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Barbara Bassa

Barbara Bassa is a senior consultant, executive coach and programme director for a number of national and bespoke leadership development programmes at Advance HE with over twenty years’ experience in higher education. She completed her Masters in Organisational Development and Coaching and Mentoring in 2013 and has delivered over 3000 coaching sessions since then, both in the UK and internationally.
Advance HE
Job Title
Senior consultant, executive coach and programme director

Inclusive, compassionate and authentic leadership have been the focus of her work, helping leaders find their unique voice and shape the future of the HE sector in the UK and beyond. She specialises in supporting leaders going through transitions – moving into senior strategic roles, personal change and / or organisational change.

Barbara adopts a person-centred, humanistic, positive approach to coaching. She helps coachees achieve optimal outcomes based on the exploration of their current realities and their connection with their deepest part of Self: their true identity, values, purpose and legacy. 

She draws on approaches from Business management and leadership development, Gestalt, Positive Psychology, psychology of achievement, Appreciative Inquiry, Solution-Focused approaches, Neurology, Fierce Conversations and Non-Violent Communication.

Building on her work with Otto Scharmer and the team at the Presencing Institute of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she encourages her coachees to embrace their ego, eco and intuitive intelligences and wisdom when leading people and organisations:
•    Embracing the ego intelligence invites coachees to look into who they are as a leader, what they bring that is unique and specific to them, what drives them, what their core values are, the legacy they want to leave behind, what and who they deeply care about, what their blind spots and barriers for achieving optimal results are.
•    Embracing the eco aspects of leadership looks at what it is like to be on the receiving end of a person as a leader, how they build trust, motivate their teams, engage their stakeholders, how they cooperate with others, resolve conflict, communicate effectively and have impact, lead change, hold difficult conversations; how they make tough strategic decisions with integrity and heart; and align the individual values with organisational mission and vision. 
•    Embracing the intuitive knowing allows leaders to give legitimacy to their deepest sense of who they are and bring that powerfully into their work. They learn how to navigate rough and often unpredictable organisational terrains whist staying true to themselves. It looks at how they can increase their creativity and innovation and adopt more courageous approaches when communicating and leading others.

Coaching experience in Higher Education:

Barbara has delivered over 3,000 coaching sessions at various levels of leadership development with higher education. She has worked with early career leaders, heads of departments and directors in professional services up to senior leaders sitting on executive teams.
She has provided both individual and group coaching for clients in Higher Education in the UK, and worked with coachees from Canada, Australia and the USA.

 She has supported leaders and executive teams in the NHS, government bodies, housing associations, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies, manufacturing, banking, insurance, aviation and IT sectors, in the UK and internationally.

Examples of issues explored in coaching sessions

The challenges addressed by my clients in the coaching relationship include: 
•    managing a transition to a new (senior) leadership role, 
•    leading a faculty or department through restructure and mergers, 
•    managing personal change and transition,
•    exploring career progression – vertical and horizontal options 
•    leadership development and 360 feedback sessions 
•    increasing resilience and personal wellbeing, 
•    managing workloads and effective team management, 
•    improving teams’ performance and reputation
•    developing trust and building inclusive healthy departmental cultures, 
•    improving key relationships,
•    influencing strategic change,
•    preparing for difficult / transformational conversations, 
•    tackling unconscious bias,
•    unravelling issues of belonging,
•    increasing impact and visibility of senior women leaders,
•    developing international collaboration,
•    aligning personal values with organisational direction,
•    developing creativity and innovation.

Professional background

Barbara works for Advance HE as a Senior Consultant, executive coach and Programme Director. She heads a number of national and bespoke leadership development programmes for the Higher Education Sector, including Aurora, Senior Women’s Leadership Development, Transforming Leadership Programme, and Transformative Conversations Programme. She also leads on Organisational Wellbeing initiatives. 
Barbara helps individuals and organisations transform their leadership, in order for them: 
•    to create inclusive and thriving cultures, 
•    to shape the Unknown into the inspirational New, 
•    to recognise true human potential and unique contributions; and 
•    to ensure effectiveness of strategic decision-making.

Following a career in Europe where Barbara managed business consultancy for high tech organisations such as Microsoft Great Plains, Gold Mine, and Lufthansa Systems Poland, working globally and across diverse sectors (including governmental bodies, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing, banking, aviation and IT), she moved to the UK in 2007 and started a career in higher education. 

She worked for Sheffield Hallam University and The University of Sheffield and then across the HE sector in the UK and in Europe as an independent consultant. She led change and managed programmes in areas related both to student (access, widening participation, student recruitment and support) and staff (HR, organisational and leadership development).
She directed and delivered university-wide leadership development programmes for senior leaders and executive teams, including over 3,000 coaching sessions. 

She cares deeply about holistic development and realising human potential. She believes that systemic and societal change has to start with individual courage to look honestly within and increase one’s level of consciousness from separation and polarisation to unity and love. Her work is driven by the values of honesty, transparency, creativity, integrity and collaboration. 

Qualifications and accreditations, including Tools:

•    Leading from the Emerging Future, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
•    MSc in Organisational Development - Coaching and Mentoring,  Sheffield Hallam University, 
•    Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resources 
•    Postgraduate Diploma in PR and Social Communication  
•    Master of Business Administration (Management and Marketing), University of Gdansk,
•    Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy 
•    Fierce Conversations Accredited Facilitator 
•    Real World HETLQ, TMP–360 
•    Accredited facilitator of McCann’s Window on Work Values Profile 
•    Mindfulness Teacher Accreditation, Mindfulness Association
•    Mindfulness in Wellbeing and Performance, Monash University 
•    Mental Health Adviser, UMHAN (University Mental Health Advisers Network)

Case studies

1)    Coaching for a Vice- President and Head of Faculty
Client Issue: Moving to a new role, addressing challenges of underperforming faculty 
Approach: Through a series of one-to-one sessions, Barbara helped the VP and Head of Faculty develop confidence in his leadership style and decide on the best approaches to address the issues of underperformance across the faculty. We have used Time to Think approaches to create a safe space for deep personal exploration and solution focussed approaches to help with practical issues facing the faculty. Between the sessions the client had an opportunity to implement his decisions, test new approaches both practically and through further explorations with executive board members. 

Following on from the individual sessions, Barbara run coaching sessions for the whole executive team to help them operationalise the strategic plan and develop a consistent approach across the faculty. 
Outcome: a strong operationalised strategic plan has been developed and implemented. The faculty’s performance and reputation has significantly improved in the 18 months following the development work. 

2)    Executive Team Coaching in a University department
Client Issue: driven by financial pressures and essential cost cutting, two departments in a Medical School were joined together through a merger. Two years after the transition the financial situation has become more stable. However, the teams were still working in silos, spread across 5 geographical locations as two separate departments, with duplicated processes and structures, with no clear vision and strategic direction from the departmental leadership. A new head of department was brought in to consolidate changes, create visible and supportive executive leadership, culture of openness and transparency.

Approaches: Working with the Head of Department directly to ascertain the priorities for the department and the timescales for developing a new culture. Being new to the role, the HOD initially needed support in developing his confidence and unique leadership style. We then concentrated on defining how the culture of openness and transparency could be achieved through developing consistent leadership at the executive level.

Following on from individual meetings, a group coaching approach was developed and implemented in two stages:
•    Stage one: focussed on establishing a common understanding of the purpose of the executive team, individual roles and responsibilities and at building trust, collaborative working and appreciating the strengths of each member of the team. The group agreed on the vision for the department and strategic and operational approaches to implement it
•    Stage two: after 3 months we reviewed how the discussed approaches had been implemented and the impact of those on the executive working together and the wider department 
Outcomes: Following on from the team coaching, the executive team have implanted further changes in the department, developed new communication plans, an open door policy, reviewed team structures and implemented mentoring opportunities. Subsequent staff surveys indicated increase in staff satisfaction by 20-30% in core areas: trust in management and leadership of the department, collaboration, better understanding of the departmental priorities and more defined identity.

Testimonials from previous coachees

“I met Barbara as part of a coaching programme for our department executive team. I was very impressed by her coaching skills. Her approach was thoughtful, engaging and tailored to our needs. She rapidly overcame the initial reluctance, winning trust and interest from the group. At the end of the first session everyone was very complimentary and thought it was time well spent”
Director of a University’s Institute

“Barbara is an excellent coach and facilitator - one of the best I have worked with. She has the ability to engage groups and individuals, even the most reluctant of individuals! Leadership and management development is her key area of strength, working at all levels of an organisation from the executive down.”
Deputy Director in the NHS, previously HR Manager at a University

“Barbara is an excellent facilitator and coach. She has an open and honest style, which creates a positive atmosphere in which to learn and develop. She challenges existing patterns of thought which have made me rethink my management practice. I thoroughly recommend her and have hugely enjoyed her sessions”.
Head of Academic Practice & Skills Development at a University 

“Barbara is a natural, intuitive coach who sees the bigger picture in what you are saying and instinctively knows when to question and challenge your beliefs and assumptions. She is excellent at working out the level of challenge that will move you forward in your thinking and she gives you plenty of space to reflect deeply on the issues you are considering. I got a lot out of my coaching sessions with Barbara and the results are still with me months later. I would definitely recommend her to others.”
Director of the International Office at a University 

Knowledge Hub resources from Barbara Bassa


Wellbeing as a strategic imperative – the management response

27 Jun, 2022

The Board's role in wellbeing as a strategic imperative

17 May, 2022

Turning challenging conversations into transformative ones

21 Oct, 2021