Coach in the Spotlight: Una Murphy

Una Murphy is a transition specialist and coach who describes herself as intuitive, caring and courageous. In our Q&A, Una shares how generosity helps her find her clients, and explains why real transformation is a long term process.

What made you want to become a coach?

I previously worked in factual television production, where I interviewed programme contributors, encouraging them to find their voice and tell their stories.

I had the privilege of getting the inside track on peoples’ lives.

Once I hung up my production ‘hat’ there was a natural progression toward coaching.

Nothing could quench the genuine curiosity I have for people and their lives. I love finding out what makes others tick and then encouraging them as they discover more of what gives them energy and fulfillment.

I spent eight years working with the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media (then called Creative Skillset). As a specialist media career advisor, I supported freelancers and sole traders to grow their business and get more of the work they loved. So, I already had that career angle before I became a trained coach.

As part of my own transition I decided to get my own coach and never looked back. I knew it was for me.


Nothing could quench the genuine curiosity I have for people and their lives.


How did you decide who to work with?

The people I tend to attract are professionals in their 40’s or 50’s, established in their career.

My coaching practice is a mixture of leadership, career development and career transition.

There’s some overlap in terms of the techniques and tools used as you’re building that person’s self awareness through an exploration and discovery of core values, strengths and purpose.

I support leaders to bring more of their best self to their work. It enables that leader to build genuine trust and make a positive impact with their team and organisation.

In terms of career development/transition the individual may have fallen into a particular career and now want to ensure their next step is more purposeful.

They often want to reignite something – creativity, courage or motivation - but they might not put it in those terms.

It could be that their current role doesn’t play to their strengths or maybe the environment is wrong for them. For example, the management consultant I coached who decided to train as a psychotherapist while continuing with the day job, or the TV executive who took the leap to set up her own creative consultancy, now a thriving business.


They often want to reignite something – creativity, courage or motivation - but they might not put it in those terms.


You like to take a holistic approach to coaching. How do you typically work with your clients?

My coaching approach is really about being completely present and listening to the client, and then listening some more!

I dance with the client in the moment and use specific tools when it feels right.

Listening and allowing silence is key to developing the intuition that’s at the core of how I coach.

It’s always about “meeting” the client where they are, especially if they’re feeling overwhelmed. We move at a speed that works for them, according to their capacity for change.

I’m currently in training as a Resilience Practitioner. Deepening clients' understanding of how to sustain their wellbeing while managing change is a fundamental part of my practice.

Firework’s Explore phase has a beautiful structure to help people appreciate their strengths, interests, motivators and values. This is particularly helpful when clients are lacking in confidence. It is a truly acknowledging process and can help grow self esteem.

Each person’s experience of transition is unique to them. I'm skilled at supporting people to navigate the emotional roller coaster that can accompany change by supporting them to recognise their strengths while growing their courage and self compassion.

So much of what we do as coaches is to support our clients develop trusting relationships with others. This in turn opens the opportunity for creativity and collaboration to flourish.

It's a privilege to do this work.


Deepening clients' understanding of how to sustain their wellbeing while managing change is a fundamental part of my practice.


How have you learnt to combine both compassion and rigour as a coach?

I don’t think coaching is complicated. It’s about caring about people.

If I were to describe my coaching style I’d say that I work with my head, my heart and my intuition.

I know that my own experiences, especially those of illness and loss have greatly developed my capacity to feel compassion. This helps me connect with genuine empathy for that person’s challenges.

Coaching must include challenge and rigour. However, it’s easy to forget just how vulnerable a client may be feeling.

I do my best to really tune in to where that person is at and pace the work accordingly.

An ability to shine a light on the uncomfortable ‘stuff’ is how we enable the client to see alternative perspectives and let go of the negative thinking, habit or behaviour that is holding them back.

The skill of the coach is timing, learning how to bring the right part of yourself at the right moment in the coaching session. I’m not sure you can teach that, you have to learn it through practice.


How do you source your coaching clients?

A lot of my work comes through word of mouth. As coaches, we cannot underestimate the power of networking.

I’m grateful to my clients because they almost always recommend me to others, and it creates a domino effect.

I work with a small number of associate coaching companies that provide me with executive/leadership work.

My coach community will recommend me or ask me to collaborate on projects, and I do the same for them.

Professional bodies are also a great way to build your network. I’m a member of the ICF and a member of the Southampton chapter for the ICF. They are a generous bunch of coaches and becoming a member provides me with a community and access to some fantastic free learning resources.

I’ve also met some great people who have remained both colleagues and friends from my original training with Coach U and later CTI.

The way I network is a bit like the way I like to shop – I don’t go out intentionally to network. I think you need to have a genuine interest and curiosity for others - which, like most coaches, I do!

You’ve got to want to have a real conversation, build relationships and see what emerges over time.

Being part of a generous coach community has really helped me get more work. 

I’m generous with what I share and enjoy recommending coach colleagues where appropriate.

Generosity can and does often reap rewards.


Generosity can and does often reap rewards.


What have you found challenging about being a coach?

When an opportunity you’ve invested in doesn’t work out it can feel quite disappointing.

Coaching can be a bit lonely at times. I’m a people person, so I do like to collaborate as much as possible.


Looking back now, what would you say to yourself as a new coach?

You need to be compassionate with yourself. You’ll stumble and there’ll be times you won’t always get it right.

But, if you’re being genuine, caring and listening fully, then your client is often getting far more than you realise.

It’s important to remember that transformation is an on-going process. You may see your client make positive shifts and take steps forward during the coaching programme.

However, if the learning sticks then the transformation process carries on long after.


If you’re being genuine, caring and listening fully, then your client is often getting far more than you realise.


What’s changed over the last year in terms of your clients' needs? How do you see the future?

I ran a workshop recently on Sustaining Your Resilience and I noticed that the energy levels in the room were incredibly flat. Participants were distinctly describing feelings of lethargy. This is why it’s important to be aligned with the clients energy levels and pace the work according to their capacity.

I see a real need to help people understand what resilience means. It’s an investment to support them through any change. I’m committed to supporting my clients as they steadily build a resilience practice that can sustain their wellbeing.

I really enjoy the connection you get from being together in real life. I hope in terms of facilitation that it will be possible soon to get back into the room with participants.


What advice do you have for coaches who want to start working with groups?

As the coach and facilitator, it’s important to encourage everyone to be open to the diversity of thought and perspective present in the room.

Creating a safe environment where everyone has a voice helps get the best from people.

It’s a joy to watch people tapping into the group’s resources and being generous as they share knowledge and experience.


Creating a safe environment where everyone has a voice helps get the best from people.


What books or resources do you recommend for new coaches?

Kristen Neff’s work on Compassion – her website has great resources I share with clients.

A book that made a big impact on me personally was Transitions by William Bridges. This is a classic book on transition which includes lots of case studies so it's an enjoyable read.

The Resilience Dynamic by Jenny Campbell is mandatory for my current training and is a really useful resource for any coach or client wanting to support their own and others wellbeing.

I love anything by John O'Donohue who wrote meditative poems and blessings. His work is a spiritual guide for me.


How do you nourish yourself as a coach?

Walking in nature. I chatted with at least two robins this morning – I’m a bit of a bird nut!

Before a coaching session, I’ll take a pause for some mindfulness.

I also like to feel connected to others and enjoy a chat, or a phone call with a friend.

And, I love to dance! It evokes the most freeing and joyful of feelings.


How do you see your work evolving in the future?

I see my work increasingly being about ageing well and how we can work with purpose as we age.

There’s a lot of buzz around diversity and I want to help ensure we have a productive and positive society across all age groups.

This, alongside a genuine desire to find a way to use my skill set to slow or halt the horrendous climate emergency we now face.

Not much to do then!


Una Murphy is a Firework-licensed career coach, facilitator and specialist in transition. She has 14 years’ experience of enabling people to successfully manage change and find positive ways to adapt and thrive. Una works with a wide range of people across sectors, from employees anxious about their next steps as they take redundancy, to newly promoted leaders keen to make an impact. She successfully led 'Careerlink', the BBC’s career transition service, providing specialist career coaching and supporting thousands of staff at risk of redundancy. Find out more about Una at and connect with her on LinkedIn.