Carlos Herreros, May 2010
It is widely accepted that we humans are more designed to understand and be
lured by stories than by the bullet points of PowerPoint presentations. So I
present below my coaching story.
Next July I´ll turn 69 but it´s only in the last 16 years that I have been practising
as an executive coach; I don´t even remember having heard the word
“coaching” before 1990.
At the age of 21, in 1962, I ended my University Studies at the University of
Madrid, School of Commerce; before going to University one of my uncles, a
visionary, professor of English in Spain, had recommended my parents that I
should live in the UK for a year so that I could have a good command of the
language, to the reluctante of my progenitors who thought that I would “lose”
( perhaps waste) a whole year. But finally my uncle was listened and I turned 18
in London. It was my coming of age , legally but also wordly.
I was quite succesful in a number of jobs I had , one of them with a family
business and later in bigger companies, always doing numbers but with a bias
towards understanding and dealing with customers. Later I decided that I
wanted to become a Chartered Accountant, I passed the exams and became
one. At that time, 1982, I founded with two other partners an Accounting Firm; I
still am a partner and the Firm has been quite succesful in Santander ( North of
At the beginning of the 1990s , my unrest was growing at a rather fast pace: I
was witness to many organizational and leaders´behaviours that numbers did
not explain; so, I thought, I´m missing something and something pretty
important ;there must be someting , somewhere, which could shed light on the
darkness of my ignorance.
I came to the conclusion that the first step I should take should be to improbé
my self-awareness. I wanted to know more of me ando f the professional I was.
After doing some “shopping” lest I could be the propitiatory victim of a “gone
shrink”, I found someone with whom I thought I could start my own therapy
(this is the same professional with whom for the last 10 years I have been
supervising my coaching work, 5 hrs. every month) and my remit to the
professional was that I wanted to work on my professional self( so I was starting
a coaching process “avant la lettre”, or at least “avant ma lettre) . After more
than two years “on the couch”, I decided that I needed to go to an International
business school to a graduate programme. Shopping again, I found a
convenient ( though pretty expensive) programme at the London Business
School , so I took a partial sabbatical and to London again 1994-1996. I was 55
when I graduated with an MSc. In Management Degree. My final dissertation
was “ Intra-firm ethics, creativity and strategy” and probably due to the kind
disposition of a Professor I got 100 points, the top grade.
It was at the LBS where I discovered, the wonders, in the first place, and the
miseries, on second deeper thoughts, of strategic thinking. To this day I am
convinced that when I work in coaching with executives one of my approaches
is very strategic although maybe not the strategy that is taught at business
schools. Uncertainty and the anxiety of not knowing as opposed to strategy as
Among the various and distinguished guest professors at the LBS ,a woman
impressed me extraordinarily. She is Dr. Catherine Sandler, then a professional
working with the Tavistock Consultancy Services, since then and up until now a
very good friend and great professional, with whom I share the honour of
membership of the Association for Professional Executive Coaching and
Supervision, which quoting to Peter Hawkins ( also a good friend) is one of the
most prestigious coaching associations. Catherine and I had a number or long
talks and I decided that I wanted to learn her coaching skills, among other
reasons because her dynamic approach to coaching was very akin to my own
psycotherapeutical experience. To this day i have collaborated with her and
regularly comes to Spain to present seminars and coaching schools that I
I also learned as much as I could elaborate, and still do today as we work jointly
in Spain , also in seminars and coaching schools, six or seven times every year,
with Dr. Anton Obholzer then Principal of the Tavi. Catherine, Anton and Peter (
principal of Bath Consultancy Services) are three names to whom the reader
can ask for references of my work and also of the person I am.
On my return to Spain I said to my partners that the Firm had a new
department: coaching and developing executives. Since then , 1996,this has
been my occupation in the Firm. I also founded and was first President of the
Spanish Coaching Association ( now a member of the European Mentoring and
Coaching Council, EMCC). Now I´m the Honorary President of the Association,
As for my coaching approach, I´m not , as could be inferred, “Tavistockian” in
the sense that I do not always adhere to psychodynamic approaches, if the
work can be done just on the cognitive level , and over the years I see myself
more as an heterodox in coaching, being aware that a great proportion of the
coaching success factors are, first, the will of the client to experience some
changes in their professions/lives; and second, that the “working alliance” with
the coachee is also a highly weighted success factor. Always with a bias
towards being a sounding board and in some respects the bearer of the “Third
Opinion” , borrowing the term from an American distingished professional Saj-
Nicole. In a conversation with Peter Senge published a few years ago, she
states that executives have a “First” opinión, not yet clarified, not yet ready to
submit to collegiate organs of the organization, fuzzy opinions or views that they
want to develop; the “Second” would be the one expressed by a Board or a
Managing Committee but members of these bodies may have their own hidden
agendas. So it is with the coach, bearer of the Third Opinion that executives
can put to test their minds and projects.
I have also done some work in coaching with politicians in Mexico, Argentina
and Spain. If in my executive coaching I usually wander around a triangle on
whose angles are I, my role, my organization, I have found useful to do some
sort of transposition to another triangje where the angles are a) who am I as a
politician, what was I before politics what will I be after politics?; b) the Political
Party as an organization in which one has to collaborate and compete
intensively and simultaneously; and c) the electorate or the public, and how the
coachee manages these forces, sometimes antagonistic.
Now, in the last lap of my professional life I also dedicate time to training future
coaches, to supervise them and also to write books and articles. In the last 6
years I have written 5 books, In the last , “The happy manager” y try to apply to
organizational environments some of the tenets of Positive Psychology.
I also dedicate some time to teaching in four Spanish Business schools and
also have done some work abroad in English to executives of Spanish
International companies ( speaking English with an Accent can be an asset
when part of the audience have not English as their mother tongue).
As for other future plans, I think that at my age and with the experience I have
accumulated I see myself coaching senior executives ( without disregarding
younger ones) and being their “Third Opinion”.