Introducing the Coaching Corner - J Defty & K Kwong

Introducing the ‘Coaching Corner’ – Josephine Defty, Director at Stevenson James and Karen Kwong, Founder of RenOC By definition, a fair proportion of a head hunter’s role is focused around identifying and working with talented individuals as they progress their careers. Alongside that however, people do tend to get in touch not necessarily when they are looking a new role but also when they just need a friendly ear to listen or someone to offer help and advice. These conversations can be about potential changes of career, career progression, challenges being faced at work or indeed simply a struggle to maintain a sensible work-life balance.

Given the above, I spent some time talking to Karen Kwong, CEO and Founder of Ren Organisational Consulting (RenOC) Karen established RenOC in 2013 following a successful career within the financial industry. Her prime motivation, and the driving force of the business, is the fundamental belief that “an organisation’s biggest assets are its people”. Utilizing a wide variety of techniques including coaching psychology and organisational development, alongside her business experience, Karen works with companies and individuals to enhance productivity and success and, importantly, workplace wellbeing (including stress management & resilience). I therefore wanted to capitalize on Karen’s experience both in order to hopefully help me be more effective with the people I meet, and also to learn some techniques and strategies that I could use both at and outside of work.

What is Coaching?

Although there are official and more formal definitions, to me, coaching is simply working with someone to help you be in a better place than where you are today, professionally or personally. The magic lies in the fact that the solutions come from within yourself rather than from someone telling you what to do. For each of my clients, their circumstances, motivations and personalities, amongst many other things are very different. Together we work through the facts and these variables to help themselves make better informed and more conscious choices. Sometimes, the changes required are miniscule, and others, far greater.

What would you say were the three most common reasons for someone to seek out a developmental career coach?

In my experience, the reasons to work with a career coach vary from simple objectives like finding a new job, or improving on specific skills; through to more complicated requirements such as trying to get a promotion, or dealing with underperformance at work. However, seemingly simple objectives like presentation skills training is often more about confidence than about speaking well. The examples and subsequent ‘diagnoses’ cited below illustrate that. Each client faces very individual and specific challenges, and therefore each coaching process and its possible solutions will be very unique.

‘Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many..’ Phaedrus

I. ‘Everything’s just fine….’ Your work is ‘fine’, your performance is more often than not ‘fine’, your life is ‘fine’ – and yet we all know (assuming you haven’t been living in a vacuum all these years), that ‘fine’ really doesn’t mean ‘fine’ at all. The most common reason that people come to see me is because they are feeling stuck, stale and often lost. There isn’t anything to complain about but neither are you happy, accomplishing as you’d like –at home or at work; nor are you passionate about anything. You’ve lost your drive and energy. Yet the very understandable allure of the regular salary and stability really affects the decisions that you make, and therefore your life. The frustration can be overwhelming.

Some possible work that we do includes reviewing your personal and professional lives, looking at them through a clearer, more objective and possibly totally different lens. This can be one of the hardest things for clients to do, and thereafter owning the decision to change and make healthier choices for yourself, whatever those may be.

II. ‘It’s time for my annual review but…’ How many times have you moaned about being overlooked for a promotion or a payrise? Are you looking for a promotion but you’re unsure how to prepare for it and unsure how to approach your manager about it? Sadly, subtle hints are not a proven method for achieving this goal (look at what lengths Jennifer Lawrence went to, to ask for equal pay in movies..!). Often, these coaching sessions include a mixture of practical planning eg skills development, as well as communicating better and navigating the murky waters of office politics.

III. ‘I’m trying my hardest but I don’t feel supported by my manager’ This is a very real phenomenon and one of the most commonly heard frustrations and it can be felt by people at all levels, even within boardrooms. Frequently, poor communication by both parties, such as a lack of clarity and understanding of agreed objectives (eg is Tracey Emin’s work considered good art?), is the reason for this exasperation. Often, individuals’ working preferences and motivators can affect both parties’ outlooks, leading to a feeling of underappreciation. Sometimes, your perfectionism can lead to feeling overwhelmed, and thereby causing a vicious circle of not delivering. In these scenarios, we often discuss the current situation and possible options, to arrive at possible strategies to move forward in a more productive way.

Most assume that coaching is deficit-based, ie it is only to be used when something’s wrong. To me, coaching is about, whatever the circumstances, making sure you are at the very best that you can be whilst navigating life’s choppy waters and actively embracing this constantly changing world in which we live. There’s the old saying about opportunities - turning lemons into lemonade, I’d add, and possibly having a side business of squirting someone in the eye with it too….

Any further questions, please contact me at:

Karen Kwong is an experienced business coach and consultant who has worked with start-ups and social enterprises through to large established corporates across a number of industries including financial services, engineering, retail, media & communications and also local Government agencies. Prior to this, she spent almost twenty years working at a senior level in fund management and she also has a Masters in Organisational Psychology. Please contact Karen at:

Josephine Defty is an experienced ex-IR professional turned head hunter following roles at a leading FOF, a boutique placement agent and a VC fund. She is focused on working with IR and fundraising professionals within the Private Equity sector - both in-house and within the placement industry. Please contact Josephine at

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