In 2021 Spark Inside began coaching Alex, a Prison Governor. Alex’s role is, of course, an extremely demanding one, and so Alex was looking forward to having the time and space to reflect on her role and talk to an impartial outsider. Alex saw the offer of coaching as a potential opportunity to talk through her career progression and the changes she saw coming up in the year ahead. She also saw coaching as a chance to reflect on her own management style and relationships with colleagues. Here, you can read in Alex’s own words, her experience of the six one-to-one sessions she had with her coach.
This is Alex’s story.
“I think it was that opportunity to step away from day to day work and talk with someone independent. It was solely about my development. I liked the fact that I was able to be really honest about my current experience and what I wanted to achieve.
I really liked the fact that it was external to prison. My experience previously is when you are talking to someone in the prison service, you can get caught up in the minutia of prison issues. Whereas we were talking about leadership and managing people and career goals almost outside the lens of prison. And that was really refreshing. It was the bigger picture issues of ‘what kind of a leader do I want to be’? ‘What leadership skills do I need to develop’?
The coach asked me to reflect on what I wanted to be known for. What became apparent from that work was that there’s almost this contradiction between your head and your heart — I want to be known as an effective leader and that I’m good at making decisions and that I’m resilient, but then there’s the kind of heart side — can you square that with feeling hurt if people don’t like the decisions you make?
And the coach was helpful because they said, “well, it doesn’t need to be rational always. And you know, all those things you discuss don’t have to neatly fit — you can be a contradiction and that doesn’t make you a bad leader”. I think that was really helpful.
I recognised that it was a real investment in me as well. And I think that that gives people a boost. I feel like people want me to develop and be a great leader and they’ve put this on for me. For me it was a wholly positive experience. I didn’t really have any expectation of quite what I was going to achieve, but I looked forward to the sessions. I think you’ve got to be willing to be committed to it. You’ve got to embrace it… and see where this goes.”
Relating back to the benefit of the individualised and tailored nature of the coaching, Alex also highlighted the potential impact of this approach on the service as a whole:
“If I think about myself, I would manage maybe six or seven people who would in turn manage six or seven, you know, and it kind of spreads. If some of how I have developed myself affects how I then manage people, by me having the coaching has started to get me to think about how do I do things differently so that actually I’m helping those people to develop. I think that does have a value on more than just me. There is a value to the organisation in that if the seven people I manage are developed in terms of their skills, their ability to manage their workloads, their ability to do the jobs that they’re employed to do, that can only be a positive thing to the wider organisation.”
To find out more about our work coaching prison staff click here, and to find out more about the principles of coaching, visit this page.