Executive coaching can groom managers into more effective leaders in their organisations.
Tamala Chirwa is a local International Coach Federation (ICF) associate certified coach.
She says coaching is a new profession and novel approach in our Malawian context. Not many people understand what it is all about. Chirwa observes that some people confuse it with mentoring although both approaches are aimed at people development; yet others confuse it with counselling.
Furthermore, Chirwa notes that coaching as a professional service is a hard-sell because it is an experiential service. One actually has to understand and appreciate what it entails and also recognise and see the need for it in their personal and professional development.
“Until one has experienced coaching and appreciates its value, they can confidently speak about the impact it has had in their lives and consequently refer others who may benefit from it,” she says while indicating that the response has been lukewarm in Malawi.
However, Chirwa is optimistic that with time, people, especially women, will warm up to the approach and begin to seek professional coaching services.
“At the moment, I am truly grateful for the organisational clients that have engaged me as a coach to work with their executives,” she explains, adding that she plans to build a robust coaching community in the country.
Standard Bank head of credit, Talumba Malikula, whose engagement with the professional coach has been on a leadership coaching programme since May 2015, says it has been one of the most powerful experiences of her life and a worthwhile investment.
“She [Chirwa] has assisted me in making significant improvements in enhancing my leadership potential within my organisation and increasing my confidence and visibility among executive management, which has led to an increase in the scope of my responsibilities.
“She has shown me what leadership means and the behaviours needed to become a strong leader. Subtle flaws in leadership style or competencies can have a catastrophic effect on an organisation’s ability to succeed. Tamala is able to help me identify and deal with the toughest issues I face as an individual, including accountability for my own actions.
“She has also helped me to look at situations with a different viewpoint; to be a little less ‘job-focused’ and a little more ‘people-focused’, which is not an easy thing for me as I am very result-oriented. I now understand that there is more to the job than just ‘the job’, and that I should strive for excellence as opposed to perfectionism,” explains Malikula.
The need for coaching as a professional service stems from the notion that although people may perform well at work, they may not be performing at their best and; therefore, apart from having mentors within their environment, who can hand-hold them, they need an independent, objective and trusted person who can challenge and support them to figure out issues they may be grappling with in their career or leadership journey,” says Chirwa.
Coaching, according to her, is about partnering with a client through a thought-provoking and creative process that aims to unlock their potential and maximise their performance.
“As a coach, I facilitate a process of supporting an individual to generate their own solutions to the problems or challenges they grapple with and make the significant changes to their life, career or leadership trajectory so they can move forward and begin to create the kind of career they want,” she explains.