A transformational experience in coaching

Salma Shah’s coaching programme puts a diversity and inclusion lens on coaching and she says it is the most powerful work she has ever done in her career.



Salma Shah set up a diversity and inclusion coaching programme, Mastering Your Power Coach Training, earlier this year to get more diversity into coaching. With the first cohort just about to graduate, a second one just starting and a third lined up for the new year, workingmums.co.uk spoke to her to find out how it went and what the future has in store.

Salma, who has been a coach for two decades, describes the programme as “the most powerful and profound work” of her career.  She says: “I started with a vision, but to see it come to fruition, to see the movement we are creating is amazing.” She adds modestly: “I am just spearheading it; it is the people on the programme who do most of the work.”

She hopes that it will have a ripple effect with coaches having a big impact on their workplaces and their communities.

While most of her cohorts come from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, neurodiversity is also represented. One of the current cohort is also dyslexic. “It started being about BAME coaches, but it is essentially about diversity in coaching and making coaching accessible to all people,” she says.

She set it up after years of attending coaching events where she was the only coach who was not white. “Coaching is about helping people reach their potential,” she says. “It is not about helping people who are not good enough. It’s not about fixing people. People are amazing. It’s about making you even more powerful.”

A safe space

For coaching to have impact people need to find a programme that fits what they need, she says.

Each participant has a short one to one with Salma before the programme begins so she can find out where they are coming from. The cohort is kept fairly small so that everyone feels part of the group. Employers nominate people onto the programme, but they need to want to do it too. The second cohort includes people from the Co-op, John Lewis, the Chartered Institute for Professional Development and the British Transport Police. Each cohort also has a space for a charity. Salma hopes participants will go back to their organisations and be active role models internally and advocate for diversity.

The aim is also to build strong cohorts to provide ongoing support to each other.  Salma is intending to set up a website providing a portal for diverse coaching and highlighting the first 100 graduates. She also wants to offer ongoing professional development and support to existing coaches. She is starting a pilot with British Transport Police to offer training for existing coaches.

The coaching process provides a safe space for people to explore diversity issues and to be themselves. “When you are from a BAME background – I am working class and Asian – you constantly feel you have to prove yourself and edit yourself in professional settings. It is exhausting. You are constantly on edge. I provide a place to exhale and relax.” She adds that people often develop an outer resilience – a mask – but that is not coming from a place of confidence, but of fear. “It’s a survival tactic,” she states.

Salma describes the coaching process as “deeply transformational” and adds that it comes about through talking to people you really connect with on a deep level. “You see people grow in confidence and self-belief and feel they belong,” she says.

For more information on the programme, click here. Video testimonials can be found at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6706889021055881216/ and https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6696681771876024320/

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