Coaching Case Study By Daniel Leong
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
The role of a coach is to work with clients so that they meet their objectives/goals. Coaching is like a journey, in which the coach travels together with the client to reach their destination. The clients are the drivers and the coach are like a GPS, providing direction so that they can reach their destination (goals) at their pace. The client makes choices working with the coach and it is never the coaches job to state where they should go or how to get there. The client through the support of the coach makes that decision after a journey of self-discovery. At some point in time in the journey, the client will feel stuck, the coach, like the GPS, will recalculate/re-calibrate with the client, so that they can move forward.
What do new,and sometimes even seasoned coaches fear during their coaching sessions?
- Thinking that they already know the client needs (pre-conceived goals)
- Knowing what is best for the client (solution-based coaching)
- Asking leading questions so that Client will move towards the Coach objective rather than their goals
There are assorted reasons as to why the above fears may exist, but I would like to think that it had to do with the “transplantation” effect in which Coaches believe that from their experience and knowledge, they can feel and see what the client issues are and that there is already a solution. By transplanting these beliefs onto the client, we effectively negate the coaching principles.
Clients also come with pre-conceived ideas and it is than up to the Coach mastery of the Coaching process to guide and ensure the Client make relevant progress.
Jimmy was recently retrenched and have remained unemployed for close to 3 months. He is 54 years old and he came with a pre-conceived idea that it would be very difficult for him to re-enter the job market due to his age. With that in mind, he decided that going into business would be his best option. He is leveraging on his skills, contacts and experience from his previous position as a Sales Director to start a similar business. If that plan fails, he would like to become a consultant. And finally, to look for freelance work.
During the first coaching session, I established the ground rules with Jimmy as follows:
- Explained to him what coaching is and is not and that the coaching sessions are meant to guide him in making appropriate decisions that would help him achieve his goals. As a Coach I am the facilitator to help him find answers.
- Let him know that the discussions and information sharing are confidential and will not be shared outside our sessions. However, the only time this confidentiality is broken is when I sense he may be a danger to himself or there is something criminal.To which I am bounded by Coaching ethics to refer him to more professional help or report to the authorities, whichever the case may be.
- Informed him that there will be occasions where I as a coach will ask him to do some pre-coaching sessions work and he would have to be open and available to complete them.
- Obtained his acceptance and agreement on the number of coaching sessions and to sign a Coaching agreement.
We began with an exploration ofhis goals and objectives. Jimmy discussed at length on his current situation and how he plans to move forward, that is, to work on 3 plans – starting a business, become a consultant, freelance work. As there were 3 options, I asked him what his priorities were. He responded by saying that he would want to start a business. On further questioning, he explained that he already had in place a brief business plan and he does not see the need for a detail plan. Also, he had shared this brief plan with potential investors and that a scheduled meeting will be held within 2 weeks. I practice active listening skills throughout the session, but I found myself thinking of solutions and how his business plan would have looked like. I had to check myself every now and then and to re-focus.
Though I did not interrupt him in any way, I found that my mind was already in the “solution mode”. What was going on in my mind? The following were some of the questions “popping” in and out:
- A detail business plan is needed. I can see it in my mind’s eye.
- I can already visualize that his potential investors will be requesting for more details.
- I can help him draft a business plan (base on my business experience) to get things moving along. Will this be faster?
I had the good sense to put them away and continue to focus on Jimmy and to ask further relevant questions. For more clarity, I re-frame the above questions into more probing questions, to better understand Jimmy’s perspective. The answers I got from Jimmy were mainly due to resource issues and although he has a partner, he was doing most of the work and meeting up with the potential investors. But he did not view this as a problem and believed that he can convince the investors base on his brief business plan.
In the next session, Jimmy provided an update on where he was with the potential investors. True enough, they wanted more details and now require him to provide them with both a detailed business plan and a one pager. My mind again went into “action mode”. It was very eager to develop solutions for Jimmy rather than playing the role of a Coach. Once again, I had to checked myself. After allowing him to complete his update, I decided to do the following:
- Using the Wheel of Life as an example to help Jimmy visualize what his business needs are. Working together with him, he was able to provide more insights and realize as to what his business needs are and what are the priorities.
- According to Jimmy, working on his “wheel of business” helps him to focus where his priorities are, and he can concentrate on developing them further. One of the gaps he immediately recognized was a lack of resources as he is doing this with another partner, but seems he is doing most of the work. I was glad that he finally saw this as an issue since he did not in the first session. Another area was that he needs to find out more about how to develop a business plan and a one pager. From the wheel, he was also able to explore possible financing areas different from his potential investors and he admitted that this would reduce some of the stress he was under.
- With that clarity established, Jimmy wanted to know how to establish an effective mission statement that goes into his business plan. His initial attempt was more of an action plan – which is, to generate enough sales contacts to increase revenue. Usingpowerful question technique, I ask him to think about the wheel he had just created to work from there. He than received an “aha” moment – where he crafted the following statement - “My company will achieve $x dollars in sales revenue with a x% profit contribution within x years via the service we provide to x number of available customers”.
- With the mission statement established, I use the SMART technique to get Jimmy to develop some high-level goals and action plans for his business.
As someone starting out in the Coaching process, there is a tendency to drift into the “transplantation” mode. How do I overcome this and what are the watch outs?
- Try not to adopt a judgmental mind set when you enter coaching sessions. If you do, you will be bound by your experience and knowledge to impart or transplant your thought process onto the client. A learning mind set works better as you will raise your awareness and focus on the client.
- Be good at Active Listening. It takes a lot of practice and it is very important as it will help you to focus on what the client is saying rather what your mind is telling you.
- Deploy the relevant coaching tools in your tool box to overcome this tendency. Just as we use re-framing for our clients when they are not progressing, we can also use this technique on ourselves as coaches, so that we can better control our expectations.
I am glad that the sessions went well with Jimmy and I did not at any time relapse into letting my mind lead the sessions. Just creating this awareness was a great learning experience for me to take away into future sessions as I continue my coaching journey.