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You already have the answers to your own jigsaw puzzle.

After beginning his career as a professional pianist, Nick moonlighted in strategy consultancy before moving into an analyst and business development role for a small investment company.

In 2003, he co-founded karaoke company Lucky Voice where he continues in a part-time Executive Chairman role after 13 years as Managing Director. Nick’s constant focus on self-development during this period, and his consequent evolution from self-confessed grumpy autocrat to enlightened motivational leader, inspired his move into coaching in 2015 and continues to inform his approach.

Nick sheds some great light on what coaching really is and the power it has to bring great clarity wherever it is needed.

Nick Thistleton –
Executive Chariman: Lucky Voice and Founder Nick Thistleton Executive Coach.

Coaching 101

During my 13 years as a full-time entrepreneur, I was always resistant to the idea of coaching when the opportunities arose, my decision based mostly on short-term cash flow concerns (one of many false economies I was guilty of), but also on the belief that afflicts most entrepreneurs, namely that I could manage perfectly well by myself, thank you very much. And that it would be admitting some kind of weakness to project anything else. And in truth, I didn’t really get how it worked and how it would benefit me.

When I got into the coaching world myself (another story in itself), I found that I had to spend an unexpected amount of time explaining what coaching is. And I think that’s partly because the word coach is used broadly and in many different contexts, which adds to the confusion, and partly because it’s surprisingly difficult to explain. Even the International Coaching Federation, the leading global coaching association, does a pretty poor job of it! I like to say simply that coaching provides you with the environment in which to do your very best thinking.

Consider my favourite coaching analogy.

If you imagine your thoughts or thought fragments as jigsaw pieces, consider that normal inside-your-head thinking is a bit like trying to work out what the completed jigsaw looks like by looking at the plastic bag that contains all the pieces and occasionally poking it or shaking it to shift the pieces around.

Now in a coaching context, consider that you have a nice hard, flat, sturdy table that’s big enough to get all the pieces out, get them all facing the right way up, get them all suitably organised and then actually start doing the jigsaw. So what starts out as lots of thought fragments ends up over time as a very clear picture or series of pictures.


Those pictures are your new awarenesses that lead to new actions and new results.

So what does this look like in practice?

The most important factor is that coaching is a completely confidential and non-judgemental conversation between the coach and the coachee. And that’s critical because it is a completely safe space where people can, and more often than not do, say things that they don’t say in any other context.

In this unconstrained context, you the coachee have to organise your thoughts in such a way that they can be expressed in reasonably coherent spoken sentences. I suspect I’d lose you if I went into the neuroscientific detail here, but suffice to say that this process in itself requires completely different brain activity to regular thinking. And then there’s something different again that happens in the brain when you actually hear and process what you’re saying.

As the coach I listen fanatically, reflect back what I’ve heard and ask probing questions or use models to prompt deeper thinking or explore different perspectives. I make sure that every factor has been considered, every thought unpacked, and once the new awarenesses are clear for you, I encourage a high level of commitment to the new actions that will have the most impact on your situation. It’s a very simple, yet hugely powerful process.

So what topics can you bring to coaching?

Well, literally anything which will benefit from your best ever thinking and the greater clarity that will ensue.

A coaching conversation is actually a brilliant way to address what one might call “tactical” issues like making key decisions or creating an important plan. But it really comes into its own when applied to wider “strategic” issues like how do I become a more effective leader or how do I develop a healthier life balance (funnily enough, these two questions turn out to be more closely linked than most people realise).

After my own difficult and winding ascent up the leadership mountain, I’m particularly passionate about helping others to make theirs both easier and faster!