Shirley Thompson, BSc, MSc, DCM
Soft skills facilitator
Coach (ACC with ICF)
Coach Supervisor (Oxford Brookes)
Project manager (PMP with PMI)
Mentor (project managers, Princes Trust in the past, speakers- DTM with Toastmasters International programme)
Coaching has helped me to be more interested in people and ultimately the world because people are different. I'm interested in what people can change about their behaviour and what they cannot. I find it hugely rewarding to support people to invest time in self-development.
Personally, I believe I have gained more from being a coach than being coached, but the two go hand-in-hand. Being a professional coach necessarily means being coached, supervised and mentored. However my feeling is that personal learning through supporting others is immeasurable: it's a previlege to gain insight into others' thoughts and feelings.
I have a soft spot for project managers because I was last employed as a project manager and consider this role is the glue in any collaborative group. My doctoral thesis tested my belief about the value of coach practice with these strong-minded facilitating types. I showed project managers can benefit from very little coach skills practice. As a result, I constantly seek ways to encourage project managers - and others - to find ways to practice these soft skills.
Because of my belief - that coaching practice can increase the ability to step back, be objective and set intention to be present, in order to really listen to others and develop soft skills for use anywhere - I promote coaching skills practice to many others and run group coaching sessions to support this. (Ask me about various options of my ‘soft skills set’).
I start 2020 with an emergent mantra of ‘Believe I can’. 2019 was a turning point for my own confidence to explore what is possible and to experiment. My doctorate, DTM at Toastmasters and first grandchild arrived within the space of a few weeks: all three represent many years of invested hard work in different ways, including leadership and developing others. I had begun to believe already in 2019, but there is nothing like having tangible proof of an investment. Believe I can philosophy has emerged from my experiences with my business support group, group coach supervision and other group coaching work over the last two years; now I can really believe the power of belief; I want you to believe in your aspirations.
My doctorate got me interested in philosophy. Ethics has always been part of being a professional project manager or professional coach though my upbringing might have been so good I took morality for granted. My thoughts on responsibility are now being tested by the Responsible Project Management initiative.
My strengths are in sorting out problems so I’m naturally drawn to those who are not succeeding as well as they’d personally hoped. Engineering education leads me to find a solution, and coaching education has taught me adults prefer to drive their own solutions, even if they want ideas from others. The coaching philosophy of stepping back is generally more helpful; the coach is the enabling support. This stepping back objectivity of coaching has been key understanding for me for any conversation, including presentations. At Toastmasters new speakers generally struggle because they think about themselves first (e.g. their nerves) and the audience second. Despite the monologue it really still is a conversation. The speaker's purpose relates to the audience and what the audience will do as a result, so making the audience comfortable and speaking in relation to the listeners' needs is far more important for the speaker's attention. I promote responsible conversations which 'contract' - even subtly - at the outset, so that intention is clear and the risk of negotiation being needed recognised. My doctorate taught me that people ‘get’ the philosophical switch needed for any conversation when they step into the shoes of a coach, even as a novice, because contracting underpins any coaching.
In my career I’ve been known for calling out the elephant in the room, asking the awkward question and generally not believing the first thing that I am told. It’s the way I was brought up! Over time I have learned to be 'nicer' to others – though note my awkward questions have mostly been cheered on by others in the group! 21st century diversity understanding has presented a culture of not upsetting people and seriously challenged my ways. However, perhaps we have gone too far because now giving feedback is tricky and many avoid doing it, yet this is so essential to learning, and to partnership, because we are blind to our behaviours and having them pointed out can be so helpful, if we aspire for better selves and relationships.
My activities are torn between the responsibilities of running a business – ie to make it profitable and meet a purpose – and ‘giving back’ from a fortunate career in hardware and software development. Primarily I'd like to support you and your team to be inspired, energetic and engaging/engaged, by enabling you to overcome challenges, to seek learning, and to help others to learn. Right now, I help coaches develop their skills, freelancers keep their business focus, Agilists to air their issues (no process is challenge-free) and project managers to mentor, coach and to venture into airing the broader issues of planet and people responsibilities with stakeholders.