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In Conversation With: Richard Timmins, Luth Associates

June 3, 2021

 

In this interview, Drax’s Marcus Beale speaks to Richard Timmins at Luth Associates on their new approach ‘Coaching with Context’.

They discuss the difference between a coach and a mentor, the value-add and successful outcomes of engaging in ‘coaching with context’, the rules and initiation of a coach, and the hot topics Richard is currently advising on.

Here is an abridged version of the conversation.

Marcus Beale:

What is the difference between a coach and a mentor? Which one are you?

Richard Timmins:

A coach does not need specialist knowledge of a role, organisation or sector.  They are individuals skilled in listening, providing non-judgemental support and asking questions to help an individual develop.

Many of the same characteristics apply to a mentor but a mentor also brings specialist knowledge or knowledge of particular situations.

Luth Associates are developing an approach that we’re calling ‘coaching with context’. This is where the coach has experience in a situation similar to that the particular individual is facing and can help them deliver successfully for the business in that context BUT can also develop the individual so that they are able to take on more complex or more difficult situations in the future.

Marcus Beale:

What is the value-add to both the business and the individual, in engaging in ‘coaching with context’?

Richard Timmins:

The business is more likely to see a successful project/challenge delivered and has the benefit of a more experienced and better equipped individual for the future.

The individual develops personally and is more likely to have a successful experience on their CV to enhance their future career.

Marcus Beale:

What makes a good coach or mentor? What skills and principles do you bring to ‘coaching with context’? – if so, what is it and how does it help the relationship?  

Richard Timmins:

Listening skills, non-judgemental style, ability to ask good questions, an ability to build a positive trusting relationship with the individual and of course, a specialist knowledge or experience of particular situations that are relevant for the individual being coached.

In terms of principles we focus on helping the individual be successful and helping them develop.

We will agree a framework in which we will work together including how we will both behave during the assignment.

We don’t put any pressure on an individual to take a particular course of action.  We will give examples of similar situations, ask questions and share our thoughts but ultimately the individual will choose the set of actions that they feel are most appropriate in the circumstances.

Another important principle is that we will look to monitor progress for the programme by setting out the areas of focus and measures of success.

Marcus Beale:

In your experience how can clients get the most from ‘coaching with context’?

Richard Timmins:

By being open about the issues they are facing and their thoughts about them and being prepared to listen and engage in a constructive conversation.  It is more difficult when the relationship is more guarded and it takes a while to tease out the issues.

Marcus Beale:

 Describe some successful outcomes of coaching – and what did this lead to for the client? In what ways can coaching be less successful?

Richard Timmins:

Successful outcomes can result in career progression, success in delivering projects, better relationships with key stakeholders and confidence building.  Less successful outcomes are where we don’t make the progress we aimed for.  It is early days in developing our ‘coaching with context’ approach but I’m glad to say we’ve had no such examples to date.

Marcus Beale:

Can you provide an overview on how the process of ‘coaching with context’ first comes about – who engages in the initial conversation to bring on a mentor?

Richard Timmins:

It has varied – in some cases it has been the PE house, in other cases it is the company and we’ve also had instances of the individual approaching us via our network.  We listen carefully to all stakeholders but are always keen to talk to the individual as soon as ensuring that the personal chemistry with the individual works will be critical to success.

Marcus Beale:

What are the rules of engagement with a coach, and are there any issues around confidentiality? Is there anything that is off limits? What boundaries do you put in place?

Richard Timmins:

Setting the rules of engagement early in the relationship is critical.  The individual has to know that they can talk in confidence, otherwise we not be able to get to the heart of any issues quickly in our conversations and some difficult issues do arise. I therefore make a commitment not to share the detailed content of our conversations.

The company or the investor will undoubtedly be interested in progress and I will share an honest assessment with them as requested but:

I will not say anything that I have not already discussed with the individual and I will not share details of situations the individual has shared with me.

Marcus Beale:

How often do you meet with your coaching clients? Are there specific timings, or is it on a case by case basis, depending on the situation?

Richard Timmins:

It is case by case and we will agree all of this up front but often we do meet monthly for 90 minutes and it is often helpful to make some time available so that the individual can quickly arrange an ‘ad hoc’ conversation about a particular urgent issue.

Marcus Beale:

What are the hot topics or specific areas that you are advising on currently?

Richard Timmins:

Personally I am seeing a number of cases where a high quality CFO has been recruited for a private equity backed business who does not have private equity experience and my role is to help them with the transition so that they are set up for success in the new environment.  We are also seeing cases where individuals are managing complex transformation projects and integration of acquisitions.

Marcus Beale:

 How does the PE investor view an external individual providing coaching/ mentoring advice to a board member in an asset that they own?

Richard Timmins:

In all cases so far I’ve seen an extremely positive reaction.  They react positively to an individual looking to grow and develop and have been extremely helpful in contributing their thoughts to help construct the programme.  In my own area of finance they recognise that there is often an extremely challenging agenda for the CFO and they are keen to ensure that they have some support to help them be successful.

 

 

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