He was the founding chief executive of The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology – what The Sunday Times called “the university of the future” – where he developed a symbiotic and ethical integration of HE and global business; delivered a revolution in the funding model for university study, and created a truly student-centric institution.
Prior to Dyson, Duncan built and ran a leadership development company, consulting to organisations in the UK and overseas to support them to unlock the leadership potential of their staff. He has delivered leadership programmes and workshops to thousands of participants from across the UK, US and Asia. He has also served on the boards of a social justice charity and an inner-London academy. He began his commercial career at Procter & Gamble.
Sector and seniority:
Duncan has hundreds of hours of coaching experience in a variety of cultural and institutional contexts, and has experience working with individuals at every level of an organisation. Though his career has focussed on education and business, he has coached individuals from a range of sectors including professional services, criminal justice, charitable, technology, financial services, education and health.
Coaching approach and influences:
Most coaches will focus on a single need – "I'm a high-performance coach"; "I'm a wellbeing coach"; "I'm a communication coach", "I'm a leadership coach". But what happens when you hire a productivity coach to help a colleague manage their workload, when their disorganisation is just the symptom, and imposter syndrome the cause?
Duncan is an integrative executive coach: his approach to coaching recognises that an organisation is made up of unique individuals with nuanced needs that can't be put in a box. He works to offer the exact support his client is looking for, moment by moment, to help them navigate the change they’re going through, or create the change they want to make. He would describe his coaching as optimistic, dynamic and challenging.
He believes that, in order to make progress with any topic, four things must be in place: an ethical coaching space of acceptance, recognition and optimism; an open, committed and honest client, who brings a clear challenge or ambition to each session; a listening, observing and questioning coach, who brings a mixing deck of coaching skills to the table; and an action-oriented coaching process – you can learn more at www.duncanpiperblake.com.
Examples of topics explored in sessions:
Transitions (new role/institution/location)
Health and wellbeing
New ways of working
As the founding chief executive of The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, Duncan championed an ambitious widening participation strategy – in its second year, 40% of Dyson’s new Undergraduate Engineers were female, vs. a national average of 15%. He placed mental health at the heart of the provision, and incorporated professional coaching into the organisation from the outset: each Undergraduate Engineer met with their leadership coach once per month, and executive coaching was made available to all members of The Dyson Institute team.
He oversaw the development and delivery of multi-million pound infrastructure programmes (including the award-winning new campus, Dyson Village), developed the team to deliver this new and ambitious type of education and ensured the organisation’s governance could meet its rapidly evolving needs.
The Dyson Institute became the first new higher education institution to join the Register at the Office for Students, and the first to be granted New Degree Awarding Powers under the Higher Education and Research Act (2017).
Qualifications and accreditations
Member of the Trusted Coach Directory
Member of the International Coaching Federation
Certified Professional Coach (International Coach Academy)
Associate Certified Coach (International Coaching Federation)
Coaching Fundamentals (Co-Active Training Institute)
Case study 1
Coached the CEO of a multimillion-pound UK charity during a period of rapid growth and changing ways of working post COVID. The coaching created a space for him to consider his strategic priorities for the year, build an increasingly transparent relationship with his board, hone his approach to increasing employee engagement, broker better working relationships on his executive team and develop insight into his leadership strengths.
Case study 2
Coached a Partner of a professional services firm who, though exceptional in his customer-facing work, needed some support to help him invest in his internal communications. The coaching also helped to develop effective time-management techniques to allow him to manage an increasing scope of responsibilities more effectively. During the coaching programme, he was promoted to lead a new practice area – the coaching went on to focus on how to deliver core business fundamentals to the practice whilst ensuring he gave due attention to his own physical and mental wellbeing in a fast-paced and high-stress environment.
Case study 3
Coached a data-driven Vice President at a leading financial services firm during a period of significant expansion. In this highly matrixed organisation, he had significant responsibility but more limited authority to execute his objectives. The coaching honed in on a need to build his capacity for empathy and bring his colleagues with him – to lead beyond his authority. It also created an accountability structure to support him to invest time in the activities that would have the most significant impact on the business’ performance.
Case study 4
Coached a new Head of Department in the NHS who was working to bring significant cultural change to her national team – the department had previously lacked leadership and had become an inefficient and turgid operation. She was also younger than many of the individuals she was managing – the coaching supported her to navigate her own imposter syndrome, lead with authenticity, define her priorities and her boundaries, and begin to deliver the transformational results that were expected of her department.
Case study 5
Coached the Head of Conduct of a global financial services company who was struggling with her prioritisation and with her ability to communicate effectively with her board. The coaching supported her to adopt new approaches to time management and adapt her presentation style to ensure that her messages would cut through the noise, be heard and be acted upon at board level.
Case study 6
Coached the Operations Director of a technology company who was struggling to evolve his role as the organisation scaled at pace. He found he was micromanaging – they were becoming a bottleneck, which was undermining the productivity of the organisation. The coaching focussed on how to empower his team, delegate effectively and become more strategic as a senior leader, whilst finding ways to align his own priorities with those of the organisation.
Case study 7
Coached a member of the Strategic Executive Team (C-minus-1) at a leading fin-tech company to support them to increase their assertiveness, reposition their function within the global business and combat their sense of imposter syndrome. The coaching programme focussed on both building more collaborative working relationships across the business and recognising their own value as a business leader.
“The level of accountability that was required of me was very empowering and clarifying. I feel in a short amount of time, I was able to really understand where my blocks were and now have the tools to move through them with measurable results. Duncan has a sound balance between support, accountability, humanity and results which I find will benefit whomever he works with during his career.”
“Duncan has an incredible ability to facilitate self-discovery […] I came away every time with my horizon expanded, my shoulders relaxed and my mind fizzing with excitement at the opportunities and ideas I had uncovered. Working with Duncan gave me precious time to both reflect deeply and move my thinking forward […] Duncan is a fantastic coach with a calm and generous presence, and I look forward to reconnecting in the future.”
“I have had some powerful lightbulb moments that have made immediate, significant and long-lasting improvements.”
“Duncan has a wonderful way of really listening and then getting to the crux of the matter and finding out what is causing things to get stuck - not by imposing his own viewpoint but by asking the right questions. He really helped me refine my goals and the paths to them.”
“Duncan struck a brilliant balance between supporting and reassuring and pushing me to explore and challenge the questions I was bringing to the session. The sessions made me work hard – a great sign of something worthwhile – but were even more rewarding and refreshing.”
“I really valued Duncan’s patience, sense of calm and open demeanour. I came away with clear actions and useful methods which helped me achieve my goal.”
“The sessions were amazing. I felt enlightened and reinvigorated on a professional level. Each session was focused and always led to some goal setting as well as giving me time and space to reflect on my career and current progress. After each session I always came away feeling a sense of achievement.”
“I really valued Duncan's input as my coach. Over the course of six sessions, we worked through a plan that allowed me to develop and test some new collaborative models of practice. We spent time reflecting on managing up and managing down and this has encouraged me to be bolder and try new styles of working, ultimately increasing my confidence as a senior leader.”