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Masterclass: The coach

Les Posner, who is about to complete an MA in coaching and mentoring practice at Oxford Brookes, talks to Miles Brignall

Saturday April 12, 2003
The Guardian

Like lots of people in this business, I came to coaching after having something of a crisis in my own life.

I was a perennial under-achiever and always hated school, but managed to forge a successful career working as an engineer for a company manufacturing CDs and DVDs.

I had set up and was running a factory, and was living in Switzerland with a wife and family, and on the face of it everything was fine - but it all fell apart. I separated from them, and lost my job, and trying to understand why it had happened was one of the straws that I clutched at.

I discovered neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), which offers techniques to improve self-esteem, but also examines what makes some people lack self-belief while others feel they can achieve anything.

What started out almost as self-therapy quickly turned into my big passion. I started doing NLP training in London and I was soon offering coaching to others. I was able to resume my career as a consultant to the CD industry, which paid the bills while allowing me to develop my coaching abilities.

I had always regretted not going to university, and so when I came across the Oxford Brookes course I was determined to try and get a place.

It is conducted on a distance-learning basis, which means I spend a day at the college each month - the rest of the tutorials are done online. The first module, coaching and mentoring practice, is essential, and we had to choose three others.

One module examined how to best use personal development plans, another looked at the client/coach relationship and examined what to do if the client becomes dependent upon it. I was particularly grabbed by a module entitled 'Psychological perspectives of the self'.

One of the things that has developed while on the course was a new method of coaching based on beliefs. A lot of the executives I now coach want pretty quick results (within just a few sessions) and this is helping to speed up the process.

Although my company is still in its infancy, I'm doing regular coaching work. People might be surprised to learn that it's all done on the phone rather than face to face, but that's the most economical way of doing it.