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Comfort of knowing you're not alone

Thalia Marriott waited nearly three years after being appointed as a principal before she received coaching.

Although she accepts that some newly-appointed principals might want to seek help a little sooner, July 2002 seemed the right time to receive her first one-to-one session.

"It takes time to get to know your organisation and do all the things you need to do early on," says the principal of West Thames college.

Ms Marriott, who attended the Learning and Skills Development Agency programme for principals soon after her appointment, says coaching provided her with "someone to talk to" who had experience of management in FE and wider industry.

"It gave me the opportunity to talk things through with somebody in complete confidence," she says. "It's comforting to know that the sort of problems you come up against running a college are not unique to your college, or even to FE."

Prior to being appointed principal, she had been deputy at South Thames College. As a principal, she soon realised there are not set solutions for managers to draw on. "A coach can help you talk through the solutions and choose the right one."

Among the issues she has discussed with her coach are 'team mix' in her college and how to deal with external partners. "Coaching helps you reflect and gives you a different opinion," adds Ms Marriott. "I have learned to have a bit more confidence in selecting the right solutions. I'm more confident in knowing that I can work through things and take the right steps."

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