Team Coach Life: Patrick McMaster

an artistic image of people sat on the floor surrounded by postit notes and laptops

Anyone who knows me and my love of sport will get why I feel so privileged to be a Leading Edge Team Coach facilitating development workshops and coaching six potential leaders for The British Olympic Association (BOA).

Leading Edge have designed a robust programme for The BOA to help develop its next generation of leaders, people likely to take a leadership role at Paris 2024 – and beyond. This client is strong on succession planning and the programme supports this focus by equipping its people to step up into senior roles.

With four distinct elements – workshops, coaching, mentoring and a real business project – this multi-faceted programme meets the needs of the cohort so well. It’s such a well-designed programme and I’m proud to be part of it.

My role as Team Coach covers facilitating the face-to-face workshops and providing individual coaching. This is such a gift and gives people an invaluable opportunity to focus on what’s important to them in their development and to make progress in the areas they need to.

Impact as a leader

The first workshop session looked at awareness of a leader’s impact on people around them. We used Insights Discovery for this, a psychometric tool based on a four-colour model to highlight key personality preferences and associated behaviours. It helps people understand their style, their strengths and the value they bring to the workplace – and it’s the tool that most people in elite sport are familiar with; The BOA have used it for a long time.

I’m Insights Discovery Accredited, so frequently run Insights sessions with clients. By answering just 40 questions, participants receive a very personal report – and most people are surprised at how accurate it is.

I love to bring the fun to an Insights session because I see how that eases everyone in to something that can be quite emotional, a time when people can feel judged. I position all four colours – the Insights energies, as they’re known – as neutral, encouraging everyone to “bring the colours we need” and step onto the ‘big mat’. I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t enjoyed going out on the big mat. Did someone mention the game Twister!

People have a physiological reaction standing on that mat because they’re looking at, and feeling part of, a constellation of their personalities. They gain much deeper remembering and learning because it’s physical.

The fun continues… I ask small teams to pick two famous people, think about their energies and plot them on the mat. Others in the group then guess where they think these famous people would be. By turning this into a game, I help people to take away much more than just a sense of how they work, think and experience life. They begin to think about, and see, how using the tools they’ve learnt helps them work out other people’s preferred styles and therefore build better relationships.

Progress through coaching

Everyone on this BOA programme receives one-to-one coaching. I book all six coaching sessions in one day. Although I definitely feel tired at the end, I also feel incredibly fulfilled. It’s rewarding when people make massive progress on things that are important to them, be that current work or a future career, stakeholder relationships, work-life balance or something outside of work. We can cover such a wide spectrum.

It’s up to me to be curious in that coaching space and to create an environment/ask questions that will help to raise self-awareness, improve confidence and make progress. I’m known as someone who’s very nice. (I think my fellow Leading Edge Team Coaches would agree with this – and it’s a badge I’m happy to wear.)

When I’m coaching, being nice is a very good way to build trust with people. What’s also important is to achieve that balance of support and challenge, which I do by playing back what I’m hearing. I turn what might have been a flippant throwaway comment about not getting on with something they know they need to into a challenge and play it back to them, saying something like “I suppose you’d better get on with it then!”. They are actually challenging themselves, and I support that notion by holding a mirror up to them in this way.

This ‘support and challenge’ style is authentic to me and it’s how I get the best for the people I’m supporting.

Inspirational client and setting

The workshop sessions and coaching take place at The BOA’s amazing head office location in central London. With countdown clocks to Paris 2024 at every turn, rooms named after previous Games, and Olympic torches in glass cabinets, who wouldn’t feel inspired walking into such an auspicious environment. Especially someone like me, whose childhood hero was ‘1980s decathlon dynamo’ Daley Thompson and who feels so proud to be able to work with an organisation such as The British Olympic Association and, in some small part, help today’s heroes tell their stories.

We’re about a third of the way through the programme. Participants are fully engaged in the corporate social responsibility business project and this is creating some fantastic opportunities for targeted coaching conversations about changes that can make a difference right now.

I’ll be running another workshop in September and then we’ll all get together again for one final development session and one coaching surgery in early 2024 to focus on deploying the learning into the Paris Games, and beyond. I’m thrilled to be working with this incredibly committed group of people, supporting them on their development journey to be future leaders in an organisation that inspired me growing up.

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