Aug 25, 2020

Successful coaching connection supports career development

AIMCo’s coaching program is just over a year old, and it’s already having an impact. Launched in June of 2019, the program pairs AIMCo employees looking for support with co-workers trained in coaching by the Ivey Academy. There are 32 coaches available to help their peers with career-related, non-HR topics such as dealing with conflict, work-life efficiency, stress management, preparing for difficult conversations, communicating effectively and networking.

Coaching has always been something AIMCo employees have expressed an interest in, and in the past support from outside the organization has filled the need. Now, the in-house solution is providing a cost-effective alternative with benefits not only to the employee on the receiving end, but to those supporting their co-workers as well.

For some first-hand insight into AIMCo’s coaching program, we connected with Kerry Nield, an Analyst with Client Analytics and Reporting and her coach Kim Thompson-Springer, Senior Manager, Private Investment Assets.


How has this coaching relationship impacted you so far?

Kerry: Like a lot of my peers, my career got to a point where the next step wasn't obvious. I started my relationship with Kim to get advice and mentorship on how to tackle the challenge of making sure I am still developing. Kim has challenged and changed my perspective on understanding that I have influence and control over my situation and has helped adjust my expectations to be more realistic.

Kim: It has been a very positive experience for me. I enjoy the act of teaching, mentoring and the incremental process of growth. I find it fascinating whether it’s through my kids, in my own team or in the coaching program. I have this need to teach and help people grow. Seeing Kerry grow in her thinking and perspective and just in her own strength, in her confidence about her own power and influence over her own situations is really rewarding for me.

What do you find challenging about coaching or being coached?

Kim: The biggest challenge I struggle with as a coach is remembering not to provide solutions. It's kind of like therapy in that most people know their own answers they just need the right environment to have them surface. Those types of solutions have way more conviction when a person knows they figured them out themselves with a bit of help, as opposed to being told.

Kerry: The thing that comes to mind is something Kim warned me about on our first day and it is honesty. Honesty is the best part of my relationship with Kim and also the most difficult part. Growth doesn't come easily and having constructive feedback from someone who isn't working directly with me but gets to hear the whole perspective is so important. Of course, it's not always as positive as you'd like, but you wouldn't ask for coaching if you thought everything was perfect.

How have you maintained your coaching relationship while working remotely?

Kim: Kerry and I don't work on the same floor so we wouldn’t typically see each other on a daily basis, without effort. We have to make that same effort to connect online. When you see someone in person, there’s a transfer of energy that doesn't happen any other way, so that's missing. Aside from our scheduled monthly meetings, I try to reach out to Kerry to see how she's doing or how her week is going. Sometimes we just touch base, nothing to do with coaching.

How do you think you've grown as a result of Kim's coaching?

Kerry: I am very proud of the way that I have been able to think about the dynamics of a team and the people that I am working with and to make sure that I'm playing an active role. I feel more confident in who I am as an individual and confident about the value I bring to my team.

The two of you work in different areas at AIMCo, what benefits do you think that brings?

Kim: I think it's a really good thing. I am very fortunate because in my role I am exposed to many aspects of the organization. If I’m coaching someone in their career development, I might have some insight into other areas of the organization that might present opportunities.

Kerry: I have a coaching relationship with my manager that I value and that gives me a specific kind of feedback but I think it's also useful to get perspectives from somebody who is outside your world and that you don't interact with on a day-to-day basis. A lot of the issues that we face in the workplace are not related to the field or the particular domain of expertise that you are in.

When your formal coaching term comes to an end, what happens for the two of you? What do you envision?

Kerry: I'm very grateful to have Kim as somebody who is really in my corner and hoping to see me succeed. Regardless of when the formal coaching program ends, I know Kim is someone I can reach out to for advice and who is going to be honest with me.

Kim: Anytime Kerry wants to talk to me I'm happy to have a coffee, to spend some time with her. This is my second coaching relationship and that goes for my first as well. Coaching is obviously intended to work through a particular set of challenges but I think if you get the right dynamic between coach and coachee then it has the opportunity to evolve into more of a mentorship or a friendship depending on the individuals.