Talking Corporate Coaching & Mentoring With Philip Coffey

Talking Corporate Coaching & Mentoring With Philip Coffey

July 31 2019

Coaching and mentoring is so powerful for people and companies but it can all be a little overwhelming.

Philip Coffey has joined us on the Your Pursuit Of Happiness podcast to talk all things corporate coaching & mentoring.

Philip is a senior HR professional with over 14 years’ private, public, multinational and HR consultancy experience. He is very passionate about the value of implementing Coaching, Mentoring, Career Development and Employee Engagement programmes in organisations. In fact, he was the winner of the 2018 HR Champion Leadership Award for the successful delivery of a Mentoring & Career Development Programme in Trinity College Dublin. He was also a keynote speaker for at the European Mentoring and Coaching Council International Mentoring Day event.

As an Executive Career and Life Coach, Philip enjoys helping people navigate life and career obstacles so they can realise their true potential. He has developed and delivered Personal Branding, CV, LinkedIn & Interview Skills Programmes for individuals and organisations.

Philip Coffey’s Background

Paul Smyth:        

Philip, why don't we start off by you giving us a bit of background on yourself and what you do.

Philip Coffey:    

Thanks very much Paul for inviting me along to the podcast. Yes, I've been working as a senior HR professional over the past 14 years across the private, public, and multinational sectors. Kind of a diverse enough background. In the last number of years, I would've particularly had a focus around employee engagement, coaching and mentoring, but I have the full sort of scope of HR over the breadth of the career as well.

Paul Smyth:        

And you operate in kind of a consulting capacity outside of your day job, for the want of a better term.

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, exactly. I suppose that's what I've seen over the last little while. Particularly the advantage of areas like coaching and mentoring being so beneficial for staff in various different programs would have run.

Philip Coffey:    

I suppose try to see that as a niche there to maybe give it a bit more airtime than it's currently gets. You would commonly see and across different organizations, be they public or private stuff, they'd like to get to coaching and mentoring and more work on employee engagements. But that seems to sometimes to come down the tracks, lesser priority. Hence I suppose what I've seen is in the last number of years it's something that people very much need and want. And I see it more as a strategic priority, so I've been trying to help other organizations who might want to get that up and running and give them advice in that respect as well.

The Value Of Coaching & Mentoring

Paul Smyth:        

In terms of and mentoring and coaching within an organization, what's the value for the organization, and what's the value for the people working within that organization?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, and I think a big thing that we're sort of seeing, and it's maybe precipitated by the millennial generation, but it always, I would say, have been there amongst all the different generations in the workforce, is this idea, I suppose, that people won't have the concept. Maybe they don't really always realize to put a name on it. In HR circles, we put a mane on it, as psychological contracts. The whole idea of the give and take. The reciprocal may shift, if somebody's going to be working hard and trying to give commitment. They want to see that the organization responds in kind.

Your Pursuit Of Happiness podcast

Philip Coffey:    

Something, in the lines of coaching and mentoring, what I see out of it, in terms of that in an organization where people are getting that internally or through external people coming in to offer some of these initiatives. It's showing that there is a commitment from the employer, that they see people in the long-term perspective and wants to cultivate their careers, and help them in that regard, and give them, I suppose, a plan and a structure.

Philip Coffey:    

The benefit I see of this for an organization, that it's still in a very democratic way. 60 something odd mentoring, it can be scaled up. All areas can get access to it. Coaching is kind of moving towards that direction with more kind of work going on into it, in terms of getting people trained up as internal coaches. But for the last sort of maybe five or 10 years, it's more resided in the upper tiers of organizations benefiting from it.

Philip Coffey:    

But I see huge benefits in terms of the commitments that employees would then give, and it also gets people much more focused on where their skill sets are best applied in the job. You're getting a more committed employee, you're helping to grow with them naturally, and you're very much working towards business goals within all that, because people would feel much more supporters and secure in their roles.

The Difference Between Coaching And Mentoring

Paul Smyth:        

Great. In terms of coaching and mentoring, I think if I misspoke before I mentioned I'm nearly finished a coaching course at the minute actually, but what's the difference between coaching and mentoring?

Philip Coffey:

They're in much broadly the same sort of family. Often you'd see coaching can kind of end up being over a shorter time span. The coach may not necessarily know much about your given role, for example, or in some cases, may not know anything about the organization at all. Where that gives benefits that they're coming in with a very much a fresh canvas. They don't have judgements built up about the environment necessarily. They can be much more free form but asking you insightful questions of the coachee, or the client as it may be called in coaching. That gives a benefit there in terms of nobody's coming in with too much of pre judgments into it.

Coaching

Philip Coffey:    

In coaching as well, one of the real powerful things is the use of questions. The very fact that you get listened to, something that your taught a lot in coaching, to really just try and listen to where someone's coming from, and you spot through the body language and seeing where people are going with what they say, in terms of answers. Some interesting insights and you can delve deeper. What you find in coaching, is the people come up with the answers themselves in a way, but they're being prompted by the coach.

Philip Coffey:    

In mentoring, and that can cross over between maybe being purely a mentor where you're giving advice at certain times, but it's also straight into being back into the pockets, so to speak, as being a coach. That not all the time in mentoring will you be one particular hat. You can maybe go across a couple of different hats. You could be somebody who's taking a standpoint facts as a another colleague in the organization is maybe five or 10 years more experienced than you. Maybe not in the same organization but just in terms of career paths.

Philip Coffey:    

Often with a mentor, you're getting that advantage of somebody knows the organization as well, and at times can come in with advice about the steps that they made. I suppose, both offer real advantage for people. And I've seen the benefits of both for people I would have worked with as well.

Should Job Seekers Spend Time On Career Planning?

Paul Smyth:        

One of the things that's been mentioned a couple of times now is career planning and career objectives, and the benefits of coaching, mentoring for both, should a job seeker, internal or external, spend time career planning? Why do people not seem to spend a huge amount of time on it at the minute?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, I think... Yes, I noticed it there's quite two very important parts, and I think it is a really great opportunity to talk about it, because it's almost like the elephant in the room, I would say. So much obviously, is driven by the economy, by people moving around in different roles. But what I find is, coming across people both internally and externally, sometimes the job search can kind of lurch into gear. Whereas, I find if someone has been thinking it through a little bit, and just planning out their steps over a period of time, they're doing a lot of little things along the way in a number of different kind of facets of their career to help them to get where they want to.

Philip Coffey:    

One of the key things, I suppose, that helps people, I suppose, move down the motorway, rather than going the slower roads, is that if you plan things out, you kind of know much better off, if I'm at A, I want to get to B, how am I going to get there in the quickest possible way that makes it a best asset for me.

Philip Coffey:    

What I find is if people have called a through, they'll realize there's certain things they can control within it. The big person about controlling the controllable, so if they can influence certain things, like maybe getting extra projects that will add to their CV in the given year, that will... They know they're building towards the next step up. They know the next step up needs a certain couple of extra things, and they go to that interview trying to get those products projects under your belt in the current job. And then I suppose in order to step in terms of that, is that people can also look at what else in the organization could be done to help them. Whether it would be getting the coaching and mentoring, but also other training supports.

Philip Coffey:    

If you do that in a very staged mannered way, you can kind of step your way through it, and I'd be big believer as well, in trying to keep a record of what you have tried, what's worked, what's not, and then keep refining that. A big thing, we'll hopefully we'll get onto talking about as well, is around the power of utilizing your network, because you won't know all the angles yourself.

Philip Coffey:    

If you can get all that up and running, that's much better rather than somebody coming to you and pulling surprises out of a hat in August, let's say for example, and you've nothing started. We know shocks can happen, in the different industries, and that kind of stuff. That's something where I'd say no matter where do you feel you're in a very safe industry or not, I think it's smart to be able to doing it on an ongoing basis, then it doesn't feel overwhelming.

Paul Smyth:        

Why do you think it is that people don't spend that much time typically on such an important part of your life, I suppose? You spend a lot of time in your job, you need to be as happy as you can be.

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, exactly. And I think, when thinking about that, because it's obviously something I come across a lot is, but the sort of things I would see with most people is, sometimes we're our own worst enemies at times. We aren't the person, within ourselves and our own lines, we aren't always backing ourselves initially with things. Sometimes it takes a bit of convincing of ourselves that you're able for that next step.

Philip Coffey:    

I often say to people when I'm coaching them or mentoring, it's like they may come up sometimes. They will come across and they're downplaying their achievements, and that'd be one of the first things I'd work with people. I'd go, "Tell me exactly five or 10 things in the last three, five years that you've joined that are really been at a value, or you feel you've added a lot to your career, or the organization they'd been in.

Philip Coffey:    

That sometimes, even that question alone, people can kind of... It's an Irish thing or it's different cultural thing in terms of not bragging about things, but we don't often tend to build ourselves up. I think that's the one thing where we do need to do that. Sometimes people can even just feel that then need to keep some of this stuff to themselves, and the food stuff doesn't even come out on the table. That's why I'd be saying, it's good to even get that going. Get those juices flowing, in terms of what you're really good at, because if you know what you're really good at, then you know which organizations are really matched up with that. Then that gets the train going in terms of planning it out.

Philip Coffey:    

A confidence thing is a big thing initially. Sometimes that can be people within themselves. Sometimes they can be in an area where they feel stuck in a rut, because the manager isn't very much cultivating them as well. This needs something you see across all industries. It's not just one industry or the other. You know that phrase about... It's a cliché, but there's a lot of truth in it, that people are leaving managers, and it's because they're doing that maybe micromanagement or behavioural isn't really cultivating them and helping them along. That's why they're leaving rather than ultimately not liking the organization.

Philip Coffey:    

I think there's an element of the confidence piece, both internally and externally. I mean the people around you, but also the future and possibly their very busy worlds, and a bit of procrastination can set in. There's so many disruptions nowadays. Commutes can be long. People just don't see where to fit this in. The big thing I advise people is to literally get the diary out, and try and be honest with yourself, where will you do this within the week? And don't stop other important things. Obviously there's lots of key things that need to be done, but you do need to find... Carve out a time in the diary for this in a given week, or month, or wherever you feel you can it in, depending on the urgency.

Where To Start

Paul Smyth:        

Okay. If you were a job seeker and you've made the decision that you want to start to be a little bit more strategic about your career and where you're going, what are the first things that you should start to consider when you're planning your career?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes. Well I think the first area that's really important is knowing yourself, knowing your own personality and your skill sets, what really... Where you've added value, and then it's having a real good think about, okay, what is out there and within your networks? Who do you know is in companies that when you talk to them, they're really enthusiastic about it. They seem to have good benefits, and that kind of stuff. For each individual person, at the different stages they're at, different things will come into mind as to what's most important. For some people it's salaries. For some people it's a particular figure they need to get to from where they are now. This feeling of being stuck. For some other people, it can be salary plus then certain benefits, or maybe the commute can be a thing as well.

Philip Coffey:    

It's about getting that down on paper in terms of what's most important to you at a particular time. Sometimes you could be looking for a real game changing role, but it might push you or stretch you a little more for certain periods of time, and if you're able to get those ducks in a row and have a very supportive piece in terms of the family aspect, one or other of the partners that in a family situation, can press go, and a bit of a push on that.

Philip Coffey:    

With me, I find a lot of time, you will need to clear those roads in yourself and in your locally range family and support network, that you basically say, "Okay, if I'm going from A to B, is the road clear for me to actually do that? None of these things are hindering you or whatever. A big thing is clearing that sort of space.

Philip Coffey:    

Then it's about looking ahead and going, "Okay, out there, where do I want to work? What are the companies that seem to attract me? And having a diverse sort of approach, so to focus maybe a good on your network. Rather than, I think traditionally people would send out multiple applications and a bit of a scatter gun. Obviously it gets very disheartening when you hear nothing back, or you aren't really feeling that you're hitting the mark, but you've no feedback. Obviously it's very important with people like ourselves, to have a very good relationship with recruitment agencies that you trust to build that relationship, so you can actually have them in your corner as well to open up that box also.

Philip Coffey:    

There's a number of different approaches. You're going to have your jobs boards, your recruitment agencies and then a inter network. I think possibly too much of the focus goes towards the job boards, and not towards maybe utilizing your network or recruitment agencies who specialize in particular areas.

How Hard Is It To Change Career Direction?

Paul Smyth:        

Sure. One of the things that we see a lot of is people wanting to change career. Maybe moving from finance into sales, or technology into something else. How easy or hard is it, in your experience to really change career direction?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes. I think that then alludes back to the whole piece, where the career planning really helps in this regard, because if that's something that you feel you have an inkling towards, there's a number of steps you might take towards doing that.

Philip Coffey:    

One of the big ones maybe in your existing company, if you're thinking of a pivot there, would they support you in terms of some training and that could benefit them currently, but also you mightn't, obviously, be able to tell this to an employer, but you might be thinking a step or two ahead, and it mightn't be in the particular job that you're currently in.

Philip Coffey:    

Some people have a really supportive managers who'll actually be very open to that conversation saying, "Look, I like to develop you and you mightn't necessarily be with me in a year or two or three time, but I want to help you get in that direction. other people, as we alluded to earlier on, don't have that relationship with the manager. But still, the organization wants to help them training wise. That can be a big piece in terms of moving, that you feel somewhat in yourself as well, that you have the confidence going, "Yes, well, I've done that course." If it's in a sales area or doing something to be able to staff up towards it.

Philip Coffey:    

Costs can be a factor. There's a lot of good access to courses online that aren't as costly as the more formal courses. It doesn't have to be something that's really lengthy, all time either. I do think a big thing is utilizing people who are specialists in that field. Where somebody in your network who's in a target company, or it's in a particular recruitment firm who specializes in that, get talking to those people, so that they can tell you the gaps.

Philip Coffey:    

If you get a good relationship with these people and reach out to people who seem helpful on LinkedIn or good recruitment agents, they will tell you the lie of the land. They're not going to do it all the work for you. That sometimes what people's sort of... You would love if there was a magic wand on it, but obviously, way I see it, people doing really well in their careers, do put the hard work in and it does come off when they follow through the steps that they laid out.

Philip Coffey:    

I think a big piece on that is transferable skills essentially. You do have a lot of transferrable skills, and reminding yourself of that, and going to people who are in the job that you like to get into to cover off the gaps and go where, "What might I be missing in terms of making that move? What do I need to convince a future employer, whether it's internally or externally, that I can match up to the new job so to speak."

Paul Smyth:        

Yes. And certainly when we see people who are looking to really make a big shift, sometimes the best advice from us is to actually go direct as opposed to working through an agency, because a client will come to us looking for a specific skills and we need to deliver. But then from time... And actually just today met a new client who's looking for someone who is looking to make that career shift. But definitely going direct and getting that advice from people in the know is really good advice.

Philip Coffey:    

Yes. And I think the concept, I thought around the same people, you can put whatever moniker you want on this, but it's almost like having a board of directors for yourself. That's not to be kind of smart about it or whatever. Just to be kind of professional, I suppose. You could also reciprocate this with other professionals, but you wouldn't call them that to themselves.

Philip Coffey:    

What you're doing is you're building up a long-term network with people where it's a two-way relationship, where they can call upon you about your expertise, and you can call upon them. When people feel that there's that reciprocal relationships, they will help you and give you an insight and you'll be familiar, obviously, in the field that you're in, that more organizations now like to get referrals. If you do have a network built up, and you come across very professional, and reached out and had a coffee with people and done... The concept mightn't be fully out there, but it's more and more coming out there, around the whole idea of doing information interviews.

Podcast

Philip Coffey:    

If you take that example of moving from finance to sales, try and set up a few, what I would call coffee meetings, which will be essentially trying to find out from people who are in sales, for example, what they've done in their career to help them move forward and then you can kind of go, "Okay, what bits can I take from each person?" Because I won't have all the answers, but I'll have some of the picture if somebody came to me from HR, for example, or coaching on some other aspects, but different people will have different pieces of the pie, and you put that together. That's a really formidable package then that you have. If you really know where you're going then.

If you say the six degrees of separation across the world, certainly in Ireland it feels sometimes like it's two, that it's very close. It's certainly not the place to fall out with people, because it comes back around and on the flip side of that, the positive side of that, is you can build good relationships with people, and come across really professional, and somebody who has integrity and enjoys the role that they're doing or the roles are after looking for in the future. You'll get a good referral going your way off to somebody who is a decision maker in a company and that will help you in terms of getting more proper leads, that will lead to interviews.

Philip Coffey:    

The way I kind of look at it, in terms of stats, say you send out 20 applications, you might get one reply. It's much better if you go out and reach out to 20 people and got five to 10 people that you've met you for a coffee, or least had a phone call, and it lead to two or three interviews. That's a way better hit rate, and it'll be at least that, if not better, I would say if people went on that approach.

Barriers To Career Progression

Paul Smyth:        

Yes, I agree. In terms of career progression, what would you say are the most common barriers to us, and how can you successfully navigate those barriers?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, I think, I suppose, it's just piece in terms of like if people know where they want to get to, and actually take the methodical steps, that's going to help them get to the destination, so to speak. Sometimes as I've said, it's people pulling their own bars up themselves, going where they looked at... Again, a little bit of a cliched phrase around... You hear these stories that people look at a job description, and you'll have certain people look at them and go, "Look, I have 67% of that.60 or 70% of that job description, but I am going for it." Then you'll have other people who'll go, "Oh, I need to have 90, 95% of it before I'll go for it."

Philip Coffey:    

I actually think that people can do it, if they feel they have the 60, 70%, maybe even sometimes less, because you can get very well prepared for it, and as I said, the pieces that we were discussing earlier on, can fill in some of the gaps for yourself.

Philip Coffey:    

The big thing I would say to people is that these, in terms of when they look at job descriptions of roles, that to do see themselves going to, so they're progressing from maybe mid ,to senior tier for example, what would be the projects that they could take on in a given year that would help them. That would look really value added when they went for that interview, or putting forward their CV.

Philip Coffey:    

You want to show that you've pushed the boundaries in your current job, and that's you're well able for the step up. Can you take on things off your manager's desk? For example. Can you see trends coming down the road or something important in the organization, and on a wider group, that could be taking a task force to deal with a particular problem. And then you can claim some of that for your CV. That's going help you, put you in a higher echelon than when you're looking to kind of progress forward to the next role.

Philip Coffey:    

Something that can be said a lot out there for different roles, within mid tiers. It's like do people have the breadth of experience, and do they have good depth, as in have they done projects, which are of good value to the organization.

Philip Coffey:    

That's something, I think when people hear that, they get a bit afraid and go... Well, initially they think, "No, I haven't done that." And then when you sit down with them, whether you're coaching or mentoring them, you go, "Actually talk me through the last few months ago." And you go, "There's loads of things there." Sometimes you need somebody in your corner telling you that it's that good. That's sometimes what people naturally feel. I's like, "Oh sure, I'm not that good." And then you actually sit down, and you go, "Actually, it's loads of really great stuff. It's just how you package it and sell it then."

Key Things For Job Seekers To Remember

Paul Smyth:        

What would you say the key takeaways are for job seekers that they can influence?

Philip Coffey:    

Yes, I think if people even wanted to boil it down into four or five simple steps, one of the first steps is that piece around really identifying what they do see themselves wanting to get in the next year or two years from now. What can the organization currently help them with? If you don't already have resources there, like coaching and mentoring or good learning development opportunities, maybe could ask for some of that supports. Having a think about that.

Philip Coffey:    

Also, being able to reach out to people who you would have worked for before, to make sure that you have keep that network going. The two different approaches. One is the group of people who you know in the past, you can very easily pick the phone up to and talk to about your career ambitions. They'll have a good sense about knowing where you were before and where you might want to get to. They'll have some talks, and it will also remind you of really good projects that you did in their organization with them. Plus, there's the whole piece around reaching out to people in the role that you would like to get into. And trying to learn about what the gaps may be.

Key steps

Philip Coffey:    

I think that's a really important thing in terms of when you have that clarify about what you want, a lot of things start to flow. Then when you know what the gaps, you're actively working towards, I suppose, nailing all that down. A good analogy in terms of that, is like any sports team or any people that you see being particularly successful, there's always something they'd gone away to work on, to get better at, and that kind of moved them forward.

Philip Coffey:    

If you're into tennis for example, Djokovic would've been working away on his diet a lot, over the last kind of five, seven, 10 years. Incremental improvements in some of those areas, and strength and conditioning, and that kind of stuff. That's just Wimbledon, just gone by, to freshen people's minds. But any of the sports teams, they talk about this area of marginal gains, and it really is about that. It's about looking at going... It's the targeting the particular roles. It's getting your CV correct and proper. It's about taking that kind of more niche approach, I would call it, rather than being herded into what everybody else is doing in terms of jobs boards, and getting lost in the kind of ether.

Philip Coffey:    

If you can kind of take a more niche should approach and really a targeted approach yields, you'll get zero in on the particular role, and particular companies that you're interested in. You'll stand out because you'll have really done your homework on it. You'd be getting those leads in terms of interviews, whether you get them directly yourself or you get referral in through people that you've worked with in your network.

Philip Coffey:    

Or people that you may even not have known, but you've opened up the box now over the coming months to basically work away on an area that you know that somebody is working in a really good company who would add something to you, and you're getting those nuggets of information. Then it's about putting together...

Philip Coffey:    

And I think the real thing that I would encourage people to do is have somebody in their corner who's going to hold them somewhat accountable on that or at least can guide them on it. Whether that's to go down to the former route of coaching, or getting a mentor, or at least somebody who is a very trusted peer, who you know is successful in their own right, in their careers and could actually tell you straight as it is. What's really good and what you may need to work away on. Because it's no use if you don't get really much proper feedback.

Philip Coffey:    

There's a number of things that goes in that, but when you piece all them bits together, and you're going to look at where you're at now, and what you want to move towards, you can really start to see what you can work at. You can see actions taking fruit. Over a period of time then, you start to get the really direct leads, and leads to interviews, and hopefully getting a bit of job offers.

How To Contact Philip

If you want to learn more about Philip and how he can help, get in touch with him on LinkedIn.

Need Help?

If you want any information or are interested in one of our roles in the Fintech and financial services industry, get in touch with us at Top Tier Recruitment.

Check out our podcast and, if there's ever anything that you would like discussed, feel free to get in touch, info@ttrmail.com.

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