Coaching Case Study By Jenna Rykiel
(Wellness and Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Who are the main players in this case study?
One of the first clients I worked with during my ICA journey was a woman named Christa (changed for anonymity). She had been working in the corporate world for close to 20 years and wanted to make a professional change, but was in need of coaching to make the move.
What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
Christa has been thinking about making a career change for the last few years but hasn’t followed through because of three overarching themes.
Switching careers at her age would be hard and a lot of work
The career path was completely different than what she had been doing for 20 years and so it was uncomfortable
- Fear of the unknown
It would be a huge risk to make a career change at her age and she has a family to support
- Lack of confidence in skills
There’s an underlying belief that the skills she’s built over the years within the corporate world are narrowed to that environment
The problem had been weighing on Christa because she was no longer feeling fulfilled at her current position. There had been many structural changes, which took away from the job she had been doing. She wanted to seek more independence and to go into a career with more impact in the lives of others.
The most challenging piece about this problem is the combination of thoughts and feelings that hold Christa back. Her fear of uprooting her financial security and all that she’s accomplished over the years is founded, which makes it difficult for her to move past. It’s also hard to make a drastic change when there are so many unknowns involved.
Christa hasn’t been able to solve it so far because she’s been looking at the switch as being completely new and unknown, whereas there’s a lot of things about her background and skills that warrant her to be successful within the new career position.
What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
Explain your process in detail
I could tell from our discovery session that Christa had enough self-awareness and motivation that she’d only need a little guidance from me, so I gave her the time and space to explore most of the issue on her own. Giving her the space to talk things through allowed her to come to most conclusions readily. Creating that space for her was my intent going into the session.
Active listening was a key element of my approach and an important skill to utilize throughout the coaching sessions. It was important for me to show her I was listening and engaged, while allowing her to explore her thoughts and feelings uninterrupted.
Creating trust has always been important to me in all of my relationships and this was no different. I wanted Christa to feel heard and understood, so she’d feel comfortable opening up throughout the session. Creating space for Christa, along with active listening, fostered an environment of trust between her and myself.
Once the safe space was created, Christa was able to explore and speak freely. I observed that Christa kept coming back to a dichotomy between who she has been for the past 20 years and who she wants to be in the future. It was a clear intersection where one choice meant continuing what’s comfortable and the other was following an unknown path that aligned with her values. This was an opportunity to ask powerful questions around her values and how she sees her ideal self.
We took time to explore her values and interests, making a point to notice language that highlighted “shoulds” rather than wants. There seemed to be an underlying belief that since she’s worked in the corporate world in management for 20 years, that she “should” continue that path in her next career opportunity, but I noticed a certain energy and excitement when she talked about gaining more independence and developing a business with a mission to help others.
Visualization was another skill I used within the coaching session as we explored what the career options, the ones eliciting fears of the unknown, looked like to her. We battled those feelings of uncertainty by visualizing what successlooked like in those new environments.
Christa’s goal for the coaching session was to talk through career possibilities and as we neared the end of the session, we focused on action steps to continue that process more fully. She took it upon herself to dedicate time after our session to continue exploring values and interests that would lead to new ideas and exciting opportunities.
What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not?
By the end of the session, Christa had a greater sense of what matters to her and how to create a work environment that aligns with her values and interests. There were a few times throughout the session that Christa noted having an “aha” moment, which shows me she was getting somewhere new in her thought development. Giving her the time and space she needed to explore was effective. Christa was a client who was able to explore the issue without needing much assistance. She had a habit of asking herself powerful questions while talking through the issues, which allowed her to take complete control of the conversation. I chimed in every now and then with a question that made her think even deeper, but it was effective to keep these to a minimum as her thought process continued.
Sitting back and watching the exploration unfold was effective for Christa, but this approach may be stagnant for other clients who are not prepared to talk through their problems unguided. Sometimes it takes more involvement on the coach’s end to open doors to thoughts that the client may never have explored before. All clients have the answers somewhere, but the paths of getting there are different for each one.
If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
If I could approach this problem again, I’d ask about intent and give Christa the time and space to discover the driving force behind her behaviours and actions. We focused a lot on values and interests, but talking about intent may have been an even more powerful path to explore. In the module on Intent, it states “the greatest and most powerful element of intent is that you can create whatever intent you want” and supporting Christa as she created and talked through her intent would have been powerful.
What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
Answers aren’t always obvious for the client.
When Christa was talking about her future, it seemed obvious to me that she’d feel more fulfilled in a job that aligned with the values she talked about. I noticed that this wasn’t an option she came to until we spent some time reviewing what’s important to her. It wasn’t until we talked about her values and interests that she came to an “aha” moment.
Giving the client space to explore work.
I have heard this a number of times, but it doesn’t really settle in until you see it in action. Most of the session, I felt like I needed to be doing more, but doing less was effective because Christa came to her own conclusions and solutions.
I can do this.
- I’ve mentioned in previous assignments that confidence is something I struggle with as a coach and this client helped me to feel comfortable in those coaching shoes.