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Alison Muir, Founder and Transformational Coach, Square Peg Coaching Ltd

Alison Muir is the Founder of Square Peg Coaching and helps her clients build the confidence to create a life they want to live. Alison talks to The Industry Leaders about how her first foray into being her own boss left her barely able to speak and why she believes coaching can change the world for the better.

How did you end up sitting where you are today?

After a brief spell in the travel industry, I transitioned into FMCG Supply Chain, where I quickly progressed into being a Team Manager. I was good at my job and enjoyed helping members of my team advance their careers, but I knew something was missing. I wanted to have a positive impact on people's lives, not just in the workplace. My first foray into self-employment was as a pilates instructor, but I missed the security of a regular paycheque. I eventually reached a point where I knew I had to try again, this time as a Transformational Coach.

What kind of work does your role involve?

I work 1-2-1 with my clients to help them understand what's most important to them, rebuild their self-belief and confidence, learn to trust their instincts and make decisions about the kind of life they want to create themselves. I then use my planning skills to help them work out what they need to do to bring it into reality. This sort of 'journey' means I need to create a safe space where they know they will be heard and not judged, where they can explore ideas, open up and be vulnerable.

What gets you excited about your industry?

I believe the Coaching industry has the potential for creating positive change on a global scale.

When we are happy with ourselves as individuals, we are more open and willing to help others. Increasing the number of people and organisations who are having coaching will have a positive knock-on effect on everyone they come into contact with.

What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I once joined a running group for women. In our first session, the women who had been in the group for a while started at a much faster pace than I could manage. The coach running alongside me at the back said, "Don't worry how fast they're going now, in a while, they're going to start slowing down, and you'll catch them up. Just keep going at your own pace". Sure enough, in all the sessions and races I ran in, I would start at the back but finish near the front. It's the same in business.

What, or who inspires you?

Courage in all its forms inspires me. Whether it's someone fighting for a common cause, speaking out against injustice, or someone just willing to ask for help. Courage doesn't have to be big and showy; it can simply be turning up every day to do the work when all you want to do is hide. Through my work at the mental health charity Mind, I am always inspired by the everyday courage I see in people.

How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?

I love learning, so I am always finding new courses to do or webinars to attend. I also regularly talk with other coaching professionals about new developments and ways of working.

What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?

Qualifying as a Pilates Instructor with Body Control Pilates was a real personal challenge. I hated standing up in front of people and would avoid it at all costs. I was also 40yrs old and had a very sedentary job, so not in prime physical shape! When I had to deliver my first exercise to 'real people' outside of the classroom, my mouth was so dry I could hardly speak, and my body was shaking as I demonstrated the exercise. I'm not sure how I got through it, but I am incredibly proud I did.

You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?

I would buy a house somewhere warm by the sea, invest a large chunk of it, keep some available for helping our kids and family and go travelling. I would probably just work 2-3 days a week, so I had time to continue my own personal development in as many different ways as possible.

How do you switch off after a day at work?

We have a very elderly dog, so we go on a very slow walk around the village. If it's a beautiful warm evening, we sit outside in the garden reading. If it's too cold to sit outside, we watch detective stories or history programs (I really enjoy "Who Do You Think You Are?"), or sometimes just put a record on the turntable and listen whilst we read.

If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?

That everyone would have the opportunity to work with a coach.

What book or podcast should everyone know about?

As an introvert, I found "Quiet" by Susan Cain hugely insightful. I finally understood my experience of the world and realised what a gift I'd been given.

How should people connect with you?

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