Meet the Coach: Breandan Ward
What attracted you to become a coach?
I worked for 15 years in investment banking in London and New York and had some very different managers over those years. As I progressed in my career, I noticed a pattern.
Their ability to make change happen and their impact on people differed based on what they focused on and what seemed their primary motivation. Some were “transactors” that focused on execution, sometimes at any cost. Others were “relators” that put people and relationships first, but often at the expense of getting the job done. At their extremes, both became negative role models for me. As my work expanded from the private sector into NGO’s, non-profits and the public sector, the same leadership patterns seemed to appear.
The leaders that I resonated with the most, the ones I wanted to follow and emulate, had characteristics in common. They had attitudes and behaviours that made them positive role models for me.
They encouraged, they empowered, they were empathetic. Whether the team or the task was big or small, their focus was on developing others for future success – both at the individual and organisational level. Rather than being all about transactions, or all about relationships, they could marry both together. They understood that everyone, including themselves, had abilities and limitations. Wellbeing was not a side topic; it was integrated in their decision-making. They cared about a job well done and they cared about the people doing the job.
A turning point came for me when I first read the work of Daniel Goleman on leadership during my Masters studies at NYU. I was struck with two realisations that made sense of my experience of leadership and clarified the path ahead.
First, the positive role models that I admired and wanted to emulate were not some kind of random exception, they employed what Goleman calls a “coaching style of leadership”. Second, I wanted to carry this forward in my career albeit in a new format from my banking days. For this reason, I decided to carve out this part of my old day job that I loved the most and seek out formal training to become a coach.
Where did you train?
I am an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and did my training with The Forton Group. Happily, I felt at home with Bob and Helen from the start because they believe that one of our callings as coaches is to role model the coaching style of leadership.
What kind of coaching do you offer?
I offer leadership, executive and career coaching. I define “leader” not in the narrower sense of a formal job title, but in its broadest meaning, i.e. those who take on the responsibility for facing the reality in front of them and seeking to somehow transform the situation into outcomes that align with their core values.
Regardless of our job title, sector, or stage of career, this leadership applies in the roles we choose to do or not do, the way we show up to our work, and how we strike the right balance for us between taking care of tasks and taking care of people – including ourselves.
How does coaching help?
I’m partially blind due to an inherited condition that caused progressive sight loss since my 20’s. While not a scenario that I would have necessarily chosen, the experience has taught me a great deal as I navigated my early career in banking and then transitioned to self-employment in coaching, consulting and education. It taught me a massive lesson in leadership and how important it is to be adaptable.
Regardless of our life circumstances, how do we discern the appropriate response that fits the context and aligns with our core values?
Working across the private, public and non-profit sectors, I believe that diversity and inclusion are essential acts if we are to be transformative leaders. If diversity and inclusion are specific topics of focus for you in your leadership experience and practice, I would love to meet, understand what challenges you might be wrestling with, and offer support to help you achieve the impact that is yours to make.
What sort of coaching clients do you usually see?
I support people at all stages of their professional and career journeys across a range of sectors and locations. Some of my current clients work in organisations ranging from the UK NHS and New York non-profits to private companies and the United Nations.
Do you ever suggest books or other materials to clients?
Here are two seminal books that influenced me greatly and seem to resonate with many of my clients. What strikes me about both is how much they encourage us to “know” our full selves and to bring our full selves to whatever undertaking we choose in personal or professional life.
Conscious Business: How to Build Value from Values by Fred Kofman
Daring Greatly How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown
What do you like about being a coach?
What I love most is the spirit of partnership on this shared path of leadership that we all travel on. The chance to help people unlock their own insights and capacity to meet and transform whatever challenges come their way is a joy for me.
What is less pleasant?
Being an effective coach is not easy. In day-to-day life, it’s always tempting to tell others what we think they should do, what problems to solve, and how to solve them. But this is sloppy coaching. In fact, it’s not coaching at all. What I’ve found over the years is that it’s important to space out my coaching sessions, take time before and after each session to reflect, and close the door on my busy schedule so that I can create the supportive space where my client can identify what matters most to them, what’s positive and challenging about the situation at hand, and what choices they want to make.
Like any muscle that we need to train and strengthen, regular practice can be tiring, uncomfortable or unpleasant. But knowing the positive impact that the coaching muscle can affect is worth it every time!
What is one life lesson you try to live by?
It does not feel this way when you’re in the thick of it, but I’ve come to realise that many of life’s challenges turn out to be “good disruptions”. They force us to “check in” with ourselves…Where are we going really? Why is this important? Who am I becoming on this journey? While the disruptions of life and work can feel like bad things in the moment, they often prove invaluable for reorienting and repurposing us,
What do you wish people knew about coaching?
Engaging a coach is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s a sign that we want to meet what’s in front of us and to get some support to do the learning and further the action that is ours to do. Just like any good sports player, being coached means we want to get better at playing the game – however we define that game and however we define better.
Do you have a favourite client testimonial or particular success story?
“Breandan’s coaching had a significant impact on my ability to take stock. I feel confident in my decisions now that I have the clarity and guidance of my core values! I really can’t thank him enough.”