Coaching Case Study By Cher Hoon Heng
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Main players in this case study.
Linda– 59 years old,lecturer and senior manager in a major tertiary educational institution in Singapore.
Me – Coach
Core concern and challenge coachee brought for coaching
The concern and challenge that Linda brought to the coaching session was her ‘stuck-ness’ in managing a difficult member of her work team.
Linda has been in the teaching profession most of her working life. After a brief 2 years engineering work sting in the manufacturing industry after graduation, she took a scholarship offer to further her education in return for a bond with the educational institution after completion of it.
Linda has been relatively happy with her teaching roles and guiding her students. In recent years, due to organizational re-structuring and promotions, she has been tasked to play larger roles and take on more responsibilities which saw her having to work with different groups of people and colleagues across different faculties.
One of the task Linda has is to be in charge of the common test scheduling for the students taking their examinations in her division. Up till recently, she had an efficient staff working with her to take care of the technical aspect of scheduling the different exam subjects without conflicts on dates and venues for the students. But there has also been an organization change which see her division merging with two others into the School of Engineering. She was relying on this staff to gradually merge the scheduling of the other two divisions into one coherent effort.
But this staff has recently decided to relinquish himself of this work and could not be persuaded to continue. Linda is now faced with two options to find a replacement.One is a new staff with the right skills, enthusiastic but with little experience, and the other is a person in the other division which has been merged with hers, doing and responsible for scheduling in his own division.
Linda needs to appoint a new person to lead this effort of merging the scheduling. It is either him who has the experience and who has almost as much seniority with the institution as Linda’s, or the new junior staff with little or no experience. The natural instinctive decision is to try to get the other person with experience from the other division to help with the merging.And so Linda tried.
But she found him uncooperative and his responses muted and unclear. Linda has also found out that his method of working out the scheduling is relatively archaic and manual in nature which requires a lot more time and tedious effort. She feels her division is more advanced in adopting technology in their work flow than the other divisions.
Linda wished to work on how to solve this problem. Specifically, also how she could get person in other division to be more cooperative with her.
- Create coaching contract with clear goal.
- Active Listening
- Creating awareness through powerful Questioning
- Appreciative Inquiry
- Reframing Perspectives
- Creating action
The details of the coaching process
I clarified with Linda on her goal for the one coaching session, what she would like to achieve at the end of the session. Was it to work towards finding a solution to her problem, or to know how to gain cooperation with person in the other division?
Linda was not able to understand this other person’s behaviours, what makes him so uncooperative. So you would like to work on how you could gain his cooperation, I asked. Linda answered affirmative.
I listened and clarified to understand how she saw the other person as uncooperative. Linda said she had communicated with him via email to ask if he would like to take the lead responsibility to work on merging the scheduling of the 3 divisions. He did not reply to her initial emails. Then on her repeated emails, he replied that he could help. She found his answer unclear and evasive. What she expected was a clear answer to accept to lead or not.
I asked what other ways she had tried to communicate with him. She only communicated with him via emails.
What might be the reasons that she had not considered other means of communication with him? This got Linda thinking and reflecting. She realized she was not enthused over this need to communicate with him and she was merely dispensing her duty, for she could schedule a face to face meeting but she did not.
I observed there was some reluctance, I said this in feedback to her. Where do you think this lack of motivation and reluctance are coming from?
Linda was led to reflect on the reasons for her lack of motivation. She finds people generally difficult, difficult to understand and fathom, and hence her avoidance. Perhaps there is a lack of interaction skills and limited exposure for her. She is ok with her students whom as their lecturer she carries some level of authority and respect from them.
I asked how she would feel about working with someone whom she hardly know about? She would be a little apprehensive.
I wonder what goes into the mind of this other person when he receives your request email to him, I said.
Linda is led to ponder and tried to put herself in his shoes and tried to see things from his perspective.
After a considerable pause and silent thoughts, Linda said that perhaps she need to work on building the relationship with him first, and that it was presumptuous of her to expect cooperation from all people.
I affirmed Linda that I thought it was a good idea.
How do you plan to do that, to work on building the relationship?
She suggested starting with having a meeting over lunch, perhaps an initial casual meeting would be better.
When do you think you would do it?
Next week, she would asked him.
At the end of the session, we reviewed our goal for the coaching, clarified in the start of the session after she had described her concern. Linda’s face brightened. She smiled gently and her eyes seemed to betray a certain clarity in the mind for her.
Through the coaching process, Linda gained an awareness that she may have a part to play in the other person’s reluctance to respond to her in a positive manner.
Initially she had felt clueless and somewhat helpless over the other person’s negative response. And it is significant for her to realise that she can be in control and she can effect a different outcome. This is empowering to her.
I followed up with her a month later, not for coaching but just a casual call.
I asked about how she was doing. She has not gotten his full cooperation yet, but she is working on building relationships. She had recently returned from a trip, and she bought chocolate for everyone in his department and also took the effort to walk over to their office to distribute to them.
What I could have done differently
I observed and feedback coachee’s lack of motivation to want to relate with the team member. I accepted her explanation at face value without further probing. I could have probed further to help her uncover and identify any underlying beliefs fueling her reluctance.
I have a tendency to focus on the problems areas instead of one’s strength, be it myself or others. I could have been more affirming to my coachee for her courage to reflect and to be honest with herself about her feelings and motivations.
What I learned from this experience.
I noted that Trust to the coaching process is like lubricating oil to the engine, it helps the coach and coachee to work through the coaching process easier. So having and building trust is important. The coachee here is a personal friend, so there is already trust between us, making going through the coaching process smoother and getting result faster.
Sometimes coachee bring many issues to the coaching session, it is important to clarify to sieve out what is first and of foremost importance to the coachee. Time spent in clarifying gets paid off in having the potential for coaching to be effective.
Active listening and observations helps me keep pace with the coachee’s thought processes and feelings.Staying curious and asking appropriate questions at the right time can provoke coachee into deep thoughts and hence create more self-awareness for themselves.Unhurried in holding the space and appropriate waiting in silence allow coachee thinking time to work through their reflection process and ripe self-discovery.
I observed other need areas of coachee – the tendency to judge others unfavorably compared to herself, which I thought might negatively affect her relationships in the long run.I had actually considered and but then worked hard to restrain myself from leading her, reminding myself to let the coachee lead and refrain from being directive.
Having action is key to create shift in lives, change in behaviours, growth and satisfaction, therefore asking and inviting coachee to commitment and to actions are important.