English landscape

Galvanising change makers at Natural England

The climate change coaches were delighted to be asked by Natural England to train its internal coaches and to coach a group of its leaders to be part of their drive to connect their important work in conservation with the wider climate crisis.

Natural England is responsible for ensuring that England’s natural environment, including its land, flora and fauna, freshwater and marine environments, geology and soils, are protected and improved. It also has a responsibility to help people enjoy, understand and access the natural environment. It’s staff are hugely committed and technically highly skilled, and are based across the country, often in rural areas. Staff often feel a really close connection to their local environment.

The climate change coaches trained 10 of Natural England’s own internal coaches in our ICF accredited Climate Change Coaching Training Programme. We also coached eight of their lead and senior advisors and project managers in a dedicated, 12-week group coaching programme.

Sarah Taylor, senior specialist climate change adaptation, attended the Training Programme and was also the lead sponsor of the coaching group. She explains why this project was useful for Natural England:

“Natural England are an evidence led organisation and over many years the evidence in support of action to address the climate and biodiversity crises have been absolutely clear. We have seen awareness of these linked crises grow, but we still have a lot of work to do in tackling them. Its crucial we empower people to act, using the knowledge and evidence available, but also through telling more inclusive stories and asking powerful questions. We are starting to see the potential of the coaching approach in how we create climate action for both the natural environment and for all of us.”

Internal coach training

Our ICF-accredited Climate Change Coaching Training Programme equips coaches with the skills to both formally coach staff who may feel powerless about what to do for the best – who may be in the grip of a sense of running out of time or overwhelmed by all the options – and also shows them how to connect someone to their sense of purpose about it. Along the way, the coaches practiced the skills with each other, so that they were able to explore their own relationship with climate change as part of the learning process.

Of her own experience on our course, Sarah said:

“I learnt such a lot from the course that I will take in to my work on climate change adaptation. It has made me think very differently about how best to support long lasting and effective action on climate change, including addressing some of the big and difficult emotions involved with facing the scale of the issue. Importantly, the course also taught us about self-care, how to get in to the space where we can engage with the issue and sustain effective performance with regard to climate action, essentially how we can help ourselves ‘stay on the pitch’ and meaningfully contribute.”

Group coaching

Our coaching group comprised eight individuals from across Natural England, who, in some instances, had yet to make a direct and tangible link to climate change in their work. Our coaching group was designed to give staff the space to embed the issue into their day jobs and to connect their own capability. As this was a closed confidential group, staff felt able to dig into the issue and tackle any blockers to action. Megan in our team worked with the group to co-design the topics for discussion, and placed them into our tried and tested structure for each session. The staff were able to work through feelings of uncertainty together and shared a sense of solidarity than wouldn’t have been possible in one to one coaching. The group dynamic also fired them up to create a powerful list of actions to take forward in their teams and at organisational level.

One of the group, Maya Butler, Regional Health and Environmental lead for the South East, told us:

“The Climate Change Group Coaching Program has helped me flourish In so many ways. Not only has it given me the confidence to share out responsibility when it comes to action but it has shown me that one needs to take time out to reflect and develop oneself. The various tools I learnt have made me feel confident to tackle things with different methods to reach different solutions.”

Sarah Taylor, who sponsored the group coaching, was delighted with the results that were achieved:

“This course and the involvement of the internal coaching network at Natural England has given us so many ideas about how we will take forward the coaching approach in our work on climate change. For example, we will continue to work together and support each other in the groups that have been involved in this training, our coaches and our group coachees will bring climate change in to their practice and share what they have learnt with colleagues, and we are already discussing how we can continue climate change coaching training across the organisation, starting with some key pilot work areas. We aim to bring the things we have learnt through this process in to our approach on climate action across the organisation.W

We really enjoyed working with the teams at Natural England, whose commitment and hard work is so obvious to see. As a result of this project, Charly has also guested on two internal webinars, one during Natural England’s learning at work week and another for the wider DEFRA coaching community. We are always happy to come along to organisational events like these, and like having the kind of relationships with our clients in which they are happy to ask for our advice and ideas. This is all part of building networks of people inside organisations that can drive change forward about the climate crisis. For us, it’s all about building relationships, and we enjoy being trusted advisors to organisations long after we have ended formal project work together.