A Research Paper By Claire Braunwald, Change Coach, HONG KONG
Interview With Mathilde Poirieux, a Leadership, and Career Transition Coach
When I first started my coaching journey, I have been lucky to cross Mathilde Poirieux’s path through the ICF Hong Kong Chapter. Mathilde is a PCC Senior Executive Coach, Coach Supervisor, and President of the ICF Hong Kong Chapter. I remember Mathilde’s energy and eagerness to share her love for coaching and knowledge of the coaching process with beginners like me who had many questions including directions on how best to start a learning process. Her support helped me gain clarity on my journey and the direction that I should take at a decisive time in my career and life, which truly had a positive and lasting impact on me. Fast forward to three years later and to the creation of my ICA portfolio, I was very happy to reconnect with Mathilde who kindly accepted to participate in my research paper interview. I centered this interview on her dynamic and robust coaching journey focused on Career Transitions for seasoned professionals and on Mathilde’s coaching style and advice for new coaches.
Mathilde Poirieux Career Transitions Coaching Style for Seasoned Professionals
When Did You First Come Across Coaching and How Did You Realize That You Wanted to Make It Your Career and Passion?
The first time that I came across coaching was when I worked in the Learning & Development team at Ernst &Young in Paris. We hired a coach to help us develop a Leadership Development Programme. Her level of maturity and the interesting questions that she asked struck me. I kept this experience in a corner of my head. 5 years later, a colleague of mine took a coaching training and when I heard more about his experience and coaching in general, I realized that this is what I wanted to do; that moment marked the start of my coaching journey.
How Do You Define Your Profession to Someone Who Has Never Heard of Coaching Before?
I am usually asked to define the type of coaching that I do.
I define myself as a thinking partner who helps people to think about their situation, challenges, their projects, or their position, whatever they wish to focus on. Helping them think means sitting down with them, and taking the time to listen to them. Helping them get out of their usual inside chatterbox and ask themselves different questions; supporting them with seeing different perspectives or new outlooks on their situation.
If I can talk a bit longer when defining what I do as a coach, I usually add that I am the mirror of my clients, giving them feedback on what I observe, their behaviors, on their emotions to help them know themselves in a deeper way.
You Have a Robust and Dynamic Journey in the Coaching World: I Understand That You Have Extended Your Coaching Services to4 Different International Organisations (Turningpoint Leadership, Iecl, Firelight Collective HK, Dynamis, and More Recently Viviid), How Did You Market Your Services and Create These Opportunities?
Allow me to clarify what these companies are: Dynamis is the brand that I created for myself, my company, and my starting point. At first, most of my work in coaching was through Dynamis. It was rather easy for me to get started as I benefited from a great amount of word of mouth, which was a bit magical. I did not have to market my services; my clients told their friends about me which was very helpful. Then I also have been associated with two coaching companies for seven years: TurningPoint Leadership focusing on Leadership Coaching and Development located mainly in Paris and London. The other one is IECL based in Australia; it is the coaching organization that I graduated with and that offered me to become an Associate after my graduation. I like the way these two organizations complement each other and are not fishing on the same farm. That was an important point for me, I decided to associate my name with only two companies, some other coaches do more companies but I decided not to do that and be mindful of the purpose of the organizations I was associating myself with. I did not want to find myself in a position where a client looking for a coach was going to find my profile on multiple websites, which would not have made sense to me.
On the other hand, I also chose to collaborate with the organization called Firelight Collective. Firelight Collective is a collective I initiated with Coaching Supervisors. We are not delivering coaching sessions but coaching supervision. There are not many Supervisors in Hong Kong and we wanted to create this collection to raise awareness, and be vocal on social media to define coaching supervision and its benefits to the profession. More recently, I also took part in a new collaborative project called Viviid; with two other colleagues. We created a coaching platform, which offers online executive coaching.
These collaborations were born thanks to the relationships that I had made, meeting the right people at the right time, and sharing ideas together. Then it takes a lot of work and time to make sure that we align on the concept that we want to work on and promote together.
How Do You Prioritize Your Time Between All of These Organizations?
Each quarter in the year is different from another. One project would be more prominent and needs more attention from me. People tend to ask me: do you have the capacity to take this client or that one? A coaching course would take 3-5 months so I always need to anticipate and juggle things around.
What Are, According to You, the Key Factors to Starting a Client and Coach Relationship on the Best Foot, and How Many Sessions Would You Usually Ask Your Client to Commit to Get the Best Results From the Process?
I would typically offer 8 sessions. It is the duration that I believe can enable a real change and allow the person to mature into the change. I received the advice to offer 6 sessions in the beginning, I tried it and I found out that 6 sessions definitely help the client make change happen and which is a victory for them and makes them eager to continue. However, after 6 sessions something can more easily get in the way and cut their journey short. I, therefore, settled on 8 sessions, which enable my clients to commit fully to the process. I could preconize 10 sessions when several things are happening in the client’s life: transition into a higher leadership position plus something else they want to work on. I avoid doing more as my goal is for the client to be autonomous and not need me anymore.
I tend to propose for the first 4 sessions 2 weeks apart between the sessions, which would allow the client to have time to reflect, digest, make new habits and really embark on the change journey. When it is longer, clients tend to lose the momentum and the impact of the session gets lost. What tends to happen after session number 4 or 5 the client is really into it and change starts to happen; the client naturally asks for a longer period in between sessions. I really leave it up to my clients to assess the time they need to make it as useful to them.
The key factors to starting the client and coach relationship on the best foot: I find that one of them is clarity; about what coaching is, about my coaching, and what to expect from the process. Taking the time to create a solid contract between a coach and his client is important.
In the case of organizational coaching, where the company is the client then it takes a lot more work to create this clarity with everyone involved it can be the coaching sponsor, the manager of the coaches, or the HR director and the coachee themselves to be totally in agreement on the coaching contract.
Well, another key factor is to assess if the client is coachable or not; the readiness of the client, if they are willing to make change happen and have the energy to do it. Just before our conversation, I met with a former client of mine whom I coached last year. We debriefed on his readiness before we had started the coaching process; he said that he was close to burning out at the time. I told him how I had assessed his readiness at that time. I commented that yes, he was tired and very annoyed with what was going on but he still had the energy and willpower to make the change happen. If I had not seen that, I would have said that I could not have coached him. It was interesting to debrief 18 months after when he is now in a much better place and look back on his journey.
What Are, According to You, the Key Benefits of the Coaching Process for a Client Facing a Transition or Change Situation in Their Life?
Well, according to the client, whom I just met before, and to the feedback that I have heard from many other clients: it is all about clarity. By definition, a transition is walking into the unknown. You can plan for it but you most probably know that you cannot predict it all. The only thing that you can predict is that things and change will happen. Support clients to gain clarity and a better understanding of themselves first so they can be mindful in all situations and make decisions that look like them instead of being in reacting mode or survival mode, which is natural, but your world shrinks when you come from a place of fear. Support people to understand their values, their drivers, their motivators, and looking into who they are, go as deep as they are willing to go. I describe this as a solid base and a great way to identify strengths that you can rely on. I actually called my company “Dynamis” as it means strength in Greek. My coaching is totally strengths-based because strengths are what you can leverage. Knowing what you can leverage into a shifting world of transition and change is key.
To recap, the key benefits gained by the client from a coaching process in a transition or change situation:
Clarity and self-awareness lead to self-management: if you know that you need time to think then buy yourself time because you know that after a good night of sleep you will have a better answer. It can be simple and practical or deep but it helps.
Another benefit: thanks to coaching, clients tend to get into the habit of asking themselves new questions and seeing things from a different perspective. They become more resourceful and equipped themselves with new lenses, which are beneficial to their decision-making on a daily basis.
How Do You Make Sure That, as a Coach, You Continue to Learn and Develop Your Toolbox to Best Support Your Clients?
Continuous learning is a habit that most coaches have who usually love to learn. Learning is one of my key drivers and something I need. It is a strong commitment that I have towards myself, I would never dare to help people change if I would not do it myself. I read and journal, I am Supervised, and I do reflective practice in a group. From time to time, I attend a seminar to hear about a topic that I want to learn more about. Now and often, I always have things in my mind that I would like to develop and something I find the exact training to match; two years ago, I took on a 6-month program on Deep Transformational Coaching. I was looking for the right training for a long time; when I find the right training, I invest the time and go for it.
How Do You Find the Source of Knowledge That Can Support Your Learning?
Well, I would say that because I am too connected in the field my challenge is to filter through the information that I receive. If I think back, I would definitely have had the same question years ago. One thing that definitely helped was being connected to the local community of coaches and hearing from other coaches. Coaches love to share and it is a great source of learning.
Based on Your Experience, What Would Be the Key Advice(s) That You Could Give to New Coaches?
First, one that is so loud in my head is: trust yourself and the process. Coaching is magic so trust it. We are not the process, we offer something that is already powerful. We are transmitters, we allow coaching to happen. I also give Mentor Coaching to coaches, I hear a lot about the stress of getting started and I would wish for this stress to be released as it is not useful.