“In a changing world, it’s better to think about change than to change the band-aid.” Here is a quote from Francis Blanche that illustrates the basis of the approach used by Florence Soustre-Gasser in her coaching, with this synergy between commitment and lightness that focuses energies. Florence is an experienced certified professional coach, but also an active member of EMCC France of which she is an administrator. Having had her own coaching company PraxiLab for over three years, Florence draws on her experience as a department manager in large international companies to accompany her clients towards greater freedom and performance. It is precisely her rich professional career that has convinced her that coaching should be offered to all employees. Having worked for both the public and private sectors, Florence specialises in the subjects of leadership development, in its components that are assertiveness, relational harmony and the necessary management of limits that helps prevent burnout and optimise professional performance. Florence puts her empathetic and spontaneous personality at the service of her clients to help them take active and pragmatic action. Her coachees appreciate her rigour and professionalism as well as the quality of her listening, which allows her to create a real connection during her sessions, even after the coaching sessions are over. Recently, Florence has been appointed as administrator in charge of communication at SIMACS, the very first French union for the coaching profession.
Why did you become a coach?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: It was during international research on organisational innovation that I had the desire to become a professional coach. I have had a rich career as a manager at middle and executive levels for more than twenty years in large international groups and public institutions. With experience in distribution, banking, insurance, I have been able to work with various profiles and manage teams, around a great diversity of cultures, both in terms of nationalities and professional practices. My specialty was innovation and change. At the crossroads of generations X and Y, I found technology fascinating and I had a lot of fun leading large-scale projects that were like real challenges, where innovation systems based on collective intelligence had to be put in place. My life before coaching is therefore made up of beautiful experiences, sometimes breathtaking, always very enriching on a human level. I also worked in a management position in the public sector for more than ten years for the health insurance, a real institution in France, which allowed me to fully experience the commitment of meaning and values that characterises the public sector, especially on issues related to health. However, the basis of my desire to become a coach was the desire to resume my research work on the engines of collective creation in order to explore its individual levers. I also felt that it was time for me to take a step aside, and to use all this experience acquired as a manager in a different way, to pass it on without imposing it. As I took stock of my career, I wanted to contribute in a different way, by positioning myself as a catalyst for development that is that of a professional coach: you don’t intervene directly in the transformation equation, but you do activate the levers and optimise efficiency. I trained at Linkup Coaching as a professional coach (title recognised by France Compétences at level I of the RNCP, a course accredited by EMCC France), which gave me a solid theoretical base. I then went on to obtain several certifications such as my EMCC accreditation at the Practitioner level, my training in the fundamentals of transactional analysis (AT101), my training in systemic analysis of organisations at the CNAM Paris. I also have a training in mediation at the CMAP x ESCP Paris, which is extremely useful in crisis or conflict coaching (management committees, teams, etc). What I like about the coaching position is the possibility to capture, within the relationship with the coachee, the issues that are his or hers and on which he cannot put words, in order to show them to the coachee. This gives them the power to act!
What are your coaching tools?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: If I can rely a lot on my experience and my instinct, I remain extremely rigorous on the strict application of the framework of professional coaching, as described by the main European professional federations (EMCC, ICF, etc). This framework provides a secure space for the coachee to express his or her needs, feelings and ideas, to experiment, to look for, to make mistakes, to stand up, and to develop the right actions and behaviours that can be directly transposed into his or her professional life. I use the tools of transactional analysis a lot to get my coachees to reflect on the way they relate to their professional environment. I have also long appreciated the systemic approach of organisations which allows for the easy appropriation of strategic issues which is the alpha and omega of the leaders and executives I coach. There are also other less frequent frames of reference among the coaches I use, in particular the work of Norbert Alter (who was my research tutor) on innovation and on the notions of gift / counter-gift, in the field of the sociology of organisations. I also draw on Jeffrey Young’s model of Schema Therapy Model, from which an assessment tool was developed to understand the drivers at work during periods of stress in an individual. I have been supervised for four years by Gabriel Hannes, in monthly group sessions but also individually whenever I feel the need. Gabriel is for me a real mentor in my profession, he is certainly the president of EMCC France and we share a strong belief in the usefulness of our profession in the context of increasing complexity of organisations; but above all Gabriel has a wealth of experience and scientific knowledge, trained directly by Vincent Lenhardt, but also in a very wide variety of approaches (Human Element, narrative practices, transactional analysis, Inner Dialogue and infinitely more) that he likes to propose to shed light on the different situations brought back under supervision.
On which axes do you mainly work with your coachees?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: There are three main areas that I particularly enjoy working with my coaches. The first is conflict management. Indeed, when I started coaching, I worked mainly in small groups or teams in conflict resolution. Conflict management has always nurtured me because I believe that by safely dealing with what opposes us, is the only way to build creative solutions that move the entire community forward. The issues that lie on the underside of the iceberg are always very engaging, very powerful. People come with their differences, sometimes open but often hidden, they discuss, debate and leave with a solution that suits them and that they will have worked out together. Coaching, coupled with the tools of mediation, offers an ideal space for everyone to talk about their difficulties, their misunderstandings, their needs without taboos. This authenticity that takes hold, based on frank and honest communication, allows us to come out with the best possible, most lasting and pragmatic solution. In executive committees, these conflicts can sometimes take a very personal turn, with issues related to honour, loyalty or even family in some groups. Moreover, my training as a mediator allows me to accompany these clients as well as possible in this process, including in judicial contexts, with an outcome approved by a judge. A second important axis is the coaching of expatriates. I accompany people all over the world, from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai via Johannesburg, in French and English. It is important to support employees who go to work in a country other than their own. When they arrive, often the office is their only reference point, and they have a whole life to develop, to develop the right pro/perso balance to cope with the pressure that characterises expatriation positions, especially as the challenge is often twofold: to the new cultural context is very often added the discovery of the executive manager position. The stakes are thus related to professional efficiency, but also to the career of the coachee, as well as the preservation of the integrity of his or her life balance. I’ve experienced working abroad in Montreal and Tokyo, so I have a very intimate understanding of the Lost in Translation phenomenon illustrated in Sophia Coppola’s film!
Finally, one last area that is particularly close to my heart is the management of limits and support for people affected by burn-out. I trained myself specifically to support burn-out, because the coach’s approach is all the more sensitive as the potentially damaging interventions can take on dramatic proportions that are difficult to detect when you are not seasoned on this subject. I allow people on the verge of collapse to become aware of their state and to appropriate it so that they are in a position to accept their situation and to be safe, all the more so as it is useless to remind people of the ravages that a burn out can produce on their existence (from simple fatigue to the most serious affections). The company has a share of responsibility (in France, penal) for the management of burnout in its physical but also psychological components, but paradoxically a good solution remains that it benevolently allows the person concerned to allow themself to live this collapse in the safest possible way, and while working on themself in order not to fall back into over-commitment. As a professional coach, I can accompany exhausted people before the collapse, but once the collapse is over, a healing time must follow which will be more the responsibility of the medical and therapeutic profession. Coaching support can make sense again when returning to work, in order to consolidate the management of limits which is the basis of burn-out prevention. Work can also be carried out with HR departments on the analysis of the dramatic cultural injunctions that can lead to burn-out. However, these are then organisational coaching actions, which are considered within the specific framework of psychosocial risks.
Which profiles do you work with the most?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: I coach women as well as men, young people, seniors, people at the beginning of their career, in the middle of their career, at the end of their career as well, all at very different levels of responsibility. I sincerely believe in the necessary democratisation of coaching: it must become accessible to as many people as possible. This is why I have made a point of crossing many very different profiles. Simple employees, entrepreneurs, liberal professions, managers and executives of large groups, and executive committees of companies of all sizes and all sectors! For me, everyone should be able to be coached if they wish, in the same way as benefiting from professional training. If we consider the person at work as a learning and evolving entity, which is the only way to create value, then it is a promising investment with a high return to nurture the intangible wealth that is the individuals that make up organisations! Each has its own mechanisms, its own questions, its own complexities. By identifying them with the coach, the coachee allows himself to move forward in his own path and this also has repercussions on the activities, on all teams, of working partners. We can witness dazzling transformations in companies thanks to coaching. And this in a very short period of time. Moreover, change is an organic phenomenon. It cannot come only from the top of the pyramid. Nor can it start from the bottom. To be effective, fair and sustainable, change must come uniformly from the entire payroll of the company, at all levels, thanks to collective intelligence.
What is for you the exercise or advice to apply in your daily life?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: One exercise that I always recommend is to ask the question: “How do I feel today?”. It’s an introspective exercise where the only rule of the game is not to tell stories to yourself, not to lie to yourself. It is a safeguard, but also a real crucible of performance and creativity because we activate the instinct, through this first thought that comes up and which is often the right answer. These are minutes where we talk to ourselves without embellishment, without lies. We don’t tell jokes.
In your opinion, what makes a good coach?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: It’s always a complex question because as a coach, we must constantly question ourselves to allow the activation of the right paths. A good coach is the one who will be able to be vigilant in three ways: first of all on his client whom he will welcome unconditionally according to the approach developed by Carl Rogers, then on his relationship with the coachee because that is often where the grey and sensitive areas are that the client puts down in an intangible way for lack of words to say them, and finally on himself because the coach must watch the resonances generated by what the coachee brings him (principle of transfer and counter-transfer). It is because of this three-fold exercise, which can resemble the work of a tightrope walker, that it is essential to be supervised on a regular basis (for me, once or twice a month), because it is sometimes crucial to untangle the most complex threads of these three aspects which are used to intrigue each other. A good coach is therefore a supervised coach, who works on themself and trains regularly in order to constantly enlighten their practice with different approaches that will nourish them professionally as well as personally. Last but not least, there is no such thing as heartless coaching. Without a heart, one functions with logics that lead to judgment. When we welcome the other with the heart, we transmit energy!
In your opinion, why can coaching help you overcome your blockages?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: It all lies in the fact that coaching helps to become aware of one’s blockages, conscious or sometimes unconscious as it can be the case with burn-out. The work of identification is crucial because once the blockage has been identified, the coachee regains power. In fact, my firm’s slogan is “PraxiLab lights up your blind spot”! Once this step has been taken, one is able to move forward, to surpass himself, to look to the future. This notion of the future is also important because coaching focuses on the present in order to elaborate the future. We work in agreement with our client on concrete objectives that are always anchored in the reality they are living in the here and now. The quality of the alliance between a coachee and their coach also makes it possible to overcome his brakes more quickly. When you have confidence in your coach, when communication is friendly, when you feel listened to without judgment, you are more able to expose yourself to yourself in all authenticity, and to remove your blockages. We can also see that coaching works when the person moves, gets into action, and begins to evolve towards his or her goals.
According to you, what are the essential skills to be a good manager today?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: For me, a good manager must know how to listen to their teams, and assert themself without authoritarianism. It is an indispensable quality, even more so in crisis situations like the one we have just gone through. They must also know their margin of freedom in decision making, in other words know the limits of his prerogatives. Otherwise, they will quickly find themself caught between what they want to do and what they actually can do, causing discord in their management. This will have an impact on their work and on their employees. For an executive manager, it is important to accept that this is a power posture, to have a global understanding of it in order to exercise this power in a healthy way, which is the key to authentic and inspiring leadership. Working on oneself to identify one’s personal and professional aspirations is a good way to learn how to manage one’s limits and identify one’s points of support, which will also be those of the collaborators who make up the team led by the manager. The truth is that managing limits is at the heart of working in a company, especially in a digital world where technology is constantly evolving and blurring boundaries. So on this point, managers have a real responsibility towards their teams. In other words, a good manager or executive has developed the right assertiveness and the best management of their limits in order to gain agility and performance for themself and their collaborators.
Why did you choose to work with CoachHub?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: What made me decide is that we share the same will to make coaching accessible to all by maintaining the highest standards of excellence in the service deployed. Indeed, the digital tools developed by CoachHub allow us to accompany all profiles, in all work situations, everywhere in the world and in all sectors of activity. Then, in order to have an efficient and long-lasting coaching, without any risk of damaging intervention, it is necessary to have recourse to competent and qualified coaches, who have a training of excellence. This is of paramount importance. For a coach, obtaining their certifications is a very large investment, which is a guarantee of quality on the framework that will be proposed to their clients. Thus, choosing to work with a digital platform, such as CoachHub, cannot be done to the detriment of our profession, especially since the economic models relating to coaching are the same: to deliver excellence must meet a strong requirement of professionalism which translates into the investment in time and finance on the supervision and ongoing training of professional coaches. By offering an economic framework that integrates these requirements to the coaches who work with CoachHub, CoachHub guarantees an irreproachable quality of coaching with a community of hand-picked coaches. This allows us to coach with great peace of mind, and to guarantee our clients that it is not because the sessions do not take place in the physical presence of the coachees that the quality of the services is less, quite the contrary. The quality of the CoachHub platform is also appreciable because it is secure. Thus, as a coach, I would like to be able to free myself from my workplace in the long term and the platform allows me to stay connected with my clients in a totally secure way anywhere in the world and to European standards. This guarantee of confidentiality is an essential point of our code of ethics!
What do you think of digital coaching?
Florence Soustre-Gasser: Digital allows you to be very focused right away. Of course, it is obvious that the coachee must be able to talk with their coach in a space that is closed enough so that they can feel free to express whatever they wish: words, movements, emotions. But I notice that my clients are much more available, less stressed by transportation or their organisation during a distance coaching. Thus, the alliance with the coachee is quicker, we focus more easily on the person. The sessions are also shorter in general. I find them more efficient and more flexible. If the client ever needs more time, then we stay connected longer. The whole point is to enable us to succeed in creating an alliance with the coachee, and digital technology does not hinder the creation of this link, and sometimes even facilitates it.
Learn more about Florence here
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