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Prize winning coaching Chair of Charity Board

An Introduction to the Burditt prize from Jenny Campbell


This was one of the most sensitive assignments I have ever worked on. It was in 2007. My primary client  was the Board of a mid sized faith-based charity. This organisation had gone through an extremely difficult, disruptive period, and was reeling from the effects. There was immense distrust and resentment amongst Board members.


The transformational moment in the coaching process was with the Chair of the Board. The coaching contract allowed for support of each Board member individually, as long as the line was held very strongly that the Board, the collective entity, was the primary client. Navigating the line between individual and team needs was pretty challenging. The session with the Chair remains one of the strongest moments in my career.


To write about this, with all this sensitivity, was I thought going to be nigh-on impossible. Confidentiality  - between Board members, and especially, most especially, no leakage beyond the bounds of the Boardroom - was of paramount importance. The only way to do this was to get at minimum the Chair’s signoff .I didn’t really expect to be able to get this at all to be honest, since he had declined other articles and case studies in the past, for reputational reasons. But this wasn’t about the organisation, it was about us. And I realised it was much better to write it together and see what we might learn together in this process of review. This frame made it possible to work together and in fact, engage in a really intense joint learning experience around transformation and its long term impact.


We are delighted and proud to share it with you. 


My sense is that the team coaching could potentially have a far-reaching impact in creating a more open and honest environment within which the Board could operate. This, in turn, could be very valuable in creating a stronger, more adventurous organisation






Lessons Learnt

1.    It is important to listen carefully to other people.


2.    Humility is a very under-rated virtue in professional life.


3.    Deeper learning is often, perhaps always, accompanied by pain.


4.    Coaching is at times – perhaps often – a spiritual transaction on both sides. Marshall Goldsmith shows that the coach’s message need not be expressed in religious or even spiritual language to be, nonetheless, spiritually telling.


5.    Honesty and risk taking on the part of the coach can give something profound and lasting to the client, beginning with opening the gate for the client to also be honest and take a risk.


6.    The connection between coach and client need not be perfect (if this is even possible) for it to be extremely valuable.

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