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Interview with Amicus Associate, Emilie West

May 17, 2024

An interview with Published Author, Emilie West

Welcome Emilie can you give us a bit of background on your career history and what has led to what you do now?

I started my career as a graduate trainee in Corporate Finance at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein and quickly moved to Emerging Markets Fixed-Income research. I loved the fast pace of working on a trading floor and the intellectual challenge of research but quickly realised I didn’t love spending hours focused on an excel spreadsheet! After 4 years I moved banks into the business management side of research at RBS. I developed my management skills and ultimately was fast-tracked into a leadership position, heading up the research department at 32.  I loved the people side of the business and thrived at RBS where I gained lots of great management experience. My final role there was to setup a leadership coaching team for Corporate & Institutional Banking.  

After 14 years in Investment Banking, I decided to leave and setup my own business, Alchemy Consulting Group, to work both as a 1:1 coach and as a business consultant, helping my clients thrive in their careers and grow their businesses.

Why Coaching?

I was always looking for tools and techniques to help me to be a better leader for my team and to develop a positive and resilient mindset for myself. It was during my training as a coach, whilst working at RBS, that I learnt how powerful coaching tools can be to become an effective and compassionate leader and to improve the quality of our relationships.  It was this transformative experience that made me want to start my own coaching practice and help others benefit from the valuable tools and insights that coaching can provide.

What’s the best part of your job?

I help my clients to have amore rewarding and enjoyable experience of work, which is so important, especially because of the amount of time they spend at work and the impact they can have on their colleagues.  I’m thrilled every time a client tells me that a technique I’ve shared has helped make a difficult situation less-stressful, or that they’ve achieved one of their career goals, whether that’s being a better leader, getting promoted or starting their own business.  I feel truly grateful to be part of their career journeys.

You recently covered a workshop ‘Developing Your Coaching Leadership Style’ at the Amicus Leadership Conference 2024, which went down very well. What would be some quick wins that individuals could adopt to improve their coaching skills?

Learning to listen and not jump in with solutions is a key skill that you learn as a coach and is essential to good leadership. It is also important to ask open questions, that can’t be answered with a Yes or a No, so that you leave space for the other person to share their ideas and you don’t force them into a binary answer.

I recommend that if someone in your team comes to you with a problem, ask at least two open questions before you start discussing a solution. It’s amazing how asking just one extra question can lead to a different, and often better, solution.

In the workshop participants had to coach each other by only asking open questions and not giving any solutions. They were all surprised at how effective those conversations were, even though they were itching to share their own opinions!

As a leader, what are the benefits of having a coach?

It can be lonely at the top and one of the biggest benefits is having someone you can speak to in confidence who can help you find practical solutions to the challenges you face.  Another benefit of working with a coach is to help you stay focused on achieving your key goals, rather than getting stuck in the day-to-day minutiae of running a business. My senior clients feel under a lot of pressure, and I also help them to develop a more resilient mindset and develop effective ways to reduce their stress levels.  

What are you reading at the moment?

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, by Chris Voss . Chris, a former FBI hostage negotiator, focuses on using listening skills, open questions, and empathy to succeed in high-stakes negotiations. As a career coach I often help my clients with negotiations, whether it’s on their compensation, business deals or hiring new people. I’ve been enjoying the insights and have already shared some tips from this book with my clients.

A fascinating fact about you?

As well as having a degree in Economics, I also have a degree in Nutritional Therapy. I studied Nutrition alongside my job in banking, having had my own experience of ill-health and burnout early on in my career. I now enjoy helping others live healthy lives both through 1:1 consultations and running corporate wellbeing workshops.

Can you share a memorable success story where your leadership skills made a significant impact on a situation?

As a leader one of your most important roles is hiring and developing capable people.  I remember interviewing internal candidates for a role in my team and being pressured by a senior colleague to select a particular candidate who I didn’t think had the right attitude.  Instead of taking the easy route by bowing to this pressure, I selected a candidate who wasn’t the obvious choice but who had a growth mindset and I could see would thrive in the role.  By advocating for the candidate and saying that I would assume the risk if the hire didn’t work out, I was able to get their sign off. The candidate turned out to be a great hire and I was glad to have stuck to my guns.  

"As a leader you need to be willing to make unpopular decisions and have the communication and influencing skills to argue your position.  It’s also important to know when to stick to your guns and when it’s worth compromising"


In your opinion, what are the key qualities that differentiate effective leaders from average ones?

Curiosity, the ability to inspire and bring people with you, learning from and being able to admit your mistakes and quickly moving people on who aren’t in the right role.  I also think self-awareness is key, understanding your strengths, weaknesses and blind spots and being able to lead authentically.  

What advice do you have for individuals aspiring to become better leaders in their organisations?

Take control of your own development rather than relying on your company to provide you with training or waiting for your boss to develop you. Build a personal curriculum of all the skills, knowledge and experience you need to achieve your goals and then work through it.  Attend courses to build your influencing, coaching, communication and management skills, and find leaders whose styles resonate with you, to learn from. Then make time to put what you’re learning into practice, each week pick a skill you want to get better at, whether that’s active listening or your presenting skills, and take every opportunity to practice it.

Of course, I also recommend getting a coach to help you to build your skills and self-awareness. Last year I wrote a book: ‘Maximum You. Embrace the Power of Being Yourself’, as a self-coaching tool to help people to better understand themselves and it’s full of practical exercises and advice that will help the readers better relate to themselves and others.

What do you do to wind down at the end of a busy day or something you incorporate into your week to ensure you avoid the dreaded ‘burn out’?

When I’m working from home I like to get out of the house for some fresh air at the end of the day and go for a walk with my dog, I also like listening to podcasts that aren’t work related.  When I’m in London I always take the opportunity to catch up with friends and love to walk around the West End.

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