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  • Writer's pictureAlex Young

Stripped Back with Leadership and Team Coach, Will James

Introducing Will James, expert in helping people and their teams thrive on purpose and achieve greater impact. He loves being inspired by vision and working to 'unearth the collective intelligence to bring ambitions to life'.

Will is Director of Inclusion and Sustainablity for APECS, has an MA in Coaching, as well as a number of other qualifications in teaching, counselling and coaching. He is the founder of 'With' and architect of the CEES® and 'Level-UPP on Purpose™' coaching models. Find out how he got into coaching and understand what a career path supporting leaders to inhabit more authentic, sustainable and effective leadership agility really looks like.

Will - it's wonderful to be chatting to you today. Please tell us what you do for work and what you love most about it.

In the same way that athletes work with a coach if they want to make it to the olympics, I partner with visionary pioneers to achieve their ambitions. I accelerate their learning by creating the conditions for them to think more clearly, see more deeply, filter out the noise and focus on what matters most. I love it because witnessing people take risks and achieve success is so rewarding - and because I believe work inspired by purpose has the power to change the world.

How did you get into the position you're in?

I enjoy exploring exciting ideas with passionate, creative people. For a long time I did this teaching secondary school students, and loved it. But the rhythms and structure of school life didn’t suit me. More senior teachers asked me to start coaching newly qualified teachers and other staff, and I really enjoyed it, so decided to do my first coaching course. That was over 10 years ago. It felt like a really good fit for me, and I started Executive Coaching, part time. That’s gradually grown over the years to the point where I now coach and train coaches, and have associates who coach alongside me in bigger projects.

What are the challenges you face in your line of work?

I don’t have a 9 to 5 or work with one group of people, or one business, but a lot of different individuals, teams and organisations. That means that I am often communicating with - and trying to schedule coaching sessions, trainings, meetings and conversations - with so many different people at any given time that it can be overwhelming: 1:1 clients; teams of often 8-10 people; programmes of 6-12 people; events that can have many more. This means that scheduling can be very time-consuming, and if teams suddenly have to move things around - which happened a lot during Covid, it can become quite stressful. I’ve finally got someone helping me with this part of the business which is making a huge difference.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into this industry?

01. Find a tribe to train with who demonstrate the wisdom and skills you want to develop, and who will travel with you for prolonged period of time.

In coaching - your ‘Self’ (your thinking, feeling, body) - is your tool, and it’s not about knowing the theory intellectually, but growing a sensitive ability to use what you experience in the moment to build trust and unlock insights for your clients. This isn’t something you can develop on your own, but needs high quality reflective practice with skilful peers.

02. Find a good supervisor early and use them often.

Supervision is the best way to ensure you are offering the highest quality coaching to your clients, and it helps you reflect on your practice and continuously improve. It also helps your coaching hours to count towards professional certification.

How do you prevent yourself from burning out?

I’m a creative person, and I like to surf the waves of inspiration when they come. I also really enjoy engaging with people around passion and ideas, which means I’m tempted to say yes to interesting invitations to get involved in things. As well as doing a lot of exercise (which is my ‘me time’), I also need to be tuned-in to listen to my body when I’ve been pushing myself too hard and be intentional about resting my mind, body and spirit for a few days.

I also find it’s important to keep coming back to core purpose: what’s motivating me, what I’m best at, and who I’m most effective at serving. This helps me focus my activity on what has most impact, and helps me ‘make purpose my bouncer’ and say ’No’ to things that aren’t central to my mission.

We love that answer, Will, and all of the other words of wisdom you've provided us with here in this guide. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.

We noticed how the reviews on your site spoke about how you were able to 'create a safe and collaborative space' and bring out everyone's strengths in order for them to be able to 'collectively generate their shared goals and strategy'. Not only that but your clients note that you help them 'gain commitment and accountability for their plans'. There is nothing more meaningful for someone in a position of leadership to be able to do than empower people and enable them to become their best selves, for the benefit of everyone.

We can't get over the fact that you have so many valuable resources on your site for people to utilise for free, from your TED Talk to your diverse reading list recommendations. Thank you for being so open and generous in sharing these. They're excellent and the readily accessible nature of them makes them even more so.

You can get in touch with Will directly if you want to ask for his advice about getting into coaching and you can watch his brilliant videos modules here, completely for free!

This guide forms part of the Stripped Back series which have been designed to provide open, honest and encouraging information. They're a chance for you to understand the real ups and downs those being featured have experienced in their journeys to date. The aim is to demystify entry points to certain industries, as well as outline tangible advice for those looking to get into a new area of work. We hope you enjoyed this guide by Will James.


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