After a career path that has taken in the safari industry in Africa (complete with charging elephants and spitting cobras!) Tamsin Acheson now runs a coaching consultancy in the UK. Tamsin took some time out to talk to The Industry Leaders about her journey.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Via a rugged and roundabout route that started in the UK as a teacher, and then, looking for adventure, I moved to Botswana's Safari industry, where I trained as a guide. I threw myself into the "bush" lifestyle and ended up in the training and development of local people into management positions. This gave me an amazing experience in exclusive 5* hospitality and put me in a position to work with world-class hotels.
In 2010 I got involved in opening the One & Only Cape Town in time for the World Cup, and I then set up my own consultancy. Over the next few years, I worked with various businesses in South Africa, from family-run firms to large corporates, helping them define their business strategy, develop their leadership teams, and coach their high performers. In 2014 I returned to the UK and built up my business slowly and steadily up to the present day.
What kind of work does your role involve?
My work is an integration of many different areas of expertise. I am a qualified life coach, business coach and counselling professional. I have also worked in human resources, skills training, course design and facilitation, customer service and hospitality, and business management consultancy and strategic intervention, specifically troubleshooting failing businesses and change management. Day-to-day I specialise in helping business owners become respected, resourceful and resilient leaders whilst building sustainable, profitable, aligned businesses. Together we create the business success they want without them having to sacrifice their integrity or losing themselves in the process.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I love gaining and sharing knowledge and understanding. I get so much joy from seeing people really realise their potential, surpassing what they ever dreamed was possible. What excites me most is helping people see there is always a way and that they have all the answers they need to achieve, as long as they start asking the right questions and trusting themselves.
The coaching industry often attracts a raised eyebrow due to the lack of regulation, but, to my mind, there is something completely magical about providing a safe, non-judgemental space for people to be seen and heard. The industry offers a place for people to think and reflect and discover new things about themselves that motivate and empower a better life.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
My best teacher was the Okavango Delta. I took life lessons away from my time in the wilderness, the most prominent of which was that "Things will never go as planned, but you can always make a plan".
What is always guaranteed is that the sun will come up and the sun will go down. Learn from yesterday but leave yesterday's problems exactly there – as the sun sets, release the unresolved issues into the sun and watch them descend until they are gone. Then try again tomorrow with fresh eyes, a revitalised approach and the belief that today will be better.
What, or who inspires you?
I am inspired by those who have mastered their craft and by the "every day" alike. Inspiration is always around us and can be found in the simplest things if you slow down enough to see it. The one thing that travel has taught me is that there is so much to learn from differences, both in people and places. I am probably most inspired by wise words written by thoughtful and observant people.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
I make learning a daily habit. I am a serial qualification collector! I have always been curious and keep myself on my toes by learning new things all the time. I believe it is healthy to stay connected to a beginner's mindset and try to develop a new skill every month, not just within my area of desired mastery but also through diverse and random learning. Every experience teaches me something I didn't know about the world, other people and myself.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
I faced challenging situations on a daily basis when I worked in Botswana. My time in Africa was jam-packed with life lessons and unusual scenarios that required every ounce of resourcefulness, resilience, determination and courage that I could muster. Experiences like charging elephants, lions on walkways, baboons in the kitchen, spitting cobras behind baskets - the stories I have to tell would be beyond belief for most! The ''close call'' situations that turned out well and those that didn't.
In Cape Town, I was held up at gunpoint, and that is when I decided it was time to leave. Somehow I coped better with dangerous animals than dangerous people. I loved Africa with all my heart, but I respected and valued my life more!
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
What a horrible question. I would hand it in, and I currently hate myself for my answer. I know that my honesty would get the best of me, and I wouldn't be able to live with knowing it was not my "bit of luck" even if there are a million ways that I could make an impact with 10 million. I would probably stick it on my fridge and look at it for a few days before marching myself back to the scene of discovery and handing it over!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I work from home, so I am not sure I ever truly switch off. I lose myself in learning and books. I also indulge on occasion in totally trashy TV. I love to dance, play Netball and swim in outdoor swimming pools at the gym (not quite wild swimming but my version of it). I love being outside and especially by water, so you will often find me wandering along coastlines.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I have two wishes.
The first would be the introduction of regulation so that there was more credibility for the industry as a whole and a minimum requirement to entry both from a qualification and practice hours perspective.
The second is not exclusive to the coaching industry but is certainly rife within it. It seems there is a perception that price equals quality, so the more you pay, the better the coach. This has led to false and premature price inflation in the industry with no real qualifying criteria. This is misleading, and it has resulted in many coaches putting up their prices to stay competitive. Slowly but surely, the outcome is that coaching becomes less and less accessible to those that would really benefit from it. I don't see this as a positive evolution.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
My most recent business book favourite ""The Road Less Stupid: Advice from the Chairman of the Board"" by Keith J. Cunningham. I haven't laughed that much listening to a business book in a long time!
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