A leap of faith

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Written by Salma Shah on 16 September 2020

“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” Rosa Parks

It was the early 90s and I was two years into my career with a small software company where I’d been recruited into the graduate role of technical support. The team was outwardly customer facing, growing fast and full of tension and we were painfully in the ‘storming’ phase of our team development.

My manager wisely decided to hire an external consultant to come in and carry out a team building exercise. Belbin questionnaire was used to facilitate the team building day. Enabling each of us to recognise our team roles and talk about our behavioural strengths in a productive, safe and non-confrontational way.

For me this felt something far more meaningful than just a team building day. The content was familiar as it resonated back to my degree in psychology. I was at the edge of my seat throughout the day and envious of the facilitator.

I would have loved to do the kind of work that she was doing. It took over a decade and in 2002 I took the plunge to self-fund my coach training. My route into coaching wasn’t via HR or L&D. In fact my employer at the time had no interest or knowledge of ‘coaching’ as a profession.

The whisper about the lack of diversity in coaches especially in organisations just got louder and louder

It took a few more years before I leapt into starting my own coaching and training business. More by accident than design I stumbled upon ‘Women in Technology’ a network aimed to increase the number of women into the tech sector. This opened the door to coaching and training programmes for wider work.

Striving for continual development is central to every aspect of my personal and professional life.

Almost 20 years on, I have watched as the science of coaching has caught up with my experience of coaching. There is now extensive proof that our neural pathways are changed through the power of coaching, that sustainable behavioural change can be made through the power of coaching.

What hasn’t changed much over the last twenty years is an increase in the number of diverse coaches. The whisper about the lack of diversity in coaches especially in organisations just got louder and louder. It was time to do something about it.

I know how impactful coaching is for enabling transformation. As organisations are looking for way of increasing retention and development of BAME employees. Others are questioning the sustained impact of unconscious bias training – what next?

The decision to launch a programme designed with a wider lens of diversity and inclusion came after much reflection. I have a huge amount of respect for my coaching community however we also instinctively know we need things to change. What I have come to realise is that there is no lack of interest from BAME and other diverse groups interested in becoming coaches.

What is lacking though is confidence and self-belief. I had to do exactly what I’m always asking my clients to do. I had to take a leap of faith.


About the author

Salma Shah is an executive coach championing diversity and inclusion.




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