People often ask me how I combine working as a Data Protection Officer (DPO) and a professional coach. At first glance, the roles might not seem to have anything in common. But how true is that? For fun, I’ve considered some similarities and differences. What else might you add?
Confidentiality is the first rule of the coaching relationship, and whatever is shared in a coaching session is done so safely and securely, unless there is a safeguarding risk. As a DPO, I support an organisation to create a secure environment for personal data and to build trust for the individuals it serves and works with. This can only be done if I can provide a safe space to share your issues, and you can do so without fear of judgement.
Curiosity is my superpower. A curious coach enables you to piece together the experiences, feelings, aspirations and patterns that will give you clarity, provide insight and improve your self-awareness. I’m listening closely and looking for subtexts, subtleties of expression, links between what is said and what remains unsaid. Likewise, where data protection is concerned, if I can ask the right questions, I’ll get the information that will offer insight on how your data works and where the risks lie.
Partnership – I’m big on collaboration. As a DPO, I need to consider people’s rights so I need colleagues to be open about what they want to do with the data and systems they want to use so that they can explore ways to do this securely and within the law. A coaching partnership means working to your agenda, listening to what you want to explore next after a moment of insight or checking you’re still on track for your session outcome.
Expertise – As a client or an organisation, you are the expert on who you are, what you do and what you want to achieve. There is certainly no advisory element in pure coaching (that would be mentoring or consulting) as there may be as a DPO. As a coaching client, you’ll be counting on my ability to combine appropriate skills, techniques and experience to enable you to find the answers for yourself, not relying on my in-depth knowledge of a regulatory framework.
Accountability – whether you want to make progress in your personal or professional life, or you want to ensure your organisation does the right thing, being accountable – to yourself or your stakeholders – will keep you on track to achieve the outcomes you are seeking. I do not make the decisions, nor do I advise on how things should be done. I create the space for you to explore the options available and that are congruent with your values, whether personal or organisational. Whether I am a DPO or a coach, I can help you to work out how to make this happen.
Growth – The personal development required is intense and constantly evolving. Both roles require extensive training, professional certification and CPD, so I am never bored! I'm always on the lookout for new learning opportunities – whether that's reading the latest Brené Brown, or changes to Cookie consent rules.
As I say, just a bit of fun. I like to think anyone can wear more than one hat, depending on the occasion. If this sparks any thoughts for you, do post a comment, or feel free to get in touch.