Kay Hoggett, coach and therapist

Kay Hoggett, coach and therapist

Kay Hoggett had senior leadership roles in international corporates before setting up her own successful business providing consultancy, change management and coaching to large firms. Qualified and experienced in coaching, therapy, NLP and management, she helps people improve their mental wellbeing, navigate challenges and achieve their goals. Louise was introduced to Kay 20 years ago and she was her coach as Louise got her business off the ground.


Coaching and therapy during lockdown


Louise: Presumably your work as a coach and therapist is absolutely dependent on building relationships of trust with your clients. Bringing issues ‘into the room’ and being able to pick up on the subtleties of body language are vital. How are you finding remote working?


Kay: Normally I would work face to face with most clients, and I must admit that I wouldn’t have chosen to move to working solely remotely. You are right about the centrality of the relationship, and I was concerned that this might be an issue, especially with new clients. Would I be able to foster a sense of connection and trust with someone who has never met me, and who might need to share material that they have never spoken of before?


In the event though, I have found that it does work effectively. Clients have adapted really well, and there is evidence that some people find it easier to voice difficult thoughts and feelings when there is some distance – I have noticed this myself. I already had some experience of remote coaching and therapy and had educated myself about it. And whilst coaching and therapy are a much more intimate experience, I probably was also helped by my years of working as a consultant, when remote meetings were a normal part of my working life.


We read a lot about how people are struggling with isolation, anxiety and depression at the moment. Do you think there is sufficient support for those who need it?


Sadly there isn’t, either in ‘normal’ times or now. Support via the NHS is limited and patchy, although some areas do have good services. The biggest issue in my opinion is that it’s very difficult to get longer term therapy, and this is often what is needed. This is where charities and private practitioners come in. As well as my private practice, I volunteer with a charity, and we offer affordable longer term counselling, although unfortunately there is a waiting list. The Samaritans do a wonderful job – it’s not therapy, but a great service of non-judgmental listening, and I would recommend anyone who feels they need immediate support to contact them.


What would you say to someone who is reluctant to ask for help?


It’s understandable that people can feel reluctant. The prospect of talking to a complete stranger about our innermost thoughts and feelings can be daunting. And some feel that asking for help implies weakness, an attitude not helped by the stigma that still exists to some extent about mental health issues (although I’m glad to say there has been huge improvement).


“But getting the right help can be life changing. I would say, try it and see.”


It’s important to check that the service or therapist you contact is a member of a professional body (mine is the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)). The BACP has an ethical framework we all abide by; it ensures that we put your – the client’s – wellbeing at the heart of all that we do. And, with private therapy at least, you are perfectly entitled to try more than one therapist, to see who is a good fit for you.

A time of change


You were a huge help to me, as my coach, when I was getting my business off the ground 20 years ago. Since lockdown began, I have again felt that ‘start-up buzz’ – a strong desire to make things work, a sense of urgency (this is no time to take anything for granted, after all) and a greater openness to trying new things. I imagine this is fairly common among some of the people you work with (or am I weird?!)…?


Haha, one of the things I’ve learned in all my years of working with people is that there is no such thing as weird! It sounds as though you have a strong drive to make the most of this time, and yes, I have noticed this in many people at the moment. There is a sense that we have an opportunity to change things for the better, whether that’s to make real progress on climate change, to reconsider our working arrangements, or to really examine our understanding of and record on diversity and equality.


You have said (on LinkedIn) that you are working on something new – and finding it hard. Your advice to yourself was: ‘…take the next step, and stay curious about what that brings’. How is it going?


Ah yes, I guess the project is my own personal version of the drive to make the most of this time. I am writing a book, The Confidence Trick, for the 75% of women who sometimes lack confidence at work. I’ve noticed that many of my high performing female clients doubt and downplay their own talent, performance and potential, so it’s a guide for overcoming self doubt and finding success and happiness at work and in life. I’m weaving together what I’ve found to be the most effective insights and tools from coaching, NLP, therapy and neuroscience, to inspire and enable professional women to find their authentic confidence. It’s going well so far, in the sense that there is progress – taking the next step day by day!


Throughout your career you have advised, coached and supported a huge number of business leaders. What do you think are the essential ingredients for a good leader, thinking especially about the attributes and skills that are required in times of upheaval and change?


I think leaders (all of us in fact) benefit from self awareness and the ability to be flexible – leaders need to be able to leverage different competencies and styles in different situations. Goleman, Boyatzkis and McKee explain this well in their book ‘Primal Leadership’. A lot depends on the scale and nature of the upheaval and change, which will be different in different companies and different industries, as we’ve seen this year. For food and bicycle retailers there has been opportunity, for cash-strapped hospitality businesses a real crisis. Crisis can justify short term command-style leadership – ‘just do what I tell you’ – but the stress and anxiety this invokes in teams means it cannot be justified for long.


“A visionary leadership style can be important for businesses that see opportunity or a need for radical re-orientation. But I’d say the most fundamental skill alongside self awareness and flexibility is communication. From empathy to consultation, coaching and collaboration, communication skills are key to successful leadership.”

Lockdown joy?


You emailed me a few weeks ago and I loved the way you asked how I was doing – ‘lockdown joy or lockdown hell?’. Your work brings you into contact with loads of different people. On the whole, how are they finding lockdown?


I’d say it’s very variable, depending on each person’s preferences and circumstances. For a person who is more introverted, has the facilities to work from home, and who is not having to juggle caring responsibilities with work, it can be a real joy. But a more extroverted person who thrives on being with others most of the time, or someone whose only working option is to sit on their bed, or a parent of a young child needing care and education, is more likely to long for a return to ‘normality’. Then of course there is the large number of key workers, who are not locked down from a work perspective, but are affected by the situation, and may be worrying about family and friends. So, there’s no one size fits all – as in all of human and business life.


“I really hope that employers will now offer as much flexibility as possible, rather than returning to the old model, or jumping to a 100% home-based solution. Candidates will favour employers who can do this and businesses will benefit from a motivated and engaged workforce.”


I read an article about the benefits (for some people) of working from home. It suggested that working from home doesn’t require people to ‘fit in’ in the same way that office life does – meaning they will be judged on the quality of their work rather than their personality / their chat. What do you think?


I think there may be something in that. There’s research showing that ‘blind’ assessment of job applications and academic assignments, in which candidate/student names (which often reveal gender and ethnicity) are removed, results in different outcomes than when they are known. So, people are affected by bias in assessing others, and that might be relevant in what you mention. If a person ‘looks right’ and ‘sounds right’ in the office, their work might be judged differently than the work of someone who doesn’t tick those boxes.


I read an equally interesting article – by you, in fact! – about introversion. Lockdown suits introverts, does it not?


Yes, it is more likely to suit a person who is more on the introverted side of the introversion-extroversion scale. One aspect of these personality traits is from the perspective of energy drain and replenishment. An extrovert finds that being with groups of people in sometimes busy and noisy environments energises them and makes them feel good. Conversely, they may find being alone uncomfortable and alien, and will make an effort to be with other people again.


An introvert, on the other hand, feels comfortable being alone and uses alone time to recharge their batteries. They are likely to find environments like busy open plan offices tiring and uncomfortable; it drains their energy. So a more introverted person might well enjoy lockdown life. (Just to be clear – it’s easy to mistake this tendency for a dislike of people. But introverts do like people, and can deal with busy environments – they just prefer quieter ones, and the opportunity for reflective conversation with a smaller group. And also for clarity – there is a myth that introverted people can’t be good leaders. You yourself have told me you are an introvert, but you founded and run a successful people-oriented business. And few would doubt that Nelson Mandela was a great leader.)


So for you – lockdown joy or lockdown hell?


There are positive aspects for sure. I’ve enjoyed the sense of having more time, and the opportunity to work on The Confidence Trick. But I do miss seeing friends and family, and seeing clients face to face. A holiday would be nice too!


Interview originally published in June 2020.