For more than 25 years, Geraldine Gallacher has been at the forefront of coaching women in leadership positions. In that time, she's seen a lot and through her new book, Coaching Women: Changing The System Not The Person, is keen to shift perspectives in the tough world of leadership.
Geraldine, you’ve worked with female leaders for 25+ years. In that time, what has been your biggest learning?
I’ve had so many it’s hard to hone in on one big learning. I guess the main things is that it’s very liberating to introduce the notion of systemic bias to women in order to stop them blaming themselves when they get feedback about being either too feisty or too soft. The reality is men don’t receive this kind of feedback and highlighting this for women can make them feel relieved and help them put to bed any nagging doubts they may have about their ability.
When you set up the Executive Coaching Consultancy, what were your initial goals and how have they changed over the years?
Originally my goal was to democratise coaching which in 1994 was the preserve of the privileged few at the very top of organisations. I could see how effective it could be at all levels in organisations and so I designed our ECC product and approach so that it was more pragmatic, both in length of the engagements and cost. In addition I was keen to destigmatise coaching and help to make people be more transparent about its value.
It wasn’t until 2005 when I came to realise that we were still mainly coaching men and that was an issue. Emma Spitz joined us from JPMorgan with the idea that we should target women going through the maternity transition with coaching. That was a significant breakthrough for ECC and it triggered the beginning of my own sense of purpose around having more women leaders. In this respect we pre-dated the Lord Davies report in 2011 by 6 years where we were able to introduce what we then called Maternity Coaching to many large organisations. We now call it Parental Transition Coaching in recognition of the need to promote parenting as a joint endeavour and not one solely for mums!
Your book is just out, who is the book aimed at and what can the reader expect?
First and foremost, coaches will enjoy this book. It’s not a How to Coach book but rather, it sheds light on the differences one needs to bear in mind when coaching women leaders. Much of it is dedicated to the issue of what needs to change in the system to result in more women leaders and for this reason HR and DEI specialists will find much of interest. And last but by no means least this is a useful book for leaders, both men and women, because we are all subject to systemic bias and we would all benefit from a world where being a care-giver and being a leader is not determined by gender.
When did you first realise that you wanted to write a book and what did you learn along the way?
I started the book at the suggestion of one of our coaches Claudia Filsinger who was approached to write the book by McGrawHill. She suggested ECC would have the necessary breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject of coaching women and I pitched for it. I think I’ve long wanted to write a book and so the request came at exactly the right time. It’s helped me on a number of fronts.
1) I’ve had to delegate far more of the running of the business and think about succession for ECC and taking time out to write the book allowed us all to experience what that will feel like.
2) My advice for anyone writing a book is be very ordered in your referencing. Had I not had the back up of my Insights team I would still be finishing the book! It’s quite laborious and requires a different mindset than the one I possess!
3) and finally, I learned that I love writing!!
In collaboration with the University of Edinburgh Business School, Coaching Direct will be hosting an evening with Geraldine on Thursday 24th November to discuss her new book and the research behind it. Places are limited. You can pick up your FREE ticket here: https://bit.ly/3zM13Lx
If you are keen to learn more about systemic bias in leadership, you can buy Geraldine's book here (I've read it and it is awesome!)