Coaching Case Study By Jason Potvin
(Positive Psychology Coach, CANADA)
The following case study is meant to demonstrate ICA related learning and processes used as a coach practitioner.
Case Study Participants:
The following participants are involved in the case study:
- Jason (ICA Workplace Coach)
- Michael (ICA Peer Coachee)
The case study revolves around a perceived problem of the coachee, Michael, which relates to side business ventures that he is currently involved with.
During our initial 30-minute discovery call, I was able to draw from Michael that the major problem he was experiencing at the moment in his life was that he felt drained, unmotivated, and fragmented because he was working full time, being a supportive parent to two girls as well as a supportive husband whilst attempting to kickstart a side business from four concurrent startups he is involved with. This predicament had been going on for a little over one year.
This is a challenging problem for Michael as he states that he is feeling frustrated and anxious often from being the only one to deliver and take leadership on these side projects even though he is not the major shareholder in any of them. He has attempted to coach himself and talk with a friend but he has not found a way forward yet.
My approach to coaching was to leverage the ICF framework and apply it with a complement of applied positive psychology as that is my niche offering which attracted Michael. All sessions were via Zoom remote video conferencing due to geographical distance and Covid precautions. All coaching sessions were one hour sessions.
We have had three coaching sessions to date:
- Session 1: May 19, 2020 (2:00 PM - 3:00 PM)
- Session 2: June 1, 2020 (2:00 PM - 3:00 PM)
- Session 3: June 16, 2020 (2:00 PM - 3:00 PM)
Each session began for us by securing the coaching agreement. This was done by conversing through the T.O.M.S. approach and eventually, but not in any particular order, ensuring that we had a clear agreement on the Topic for the session, the Outcome he was looking for, the personal Meaning behind both the topic and outcome, and, finally, the Success factor we can look for at the end to make sure we succeeded in aligning with the desired outcome. The overall topic during the 3 sessions remained fairly constant; the side business ventures. Outcomes varied as we explored further with each session.
The first session provided the background and the client was rich in dialogue which made it easy for me to take notes and learn his story. The notes from the first session also laid the groundwork for the subsequent sessions to allow me to go back and reflect thoughts, behaviors, beliefs, values, goals, feelings, use of language, etc…, back to Michae for him to learn more about himself and his situation.
In the second session, Michael chose to mind-map together for him to explore his values more deeply and how they aligned, or misaligned, with each of his side business ventures. Values exploration is both an ICA and a positive psychology related application that Michael had asked me to work with him on. This exercise brought forth more clarity through reflection to Michael and he was able to pinpoint why certain projects were not working well for him due to misalignment.
At the end of this session, I had informed Michael that he could take a free science-based questionnaire to uncover his personal character strengths if he wanted and I emailed him the survey link. In my experience more than 80% of the people I coach or train respond positively to this suggestion as they are learning about their “strengths” for a change and not their weaknesses. It is a great icebreaker exercise to draw them further into their power of self-development.
In the third session, Michael was very keen to review his VIA character strengths report as he had performed the survey before the session. This opened the door to Michael choosing to reflect once again on all his business ventures with the lens of his character strengths in place.
He left the session smiling and energized and repeating, “that’s so interesting” over and over. He was referring to the insights he learned about himself, his “strengths” and how they possibly impacted his business ventures
It is always fascinating to me how a simple selection of words woven together into an intently structured sentence can be so powerful. The impact of asking Michael, “ and what would you like to do with this new-found knowledge of your strengths?”, was significant. His reaction startled me as he became so filled with passion and pride and said, “I know what I will do. I will use my strengths to move forward with my business ventures that are aligned with my values.”. Accompanied by an energetic permagrin and star-spangled eyes, et voilà. It was like watching the beginning of an operatic overture.
I chose to wrap up with a final powerful question to test if he was surely aligned with his action plan, “ Why will this action help you to get to your goal?”. He responded, with thoughtful intent, “because I understand the impact that working with my strengths has on me. It energizes me. I have been partnering with some people that I am attempting to carry without my strengths at hand and that is why I am feeling unmotivated and exhausted. I need them to step up or we need other partners who have the proper strengths to join our team so we can reach our goal.” Michael shared that his action item leaving the third session was to schedule conversations with each of his start-up teams to communicate his perspective and needs and seek resolution. In turn, the partner’s actions would serve as feedback for Michael to make future discretionary decisions about his involvement in each side venture.
I was constantly impressed by Michael’s ability to pause and reflect. Honestly, it was a pleasure to coach a peer coach as they already possess an indulgent desire for self-development. When there is a coachee “will” then there are away and a lot less resistance. However, reflection is only half the battle. Michael was equally capable to synthesize his learnings into actions that he believed would help him forward. One of his top character strengths was a Love of Learning. This made learning new things about himself and his situation a truly engaging experience for him.
Objectively, the results have been very positive. The client has expressed significant learning about himself ( values, strengths, beliefs) and himself concerning his situation, thus promoting further self- awareness. The client has made informed choices and is continuing to take action towards positive personal goals. The client’s emotional landscape was consistent with high and pleasant energy over each session. The client wants to continue his journey of self-exploration with me as a guide and is hopeful to solve his problem relating to side business ventures in time.
What could have been done differently?
If I was able to manifest a wormhole portal to return in time and do the three coaching sessions over again I would have started first by offering the character strengths inventory as part of an onboarding process, pre-session. The VIA strengths report had a major impression on the client and allowed him to more easily reflect using his newly identified character strengths as a lens.
I would also have given Michael even more space and time to reflect knowing now just how well his brain synthesizes and strategizes once new information is received.
Lastly, I would have requested permission to video record the zoom sessions so that I had the opportunity to reflect on my coaching and identify opportunities to better my core coaching structure and skills.
I have learned from this client coaching experience;
- To give space/time: Giving Michael space and time to digest and process was vital to our successful coaching sessions. He would stare off to the side for several minutes and I would let him be until he turned back to exclaim his next epiphany.
- To listen and note take: Michael was easy to understand and he provided rich content to reflect him. Note-taking was imperative to create trust and reflect the key learnings.
- Those analogies are a gift: Often I had used gardening as an analogy for Michael. It was more something that I am into but he was easily able to connect with it. This allowed me to make many helpful parallels such as “growing your strengths” to growing your garden.