Well it's been quite a ride but finally I'm doing the job I dreamed of!
I get to work with smart, highly motivated, open-minded and curious people every day, coaching them to bring the best of themselves to work and life. Better performance at work. Better relationships at work and at home. A more successful business. A greater depth of happiness and fulfilment. Overcoming resistance and opening the freedom to move forward. Dealing with challenges and seizing opportunities.
I love coaching because it works. It's no coincidence that the world's top performers in business, in sport, even singers and actors, have coaches. Why? Because it shortens the distance between where you are and where you want to be.
That's not to say coaching is a quick fix, or that the process is easy.
The truth is that coaching will demand that you take responsibility for your own life. It will demand that you explore new ways of seeing the world and new ways of behaving. It will demand commitment and the courage to change. It will cause you to appreciate and celebrate the very best in yourself. It will cause you to face up to aspects of yourself that might be uncomfortable.
But you have someone fully and unquestioningly in your corner and on your side. You no longer have to work it all out for yourself. You are no longer alone.
My job is simple: to help you get what you want.
"Jim is an outstanding person. He can change individuals' lives for the better and empower them both personally and professionally with what they need to take the next step in the right direction."
Coaching isn't where I started!
I left school to head into the Ministry of Defence Engineer Training Programme where I spent an amazing time at the world-famous Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough, alternating between university and training placements all over the defence aerospace sector. I ended up running wind tunnel experiments and building computer models, researching flight characteristics of high-speed aircraft.
I found the world of research a bit detached from real life, though, so I looked for something more suited to my skills as a design engineer.
(Actually, if I'm completely honest, I imagined I would be designing Spitfires and Hurricanes, not doing ridiculously advanced maths. For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that someone had already done that!).
Design and Production
I moved into a Defence Contractor developing advanced electro-optical passive night vision systems for the British armed services. This was real leading-edge technology. I ran a team of product developers, working closely with the commercial side of the business as well as the drawing office, production engineering, manufacturing and the MoD to design, develop and manufacture the sort of world-class equipment the British armed forces rely on in their work around the globe. For obvious reasons I can't say much more! But the breadth of experience was fantastic, the technology right at the cutting edge, and it was a real privilege to work with a first-rate team in an environment where quality of design and production were so paramount.
After five years in the back office of the defence contractor I found myself wanting to expand my skills and give myself a solid business education to back up my technical qualifications.
To that end I secured a self-funded place at Cranfield School of Management, where I graduated with my MBA after a year spent at this prestigious business school with a truly inspirational group of teachers and peers.
The interesting news during this time was that the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down. Having grown up in the shadow of nuclear annihilation and 'mutually assured destruction' this was, of course, an Extremely Good Thing!
The only downside was that it led to a recession and the defence sector, in particular, went very quiet.
From Products to Services...
Happily, however, the telecoms sector was booming following the privatisation of British Telecom and the introduction of Mercury Communications as the first competitor in the marketplace.
I joined Mercury Communications in their Product Development division, developing services for large corporate customers, ending up (through various moves and acquisitions) as the Head of Voice Services Development at NTL, leading a brilliant team of product developers, project managers and business process designers.
I have to say that the transition from a manufacturing-based sector to a service-based sector was an interesting one! In the world of manufacturing, you create a set of specs and drawings, give them to production and voila! You have something you can put in a box and sell.
In the world of services, however, you can't do that. You can produce specs and SLAs, of course, but how do you produce a set of 'production drawings' for an intangible service? And that is where my interest in business process engineering began.
To Consulting and Coaching...
After eight years or so in the Telecoms sector I seized the opportunity to set up my own business, something I had wanted to do since Cranfield days.
It has been an incredibly varied and rewarding experience which has allowed me to work with some of the most prestigious professional services firms in the world, in locations from Moscow in the East to Washington DC in the West, and Oslo in the North to Johannesburg in the South.
My clients have included global business consulting firms, global pharmaceutical market research firms, global civil engineering consultancies and (which I love) local businesses and niche consulting firms.
And once again the transition from the corporate world into coaching and training was an interesting one! Having two decades of varied, hands-on, real-life experience is an essential foundation, but there is a whole new set of skills to learn if one is to be as professional in the new field as one was in the old.
To that end, I sought out the best trainings I could find, which included NLP training to Master Practitioner and Trainer; training as a professional storyteller at the International School of Storytelling; A year's foundation course in Drama and Performance at a leading London Drama School; Training in Accelerated Learning; training in Group Dynamics; and, of course qualification as an NLP Coach and membership of the International Coaching Federation.
I love coaching. As I read this and look back over my career I realise how much I would have benefited - both as a business professional and as a business owner - from the support of an experienced, skilled and supportive coach right from the word go. And I appreciate even more how much I value the coaches I turn to myself.
My passion now is to bring all this together in support of professional people who, like me (and like all of us) could benefit so much from having someone utterly and completely in their corner.
On the Side...
Throughout all this, I've kept my hand in as a web applications developer.
My final year project at Uni was to develop an interactive 3D Modelling System, back in the days when the world of 3D graphics was really in its early infancy.
And in one of my training placements I used that experience to build a way of mapping the anomalies in the shock wave emerging from an explosive charge (yes, I know - a long way from coaching!).
When I started my training business I discovered that there was no suitable system available off-the-shelf for managing the sort of courses I was planning to run - so I built one. And I am very proud to say that same system has been supporting a number of training businesses ever since and has, over the years, helped them to turn over several million pounds in revenue.
And for two global Pharmaceutical Research Consultancies, I have built a number of bespoke systems that became their standard tool for managing and analysing research survey responses, as well as real-time interactivity tools that enabled them to share results with clients during webinars, and gather feedback, and graphically present the results in real time to their clients. I'm quite proud of that, too!
If you've read this far then you are probably thinking it all looks rather hard-edged, technical and business-y.
And it has been - especially with the early years of my career being spent designing equipment for the battlefield!
So let me redress the balance.
It was during my NLP training that I realised the time had come to set up my own business, and that the business should be centred on coaching and training rather than technology and engineering.
Quite a change.
And one of the aspects of myself I wanted to work on was that I wanted to become the most effective trainer I could be. And it was clear to me that effective training is, in reality, effective storytelling.
So I studied the art of storytelling.
And it was during that period I came to understand the real power of storytelling not simply as a powerful vehicle for designing and delivering exceptional learning experiences, but also as a powerful vehicle for understanding and shaping one's own personal journey in life.
I was introduced to the work of Rumi and Hafiz, which in turn caused me to look again at the spiritual tradition I was brought up in and see that in a whole new light, especially since my training in storytelling was heavily influenced by the teachings of Rudolf Steiner. It was probably around this time I read the works of Gandhi and was introduced to the work of Marshall Rosenberg on non-violent communication. More recently a friend introduced me to the work of Richard Rohr, who shines the clearest light on the underlying messages of the stories we know so well from our own spiritual tradition here in this country, challenging many of the conventional interpretations in the most practical, accessible and inspirational way.
I find the amalgam of real-life experience in business and the corporate world, combined with the powerful tools of NLP, Group Dynamics and coaching, and my few 'through a glass darkly' insights half-glimpsed in the work of these spiritual masters brings me a great joy and variety in my coaching work. I hope, too, that it helps me be a better, more insightful and more professional coach.
Now, as a coach, I probably should be pretending that I'm always on top of everything and that life is a perfect breeze.
Here's the thing. If anyone tries to convince me that's how their life is, well, I really don't believe them - and I don't suppose you really believe them either.
So let's be honest.
The experience of running a business - and indeed the experience of life - can be seriously challenging (at least, it has been for me, from time to time!) and I want to acknowledge the help of three people in particular who have helped me navigate several periods of intense inner and outer turmoil. After all, I wouldn't be very credible as a coach if I didn't walk the talk and get the right support from the right people myself when I need it.
The first is the extraordinary Juliet Grayson, whose work with the Pesso-Boyden System has been, for me and for many others, life-changing.
The second is Dennis Murray, whose quiet strength and deep experience have helped keep me steady through some very difficult times.
Finally, and by no means least, my partner Philippa who has put up with it all and always been there with her keen insight, patient understanding and, from time to time, a well-aimed and well-deserved kick up the arse.
Oh yes, and Charlie the cat who still refuses to sit on anyone's lap.
"Jim's guidance was exactly what I needed, incredibly helpful, worthwhile and lots of fun too."