Coaching Case Study By Helena Nord
(Life Coach, DENMARK)
My client is a young woman living as an expat in Beijing. She has lived here, as an accompanying spouse, for 1,5 years. She has 3 small children.
The context is selected parts taken from 2 sessions and the text is written in cursive are my questions, thoughts and actions as a coach.
What would you like to talk about?
The client tells me that during her first year as a new expat she has enjoyed her life with a lot of free time for her kids and herself. Before moving abroad, she had a demanding full-time job and big responsibilities and so far, she has really enjoyed not having a job. She has had time to do workouts, has coffee and lunch appointments and in general, just spent time on what she felt like. She tells me that now she has come to a point where she does not feel that is enough any longer. She feels stuck, not moving and needs more fulfilment and satisfaction in her life. Even though she enjoys her free time and the luxury of not having to work, she feels she needs more.
The core issue for my client is that she needs to feel a sense of purpose and fulfilment with the way she spends her time. Moving abroad has meant a loss of identity as a working woman and now she needs to find a new identity that she can connect with and feel fulfilled by.
I offer validation that it is a challenging situation to be left with a lot of time and that she has many choices and needs to make the most of it. I also acknowledge her for trying to create changes in a situation she is not happy with.
Before asking what she wants to achieve from our session, I ask her to tell me about her need for fulfilment.
She explains that this awareness has arisen because she is currently studying for her Chinese driver’s license and she has experienced the joy of having to focus and study for this. She had thought about the option to start a course or do volunteer work either for a charity or at her kids’ school or she could deepen her Chinese language studies. She also talks about being motivated by training. When she moved abroad, she had planned to exercises and get into shape, but because of the physical limitations of her surroundings that hold her back, she feels she needs to find something else to keep her occupied.
She says that on the one hand she loves all the free time she has now, but on the other hand hates it because it leaves her without structure in her day.
I offer her my observation about the lack of excitement in her voice when she talks about intensifying her Chinese studies but that I am noticing some excitement when she talks about getting a job or when she talks about her training and asks her what she thinks.
She agrees with my observation. She reacts emotionally about the training part because she has had many experiences where she has tried kinds of exercise and then ended up with pain and frustrations about her limitations. The training part is very important to her and she really wants to work on that, but she is not sure that it will be enough for her to achieve the fulfilment she is looking for.
We move on to settle the coaching agreement to get clarity about her options, that will give her joy and fulfilment in her life. To her, clarity means to figure out what concrete options she decides to explore further, and joy and fulfilment mean having a purpose or goal with what she is doing. Right now, she feels stuck and needs to move forward.
I ask her what can help her move forward?
She said that she would like to explore other options she has in terms of getting a job. She is aware that the job she can apply will not be the most exciting for her since she cannot do a full-time job and can’t speak Chinese. But she hopes that a job will offer her something to inspire her and something that she can call her own.
I ask her what she thinks will give her the most joy and fulfilment?
She said that achieving training is one of her important goals, but her problem is that she is not sure whether it is realistic to meet her goal and worried to try, that makes her even more disappointed and frustrated. She got connected with a personal trainer, who says that she can help her get better and stronger, but my client is still not convinced.
I ask her how she will be able to know if she will be able to meet her goal?
She pauses and says that she will not know before she tries.
I ask what it would look like to commit to this training goal despite the obstacles?
She says that she must try to commit. She talks about her physical limitations that are not visible to others which makes it difficult for others to understand that she can not do all the activities that normal people do.
I leave space for her to further reflection.
After a pause, she continues to talk about what other people’s expectations to her and how they can affect influencing her choices. She feels that she need to fulfil to have a job because of the expectations of her friends and family in her hometown, but it is not really what she wants or needs now.
I ask what she would like to do with this new awareness?
She says that she finds it interesting and help her to open up her mind to a lot of new things she is now willing to explore and consider. But for now, she will concentrate first on her training and will not give up. She will keep in mind what it is she really need and want for herself.
Coach skills that I used in the session
“Establishing the coaching agreement; Ability to understand what is required in the specific coaching” interaction.
Before asking what, the client would like to achieve in the session, I ask questions to explore her thoughts about her situation and to clarify the meaning of the words she uses, this to give her awareness about what it is she really wants.
“Establishing trust and intimacy”
Normalizing the situation by offering validation about the challenges in her situation to create a fulfilling and structured day without a full-time job. Acknowledgment about her desire to create a change in a situation where she is not happy. This can help create a space where the client feels heard and understood and also help to create a partnership that is necessary for the coaching process.
“Active listening; Ability to focus completely on what the client is saying and is not saying, to understand the meaning of what is said in the context of the client’s desires and to support client self-expression”
Listening to the words being used and the tone of her voice, is it filled with doubt or with excitement and offering my observations to help her get new awareness about her situation to help her move forward.
“Powerful questioning; Ability to ask questions that reveal the information needed for maximum benefit to the coaching relationship and the client”
Questions about her needs and what makes her happy. Asking questions that she has not asked herself about her options and how she can look at her situation in a new light to gain a new perspective.
Providing space, leaving time for the client to continue to think, and thereby gain new awareness.
What I learned
I think this session was successful in terms of the client gained new awareness about her situation and left the session still thinking and processing her outcome. The goal for the session was to get clarity about her options for days with meaningful activities, that would give her a feeling of joy and fulfilment. She did not leave the session with a list of options, but she left with some new awareness and clarity about what would really make her happy and give her the feelings she needed.
If I could do the session over again, then I would have explored further what her need for fulfilment in her day is about. What will it give her that she does not have now? What would a perfect day look like to her? I would also have explored the area of her training and offered an observation about the training being the most important to her but also being the thing that is making her feel stuck because she keeps meeting obstacles when training, due to her psychical limitations and then ask her what comes up for her.
From this session, I have learned to really listen to what is being said and what is not being said and to offer my observations when they happen. I have learned the power of giving space for my client to think and process before asking another question because it is in this space the new awareness can really flourish and help the client move forward. I have also learned that it can be valuable for the client to explore their needs before asking, what they want to achieve from the session, this can help the client to be more focused on what they really want, because sometimes what they thought was their goal, to begin with, is not really what they need, to move forward.