Coaching Case Study By Gary Moore
(Agile & Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
1. Who are the main players in this case study
The names have been changed, and some details omitted or changed below to protect client confidentiality:
My client, Abby, was the first employee hired at a company founded five years ago by an executive that is a leader in his field. During the early years of the company, Abby found herself involved in all facets of the company including interviewing and hiring the subsequent staff, and partnering with her boss in all business decision-making. Barry, the president of this company, has started several companies and remains on the board of all of them. Chuck is a friend and former colleague of Barry, and was recently hired by Barry to manage the day-today operations of the company.
2. What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
- Why is it a problem?
- How long has it been a problem?
- What is the worst thing about this problem?
- Why has no one been able to solve it so far?
Chuck is a crony of Barry and his hiring was based solely on the friendship and trust Barry has in him. However, Chuck has no prior knowledge of the company’s core business. Because of this, Chuck has made very poor business decisions during these first six months that he has been with the company according to Abby who has become an expert in the company and it’s business model during the last five years.
Abby recognized the gaps in Chuck’s knowledge and his poor leadership skills almost immediately after Chuck joined the company. Abby realized that approaching Barry about her concerns about Chuck would be awkward due to the close friendship Barry has with Chuck. On several occasions Abby approached Barry to have a conversation about Chuck but they either didn’t go well or were cut short by Barry. And as time went by, Barry began excluding Abby from the high-level meetings that Abby had formerly been a significant contributor in.
Since the launching of the company, Abby was a very invested and loyal leadership team member and was well-liked by the other employees. However, the changes that the inexperienced Chuck has made, along with the distance that has emerged between Barry and Abby has made it very hard for Abby to remain passionate about the company. She is now faced with the decision to either accept her new diminished role in the company, or to leave the company for a better opportunity that she can be passionate about elsewhere.
3. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
From the very beginning of the first session with Abby, as the coaching agreement was established, it was clear to me that she was very emotional and conflicted about the situation she found herself in at work. In order to build trust and intimacy, I acknowledged the hard decision she needs to make and that my intention is to be there for her as she explores the situation in order to make the decision she feels most comfortable with. Due to the emotional element of our conversation, I demonstrated sincere empathy and frequently asked her how she was feeling about both the situation and herself as a whole person. I was very aware of her pacing and tone and did my best to match it as I actively listened, asked powerful questions and shared observations (with her permission). As I listened to her words, I also was focused on her shifts in energy and emotion and called attention to them with the intention of supporting her learning. As she developed awareness of her options, I challenged her to consider what options she would feel most comfortable putting into action in order to help her learn what path to take and what decisions she wants to make. At the beginning of each of our subsequent sessions I asked her to share what progress she made with her actions and what she learned from them that we could apply to the current session.
4. Explain your process in detail.
I leveraged my newly developed coaching model for these sessions with Abby with the intention of proving the concept of this model, which I intend to use in my coaching practice. The SCRUM Coaching Model is based on the mnemonic SCRUM that maps the coaching process as well as incorporating many values and principles of the Scrum Framework.
Start with the agreement
This reminds the coach to enact the 2nd ICF core competency “Establishing the Coaching Agreement” during the early stages of the coaching session.
Collaborative partner relationship
This reminds the coach to demonstrate the 3rd and 4th ICF core competencies “Establishing Trust & Intimacy with the Client” and “Coaching Presence” by partnering with the client in order to create a safe, supportive and collaborative space that nurtures mutual respect and trust.
Reveal gaps between desire and goal
This reminds the coach to partner with the client while they transform the desired outcome identified in the agreement to concrete goals through the process of exploration and learning utilizing “Active Listening”, “Powerful Questioning”. “Direct Communication” and “Creating Awareness” (ICF core competencies 5, 6, 7 and 8).
Uncover options for action
This reminds the coach to enact the 9th ICF core competency “Designing Actions” by partnering with the client to apply learning from the coaching session and their work/life situations to develop new actions that will move the client forward.
Make a commitment for change
This reminds the coach to enact the 10th and 11th ICF core competencies “Planning & Goal Setting” and “Managing Progress & Accountability” to apply the client-chosen actions into an effective coaching plan where the client accepts the responsibility to be accountable to taking action.
In addition, the SCRUM Coaching Model incorporates the shared values and principles of both the ICF core competencies and the Scrum Framework including commitment, courage, focus, openness, respect, trust, embracing change, SMART goals, accountability, collaboration and partnership.
5. What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not?
After three sessions of focused exploration of her situation, achieving greater awareness about herself, and the learning that Abby gained as a result of the actions she committed to accomplishing, she was able to make a decision that she felt most comfortable with. She decided stay with the company for the time being and see what happens during the next three to six months. In order to be more at peace with the changes that have occurred which has disappointed her, she will learn to let go of the way things were at the company and learn to accept her reduced role. She decided to leverage her active meditation practice to become more at peace with the way things are now at work. And since her job requires her to travel away from the office on a regular basis, she will learn to embrace her time away from the office and consider it an opportunity to reduce her stress.
As Abby shared her decisions and plans going forward, I appreciated a reduction in the frustration, sadness and stress that I had noticed in her voice previously, and I acknowledged this with Abby. My assessment of this outcome is that the coaching sessions that we shared were effective enough for Abby to make the decision that she wanted to make and that she is at peace with her decision.
6. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
A couple of times during my sessions with Abby, I found myself getting wrapped up in her story telling. As a result, I caught myself asking a couple leading questions. My awareness of this allowed me to use it as a learning experience. I feel that I have reduced the number of times I ask a leading question, and I have improved in keeping my focus on the situation and the person rather than the story.
7. What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
1) Stay focused on the situation and the client as a whole person rather than getting wrapped up in the story.
2) Avoid, or better yet eliminate asking leading questions. Even though the intention might be based on good intentions, it diverges from the client’s agenda.
3) Asking a client how they are feeling in addition to asking about the facts of the situation helps the client in their learning. (The “who” in addition to the “what”.)