Coaching Case Study By Enma Popli
(Executive Coach, INDIA)
1. Who are the main players in this case study?
The main players in this case study are myself, as the coach, and my client, who also happens to be an old friend, I am calling him Arjun.
2. What is the core problem or challenge I applied my coaching skills to?
Arjun had a long and successful professional career spanning almost 20 years. Due to personal reasons he had to move back to his hometown where he decided to become an entrepreneur and leverage his professional experience.
Even though he was charged and excited he was not able to give his 100 percent to his new initiative (New Gen) and utilise his full potential. He struggled with this indecisiveness for almost a year before he reached out to me and asked me to coach him.
3. Why is it a Problem?
Arjun had a number of ideas and knew that there was a huge market for ‘New Gen’. However, because he kept on vacillating and questioning his decision he was just not able to focus on the way forward.
This state of mind pulled him back and demotivated, especially when he was not able to see visible rewards. Arjun also started losing his confidence in the bargain.
4. How long has it been a problem?
This has been a Problem since Arjun quit his last job. Between his last job and ‘New Gen’ there was a short period when Arjun also provided his expertise as a consultant. In that period he would often visit me as a friend and he looked dejected and dispirited as the work ethics and philosophy of that client did not resonate with Arjun’s way of being and style.
5. What is the worst thing about this problem?
Arjun knows ‘New Gen’ is his best choice and that he cannot go back to a regular job. He also knows that his business idea has huge opportunity. Once he sees quantifiable success he will embrace his decision, stop questioning it and will be able to work a lot more effectively and efficiently.
6. Why has no one been able to solve it so far?
When he was working as a professional, Arjun made a lot of sacrifices on the personal front, this in fact also took a huge toll on his health. Arjun has unconditional support from his family and they are very encouraging of ‘New Gen’. So no one besides Arjun can solve this problem.
3. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
4. Explain your process in detail
In the first session, I provided Arjun the space where he shared all his concerns and thoughts. Even though we have been good friends for over twenty years, he expressed certain concerns for the first time. For me as a coach and someone who has also been a confidante and guide to Arjun in the past, the biggest challenge was to release judgement and let him define his own goals.
This was also Arjun’s first exposure to coaching so I did not want to rush him into defining an outcome. After providing him ample space for the first half an hour, I enquired from him on ‘how I could support him’ and ‘what outcome he wanted for the session’. I asked him powerful questions and helped him reframe perspectives that helped create awareness.
Towards the end of the second session his focus shifted from ‘questioning his decision’ to ‘how he can move forward’ and ‘achieve higher goals’. I acknowledged him and continued to support him further. As we explored further, he recognized that the biggest difference between a job and entrepreneurship was that the former had structures and processes, which simply have to be followed whereas an entrepreneur had to create structures to work efficiently and had to have the self drive to set everything up. He also recognised that in a job (the kind he was in) there are large teams and there is a lot of interaction within teams, which also keep the excitement and energy flowing.
Arjun then decided that he had to define structures and have measurable goals for ‘New Gen’, which would help him move forward. Arjun has been able to shift his focus from the past to the present and future and has embraced his decision and even regained his confidence.
As we advanced to subsequent sessions, I invited Arjun to re-evaluate his goals to see if they aligned with his final objectives. His goals in the subsequent sessions shifted to what next in ‘New Gen’.
5. What were the results of your process? Was your coaching effective? Why? Why not?
I believe I was able to provide Arjun a space where no one was judging him and he could talk about his concerns and underlying beliefs. The coaching helped create awareness on the real issue, which he later realised, was actually not whether ‘New Gen’ was a feasible idea or not.
After exploring further by asking powerful questions and reframing perspectives, Arjun realised that the real problem was that he was not organised and was working without a plan, which demotivated him because he was not able to measure his performance. When he became aware of these issues, I saw a positive shift in his energy. By the time we were into our second session he was focused on creating structures for himself that would empower him to move forward. I supported him to make his action plan before which he also defined his goals and prioritised them.
Coaching Arjun helped me work on what I had added to my development area, that is releasing judgement. I was able to support Arjun in his journey where he defined his own goals and I focused a lot on active listening and asking him powerful questions. Today also when I called to check on him, (as he wanted me to do so) he was attending classes for Ph.D., which was one of his high priorities. So he is well on his way to achieve his goals and I feel privileged that he gave me an opportunity to support him.
6. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
Along with providing Arjun a space where he could talk and someone listened actively, I would use visualisation as a strategy to help him define his purpose and goals.
7. What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
I learnt that I have to coach the client and not the situation. This helped me dig deeper and create awareness on underlying beliefs. When Arjun started the coaching journey he had set his coaching outcome as “have I taken the right decision?” The underlying factor was that he was not following any plan and structure. After supporting him and helping create awareness for need of structures and helping him create structures his focus shifted and he also regained his confidence.
There were times when as a coach I had a doubt, “Have I really been able to support my Arjun?” I then learnt that the fact that I have provided Arjun with a safe space and that is a big one. I understood then that every coaching is good coaching.
If when I finish my coaching sessions, I feel heavy, burdened and weary, then I know that I have done the heavy lifting for my client. My client is creative, resourceful and whole. I have to provide the space for the client; the client does the work.