“There is ‘magic’ inside all of us”

Simone Douani is an accomplished coach and facilitator, he is also an actor and singer, having trained in these disciplines in Italy and in the UK.  London is now home, and he took the time out of his busy life to answer some questions about his approach to coaching and facilitation and why he enjoys working for Sladen Consulting.

Personal Learning Journey

Much as many of Sladen’s clients go on a learning journey when they engage our services, Simone has been on his own personal learning journey, making the move from being a professional actor to a skilled coach.  On moving to London in 2009 Simone was appointed by a corporate client to do role play at various events in Europe, using his acting skills and developing his facilitation ability more and more.  This quickly led to more corporate work and Simone, realising his passion for the corporate world proceeded to train as a professional coach accredited by ICF (International Coach Federation) since then he has been in huge demand as a coach and facilitator.

Why Sladen?

Simone has many reasons for being part of team at Sladen Consulting.  He loves the “family feel” that Richard and Julie Colley have created, and the team are often referred to as the ‘Sladen Family’.  This feeling of being part of a family is something special that gives a very personal approach to the way Sladen works.  Simone also acknowledges and celebrates the fact he works alongside a very diverse team.  The team is diverse in many different things; speaking over 20 languages, based all over the world, with different backgrounds; each person with a unique skill set but with shared values.   The opportunity to skill share, network, exchange ideas, with diversity of thought and a very professional but personal way of working is what draws Simone to working with Sladen.

Coaching leaders requires honesty and flexibility

One of the areas that Simone’s skills are in demand is coaching leaders, where he stresses “a flexible approach is essential to be able to understand what they need and therefore how to support them”.  Establishing an effective level of communication to be able to have clear and honest conversations is one of Simone’s many skills; he is transparent and “says things like they are” and this honesty is appreciated and valued by those who work with Simone.

A lot has changed in the last year and Simone stresses that it has never been more important to embrace the human aspect of being a leader; to understand the need to flex leadership styles and the need to care for teams because everyone reacts to situations in a different way.   We cannot just listen to the words that people are saying, we must also look for the signals we receive when we communicate with people.  Moving team members from a negative mindset and help them to think in a more positive way has certainly been a challenge this year.  Leaders have had to work hard in the last 12 months to adapt their leadership style, and Simone has been by their side to support them where needed.

Coaching leaders is all about balance: giving the right amount of support, but also the right amount of challenge; working on professional needs but also the human aspect.  To be an effective leader you need to work on your vulnerability, to understand you are a human being and you can make mistakes, and to accept you need support from your team, and when you do that you and your team are ready to share ideas and innovate.   Simone is firm believer that you cannot be innovative without accepting that you can make mistakes as well.  A good leader must be able to empower their team, have a diverse team, and be able to listen to their teams.

There is ‘magic’ inside all of us

A recent testimonial received by Simone, referred to him “doing magic”, but it is Simone’s opinion that there is magic inside all of us.  He says “my work as a coach is to help clients find this magic, to be able to see this magic and be able to use it.  It is not coming from the outside world, it is from a journey that we do together”.  Simone helps people see themselves from a different perspective, to make the magic clear, and find it together with the client.  Simone is also an expert in performance and presentation coaching, supporting leaders and employees being more effective (both virtually and face-to-face) when presenting to a large audience or when running meetings with their team.

The most common feedback Simone receives from participants is that of “surprise”, that they have received a different kind of experience from other training or coaching sessions.  In delivering Sladen Skill Bites for example, they appreciate not being faced with lots of slides and the level of engagement is often mentioned, how valuable the learning journey has been and the memorable experience they had.   Sometimes people expect a ‘ted talk’ type experience however Simone’s style is about connecting with people, whether face to face or virtual.  He always tries to connect and embrace the human aspect, not just thinking about ‘participants’ but about everyone being human beings.

Above all Simone has developed a holistic approach in coaching and training: he believes that through a deep understanding of ourselves and how we react to others we can unlock our full power and achieve our personal and professional goals. Challenges and curiosity are often great opportunities to move forward towards a fearless future

You need a Plan B and even a Plan C!

Simone loves facilitating small and large virtual meetings.  When asked about what challenges this presents, Simone stressed that technology is the number one issue – it is essential that you know the technical platform you are using, he always has a plan B and even a plan C!  After technology, the biggest challenge is engagement.  Virtually it can be easier to get distracted, to check mobile phones and emails, and do something that is not relevant.  “The biggest challenge is to get people on board right at the start, the beginning of the event is the key point, no matter how many people are in the event or meeting, you have to catch their attention, make them laugh, get them on board, this makes it much easier moving forward”.  He makes his sessions as interactive as much as possible, encouraging people to talk or use the chat box, and also incorporating breaks and reflection time.

Tips from the stage

Simone often draws on his training and experience as an actor when running meetings, and there are a few things we can all learn from this.  “You must understand that every time you have one or more people in front of you it is a performance; as a performer you need to be ready, you need to know what you are going to say, much like having a script but in a very flexible way”.  And we can all do some breathing or mindfulness exercises which can help us focus more and reduce any anxiety.  Then whether on stage or in a meeting, we need to be ready to be present in the moment.  Actors can forget lines and will not always follow a script, without the audience ever realising.  The relationship you have with your agenda or meeting content is extremely important, be in the moment and know what you want to say but don’t be stuck with a rigid structure.  The level of energy and the way you deliver a message are the only thing that changes between meeting with 1 person, or delivering to 1000, a high level of energy is essential for larger meetings and presentations.

Diagnosis to Delivery

Simone’s enjoys initially developing relationships with clients.  “I like the journey together with clients, the follow up conversations we have, things that we can build together.  The designing part and the diagnostic, this is where the creative part comes in, working out what tools I can use and delivering them”.

Each morning I wake up and feel fortunate

Simone is motivated by being able to help others and doing something he loves: “The last year has been so difficult for so many people; I feel blessed, I love what I do.  I used to travel a lot, a couple of times a week, I loved travelling and miss that.  But I was already delivering virtually with Sladen before the pandemic and I feel blessed to be able to work in this way.  Each morning I wake up and feel fortunate, there are busy days and sometimes it is tiring, but I feel happy to be doing something I really love.   Also, I feel I am helping others, through our work we are able to really give support to people who are having difficult times with the current situation.”

Learning while laughing (and singing!)

Before the pandemic, Simone also loved organising away days and working on team building.  He strongly believes the learning process is more effective when “a good laugh” is involved.  Simone will always try to find a moment to relax and laugh and introduce a fun element.  During away days what he wants to achieve is that everyone finishes having learned and established strong team relationships without even realising it.

On a final note…given Simone’s background he has on occasion, even in very formal corporate environments, been asked to sing a song at the end of a training session!  He has sung in Italian, a cappella two or three times.  So, if you are fortunate enough to work with Simone, you know you will be engaged, with transparency and humour, and you may even be treated to a song, learning without even realising.