Coaching Case Study By James Kwan
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Performance, learning and enjoyment are inextricably intertwined-Sir John Whitmore
As I am still at the very early stage of my coaching career, I employ the T-GROW model developed by Downey (2001) in my career coaching at one of the largest outplacement and talent development consultancy firms in Singapore. Below is a document of what I went through during the coaching session with one of my coaches, Candice (changed for anonymity) in July 2018 and I adhered to the ICF Core Competencies.
I began the coaching with a warm welcome and holding small talks with Candice to make her feel at ease and comfortable. I explained to her what coaching is and is not, followed by presented a coaching agreement to her, emphasising that all the conversation held during the coaching sessions will be held confidential and nothing will be revealed to anyone. This is to adhere to the first two of the 11 ICF Core Competencies (Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards, and Establishing the Coaching Agreement). After she read and signed the coaching agreement, I begin to ask: “What is it you would like to discuss”? Candice started to describe to me on her career transition and felt lost on the direction and the pathway she should take. Gaining an understanding of the topic is important as I need to engage her by asking her on her goals, options and action plans based on the topic she raised. I listen attentively at this early stage and remained friendly and open. This would helped to establish the trust and intimacy with Candice (ICF Core Competency 3) and also to create strong coaching presence (ICF Core Competency 4).
Establish the goal
Having an understanding of the topic Candice raised, I began to ask her to describe the goal at the start of my coaching session. A good technique is to break it down into two main areas:
- What do you want to achieve within the next one, three and six months?
- What do you want to get out of this coaching session?
These two questions set the context for the coaching as once I know what Candice wants to achieve, I can start asking her questions that will help her think about how she is going to get there. I do remind her to provide me with SMART goals, and at times when she cannot provide me with the goals that are achievable or measurable, I asked questions such as: “How will you know when you have achieved this goal?”, “How will you know that the problem or issue is solved?”. A good approach the coach can take Is to confirm her understanding of the topic using the coachee’s own words.
Examine the current reality
With the goals in mind, I asked Candice to describe her current reality. I tend to take this step slowly and steady, allowing Candice to take time to think and reflect. I believe this is an important step as quite often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they are missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal effectively.The coaching process supports her to move closer to and to achieve her goals. To achieve this, it helps to have not just a clear goal, but a clear picture of where is Candice is right now. She took some time to describe to me what were the obstacles she was facing and the challenges she anticipated in view of the current job market trends and competitive environment.During this segment, I employed the three ICF Core Competencies in order to strike an effective communication: active listening, powerful questioning, direct communication. I asked open-ended questions that allowed Candice to rethink the current situations. I listened attentively and occasionally showed my empathy to the obstacles she faced. I remained opened on what she said and observed the 80/20 rule by listening 80% of the time and the remaining 20% asking questions or clarifying and summarising what she said.
Explore the options
Once she has discussed the current reality it is time to consider the possible options. This is an opportunity to look at all the possibilities and to brainstorm all the options in order to let Candice create self-awareness (ICF Core Competency 8). There will be obstacles stopping her getting from where she is now to where she wants to go. In life we all have choices. Thus, this stage of coaching process is to encourage her to realise the fact that she does have choices. A really important choice is to do something or to do nothing. It has been said that if one can imagine only one solution, one has a problem. Two solutions and you have a dilemma. Three solutions and one has a choice.I let Candice suggests feasible options before I probe further for other options she may not have thought of.Useful questions at this stage include: “What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?” and “What would you do if you had all you required?”.
Having examined the current reality and explored the options, Candice has a good idea of how she can achieve the goal. At this juncture, I will need to get her commitment to specific actions, to establish will and motivation.In order to getting Candice to design her actions (ICF Core Competency 9), I posed several questions to her which include: “What will you do now, and when?”, “What else will you do?”, “When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?”, “On a scale of 1 to 10 how likely are you to do what you say you will?” and “What could be done to move this figure closer to 10?”. These questions allowed her to do her planning and setting her goals (ICF Core Competency 10). Once she provided me with the specific action plans, I will jot down and summarise what we have covered in the session and laid down the agenda for the next coaching session. I believe confirming and agreeing actions are crucial to support Candice to progress and is a powerful and positive way of reinforcing the ‘action’ message.I reiterated to Candice that she needs to take responsibility on her actions and she is accountable to what she has laid down and manage her progress to deliver her action plans within the specified timeframe (ICF Core Competency 11).
Through my experience of using the T-GROW model with Candice, I realised that I have to stay flexible by moving around the sequence according to the situation. I do have to revisit each step as necessary, in any order, to ensure Candice remains energized and motivated and that her goals align with her individual purpose and personal values.
Active listening is one of the 11 ICF Core Competencies and it is very crucial during the coaching process. I seek to listen with attention, curiosity and empathy. I need to let go of filters and perceptions by listening for potential, not problems. I stay focus on Candice’s goals throughout the session and also seek to listen at a deeper level – beyond the words. As I listen, I reflect, summarize, clarify, and reframe my thoughts to ensure that I do not misinterpret what Candice said.
Finally, I feel that powerful questioning is the most challenging aspect of the coaching process. I need to ask open-ended questions which do not lead them or being judgemental. As powerful questioning is one of the 11 ICF core competencies, I feel that it takes time to gain the experience of asking powerful questions that enable my coachees to raise their awareness and responsibility.Quite often, I encounter some very common negative responses are: ‘don’t know ‘, ‘it can’t be done’, ‘it can’t be done like that’, ‘they would never agree to that’, and ‘it’s bound to cost too much/take too much time’.To unlock negativity the following ‘what if…’ questions may work:
- What if you knew the answer? What would it be?
- What if the obstacle didn’t exist? What would you do then?
- What if you did have enough money/time?
The T-GROW model provides coaches a systematic process to conduct a coaching session. It has to be employed flexibly and may not always follow the sequence as suggested. Despite it is a well-known and applied coaching model, it has a fair share of the criticism. These include not exploring deeper meaningful matters that impact on the clients’ life, being goal focussed at the expense of wider considerations, and failing to take account of long term consequences. As I am still at the infancy stage of my coaching career, I am open to employ other coaching models and may adopt different coaching models to different coachees, depending on the circumstances and situations faced by my coachees. Ultimately, I will develop my own coaching model that suits my coaching style and more importantly my coachees are comfortable with me and I am able to help them to achieve their SMART goals through the coaching sessions.