Catherine Wall: A/G Deputy Secretary, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
“In 2005 I started my coaching journey with Colin Pitson. I was relatively new to the SES, I knew what sort of leader I wanted to be but I was struggling in various areas. I knew that, as a senior leader, I had a significant impact on large numbers of people each day, and I wanted that impact to be as positive as possible. I knew that I needed support to help me grow into my leadership role.
I have been working at the Deputy Secretary level now for 10 months and often reflect on the many benefits of my coaching experience. The skills I bring to my current role were built and tested through my coaching sessions and subsequently have been refined with practise. I still have much to learn and am fortunate to be in an executive team with talented, positive colleagues from whom I learn every day.
In 2005 I asked Colin to challenge me and he did this in a skilful, supportive and respectful way. Early on I realised that I needed to draw on my personal courage if I was really going to be the leader I envisaged. I also realised that positive and effective leadership is based on a complex mix of qualities: vulnerability, decisiveness, honesty, empathy, inquiry and high expectations. I slowly understood the value of authenticity and it is this understanding that has guided me throughout so many challenging situations. It is my compass when I feel uncertain, the safety net to which I always return.
I identified 2 areas where I wanted to focus in my coaching. Firstly, I wanted to be able to handle difficult conversations in an honest, timely and respectful manner without damaging relationships. Secondly, I wanted to put boundaries around my working ‘lifestyle’ so that I could invest in (and enjoy) the other important aspects of my personal, community and family life.
How did we work through these issues? By identifying the fears behind my behaviours, by visioning the ideal outcomes, by rehearsing conversations and then doing it! We unpacked events and conversations to identify what worked and what didn’t, so I was constantly building up my repertoire of skills, all the while building confidence in my ability to deal with whatever came along.
I had a number of ‘light-bulb moments’ when I could suddenly see what had not previously been evident to me. I had some painful moments when I recognised how my neediness, my self-interest or my judgemental attitude was holding me back. I had many joyous moments when I was the leader I wanted to be.
I learnt that I am also a coach and that with leadership comes the responsibility to develop others to be the best they can be. This is not necessarily a formal role, rather an important element of respectful and constructive interactions on routine business matters. This is an area where I am currently building my skills…my learning journey continues.”
Mark Lonsdale: Chief, CSIRO Eco System Sciences.
“Wisdom, truth, authenticity, shrewdness, and humour, are some of the many words that come to mind when I think of Colin. Our work together has transformed me, yet, paradoxically, I am the same person – only more so! This is because his approach is not about teaching a formula, a trick or a technique, but about gaining greater knowledge and understanding of myself. The transformation for me came from gaining the confidence to be myself, to be spontaneous, to express vulnerability, to encourage others to grow and develop, to learn from others, and to be tolerant of dissent. In practical terms, this has led to improved decision-making, greater productivity, and less deferring of difficult situations. Emotionally, I feel calmer, better connected to the people around me, more resilient, and more able to take on the challenges that life throws at me.”
Professor Iain Gordon: CEO, The James Hutton Institute, UK
“Colin has been my support, my compass and my mirror over the past 18 months as I have transitioned from a senior management role in Australia to becoming the CEO and Director of a newly formed institute in Scotland. He has provided me with guidance, feedback and inspiration on the tough and often lonely journey that leadership entails. Colin’s coaching style has not only has helped me to grow and believe in myself and my abilities as a CEO but he has shined a light into the dark recesses of my soul and helped me see the things I need to learn to do better.”
Colin Walters: Group Manager, Science, Department of Education, Science and Training
“The experience has been an inspiring one for me, and has helped me a lot. I have found Colin to be a good listener, and one who is able to ask the right questions in order to enable me to identify the issues I need to tackle. His observations have been shrewd and to the point, and his interventions have enabled me to address issues and build my own self-confidence in doing so”
I have been working with Colin this past six months as part of an exercise in which my Department has engaged coaches to work with all members of our Senior Executive Service.
The experience has been an inspiring one for me, and has helped me a lot. I have found Colin to be a good listener, and one who is able to ask the right questions in order to enable me to identify the issues I need to tackle. His observations have been shrewd and to the point, and his interventions have enabled me to address issues and build my own self confidence in doing so. His company and conversation has always been a pleasure and a stimulus, his approach supportive, and any failures to capitalise on the experience have been entirely mine, not his. He has helped me to better map and approach the complex environment in which I work.
I would warmly commend him to those considering the engagement of an executive coach.”
Peta Fitzgibbon: National Manager, Centrelink, Canberra
“Colin has the capacity to take SES leaders to a new level of understanding and confidence. His qualities of integrity, wisdom, honesty and also practicality are profoundly transforming. It is often the issues and behaviours that are well embedded in us that hold us back and prevent us from being good leaders. I can say that Colin has been instrumental in my being able to bring these issues to the surface, practice new ways of dealing with them in work situations and changing the way I behave.”
Colin is the first coach I have had and we have been working together now for approximately 9 months. I was not sure what to expect but I can only attest to the personal and professional confidence I have gained and which has impacted positively on my relationships within my work and family environment over this time.
It has been a very positive experience both in terms of my personal and professional development. Colin has an authenticity about himself as a human being as well as being a professional coach. This has allowed me to trust him fully in exploring my vulnerabilities and doubts in a way that has created new ways of seeing my work and myself with others as a leader.
I can literally say that I have felt and seen myself grow while working with him. He is able, on the one hand, to support and encourage but also to poses significant personal challenges, which are there to be confronted and worked on. He created the relationship and intellectual framework in which this development could occur.
At all times, Colin keeps the leadership and strategic focus of coaching at the centre of his work. He does this though in a way which integrated the person into the leadership and management role. He does not pursue leadership and management skills separately from the insight and growth of the individual. His approach to 360 degrees feedback, with a strong focus on Emotional Intelligence, has been the most useful and positive I have experienced. He doesn’t let you walk away from issues that are holding you back. He helped me have difficult conversations with people at the workplace that I once would have avoided. I have learnt new ways of relating and communicating with people around difficult issues.
I was able to practice new ways of dealing with difficult work place issues and found the trusting and safe environment of the coaching sessions excellent. He puts a strong focus on continual attention to one’s own learning just turning up to coaching sessions is not enough. To work with Colin, is really to work with you and make a commitment to change and growth.
Colin has the capacity to take SES leaders to a new level of understanding and confidence. His qualities of integrity, wisdom, honesty and also practicality are profoundly transforming. It is often the issues and behaviours that are well embedded in us that hold us back and prevent us from being good leaders and people. I can say that Colin has been instrumental in my being able to bring these issues to the surface, deal with them, learn about them, practice new ways of dealing with them in the work situation and changing the way I behave.
What I have gained is learning and confidence that will be enduring and I am encouraged by positive feedback given to me by my colleagues and supervisors who have seen an increase in confidence, openness and improved performance over these months.”
Hamish Mc Nulty: Executive Director, City Management ACT Govt.
“..I have been impressed by the way Mr Pitson challenges me .. and forces me to think about issues in a more reflective way. I have obtained considerable benefits in terms of increased self awareness, increased understanding of some important aspects of leadership and increased awareness of the importance of effective communication and reflective listening. The nature of the coaching services are detailed below:
Areas in which the coaching focus are;
- Self awareness – particularly with respect to improving functionality
- Interpersonal and communication skills – how to get the best out of staff
- Improving clarity around roles and responsibilities
- Balancing work and personal life issues
- Staff development and dealing with staff
- Developing a coaching culture throughout the organisation
- Identifying and addressing gaps and obstacles to efficiency
- Influencing and shaping success
- Strategic thinking and business planning
The program consists of:
- An information collection/familiarisation phase of interviews with all key stake holders to discover how individuals and the team are currently functioning
- Weekly sessions of one hour with me.
- Guided coaching and mentoring on actual work issues through periodic sessions with me and small groups of key staff in problem solving, conflict resolution/conflict avoidance
- Facilitation of periodic sessions/workshops with senior team on leadership team building theory and practice.
- Reviews of progress and strategy every three months at which time assessment/evaluation will be sought from members of the team and me to report to the Secretary on developments
When I decided to engage Mr Pitson I was impressed by his enthusiasm and commitment to the coaching program and by the fact that the areas in which he was most interested closely aligned with the areas in which I was interested in development.
I am very happy with the outcomes from the coaching sessions held to date. The program prepared by Mr Pitson was developed after discussions between us and was not a formula based approach. The program is flexible and is therefore able to adapt to changing requirements in the workplace and this has been particularly important in my current circumstances.
Since the program began I have been impressed by the fact that Mr Pitson challenges me to set the agenda for our discussions and forces me to think about issues in a more reflective way. I have already obtained considerable benefits in terms of increased self awareness, increased understanding of some important aspects of leadership and increased awareness of the importance of the effective communication and reflective listening. I am aware that my ability to support staff on a range of personal and work related issues has improved considerably as has my confidence in undertaking a wide range of difficult communications in the workplace.
Two workshop sessions involving myself, my direct reports and Mr Pitson have been held to examine issues associated with effective leadership. These workshops were very successful and resulted in significantly improved communications within the management team and a commitment to the development of a coaching culture within the business.
I am confident that over the remainder of the program my expectations will continue to be exceeded.”
Darren Box: General Manager, Audit, Centrelink
“Working with Colin has been the most important and powerful work of my career. Growth in my self awareness and confidence has permeated all aspects of my life. This has resulted in real returns to my organisation, with increased productivity and happiness for me and my teams.”
I have been working with Colin Pitson, in executive coaching sessions, for a period of seven months since October 2003. I started to work with Colin after selecting him from a panel of executive coaches provided for Senior Executive Officers by the Australian National Audit Office.
I felt quite nervous at my first coaching session with Colin. After my nervous start I can honestly say that working with Colin has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
Colin’s Company, Veritas Alliance Pty, Ltd, has the motto of “conscious leadership through truth and wisdom”. This is indeed what Colin is able to help willing people discover. With openness to self-awareness Colin is able to help people consciously and productively express their feelings and opinions.
From working with Colin, I have greater emotional intelligence. With increased self-confidence, I see with greater vision, and communicate with greater clarity. In turn, I have experienced real benefits in my relationships with staff, colleagues and managers. I have handled situations of serious conflict and emotional stress productively, such that positive outcomes where achieved for the individuals and the agency.
With increased self-awareness, I am more aware of the feelings and views of those around me. As a result of this greater clarity, I am calmer and my dealings with colleagues, staff and clients have been much more productive. I am learning to role model and coach those around me. Not just my staff but my colleagues and managers.
Colin empowers me to trust myself and others. I noticed very sizeable self-realisations in the first few months of working with Colin. I now notice more subtle realisations. I do notice however, greater and greater improvements in the operations of my Branch.
The development of my leadership skills through emotional intelligence is a very exciting and rewarding journey. It does however take a lot of hard work. Colin is excellent at providing the support and empowerment along this journey.”
Dr Maxine Cooper: ACT Auditor General
“Mr Pitson’s coaching is very empowering and provides a “self- insight” which facilitates handling difficult issues in a productive manner. ..the nature of the coaching is tailored to my growth needs. Outcomes sought are being exceeded.”
David Crossley: Executive Director, Performance Audit Services, Australian National Audit Office.
“Throughout the process I have found Colin to be both challenging and supportive in developing a program that is very much tailored to my individual requirements. As such I have found the whole experience to be most stimulating and rewarding. these changes have not only been beneficial for me in my capacity as a leader, but have also resulted in direct benefits to my staff and thus are very positive for our organisation as a whole. I would have no hesitation in recommending Colin as a personal coach suitable for even the most senior of executive levels and would be happy to further elaborate if necessary.”
Mylinh Hardham: Branch Manager, Participation and Outcomes Branch, Department of Education Science and Training
“The key benefits that I have gained from Colin’s coaching is that I have learned to recognise my intuition, to trust it and use it as part of my natural skills. I am now more secure in being myself, more comfortable in dealing with others at a genuine level while being aware of nuances in their thinking and behaviour, and able to respond to them more effectively. The result is that I am now more relaxed (this has been observed by my team), spend less energy on managing relationships, focus more on the critical and strategic issues of the organisation, and have a cohesive and productive team. I have been truly surprised by the results of Colin’s coaching.”
I have worked with Colin as my Executive Coach in the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) in the past seven months. Our work during this time has focussed on sharpening my emotional intelligence and leadership style.
By way of background, I am a Senior Executive in DEST managing a team of around 30 people, mostly with specialist skills in research, and policy analysis and development. Our work spans across a wide range of government policy issues which go beyond the immediate responsibilities of the portfolio.
I was promoted to my current level in late 1997 to head up a branch in the then Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The branch was then being restructured to improve its performance, with all but the two most junior positions readvertised for filling. Most of these positions had incumbents who were required to apply for their own jobs. I was tasked with turning the branch around and giving it a new direction within a short timeframe. The branch subsequently went through two substantial organisational changes in 1998 and 2002 with the two portfolio restructures following the federal elections.
During this period, my branch has moved from being one of the bottom ten branches in the Department’s staff survey to being one of the top ten in the last survey taken in late 2002. The Branch has now also established its reputation as a high performing branch in providing services to the Minister, the Executive and other Groups in the Department, and in advancing the Department’s agenda in whole of government policy fora.
From my experience in working with Colin, I believe that I would have been able to achieve the same or better results much more quickly, and with much less personal cost had I had the benefit of his coaching earlier on.
The key benefit that I have gained from Colin’s coaching is that I have learned to recognise my intuition, to trust it and use it as part of my natural skills. I am now more secure in being myself, more comfortable in dealing with others at a genuine level while being aware of nuances in their thinking and behaviour, and able to respond to them more effectively. The result is that I am now more relaxed (this has been observed by my team), spend less energy on managing relationships, focus more on the critical and strategic issues of the organisation, and have a cohesive and productive team.
I have been truly surprised by the results of Colin’s coaching. They have come not as a deliberate plan on my part when I commenced the coaching programme, but as a subtle and natural progression from a learning process in which we both play an active and genuine part in identifying the issues I need to focus on and working through the issues together.
Tony Crivelli: Strategic Support Branch, Depart. Veterans’ Affairs
“Colin’s coaching has been highly pragmatic and results oriented. He has had a very positive impact on individuals by demonstrating in practice models of behaviour, credibility and the application of transformational leadership. Learning has been by utilising and solving current workplace challenges. there have been marked changes in team behaviour as well as subtle changes to the group and to individuals.
There is no doubt that the effectiveness of the team was enhanced substantially by the coaching and other approaches used by Mr Pitson.
The results include improved communication within the team and between individuals and in an overall progress towards greater team maturity. Positive changes in behaviour and attitude were noticed in most individuals with considerable ‘personal growth’ being experienced by some. Feedback from participants was very supportive of the program and of Mr Pitson’s performance as facilitator and coach. An independent evaluation (based on psychological profiles) of the impact of the program, revealed that there had been noticeable progress towards achieving the desired outcomes. In fact the evaluator stated that the results demonstrated a direct significant positive correlation between the number of hour spent with the coach and the extent of the change which took place over the 6 month period.
It is important to mention that this progress relates to fundamental modes of leadership behaviour, such as credibility, integrity and developing trust. Mr Pitson ensured that both in individual and group sessions these would be demonstrated clearly and practically through role modelling and coaching. It is also important to state that the openness to change by the team as a whole and of the individuals was a critical factor to the extent and depth of the changes that occurred.
In my own case, the impact of Mr Pitson’s coaching and role modelling has been profound. From the point of view of his effectiveness as a coach aiming to achieve higher levels of integrity and credibility as a leader and manager, Mr Pitson has been highly successful.
This is due, I believe, to Mr Pitson’s own very high levels of integrity, authenticity and skilful use of ‘languaging’ to precisely convey complex concepts and advice that fits with the needs of the person being coached. The coaching is done within a practical real work context, where current issues and challenges to a senior APS officers are taken into account.
In summary, I can highly recommend Mr Pitson’s Executive Coaching services. Indeed I am currently in the process of re-engaging him as apart of ongoing performance improvement for myself and for the team.”
Noel Tanzer AC: Secretary Dept. Veterans Affairs 1986-1989 & Secretary Dept. Administrative Services 1989-1994
“Colin had responsibility for implementation of wide ranging, transformative and complex change.. The work was of a major project nature and took the form of in-depth reviews of substantial programs of Australian Public Service agencies, or of complete agencies. He used his initiative, was highly dependable and could be relied upon to remain focussed on the significant issues. He had a good incisive mind and consequently was able to come directly to the nub of the issue. He exhibited sound interpersonal and line management skills and was able to maintain calmness during relatively tense situations.”
Dr David Russell: Professor, School of Psychology, University of Western Sydney
“Colin combines his extensive senior management and consulting experience with his psychology and personal development training to create a unique holistic approach to Executive Mentoring and Coaching. With courage, humility and authenticity he has a way of guiding and empowering clients and organisations to maximise their potential . He gives and receives feedback well as a powerful learning tool and has an excellent understanding of how to transfer knowledge in ways that are well received.
I have known and worked closely with Colin Pitson for nearly two years through his role as Vice President of a public company involved in promoting education programs on values based leadership and management and through his study for a Masters degree in Cultural Psychology.
Colin combines his extensive senior management and consulting experience with his psychology and personal development training to create a unique holistic approach to Executive Mentoring and Coaching. He has a highly developed capacity to partner executives, through professional mentoring and coaching relationships, to become leaders in their field. With courage, humility and authenticity he has a way of guiding and empowering clients and organizations to maximise their potential. He has a way of assisting people to be more effective in their roles by helping to maintain their sense of self and to find their place in the workforce. He hears them deeply as someone who truly knows and understands them. He gives and receives feedback well as a powerful learning tool and has an excellent understanding of how to transfer knowledge in ways that are well received.
Colin creates a unique alliance between himself as facilitator and those he is mentoring and coaching, working together as equals. He impacts the quality of peoples’ lives in ways that honour the integrity of the human spirit. He does this with passion and excitement and has an enormous capacity to inspire others. He has a desire to not only realize his own potential but that of his client as well. It is his way of truly adding value to the world and making a difference.”
Dr Lloyd Fell: Former government researcher, now research consultant on leadership and management.
“Colin has an amazing ability to listen, comprehend and come to grips with interpersonal issues and difficulties encountered in work groups. In a one-to-one situation he is one of the best listeners I have ever met. He can pick up the essential elements of someone else’s situation and also mirror this for them in a manner that is calm and caring, but also forthright and honest. He certainly does not shy away from difficulties; in fact he has a real flair for turning them into opportunities. He does not get too emotionally involved, but has a wealth of compassion and a natural ability to empathise with people experiencing any form of stress, particularly executives, because of his own career experience. In this regard he is an extremely positive person, as reflected in his own personal development and desire to excel at everything he does. I trust Colin with confidentialities as much as any person I’ve ever known. The way he operates as both colleague and mentor has helped me personally and I know it has inspired others also.”
Paul Ruefli Ph.D (Psych): Hermes Consulting Pty Ltd ACT.
“Colin has a passion for and excitement about Executive Mentoring and Coaching. It expresses who he really is; it is his vehicle for making the world a better place. As a former Chief Executive Officer myself, I have been most impressed with the way Colin is able to role model the qualities he promotes.
I have found him to be genuine, open, able to relate quickly and act skilfully and with integrity in whatever situation he finds himself. On many accessions he has demonstrated that he is fully comfortable with who he is, even in the face of aggression or passive silence, and that he has the courage to say what needs to be said with respect and directness. It is clear that his background as a senior line manager has given him a real understanding of the issues facing executives, what drives them and how to work with their motivation and grow their professional skills and knowledge; he is able to stand in their shoes. I have observed that he is particularly skilled in identifying the strengths of individuals and using those as a springboard to grow clients and to facilitate fundamental behaviour changes. He questions and actively listens in a way that enables people to draw insights and learn for themselves. He is known for his ability to partner and coach leaders to zero in on untapped talent, strengths and resources that lie within individuals and teams.”
Alice Whittle CEO Villaggio Sant Antonio ( Aged Care Facility)
“: does not give answers but provides an environment of trust and learning so that the recipient can uncover their own answers Colin inspires the team to adopt a “coaching culture” A 360° evaluation of the executive team was completed with those confronting and useful results with Colin’s coaching we were able to discuss as a group and one-on-one thoughts and feelings about colleagues. From this exercise, without blame or judgement, team members learn more about themselves and saw quite openly and honestly how others thought them.”