Katy Cole, CEO of Spoken and alum of Manageable, and Boris Hahn, private equity investment professional, share their perspective on being beginner leaders, and supporting each other through their Manageable Experience.
I founded Spoken in 2019, and we’re now a team of ten. As I’ve spent much of my work life as a consultant, I feel incredibly unprepared for the leadership skills I now find I need as CEO. At one point last year, I was becoming anxious about how I can build a solid, happy fast-growing company with such little management experience so I enrolled in Manageable's Confident Coach course to start a belated education on being a more effective manager. I have had the good fortune of being coached in the past so knew how transformative it can be, and could see how much Spoken would benefit if I could work out how to manage with a coaching style, and with intention.
Boris and I may seem an unusual match on paper as I spend most of my day on client relationships, where he is mainly focused on managing investments. However, we clicked from the start. It was lovely to meet someone who has such a different working life to me but who I had so much in common with in terms of personality and ambition. I felt like Manageable matched us very well and we had great empathy for each other.
It’s easy to only interact with people who do something similar to you, so it was a great reminder about the importance of learning about a variety of different experiences.
Practising what we had been taught in the Masterclasses in a real setting was invaluable. Farley, my expert coach, said that coaching was like learning a new language, and I think this is a brilliant way of describing it. At the beginning, adopting the coaching style felt unnatural but Boris was an incredibly supportive coachee – he was always open and gave much thought to trying to reveal more of himself.
Although Boris said that he wanted to be more spontaneous, after talking it through we came to the conclusion that spontaneity wasn’t actually the problem. We reframed it, and thought about how he could be more comfortable in meetings to present his point of view outside of a presentation scenario, and in a conversational way. We also discussed how he could interact with juniors more in down moments, and to lean into that.
It was a really great experience and Boris was very kind: I was practising my skills and he was very benign about that. I would say I still have my training wheels and need to keep my practice up. Before my own team one-on-ones I now look through my Manageable notes and prepare for each meeting by thinking about where and how I should be putting coaching skills into practice. One of the most valuable takeaways for me from the course has been the realisation that effective management is something everyone can learn – it’s not an innate mystical talent!
I am an investment professional at a pan-European private equity firm in a mid-level role. Career development is quite a big focus at our firm and people are very flexible in choosing training programs and courses themselves. My team co-head was aware of the Manageable coaching programme and suggested that a group of us working with her take part. We’re all on different tracks: I spent the first half of my track as a coachee and then progressed to the Confident Coach course to develop coaching skills myself.
I had three coaching sessions with Katy. I wanted to focus on becoming more spontaneous at work. In high profile meetings, I usually prepare and set talking points in advance so I wanted to understand how I could deviate from the script and jump in a bit more. I also wanted to be more flexible in providing guidance to juniors, becoming more open to tackling tasks in different ways and taking a more versatile approach.
I found the Manageable concept of “exploring” ideas together very compelling and was keen to put it into practice.
Katy is very experienced in her field and has her own company so that was very helpful as she could give me insights into how she developed her leadership style and dealt with similar challenges earlier in her career. She challenged my goal and having talked it through with her, and reframing it together, we came up with a few practical solutions and micro steps that I could apply in my day-to-day work. We went through my upcoming meetings to find situations where I could contribute my thoughts in a more conversational manner; by asking open questions rather than presenting structured thoughts.
In finance we all go through very similar steps in our career so it was great to talk to someone who has a different perspective and working style. Being outside the usual working environment made me more open to discussing the kind of concerns that I would struggle to bring up with colleagues. Now being a coach myself, I understand the tools Katy was using and it was interesting to see how she applied them in a session. My last official session with Katy was before Christmas but we really connected and will stay in touch.