Some people you meet early on in a career can have a huge impact on you, and can end up shaping the career you pursue. Nowhere is that more true than for Carol Williams Donahue, our Associate Coach, and her story of working with Maire.
Carol has worked in the financial services sector for thirty years, both as a senior Head of Sales and Relationship Management in the business, and then as a Director of Leadership and Talent Development where she drove extensive leadership development and senior talent initiatives. “I was focused on identifying talent and developing leaders in banking, with a particular interest in emerging leaders and on how to really support women in leadership roles to realise their potential ” she says, “facilitating them through key organisational transitions and enabling them to be the best they could be.”
So how and why did Carol end up following her passion and become an executive coach?
One day in 1999, she attended a team coaching session for her then CEO at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). The session was being delivered by our very own Maire Brankin. “Maire came in to coach the CEO but she probably didn’t realise the impact she had on me that day, and in the subsequent coaching sessions I had with her. Her unique ethos, skills and approach had a massive impact on me – I thought, ‘I want to do this one day; I want to help people to find and hone their leadership abilities like this.”
“For me the pure joy of coaching is the moment when you see someone “get it” –they realise what they can really achieve or become, and understand how great they truly are!”
As Head of Leadership Development at RBC, Carol decided to train to become an in-house executive coach. “I absolutely loved it” she says, “I kept in touch with Maire; we always got on really well and she was such an inspiration”.
“When I decided to leave RBC, after an amazing career spanning twenty years, I had the perfect opportunity to take the brave step, to follow my passion, but was not sure where to begin…… and then the phone rang.”
“It was Maire. Oxford Executive had a rapidly-growing client list and she needed another coach to come on board. Would I like to help? Well, I was thrilled to be asked and said yes, of course. I joined as an associate the same year.” Carol’s feet didn’t touch the ground, and in a matter of days she found herself sitting in front of her first client – a consultant psychiatrist. “To begin with I was a little concerned” she explains, “My background is in the financial sector, I know bankers…. and I knew nothing about the NHS and psychiatry. This felt like it was going to be a real challenge.” However as Carol got to know her client initially, and his coaching needs, her concerns disappeared. “I soon realised that it really doesn’t matter what field a senior person works in. It could be the NHS, civil service, banking, law, retail, engineering … the challenges of leadership are still the same. How can I get my team to work more effectively? How can I feel more confident in board meetings? How do I lead my organisation through this merger?” I’m there to guide and support them through a process that hopefully brings huge benefits.”
Carol continues to work as an associate for Oxford Executive and loves her role.
“Oxford Executive is so different to other coaching companies. We provide an exclusive and unique approach to helping successful people to realise their own and their organisation’s potential.“
“Would I have found my path to Executive Coaching eventually? Maybe – but all I do know is that Maire has been and continues to be one of the most inspiring and influential people that I have ever had the privilege to meet. I think her coaching clients feel the same.