Kate Pearce is the founder and Executive Director of Personified, a leadership development firm that specialises in coaching. In the heavy market of talent management, Kate’s commitment to innovative service design has seen the business grow through her reputation for bringing both a business and people lens into coaching solutions. Committed to evidence-based practice, Kate brings over 15 years of senior leadership experience and holds formal qualifications across psychology, leadership and business. She is an Associate Member of global coaching body, Association for Coaching, and is accredited across a range of psychometric tools.
How has COVID shifted your business?
As for many businesses, COVID fundamentally changed Personified. Prior to the pandemic all our services were local and face-to-face and overnight these all needed to move online and be delivered to a high standard for the business to remain viable.
We now still deliver over half of our services virtually and people’s newfound comfort online has opened the door to interstate and international clients. In such a heavy market it never ceases to be exciting to have an international client choose to engage with us over their local options, particularly when these are through word-of-mouth referrals.
What changes have you seen in leaders seeking coaching since COVID?
People have certainly moved into a more reflective space and because of the complexity of work, I am noticing that senior leaders are using coaching more to navigate specific strategic challenges. Leaders are seeking the time to slow down to unpack these challenges, have their thinking stretched and consider what they might be missing. Prior to COVID these conversations were more largely centred on the leader’s personal development.
Interestingly, this shift aligns with The World Economic Forum’s ‘Top 10 Skills of 2025’, with half of the predicted skills falling under the ‘problem solving’ category. This category includes areas such as analytical thinking, innovation, complex problem-solving and creativity. We are certainly observing leaders struggling to practice these skills when there is so much happening day-to-day.
Another change I am seeing are more fathers in executive roles planning their exit strategy if flexibility is not being offered. This is particularly new for my corporate client base, as despite the subject of work-life-balance previously being discussed, clients tended to accept constraints ‘as just the way things are’ when in a senior role.
These are high performing employees and forward-thinking organisations are actively and almost too easily snapping them up by ensuring flexibility is on the table. In saying this, I think it’s important to acknowledge how far things still need to shift for this to become a reality for most people, particularly marginalised groups, for which COVID has both highlighted and exacerbated many existing employment inequalities.
People often equate coaching with one-one-one professional development conversations
but how else can you use coaching in a business?
I think of coaching as more broadly creating the space for thinking and businesses are struggling to prioritise this space to support performance across key areas, such as strategy and innovation. The shifts that COVID has created also raises some interesting questions around what businesses should be doing to support this, particularly when our use of ‘physical’ space also now looks so different.
As both a mindset and a practice, coaching can support people to adopt exploration and experimentation, as well as support the appetite for risk that is required to take up these practices. Fear of failure can be particularly detrimental to both intrapreneurship and decision making in our workplaces.
We use coaching across a wide range of business areas including strategic planning, business transformation and of course, leadership development. Clients come to us knowing we will be just as interested in how their business functions are supporting performance as we are an individual and much of our work is now at a group and organisational level.
I also stay closely involved in coaching and mentoring within the start-up space as I see a lot of opportunity for organisations and start-ups to collaborate and cross-share skills. I love that these new ventures are navigating an almost contradictory challenge to the corporate businesses we work with – the innovation is often there but the money is not!
Regardless of whether you’re an organisation or a start-up, there is an important balance between innovation and action that needs to be struck and coaching provides an effective way to explore the tension that can arise between the two.
What is your favourite coaching question?
‘How would you approach the challenge if it had nothing to do with you?’
Leaders who come for coaching typically bring a desire for self-improvement, however, this can often block consideration of other factors that may be influencing a situation because the leader is so focused on exploring what they can change about themselves. I find it very impactful for people to be encouraged to temporarily remove themselves from a challenge and consider the other influences they might be missing.
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