Coaching Case Study By June Hogan
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
Throughout my coach training I had been approached by friends who wanted me to coach them and I had always shied away from this fearing that I would be too close to them to remain objective and away from judgement. As I neared the end of my studies I heard Merci say that coaching friends and family is a great way to practice staying away from judgement so I approached a friend and we had 3 sessions, I will call my friend Alison.
Before our first session I used one of my peer coaching sessions to focus on how I would best prepare myself for the coaching session and the fact that she was a friend. The outcome of thispeer coaching made me realise I could use our friendship as leverage in a positive way and give me the confidence to practice my skills in a safe environment without the need for perfection.
Having sent Alison details of what coaching is about she came to our first session looking for help. Having recently relocated with her family and after many years at home looking after her childrenAlison was ready to start her own business. Balancing work and her role as a mother required Alison to become more organised and felt that I could tell her how to do it.
This presented an interesting challenge for me at the start of our session, coaching someone outside of ICA is a different experience to a peer coach, we know that coaches don’t advise however my client didn’t understand that I couldn’t just give her the answers. I explained to Alison that I believed in her and that she has the answers to becoming more organised and these would surface during our sessions. I outlined that whilst I could give her advice this may not work for her and that we would find strategies and structures that suited her – and we did!
Alison felt she has always been disorganised. She has a busy time in her life coming up as she sets up her business after being a stay at home Mum for many years. Alison wants to find ways to better manage her time and to find new family routines to help her when she returns to work.
Alison felt the problem was long standing and so she had just got used to being disorganised even though this was frustrating. She hadn’t really tried to change things before now as she didn’t know how to, however starting up her business has given her the motivation to review her structures.
Application of coach skills
Whilst I believed Alison was capable of finding realistic ways to be more organised she expressed a lot of self doubt and would frequently say “I don’t know how to be organised”. During our sessions I applied the following coach skills: power listening, creating trust, diversity, powerful questions, creating structures and creating action.
As with all coaching sessions this is paramount, however in this session I needed to make sure I was listening at a powerful level to what Alison was saying, her tone, choice of words and energy as there was a danger I could think I knew what she was going through because we were friends and I’d heard some of this before.
Whilst we are friends, I needed to establish her trust and assure her of confidentiality, I didn’t know what might come up in our session and she needed to know I wouldn’t refer to it when we saw each other socially unless she brought it up.
As a friend there are many things that we have in common and her topic of wanting to be more organised was close to my heart too, the to-do list never seems to end! Along with power listening I was conscious of looking for the differences between us and pushing away the similarities, this allowed me to peel back the layers and work out what was really going on.
I kept my questions clean, short and open. I wanted to discover what was behind Alison’s motivation to be more organised and what had been holding her back from doing this herself. I asked questions such as: “What is stopping you from being more organised?”, “What would it feel like to be more organised?”, “How important to you is it to be organised?”. Alison’s self doubt was getting in her way and she would frequently say “I don’t know”, I asked her “What do you know about being organised?”. Within the first session we were able to make great progress and gave her fresh insight into her resistance to be organised, it wasn’t that she didn’t know how to be organised, she was resisting doing it.
We examined the structures that Alison had in place that were supporting her and those which were not serving her well. This included people in her life as well as her routines. Alison was able to identify some new structures and blend an existing structure with some new ideas. Alison wanted to retain spontaneity and creativity and so her new structures needed to still allow this to flourish. She was able to come up with some simple ways in which she could tweak her existing structures and apply more organisation.
Once Alison had identified her structures and the new ones she was going to implement was came up with an action plan. Alison had an opportunity to implement her plan the day after our session and I agreed to send her a text to see how things went to help her to commit to her plans.
I felt our 3 coaching sessions were successful. Alison gained new insight into her resistance to being organised and this was something Alison said she had never thought about before, she had just accepted she wasn’t a very organised person. Alison was able to successfully implement her new routines and could see the benefit of doing so. Alison said she felt our sessions had really helped her to gain confidence in her ability to become more organised in a way that felt right for her.
What did I learn?
I saw first hand how powerful coaching can be and that by remaining curious and interested you can really get to the root of what has led this person to bring this issue to coaching and how they can move forward if you truly believe in them. I gained fresh confidence in my ability having seen the impact of my skills on someone outside of ICA. I also practiced staying in a place of objectivity and remembering to look for the differences between us and not the similarities.
What would I do differently?
Rather than go straight into the coaching session and assume the information I sent out beforehand was understood I will use the start of the first session to re-emphasise how coaching works. I will use the confidence I gained from these sessions to help me with other non-ICA clients. Next time I will relax more and not carry the burden of ‘the perfect session’ with me, I know there is no such thing! I will continue to coach my friends as this really is a great way to practice remaining in a place of observation and away from judgement – you were right Merci!