Co-coaching for ocean conservation

28 Feb 2023 By Alison Maitland

How can coaches best collaborate to bring diverse perspectives and extra value to organisations? Here are some thoughts based on an enjoyable assignment I carried out recently with fellow coach Max Comuzzi for Blue Ventures, a social enterprise whose mission is restoring ocean life in 13 tropical countries.

Blue Ventures does crucial work with vulnerable fisheries and small-scale coastal communities who are often at the sharp end of climate change. Sir David Attenborough has described its work as “a model for everyone working to conserve the natural life-support systems of our troubled planet”.

Coaching impact

Our coaching mission was to support the development of people managers with group and individual sessions over a six-month period. It was hugely worthwhile to play a part in supporting the development of the people carrying out this work for ocean recovery and for the communities that depend on it.

Here’s what Blue Ventures says about the impact of our work: “As the organisation grows fast, developing our leaders and getting the best of our teams is the biggest challenge. Max and Alison built the foundations of a coaching culture at BV by bringing people from different departments together in a safe and courageous environment to exchange ideas and learn and support each other. This allowed us to identify common challenges and enabled a supporting structure among peers that fosters better collaboration across the different departments in our organisation.”

Reflecting on the assignment, these are factors we believe made it work well:

1. Max and I contracted with each other at the start about how we would work
together, and regularly re-contracted during the project. This enabled us to
give each other honest feedback and keep the coaching partnership strong over time.
2. We put considerable effort up-front into creating a safe, stimulating learning
environment, acting as a sounding board for each other’s ideas.
3. We co-designed and tested a light structure for group sessions, with plenty of
space and encouragement for the group to decide the agenda.
4. We acknowledged and drew on each other’s strengths (shout-out for Max’s
tech know-how and huge visual energy!).
5. We introduced a variety of methods from our collective experience to suit
different learning styles. These included learning from our bodies and emotions, guided visualisations, and offline journaling exercises.
6. We co-led group sessions, taking turns to coach and to observe, which gave us a broad mix of insights to offer the group.

Feedback from participants

There was high attendance at the sessions, and positive feedback. Here’s some of the feedback from participants:

  • Max and Alison are compassionate and creative coaches, with a great ability
    to take people on a meaningful journey of reflection.
  • I felt supported but also challenged and empowered, and enjoyed the process of thinking about things in a different way.
  • The coaches were very approachable and ensured the space, both in a
    group and 1:1, was non-judgmental, open, and safe for discussion.
  • They knew when to challenge a thought process or idea – always gently and
    without judgement – and came to the sessions with creativity and energy.
  • They seemed to work together well and I enjoyed the group sessions – an
    exercise which was new to me, and I grew into my 1:1 sessions. I feel more self-aware and clearer of areas where I can grow and move forward with confidence.
  • Working with both Max and Alison has been an eye-opening experience. The
    group coaching sessions enabled the team and me to collaborate in a safe
    space identifying common challenges and possible solutions and creating a
    powerful synergy. The 1-1 sessions enabled me to identify strengths I was not
    fully aware of, navigate uncertainty in times of change, and bring clarity to the
    process when stuck.


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