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ilume on NZ Herald

Executives have many goals besides chasing the top job, say coaching duo.


Success: Helping top people reach further

By Helen Twose
Monday Nov 26, 2012

Angela Neighbours (left) and Raechel Ford are expanding in Australia, but staying NZ-based. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Angela Neighbours (left) and Raechel Ford are expanding in Australia, but staying NZ-based. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Behind many of New Zealand and Australia's top businesspeople are a couple of women focused on keeping them at the top of their game.

Angela Neighbours and Raechel Ford are the co-founders of ilume International, an executive coaching firm that counts some of Australasia's biggest public and private companies as clients.

They are on hand to counsel the chief executive, chairman or members of the executive team on getting the best out of their working lives.

"Executive coaching helps someone to be a more effective leader in their organisation, be it whether they are leading people or not," says Ford.

She says there is a widespread assumption that becoming the chief executive is the ultimate achievement for a businessperson, but that it is rarely the case.

"There are a number of other aspirations that go well beyond arriving at the corner office.

"That's what we deal a lot with at that very top level," Ford says.

Those ambitions can be anything from taking a different approach to leading the organisation, doubling the size of the business, having an impact globally or working in the community.

Neighbours says those at the top are now also expected to do more, have less time to do it and encounter greater complexity.

"Often the feeling of reward isn't there in a way that is enriching for a person."

Ford says many executives feel as if they are in over their heads and coaching can help clarify their thinking. The monthly one-on-one coaching sessions last for two hours - a "non-negotiable" says Neighbours.

"It takes that amount of time for somebody to come in, chill down, talk about what has occurred and have a future focus," she says.

Clients sign up for a 12-month programme but many have been with the pair for years.

"They've gone through job iterations, promotions, changes of country, whatever it is and they will still choose to work with us on a monthly basis," says Neighbours.

She says coaching is often regarded as a soft, fluffy thing people do to explore themselves, but it is both an art and a science with a structure, process, defined outcomes and measurable return on investment.

The pair hold internationally recognised coaching qualifications and are two of only 30 International Coaching Community coach trainers worldwide.

Before co-founding ilume with Ford in 2008, Neighbours had a 20-year career in the corporate world - including working in London for IBM, Boots and Black & Decker, then with Ogilvy and Mather and Brierley Investments - and spent another 14 years as an executive coach.

She is recognised as a "master coach", having logged 10,000 hours of coaching.

Ford's business background includes being New Zealand chief executive of the Body Shop, and senior roles with the Carter Holt Harvey group. "When I got my real leadership role in one of New Zealand's largest organisations at the time, Angela became my executive coach."

She told Neighbours that when the right time came they would create a coaching business together. Although Neighbours had an established coaching business it was important to create a new company in which the two were equal partners with equal voices, she says.

Both bring different passions to the business, says Ford.

Neighbours has the wisdom of methodology, whereas she is more evangelical and keen to spread the word about coaching.

"It doesn't rub. It actually goes beautifully along side-by-side."

Although the two have a seamless partnership now, Neighbours says the early days of the business were reminiscent of a new marriage, complete with disagreements. "Nothing that we wanted to get divorced about, but you know there were times we both wanted to slam the door and walk out for a while."

She says it was a healthy process to go through that helped define what is important to the business and their goal to be the best, but not the biggest, executive coaching firm in Australasia.

Most of ilume's business comes from word of mouth, and the current economic climate has not dampened demand.

Ford says in the wake of the global financial meltdown, leadership development is even more crucial as businesses seek help to survive, often with fewer staff than before.

Research has shown coaching intervention can increase productivity by 600 per cent, says Neighbours.

Ilume now has nine staff in offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and a growing Sydney-based practice.

The plan is to open offices in five Australian state capitals by 2015.

Growth is driven by New Zealand-based clients taking on executive roles in Australia.

While they work to establish an Australian coaching team the pair travel fortnightly to Sydney but have dismissed a permanent move for either of them.

"We're both proud Kiwis and we want to live here."

- © New Zealand Herald