Thursday, 21st September 2023

‘Answers to our most salient questions in life are usually right within us’

By Maria Diamond
04 September 2021   |   2:58 am
A personal development coach and corporate skills trainer, Olusayo Adeleye is the Executive Director of STAND Foundation, an acronym for Support Towards Advancement Networking

Olusayo Adeleye

A personal development coach and corporate skills trainer, Olusayo Adeleye is the Executive Director of STAND Foundation, an acronym for Support Towards Advancement Networking And Development For Women And Children. The Ibadan brought up is a graduate of Law from the University of Ibadan and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 2003.

Adeleye, however, started her career as a Banking Officer in the defunct Oceanic Bank (now Ecobank) and also had a brief stint with Sterling Bank before she got an appointment with the Oyo State Government between 2011 and 2018. In 2018 she started the training and consulting academy called Learnbridge Training & Consulting Academy.

In this interview with Maria Diamond, she spoke about the importance of personal coaching for individuals struggling with diverse issues of life and career, and why organisations should invest in soft skills for employees, others.

You studied Law in the university, what prompted the switch in career?
RIGHT from when I was in university, I knew I was not going to practice law as a profession. I just didn’t have that deep passion for it and even though I graduated with excellent results both at the university and at law school and even got a prize at the Nigerian Law School, I knew I was going to tow another path. My decision to be a personal development coach was borne out of my personal experience. At some point in my life, I was totally disillusioned. I had a job that most people would give an arm and a leg to have, but I still felt a high level of dissatisfaction. I just knew I was not where I was meant to be. I knew I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. I knew there was something wrong, but I didn’t know how to cross the bridge from where I was to where I wanted to be.

I discussed it with a friend who suggested working with a coach. I looked at her like she was speaking gibberish and when she told me the amount involved, I quickly changed the topic. I continued to struggle till one day, I broke down in tears, and it was with those tears in my eyes that I picked my phone and sent a message to the coach she recommended to book an initial meeting. I worked with her for two months and the more I worked with her, the more I realised that I was actually called to do this. I received clarity in major areas of my life and I realised that so many people are still going through what I went through and don’t even know how to get out of it.

I then started reading different books on life coaching and took different courses. I eventually got my certification from the American Union of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and to date, I have successfully coached over two hundred individuals.

Tell us about STAND Foundation and its impacts on the targeted audience?
STAND Foundation was born out of my passion to give a voice to women and children who are regarded as vulnerable members of society. We advocate against gender-based violence and other harmful practices targeted at women and children such as female circumcision, child hawking, harmful widowhood practices etc.

In addition to this, we also have empowerment programmes for women under two schemes, the Women In Vocational Entrepreneurship Scheme (WIVES) and the Women In Digital Entrepreneurship Scheme (WIDES). These schemes were inaugurated to empower women with vocational and digital skills to enable them to earn a decent living and become contributors to national economic growth and development. Finally, we also encourage women’s participation in politics through sensitisation and providing support to female political aspirants especially at the grassroots level.

What does being a personal development coach actually entail?
A personal development coach uses expert strategies to give guidance with the aim to help you recognise where you want to be in life and how you can get there, as well as identifying the potential that already exists within you. As a coach, I do not tell a client what to do nor do I provide solutions to challenges that he or she may have. Rather, I help the client look inward to find answers or solutions. More often than not, the answers to our most salient questions in life are usually right within us. This is often accomplished through asking a series of questions designed to help the client recognise and utilise innate potentials, that help them identify, accept and build upon their strengths and weaknesses. The coach and client work together to build a personal development plan specifically tailored for the client, to help them set realistic goals and achieve them.

What were the initial challenges in your profession?
The first major challenge was trying to make people who need coaching actually come to terms with the fact. I have even had a client who told me point-blank that personal development is a scam, and I had to first educate her about the dynamics of personal development and how you need to make the journey a personal one that is backed by positive action in order to achieve the desired results.

There was also the issue of trust in the early stage of my career as a coach. It was difficult for people to believe in my ability to deliver successfully, but I am glad that today, the brand is growing based on referrals from satisfied clients.

How do you uncover people’s latent objectives and talents?
The starting point is helping them know who they really are. What are their personality type, vision, values, life goals, strengths, and weaknesses? Then administering personality assessment tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which help to uncover personality traits, which can be used as pointers to unearthing hidden talents. Don’t forget that the client is the one who needs to look inside to discover what he or she is good at based on his strengths and passion as I only provide expert guidance to ensure that the right thing is done.

What are your coaching areas of specialisation?
I focus on self-understanding and awareness, goal-setting, achieving personal success, as well as soft skills training which I offer to corporate organisations, because I realised that the system of education in Nigeria only teaches hard skills while neglecting skills such as leadership, public speaking, communication, time-management, business, and corporate etiquette, customer service, emotional intelligence. So, I decided to help them bridge this learning gap to enable them to become more efficient and productive in the workplace environment.

What method of approach do you adopt?
As a coach, I use the holistic coaching method, which focuses on all the areas of a person’s life to achieve the desired success. This method believes that everything is connected and that individuals are a sum up of all their parts, therefore balancing needs to be achieved in all aspects of their life for them to be successful.

With this method, we are able to identify a person’s limiting beliefs and repetitive behaviours that might be negatively impacting their lives and the go-ahead to help the person replace these limiting beliefs with empowering ones. We do this before attempting to set goals or else, these beliefs will interfere with achieving whatever goals we set if we do not get them out of the way first.
Is Formal education a prerequisite to becoming a personal development coach?

Formal education is not a strict prerequisite to becoming a life coach, but it helps increase your value in the eyes of your client; it helps you gain their trust and increases your credibility especially if you have some sort of professional certifications hanging all over the place where they can see. 

However, there are several skills and attributes that are essential for a coach to be effective and successful and they include communication skills, questioning, and listening skills, problem-solving and emotional intelligence. They should also be passionate, non-judgmental, intuitive, creative, and must also be able to show empathy.

Is there a difference between a coach and a therapist?
People tend to think that coaching, therapy, and counselling are the same. Coaching and therapy are different, based on the focus of the work. Coaching on the one hand focuses on setting and achieving goals for different areas of your life based on an understanding of vision, values, limiting beliefs, etc., and the coach does not necessarily need to be licensed. He or she just needs to have enough experience to guide the client to clarity. Therapy, on the other hand, focuses on mental health and emotional healing from past trauma, and a licensed professional usually carries it out.

You also teach corporate etiquette, tell us what it entails and its importance in the corporate sector?Corporate etiquette is also called business etiquette. This simply means a body of rules that guide behaviour in the workplace and it covers areas such as dining etiquette, personal grooming, communication, professionalism etc. Corporate etiquette is important because it creates a professional and mutually respectful atmosphere that enhances communication and interpersonal relationships between employees and their superiors, colleagues, subordinates, as well as clients and customers.

When the rules of business etiquette are obeyed in an organisation, people feel better about their jobs as they feel respected, and that translates into better workplace relationships as well as greater productivity and profitability for the organisation.

What’s the common misconception that people have about what you do?
Many people are usually of the opinion that coaching is a waste of time and money. They tend to undervalue the importance of having structured guidance in achieving their life goals. Many organisations think it’s unnecessary and a waste of money to invest in soft skills training for their employees; they would rather invest in improving their hard skills, forgetting that soft skills are the oil that keeps the machine of organisational productivity and efficiency running smoothly.

Tell us about the ups of what you do?
I am absolutely in love with the fact that I can help individuals move from a state of confusion to clarity; that I can help them understand their purpose, vision, and life goals and work with them to achieve them.

It gives me the joy to see people become self-aware and go on to become successful after working with me. I am also super excited and feel very fulfilled when I get feedback from corporate organisations about how my training sessions have impacted their staff positively such that they begin to experience greater efficiency, productivity, and profitability. This sense of accomplishment is equal to none.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the coaching industry and what measure can be taken to stay afloat?
The amazing part of the situation is that clients got so used to working online that most of our activities are now done online; face-to-face sessions have been drastically reduced. Just before the pandemic started, I was slated for some training with multinational corporations. We kept postponing, hoping that the pandemic would end and life would go back to normal. Unfortunately, things just went from bad to worse and I was able to have only one of those sessions online.

For the industry generally, coaches and clients just need to accept the current reality and move with the times. We have taken our services online and continue to come up with innovations that will make the coaching or training experience as efficient as face-to-face sessions so that we can continue to deliver value to our clients.

What is your advice for those desiring to tow the coaching path?
First, you need to be sure you are passionate about helping people and you must also have a lot of empathy. Do not go into coaching for the love of money. Rather, do it for the love of humanity. Once you start, you need to keep improving yourself so that you can continuously give value to your clients. Coaching is not for lazy people.