David Carson

David Carson

Executive Business Coach, Mentor, Non Executive Director

David has recently completed the Diploma in Business & Executive Coaching.

Discovering the power of coaching

Having retired as a partner with Deloitte after 35 years with the firm in January 2020, one thing that wasn’t on David Carson’s mind was doing nothing. Instead, he took up a number of non-executive directorships and recently completed the UCD Diploma in Business & Executive Coaching programme.

“I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I was going to do,” he explains. “Some see retirement as quite final and look at it in purely financial terms. But I decided to plan for change as much as I could, and coaching is all about change. I thoroughly enjoyed my career with Deloitte. It was quite demanding, of course. Particularly on time. In professional services clients are critically important and you can’t say to them you’ll do something next week or next month. A big change for me was being a little bit more in control of my time.”

His decision to do the Business & Executive Coaching diploma came about after a lot of thought and research. “I wanted to find something that interested me,” he notes. “I had studied law and I thought about going back to that. But that wouldn’t really be a change for me. I did some research and found the Smurfit Executive Development diploma. I have a background in due diligence so I found some people who had done the course and they couldn’t speak highly enough about it. After that I spent an hour speaking with Colm Murphy who leads the diploma and that really piqued my interest.”

The change was still a little daunting. “I was a bit apprehensive at first. I hadn’t studied in 40 years. And I had support around me in the office when I needed anything written. I had people around me to write reports for me and I would edit them, it’s very different writing them yourself.”

A number of factors combined to make him press on. “The whole area of self-development is very important to me,” he explains. “I remember as a child being told by my granny that some people live and learn and others simply live. That stuck with me. Also, another person who had done the course told me he wished he had done it 20 years earlier.”

He found the practical elements of the programme particularly interesting. “The Smurfit course is a combination of learning and experience. You have to do 90 hours coaching as part of it. You have to go out and find coachees. It’s hugely rewarding sitting down with people you’ve never met before and helping them. You’ve got to build up a relationship of trust with people and give them the space to talk. The most important thing about coaching is listening and that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

It was certainly a change from his role with Deloitte. “I had spent my career listening to clients and giving them advice, but a coach has to allow space for the coachee to develop awareness and make changes for themselves. Listening to people and giving them the space to allow them to come up with their own solutions is incredibly powerful.”

“Those 90 hours really added value to the programme,” he continues. “It’s a bit like golf. You can read all the books but is not going to make you a good golfer or a coach. You’ve got to live the experience.”

And that brings him back to the challenge of being a good listener. “In life we don’t really listen to each other,” he points out. “Half the time we are thinking about what we are going to say. Coaching is about asking not talking. The coachee will always come up with the answer. And it’s about listening in totality. It’s not just what’s being said. It’s the tone, and what’s unsaid, listening with your eyes for body language.”

The course more than met his expectations. “I wanted to learn something and build on the skills I already had. Over the years I had coached and mentored colleagues and thought I would do the course and come out as a mentor. But I now see the power of coaching. The programme exceeded my expectations. It’s the people who make the difference. The course tutors, Pamela Fay and Eileen Duggan are fantastic and the people in the class were all very supportive. I would certainly recommend it to others, I can’t speak highly enough about it. The amount of time and effort that the tutors and Smurfit staff put into the course to facilitate participants is incredible. The delivery of the course was not interrupted at all by the switch to online learning during Covid. The programme is exceptionally well delivered.”

He advises anyone thinking of doing the course not to put it off. “There is so much to be gained, there are no downsides to doing it,” he says. “I’m delighted I did it. I have taken on a few non-executive director roles since I retired, and the coaching diploma has helped me with that. It helps you see other people’s perspectives. I will certainly do some coaching as well in future.”

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