Sunday. I spoke to him just after he was diagnosed – I wanted to ask him if he would work with one of my colleagues, the latest in a long line of referrals I had made to him. He was, as ever, matter of fact, pragmatic, philosophical. I haven’t been in touch since, but as the months went by with no contact I became afraid to enquire, and on Tuesday the news came by email.
When I left the NHS in 1996 after a bruising experience in an executive position, it was this man who set me back on my feet, helped me get my ducks in a row, and showed me how to recognise my achievements, my skills and the contribution I had made and could continue to make. It was this man who helped me to see that I wasn’t defined by my profession, that one (pretty unpleasant) setback did not have to ruin my life (my confidence was devastated), that my skills and experience were, in fact, highly sought after and highly transferrable. He was fundamental to my moving on, and moving up. And he has been an occasional part of my career trajectory ever since. In the latter years, the conversation had become more of a catch up than coaching but he never failed to remind me of my strength and resilience, my capability and achievements.
Not only do I feel bereaved of his skill, pragmatism and clever challenges, but I have lost the man who showed me how to connect with myself. I shall be grateful to him always.
Rest in peace Michael Milan.