Coach in the Spotlight: Nathalie Britten

We speak with career and leadership coach Nathalie Britten who, with tools including LEGO bricks and storytelling, helps her clients gain a better understanding of who they are and what they want to achieve.

How did you discover coaching?

I've hopped around a lot in my career, working initially in banking, then moving to marketing, then IT and finally, into the learning and development sector.

I started my career in South Africa but moved to Switzerland to work for IMD business school as part of their MBA department team.

Leadership and career coaching is an integral part of the programme that develops young and experienced international professionals into future corporate leaders.

Although my role was not as a coach, it’s where I witnessed the full impact of coaching.

Having previously run my own training company in South Africa, when it was time to move from Switzerland to the UK, I decided to revisit the idea of being self-employed, but this time as a coach.

I got my formal coaching qualification and started my practice.

After years of floundering in different careers, I’d finally found my calling.

I love what I do now and can’t even begin to imagine not doing it.


After years of floundering in different careers, I’d finally found my calling.


Why did you decide to become a licensed career coach with Firework?

In the early days of my practice, I used LinkedIn to promote my coaching services.

Although my goal wasn't to focus on career coaching, many people were approaching me for guidance on their careers.

At that time, I was pulling together tools from various places but was left wondering whether there was something I'd missed.

I needed more structure to my career coaching.

It was through my CTI network that I found out about Firework.


What was your Firework experience like?

Sue and Michelle (Firework trainers) were excellent. They're both so practical and down to earth.

As we were a room of skilled coaches, the day was fast-paced with an opportunity to practice using the tools and discover how we could implement the programme.

Initially, I decided to package the programme precisely as it was given to me, in its full format, with all the tools.

Since then I've loosened the reins and allow the client to decide for themselves how far they want to be supported.

For some clients, the exploration phase is sufficient, they want to better understand who they are and what they want to achieve both personally and professionally.

Some want further support as they dream of new possibilities for themselves.

And finally, there are those who want help all the way to discovering what needs to be done in order to achieve The Dream.

Whilst I still market it as a package, I only use some of the tools necessary to achieve their coaching goals.

I've found that the Firework process also works well with clients who haven't come to me with a specific career coaching goal.

I use some of the Firework tools with virtually every client I work with, and they love it!

Only 30% of my business is pure career coaching as my focus is more on leadership coaching.

That said, no matter the reason clients enter into a coaching relationship, inevitably we touch on their career at some stage.

When someone comes to develop themselves as a leader, they’re often also thinking about their next role, and that's where the career coaching skills and tools can come into play.

I was in a fortunate position after qualifying as a coach that I could take my time honing my craft and building my business.

What I noticed was when I added the career coach label, I got more business than when I was a more general life coach.

People are more willing to spend money on their careers, but they're not necessarily ready to invest in life coaching!

Perhaps it's because they feel there is more of a quantifiable result with career coaching.


What I noticed was when I added the career coach label, I got more business than when I was a more general life coach.


How long did it take to gain a return on your investment with the Firework programme?

Within a week of doing the course!

It took only one client to earn back what I paid for the Firework programme.


Who do you typically work with, and how?

I work a lot with business schools coaching on their leadership development programmes.

I’m particularly passionate about coaching aspiring leaders.

I look back at my own career and wish that I had had the support of a coach when I was pushed into a leadership role very early in my career.

One of my other favourite projects is the work I do with the Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland.

Since its reinstatement in 2017, I’ve been part of a team of amazing coaches who support community nurses nominated to take part in a nine-month development programme leading to the title of Queen’s Nurse.

Supporting these change makers as they travel through their journey of discovery is truly inspiring.

My clients are often individuals who are great at what they do, and have been promoted into leadership positions.

Unfortunately, too often, they've not been supported to develop the skills required to be a strong leader.

This can, of course, lead to feelings of self-doubt.

I particularly like to work with practical people, people who are creating or building things, such as engineers, IT professionals and scientists.

Having an IT background myself means I can relate to the people and understand their challenges better, along with some of the more technical language they are prone to using.


Supporting change makers as they travel through their journey of discovery is truly inspiring.


What has your experience of becoming a Firework coach helped you to achieve?

Using the Firework tools has certainly allowed me to grow a thriving coaching business.

For my clients, these tools have helped them gain the clarity they needed on who they are and where they want to be.

For example, I worked with an engineer in his late 50s who had become very disgruntled in his work.

In our first conversations, he talked about some of the things that held him back: "I'm too old", "I don't want to go back into education" and "I don't want to learn anything new".

Still, he was dedicated to the coaching process and to the exercises we did together.

The end result was that he went off and did a master's degree!

He now works as a curator in a museum and is considering a PhD.

I'm particularly fond of this story because the client was initially so adamant that he couldn't and wouldn't learn anything new.

It also demonstrates that even for clients approaching retirement, it's possible to retrain and do something completely different, if that’s what they decide.


How did you build your coaching business? What have you found to be the most effective ways of attracting new clients?

One of the things I remember being told during coach training was that if you put yourself out there and get visible, you can very quickly build a successful coaching business.

For me, that wasn’t quite the reality. It’s taken time and the growth has happened very organically.

I had a strong LinkedIn network, so that’s where I posted about my coaching services.

From there my business has grown through word of mouth and referrals.

Getting that first couple of corporate clients helped to further grow my business.

I affiliated myself with other organisations, institutions and corporates as well as other coaches to get the momentum going.

I don't enjoy marketing, so this approach of affiliating myself with others has worked well for me.

If I were to repeat my time again, I might've pounded on more doors, particularly in the UK to expand my network here.

So much of my business is still based internationally.

However, I'm very grateful and conscious of the fact that I've been able to grow my practice gradually.

Had my circumstances been different, I would’ve needed to be more proactive in building my reputation as a coach.


I don't enjoy marketing, so this approach of affiliating myself with others has worked well for me.


What other resources have you used to build your business or enhance your skills?

I'm fascinated by neuroscience and the brain.

As part of the work I do with my clients, I'll often refer to what's going on with the brain and how we can influence how we feel by changing habits.

The other thing that's really helped me as a coach is to get out there and talk to other people.

I'm naturally curious and like to learn more about the challenges that people face, both in business and in their careers.


How do you see your work evolving in the future?

In addition to my other coach training, I’m also a certified LEGO SERIOUS PLAY® facilitator and use LEGO bricks in my coaching with one to one clients.

With some clients, particularly the engineers, exploring their stories through LEGO models can resonate well as they're used to building things.

Most often our minds are trying to answer a question more by ruminating about the past or worrying about the future than by observing what is actually here, now.

The creative process of making something prompts the brain to work in a different way and unlocks new perspectives.

I’ve been working on a new group programme that combines the Firework programme with the use of LEGO..

My plan had been to launch in April 2020 but COVID restrictions delayed the launch, so I hope this can happen next year.

My personal goal for 2020 was to do less virtual and more face to face work with clients! COVID has definitely altered my business.

Previously I’ve tended to work with only a handful of private clients at any one time, currently that number is significantly higher.

Many people are being made redundant from their jobs.

Others are seeing the world differently, are re-evaluating their lives and careers and want support in making changes.


The creative process of making something prompts the brain to work in a different way and unlocks new perspectives.


What are the most rewarding aspects of coaching for you?

I get so much out of this work.

I love watching my clients unleash themselves, peel back the layers and get to the core of who they are and what they want.

It's beautiful when they are finally able to see their own brilliance and what they are capable of.

That's why I do what I do.


Nathalie is a licensed Firework career coach and leadership coach. A multi-linguist with Belgian parents, she grew up in South Africa, spent 10 years living and working in Switzerland and now lives in the UK with her husband and two dogs. Variety is the spice of life for Nathalie. She loves the outdoors and experiencing new adventures from skiing to fire walking.