Coaching Case Study By Aim Leong
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Winnie is a 43-year- old mother of 3 kids aged 14, 11 and 5. She has been a stay- at- home-mum for the past 5 years after her youngest daughter was born. She was Training Manager at a bank and her main role was conducting training on product knowledge.
She intends to return to the workforce in January 2019, after her second child has completed PSLE ( Primary School Leaving Examination) in November 2018. So she has about 12 months to prepare and she wants to start now to ensure a smooth transition.
The Two Concerns
With Winnie’s intention to return to work force, there were two areas that she was concerned about. Firstly, she was experiencing some anxiety. The second concern was being at a dilemma – resume her old trade, ie. training or try something new.
The Coaching Process
To establish rapport and understand her better, I asked for her reasons for returning to work. She shared that with her children growing up, she was beginning to feel bored at home. She noticed that her conversation topics were also getting limited to school and supermarket. She felt that this would not be what she wants for the rest of her life. She wanted to have intelligent discussions with her family, broaden her mind and contribute to society meaningfully.
To address her feelings of anxiety, I asked her “why do you think you are feeling this way?” She mentioned that 5 years of not working and the speed of change at the work place kept her worried about keeping up. I proceeded to ask her how she can eliminate such worries and she very intuitively replied “Be prepared so that I will not receive any shocks”. To delve deeper, I asked her to elaborate what kind of preparations help, and how she can start incorporating them. She developed the following list and also worked out some broad timeline. She also wanted me to be her accountability partner to ensure that she accomplished according to her schedule.
Areas of Preparation:
Be prepared for a hectic life again, with deadlines to meet and some possible office politics to handle. As she will have lesser free time, she will need to identify tasks that she can stop engaging or delegate. She had to select her tasks in terms of importance, urgency and impact. To cushion the “shock” of fulltime work, she may start with part time work or take on short assignments in 2018 first.
She would take up some courses to tune the mind into learning mode by tapping on the $500 Skill Futures Credit to refresh herself on some business presentation software or financial knowledge.
Reconnect with her ex-colleagues and friends to update them of her intention so that they can keep a look out for her. She also needs to “practise” conversations beyond school work and supermarket. She will join a support group of “back to work” mums so she can connect with people who are in similar situation as herself. She believes that experience sharing by these ladies will help prepare her.
To pick out clothes appropriate for work, still fitting and fashionable in her wardrobe. She may need some new working clothes and accessories and hence need to set aside budget.
She has to be fit and energetic, this is especially so as she would be doing stand-up training which would require her to stand often, and keep a sharp mind. She would jog once a week as a start before increasing the intensity.
She would need to inform her family of this intention and the impending changes. With the help of a few probing questions such as when, where and how, she devised a great and interesting plan on how to inform her family. During their upcoming annual family trip, she intends to inform them “formally” as part of Goal-setting for 2018. She would get the children to list down their goals in terms of academic achievements and family household chores contribution. She would like her two older sons to be more independent and develop a sense of accountability.
To explore job opportunities, she would plough through LinkedIn, register herself with training institutions or consultancies. Before that, she would update her CV and I would share some pointers. She would also register with a government agency with a scheme for mothers who rejoin the workforce.
After we have talked through these 5 major areas of preparation, I could sense Winnie’s demeanor has changed from anxious and fearful to a sense of calm and even, anticipation. This is especially true when she visualised how she would conduct the “Goal setting for 2018” with her family. She was totally excited – her eyes brightened and the tone of her voice heightened.
The second concern
I requested Winnie to perform a paper exercise where she would list down all the pros of staying in training and all the pros of doing something a new.
|Pros for staying in training||Pros for doing something new|
|Familiarity, less preparation||
|Can get better pay||
Get to learn some new skills
Better career development / stability
|The excitement of being in a new environment|
Both options appeared equally attractive. I proceeded to ask her the priorities in her life. She said quality family life and time with family. Next, I asked her the implications of her priorities to what she listed. Straight away, she replied with “Of course, stick to training.” It helped to shift her perspective and realize that whilst both options are good, one is more in sync with her priorities.
Outcome of the Coaching
Through the coaching process, I observed that Winnie became more confident and even more eager to return to work. The two concerns no longer bothered her as she developed ideas and action plans to prepare herself, and also assured of the direction.
My reflection as a Coach
Through the whole process, I did not offer Winnie any directions or advice. I just listened to her intently, shared my observations her and asked her a string of “what, why, when, who, where and how” and the solutions to her concerns came forth naturally.
This demonstrates that our coachees are not clueless. They just need assurance and support, and a nudge to kickstart their action plans. I see myself as a cheerleader to her.
There were 2 occasions when I had to hold myself back from giving her the answer straight away. As coaches, we should not prescribe solutions for our clients but support them in their chosen paths. I also realized that even though I have not been a parent, I was able to coach her on her communication with her children and this is the area which Winnie is most excited about. Perhaps “ignorance is bliss” because when the coach has no knowledge, he/ she will be asking the most “innocent” questions and the coachee has to provide all the inputs. This taught me a precious lesson – do not be afraid to coach in a topic that you have no experience in. Be humble, ask good questions and listen actively.