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Interview with Victoria Chardon - Leader at Google and Co-Founder of Rising Star Leadership Coaching

Victoria Chardon is an ICF certified Executive Coach and a manager at Google. She is a member of Google’s coaching advisory council and the co-founder of Rising Star Leadership, a successful coaching consultancy focused on helping people take the lead in their personal and professional lives. She is a passionate advocate for breaking down mental health stigma in the workplace and has had roles within Google leading mental health initiatives as well as participating in panel discussions on the topic.

Victoria Chardon, Google Leader & Executive Coach
Victoria Chardon, Google Leader & Executive Coach


Who is Victoria?


I am a wife, a manager, a leader, a coach, a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, a writer, a dog mum, an advocate, a mentor. But these are all just labels that we apply to make sense of our identity. The truth is that just like you, I’m a human being who is trying to navigate this thing called life — and I try and help others navigate it, too.


How are you helping people to do that?


Directly, I’m helping people through my coaching work, both at Google and via my own business. Whether it’s a one-off, powerful coaching conversation or an ongoing coaching engagement, my aim is always the same: to help my clients reach a deeper understanding of themselves and what they want and to walk towards their goals. Indirectly, I’m doing many other things. By being a compassionate leader, I’m invested in creating a psychologically safe and motivated team who feels nurtured and supported not only in their daily work but on their career journeys. By speaking up about my past mental health challenges, I’m creating space for others having similar experiences and letting them know they’re not alone. Ultimately, I’m a big believer in the shared human experience.


Coaching is growing in popularity. What can you tell us about coaching that we don’t already know?


Coaching is about creating a safe, non-judgemental space for an individual or group to explore their own thoughts and feelings, in order to move towards their goals. These goals can be personal or professional; there’s almost always an overlap. We can compartmentalise all we want, but beneath the surface, the person we are at work and the person we are outside meet and influence each other on some level. Coaching helps us to uncover all the layers. It can feel therapeutic, but it’s not therapy.


How do you recommend finding a good coach?


Great question! Finding a coach can feel overwhelming. Many coaches these days have an area of expertise which can help narrow the search, but a good coach should be able to coach any person on any topic. What is more important is the chemistry between you. Here’s a few suggestions to help you find your ideal coach:

  • Ask your network if anyone has a recommendation for a coach they’ve worked with personally.

  • Check the coach’s background, training and experience. Formal training indicates that a coach has invested time and money into learning the craft, has had supervision from a master coach, and has done exams. A credential from the ICF, AC, or EMCC is a good indicator too, as this means they are required to work according to a strict code of ethics. There are some great coaches out there without these credentials though, so this can be tricky; I’d look out for strong endorsements in that case.

  • Almost all coaches will offer you a free taster session. This is your chance - and theirs - to see if you’re a fit. I’ve turned down potential clients who I didn’t feel the right chemistry with. I can’t stress enough how important this ‘click’ is — trust your intuition!

What kind of coach are you?


I subscribe to the school of thought that we coach the whole person and not just the topic. When I start a session with a client and they tell me their topic, it’s almost never the real issue - it’s an open door to what really matters to them. I do a lot of ‘leadership coaching’, but I use the term broadly. Leadership isn’t just about the position you hold professionally - it’s about how you show up across your life. That’s why we called our business ‘Rising Star Leadership’. The definition of a rising star is ‘a person who is likely to be successful’. We support our clients to be successful in whatever it is that they set out to do — and they take the lead in making that happen.


You’ve been on the receiving end of coaching, too. What difference has coaching made to your life?


I originally started working with a coach because I was struggling with imposter syndrome at Google. I was in my first leadership position and in every meeting, I felt like I was in the wrong room. I’d never been coached before, and I was surprised at how deep the process took me; halfway through the first session, I was in tears and mortified about it! I laugh looking back because one of the biggest obstacles I’ve overcome though coaching is to stop pushing away my vulnerabilities. I’m empathetic and highly sensitive, and I’d rejected this side of myself my whole adult life. Women have learned not to show these traits if they want to be successful. I’ve realised that you can be a woman, and be a leader, and be vulnerable, and be successful. It’s certainly been a journey, but I’ve come out of it stronger, more aware of who I am, and much clearer on the difference I want to make in my corner of the world.


You have a business background as well as a coaching one. How important is coaching in a business context?


Firstly, companies are waking up to the fact that coaching is a skill that business leaders need. It’s not enough anymore to expect the top-down style of leadership to be effective, and I think we will see this style phase out over time as younger generations entering the workforce have different expectations and ambitions. Leaders need to understand situational leadership to be effective in managing their people — they need to recognise when to tell, when to advise, when to coach, and when to delegate. Secondly, coaching has a role to play in staff development. Traditionally, executive coaching has been aimed at the top level. The truth is that coaching can benefit everyone, no matter their level. Imagine a company where everyone was genuinely motivated to reach their full potential - what would be possible? This year Rising Star Leadership started offering a corporate programme to help companies that are ready to incorporate this mindset. We’re helping them to grow their non-exec levels into top performing leaders, and I’m excited to see the impact this is already having in their business.


Thank you Victoria! Final question: tell us something surprising about you!


I have an impulsive, adventurous streak which a lot of people don’t see! I’ve traveled to unusual places, jumped out of a plane, and paraglided on skis. Often these experiences are spur of the moment and I’ve definitely had moments where I’ve regretted them. I’m also a huge fan of Formula 1 and rollercoasters. I suppose there’s a secret adrenaline junkie in me somewhere!


For more information, follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and visit my website!


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