In part 2 of my interview with Mark and Odette Clayton, they talk about their professional background, and find out loads more about the different coaching areas the business specialises in. These days, Mark focuses on running the business himself, while Odette has moved on to working with Family Life UK, a great charity that helps struggling families and marriages to thrive.
Before the beginning of M&O, Mark worked in a number of sectors. A large proportion of his work has been with young people, whether through children’s homes and foster care, helping to give young offenders a fresh start, or mentoring groups of pupils in schools. Mark has also worked with university undergraduates to teach them how to mentor others, and then sending them into schools to support and motivate teenagers still in education. Following this, Mark and his wife Odette took on the challenge of becoming foster carers themselves, while continuing to train as life coaches. Mark went back to university, and got qualified in education so that he could become a professional in the adult education sector. This was a springboard for him, as he continued to work hard to grow his skills and experience in the areas he was interested in.
Odette’s professional background is primarily in childcare. As well as being a childcare practitioner, she was been an outreach worker in the community, engaging with families. She was also a senior nursery nurse, as well as running her own childminding business. Having first hand experience as foster carers allowed the couple to draw on their first-hand experience in order to help others. This played a big part in motivating them in this area, which stood them in good stead to work alongside vulnerable families with complex needs. Odette has delivered parenting courses on behalf of Manchester City Council, and now is a regional co-ordinator for Family Life. This is her main occupation, but occasionally volunteers to deliver workshops for M&O, and she describes herself as a silent partner.
The council were delighted to have Odette on board, as the capacity of their team was not able to meet the demand for services. She saw a space that she could fit into, and put forward her application, and they said a big yes, because Odette had a stunning track record. Knowing a lot about the system put Odette at a huge advantage, and it was as though they were members of staff at the council, even though they were self employed. Unfortunately, the council was not able to afford their services any longer due to lack of funding, so Odette and Mark had to step aside, but they are still available for such a time as funds being freed up again.
“Family is the main thing we are passionate about, and supporting people to be the best they can be. We thrive from seeing people recognise who they really are, their gifts, talents, capabilities...we love encouraging them to live out what they are created to do and be, and we get such a lot of joy out of that - this is what we live for”.
When a family would be referred to them, they would do an initial assessment, and identify the specific problem areas that needed to be addressed, and would talk the family through the programmes available to them to suit their needs. From this point onwards, they would start delivering the sessions, but based in the family’s home, depending on accessibility, go through the teaching tools, and leave them ‘homework’ to practice with their children. They would later come back to assess how they were progressing, and then deliver the next session. The end result they hope for is that the family are actually using and putting into practice the tools they are given, so that they end up with a much better relationship with their child by the end of the course.
It is clear to see that this is their main thing in life, firstly from the hard work they have put in, and the commitment they have to seeing things through to the end. Their variety of experience has made them highly versatile people in what they do.
Mark has a lot of potential clients approaching him about business coaching, to help them find out how to market what they do properly. A big part of Mark’s business coaching is about helping people to tease out their ideas. “I am passionate about moving into more business coaching right now”, Mark explains, “because I have been doing a lot of it, and might as well train further in it, and deliver it as a bigger part of what M&O does. A lot of people are trying to clarify their vision for their business, and need to figure out what time they have to put into it, because some people have other jobs, so plans need to be made to suit where they are at”. Mark then sets goals that his clients can action with specific deadlines attached to them to keep people accountable. The goal is that the start-up owner would accelerate their progression to starting their business, and in the process, decide once and for all if it is the right time for them to start, and if that is the right kind of business for them. How long this takes depends on the person and what stage they are at. If Mark has a client that is ahead of the game, and already are halfway along the way to starting up, he will not need to work with them as long, and will tailor his coaching strategy to them.
In terms of relationship and coaching for couples, M&O always start with an initial assessment, so that they know where people are currently at on their journey together. There are two branches of the relationship coaching - marriage preparation, a seven week course that takes them through different aspects of getting to know each other, including their backgrounds, and past experiences, communication and finances, and intimacy, as well as shared goals, and finding out do their visions and life aspirations align with each other. They then work with the couple to work more effectively as a team, and to work through their differences and the challenges this brings, as well as establishing clear values. They put together a plan with the couple, to ensure that their relationship is sustainable and strong.
They also work with couples who are already married for some time, but perhaps they have hit some major roadblocks in their marriage, and are struggling to get past this. M&o work with them to help them realise why they fell in love with each other in the first place, and to get back to where they started, followed by uncovering the shared goals and visions they had maybe forgotten about in the stress and chaos of life. Again, they will explore communication tools with them, and bring in key elements like healthy conflict resolution, and generally provide them with strategies and tools to help them build a bridge over the difficulties they have been going through.
Odette says, ‘we like to present the idea of the couple facing the challenge together, on the same side, rather than seeing your partner as the challenge. We have a lot of clients like this, and have done a lot of relationship work this year. In 2020, we won’t be doing as much relationship coaching, and will need to look at taking more of a workshop based approach, and less of the one to one. In instances where more individual attention is needed, we would probably assess people and signpost them to the right places”.
M&O have a partnership with a counselling service called YJG Counselling. If any of the pre-marriage or post-marriage clients hit on issues that are deeper, left over from issues in their past, they would refer them to counselling. This is vital for the pre-marriage people, and they always very strongly encourage them to deal with and resolve any issues before they walk down the aisle and make that commitment. Deeper issues can often surface later, and get in the way of them developing a strong and long lasting relationship further down the line.
The difference between coaching and counselling is that with coaching, there is a very clear focus on moving forward - but with counselling, people need to go backwards, and then work through past problems in order to move forward more effectively.
In Part 3, Mark and Odette throw back to where the business started back in 2016, how they got where they are today, and where they see themselves going in the future. If you have enjoyed getting to know them and what they do, stay tuned in!