Research Paper By Susie Parker
(Life Coach, AUSTRALIA)
Brendan had lost his mojo. Stuck in a job he hated and feeling unfulfilled in his life in general, he came to coaching to find a mechanism that would help him rediscover his passion.
This case study demonstrates how effective and empowering coaching is simply by building rapport and creating a safe, judgement-free environment – as long as the client comes with the commitment to do the work.
The Discovery Session
Brendan is single, in his late 30s and, when we first met, was a pricing team leader for a pharmaceutical wholesaler. He has a BA in Psychology & Computer Programming and another degree in Photography. He is a smart, creative, educated and charming man. He is honest and open and committed to getting his life back on track. To all intents and purposes, he is the perfect client.
Prior to our discovery session, I asked Brendan to fill in a short questionnaire to help me get to know him better. The questions and his answers are listed below:
Q: What do you hope to achieve from coaching?
A: To be happier with my life and with myself.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: Photography, training, change management.
Q: What brings you satisfaction?
A: Creating something beautiful; solving a problem with a creative solution; crafts.
Q: What is your dream?
A: To be a fashion/art photographer; to live off my art; to have a job that allows me to be mobile, not office bound; NOT in a corporate structure, like a sales rep.
Q: What resources do you have?
A: Photography skills; business skills.
Q: What will you do once you achieve your dreams/goals?
A: More of it! Travel more.
When we eventually spoke, he explained that his dream of living off his art was tempered by concerns over not having enough money to live on. He is currently living with his parents so that he can save and buy his own place.
He was miserable in his current job. A natural leader, Brendan had completed a leadership course paid for by his company but, due to structural problems and the company’s unwillingness to embrace change, Brendan was unable to employ his newly honed leadership skills. He felt stifled and undervalued.
It became clear that while his ultimate goal was to live off his art, the reality was that he needed to earn money. The interim goal, therefore, was to find a new job which allowed Brendan to work creatively in a leadership/training role.
The discovery session went well. There was instant rapport and connection, so we planned our first coaching session.
With the goal set during our discovery session, we used this session to look at what options were available to him.
When asked to describe his perfect job, Brendan talked with enthusiasm about being involved in public arts and events from a creative perspective, an artistic director for major events. However, I sensed some unease and enquired as to what this might be.
He explained that his parents weren’t risk takers and he had inherited this trait. I asked him to think of a time in his life when he had taken a risk and was blown away when he recounted the story of how he’d given up a previous safe and lucrative corporate job with Sony to undertake a degree in photography. I think we were both a little taken aback by this revelation. By challenging his underlying belief that he wasn’t a risk taker, Brendan revealed himself to be anything but. I asked him to imagine himself at 90 and asked what advice he’d give himself now. He said: “just leap and do it!”
With this newly reframed perspective, the actions for this week were: research other companies that might suit him better, ie, arts based companies and also put some time aside to do something creative.
I wasn’t expecting what happened next.
Brendan resigned from his job the day of our second session. He said he’d “exploded” and handed in his notice on the spur of the moment. Suddenly, the job search was now more urgent.
For this session, I suggested a values and life purpose exercise to help him define exactly what it was he was looking for.
Below is a list of the questions asked and a summary of what we discovered:
Q: What is unique about you?
Q: If you are an invisible presence, eavesdropping while some of your greatest admirers talk about you, what do you hear?
Q: What skill or task do you perform so easily that you don’t need to think about it?
Q: What do you enjoy most about your non-work life?
Q: What secret dreams do you have about things you would really love to do or try?
Q: What unrealised goals are there for you?
Q: What themes or threads run through your life?
Q: What do you want to leave behind you as a legacy in your current job? And in your life?
(Questions taken from Coaching Skills: A Handbook by Jenny Rogers)
What came out loud and clear was that Brendan is a natural leader and gifted trainer with a love of people. He is fiercely loyal, doesn’t conform, has the ability to look at things from different perspectives and is passionate about team building. The exercise also brought up how important creativity and, in particular, photography is to him.
When asked how he felt after this exercise, he said: “I need to be a trainer!” He noticed that he’d been using more powerful language than he would normally instead of starting sentences with “I think …”.
Even though no actions were set this week, I felt I was seeing a different, more empowered person in Brendan than I had in previous sessions.