How to Help People to Help Themselves?
MARLEQ: Tell me about yourself and what prompted you to work as a career coach?
Graham Dodds: For as long as I remember, I have always been fascinated by people. By what drives us to think what we think, to say what we say and how we interact with other people and in broader societal groups.
This passion for people has followed me throughout my professional career as a Senior Executive, leading teams that manage Data and Information in the financial world. After starting at the very bottom of the ladder, I gradually progressed to lead larger and more diverse teams and address ever more complex challenges and projects. It was always the ‘people’ side of the business that interested me most and my fascination with human behaviour has flourished over time.
Operating at this intersection of people and data, drove me to pursue academic studies in Behavioural Analysis and Design, Business Psychology and Artificial Intelligence and ultimately lead to me starting my own company – Quiet Leaders Academy.
One of my overarching principles in life is to ‘help people to help themselves'. This is one of the reasons that I was drawn to add career coaching through MARLEQ to my portfolio of work. I love to help people better understand their values, strengths, and personality and learn how to leverage them in their careers. I believe that everyone will lead a happier, more fulfilling life and realise much more of their potential if they have a role where they can leverage their strengths and live in accordance with their values. It is extremely rewarding to see people unlock their potential and get more fulfilment in their careers by understanding, embracing, and stepping into their strengths.
MARLEQ: What is the coaching service you feel is closest to your heart? Why?
Graham Dodds: From the perspective of MARLEQ’s services, the coaching packages are the most rewarding as they address the client's needs from a more holistic perspective. Understandably, uncertainty over Job security or a job loss can lead people into short-term, transactional thinking (i.e. “I need a job”), whereas, there is much more value to be unlocked by assessing who we are as a person, where we are in our careers and developing a strategy to get to where we want in our careers.
MARLEQ: How do individual personality traits affect the right selection of the career path?
Graham Dodds: I believe it is fundamentally important for everyone to have at least some awareness of their personality type. It helps us to understand why we feel and do the things that we do, and why we like some situations and environments more than others.
There are certain roles that typically better suit certain personalities, but all is not necessarily how it seems in this area. For example, people often think that extroverts make better salespeople, but this is not necessarily the case as introverts can be excellent at nurturing deep relationships, developing deep product knowledge and expressing themselves in writing. These are all required ingredients to be a good, contemporary salesperson.
However, it is also important that people do not place restrictions on themselves by boxing themselves into their stereotypical personality type, or using it as an excuse (e.g. “I don’t do networking because I’m an introvert”). The truth is that anyone can succeed in any career if they want it badly enough.
Understanding personality type helps us to know what to triggers to watch out for and what strengths we can leverage as we navigate our careers. It can also be comforting to people to know why they are the way that they are. They’re not broken, they just have certain wiring. Finally, it can also help develop a better understanding of other people, leading to more empathy in the workplace.
MARLEQ: How would you help a client who is unsatisfied with his career, and is unable to decide what kind of help he really needs?
Graham Dodds: The MARLEQ Career SWOT analysis is a great exercise for this. The client will have a better understanding of themselves, how they stack-up against the current market and highlights opportunities for development to get them moving in the right direction.
MARLEQ: How do you evaluate customers’ satisfaction after providing the service? Will your relationship with them continue after completing the service?
Graham Dodds: To evaluate customer satisfaction, it is important to understand what they want in the first place. Indeed, some clients need a little help to clarify that too (i.e. do they want a new job or a career transition, or are they just looking to refresh their cv and test the waters of the job market).
I am passionate about helping people to thrive, so I always follow up regularly with clients to see how they are getting on and if they need some additional support. Our professional career is a journey, so we are never ‘done’. With all of my clients, I am personally invested in their success so it can end up being a lifelong connection.
MARLEQ: What is meant by transformative coaching?
Graham Dodds: Transformative or transformational coaching is a holistic process, whereby the coach and coachee partner to work through a pivotal change in the direction of their life. Holistic, because the client will assess their entire foundation of core personality, values, strengths, beliefs, etc. This newfound understanding can drive insights that the client will use to create a new vision for their life.
This differs from transactional coaching, which people often associate with career coaching. Transactional coaching gets someone from A-B. In the case of careers, transactional coaching could help a client to get a new job quickly. Whereas transformational coaching could help the client to navigate an entirely new career path.
MARLEQ: Do you prefer that a person chooses a coach from his/her same country or to communicate with a coach of a different nationality and culture?
Graham Dodds: One thing that studying different cultures teaches you is that we are more similar than we are different. Differences between cultures (national or otherwise) should be embraced and there is often more to be learned by interacting with someone with a completely different perspective on life. Therefore, my simple answer to this question is no.
That said, there is value in understanding local market dynamics when undergoing a job search. Therefore, a coach with local market knowledge can add some value (as can plenty of independent research).
MARLEQ: When is group coaching beneficial and when do you recommend individual sessions?
Graham Dodds: Group coaching can be beneficial when there is a budgetary constraint, or when there is a group of people who all have a similar goal to reach or a change to make.
However, I would generally recommend individual over group sessions as human beings are complex, unique and benefit from the confidentiality and personalization that individual coaching brings.
MARLEQ: Share one of your experiences in which you had dealt with a difficult person, and how you handled the situation.
Graham Dodds: After spending decades in the investment industry, I have too many examples to filter through! So, I will take the liberty here of generalizing and providing some examples of techniques that have worked for me (and subsequently my clients).
- Listen well, and try to understand their perspective. Maybe it’s not them that are being difficult!
- Assume good intent. Most people don’t wake up in the morning with the intention of being a difficult person.
- Address the issue, not the person. Focus on the topic, always. It’s not about them and you, it’s about work. If the other person makes it personal, rise above and bring it back to the topic at hand.
- Focus on what can be done in the present. Often, we get dragged into conversations around who was to blame, who said something, or did something we didn’t like, or we dwell on what now looks like a questionable decision. Deal with the facts of the day, and ask what we can do now to move forward. Don’t keep getting dragged into arguing over the past, or catastrophizing about the future.
MARLEQ: What long-range objectives that you encourage university students to set so that they can succeed in their professional life?
- Do the work we discussed previously around personality, values, strengths, etc. I’ve heard so many clients wishing they had a better level of self-awareness and understanding earlier in their careers. Too many people go through life thinking that there is something wrong with them, or that they don’t fit in, or they hold themselves back when often it just comes down to a lack of understanding of what makes them (and others) tick.
- Create a holistic vision for your life. Clearly, this will change over time, but it’s helpful to think about your career in the context of the broader life you want to live. There are some great, simple and fun tools to do this. Have fun, and dream big.
- Get into action. There is no substitute for learning by doing. Students potentially have a very long career ahead of them, possibly several different careers. There is lots of time to change direction, so jump in and get working. Skills can and will be learned along the way, but attitude is everything. “It’s difficult to steer a parked car, so get moving” – Henrietta Mears