Coaching Case Study By Lay Cheng Gwee
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Reflections as a Coaching Client
Before I start on my coaching case study, I would like to share my thoughts as a Coaching Client.
I started the course with the intent to help others through coaching, but in the end I am helping myself and get to know myself even better. I benefited so much personally. Knowing oneself is essential so that we can be objective and non-judgmental during coaching. Moreover, I need to feel good and positive before I can coach and support someone else. With this gratitude, I want to pay this good experience forward to others.
The partnership with my coach has been a rewarding learning journey. I am not someone who will warm up to people quickly, but my coach made me feel comfortable and relaxed. She asked open ended and powerful questions, pushes me to think more deeply and explore further before committing to an action plan. Most times there was an awkward silence. However she patiently waited and gave me the space to ponder. She very often gave words of encouragement which makes me feel good and motivated to achieve what I set out to do.
The experience as a client has been most helpful as I received first hand understanding of what it is like to be coached.
Reflections as a Coach
Susan (not her real name) is my client. She is an experienced employee who has been with the company for 10 years. She takes pride and enjoys her work although it is voluminous and requires long hours including burning her weekends. She is comfortable with where she is right now. However, when her manager left the company, the manager gave her an advice to always stay relevant. Since then, she has a new boss, very driven and Susan is under pressure to undertake projects on top of her daily routine. Susan feels that she needs to do something to prove her capability to the new boss but she has not taken any action. Moreover, the company is undergoing transformation to using new and more powerful technologies, automating business processes. She does not want to be labelled as obsolete and redundant, so she wants to start prepare herself for these changes.
Susan is new to coaching; hence I started the session by sharing with her on an introduction of coaching, and what is and is not coaching. After which I also take her through the coaching agreement, highlighting the salient points which helps to establish the ground rules for the coaching relationship, so that both of us know our commitments. Susan took the chance to clarify on the difference between coaching, consulting, mentoring and therapy. I clarified her mis-perception, as she is under the impression that she will be able to get advice during the coaching. I am glad we clarified upfront to minimize confusion and any misunderstandings.
During the coaching session, I adopted the GROW coaching model on Susan.
Goal – What do you want?
Susan has been with the same company for 10 years. She feels secure in her position. However, with the recent changes going on in the company and a new boss, she wants to make sure she is still relevant to the workplace. She does not want to be forced out of the job due to redundancy or obsolete. Susan is looking ahead and preparing for the future.
Reality – Where are you now?
Susan takes pride in her work and enjoys what she is doing. However she is too caught up with her daily routine and tied down with the voluminous work, that she neglects planning for herself. She only starts to think seriously when her manager left recently and advised her to stay relevant.
After listening to Susan’s story, I engaged her to imagine she is the leader of the company and get her to tell the Management’s story. I asked Susan what does she wants from her employees in order to help her achieve business goals. This triggers her to see from a different perspective, to bring awareness so that her action plans are better aligned and relevant with the Management’s expectations. In doing so, it provides clarity and helps her identify the skills gaps that she needs to work on.
Through the visualization thinking, Susan became aware that learning is a lifelong journey, and established that she not only needs to develop professionally and also personally. It is the attitude towards learning that counts.
Options – What could you do?
With the new perspectives in mind, Susan went on to explore a number of possibilities which provide opportunities to develop her both personally and professionally. Of which, she prioritized 2 immediate action items to work on in the next 2 weeks. During the conversation, I observed that she kept saying “maybe” and I took the opportunity to bring this observation to her attention. At the same time I wanted to find out more about her reservations and if it is going to pose any disruptions to her plans.
She acknowledged that she needs to juggle work and family;hence sometimes lacks the discipline and momentum to carry on with a plan. To help herself manage time more effectively, she intends to sign up for the “Time Management Skills” course. At the same time, she will also arrange a one-to-one conversation with her immediate manager on what she can do to improve work efficiency and also to express her interests to volunteer for work-related projects.She will also solicit feedback from her manager, particularly on her work performance.
Will –What will you do?
During the conversation, Susan shows willingness and keeps an open mind in keeping to her commitments and action plans. She even came up with a brilliant idea of partnering with a buddy, so that they can encourage and motivate each other in this learning journey. And I complimented her on that. Susan’s greatest take away from this coaching is it gave her the opportunity to think through what she needs to stay relevant in her job, clarify and crystalize her thoughts into action items.
In conclusion, I assured Susan that I will continue to support her in the journey, and will meet in a week’s time for an update on her progress.
Coaching Skills Used during the Coaching
Establishing the Coaching Agreement
Many people are still not familiar with coaching, and have the misunderstanding that the coach will provide the answers and solutions for them. I find it very useful to always go through the coaching agreement and clarify what coaching is and is not before coaching commences. This makes sure our understanding is aligned and minimizes confusion.
Throughout the conversation, I showed genuine concern for Susan. I am also mindful to keep an open mind and not be judgemental, and respect Susan’s perceptions and choices. Ultimately, the focus is about Susan and it is for her to decide the best thing to do. After the session, Susan feedback that she felt comfortable and relaxed with me which is essential in the coaching.
During the conversation, I was able to focus and listen attentively to Susan – by nodding head, smiling, and remain silent when she is talking. I also verified what I hear by paraphrasing back to Susan eg. “I hear that…” so that she is aware that she is being understood. I am also mindful to pause after Susan finished her sentence so that she can say more if needed, and provided the space for her to say as much as she needed. I was able to maintain a non-judgemental and objective atmosphere for Susan to run through her thoughts.
By asking the right questions, Susan was able to look at the situation from a different perspective. She was then able to think through and become more aware of her current situation, and this helped her to come up with the required actions which are aligned with the expectations and situations. In turn, this leads her nearer to her objectives. I am also mindful to ask open ended questions to help her explore new thinking. I avoided using “Why” as it might put the receiving party in a defensive mood.
During the coaching session, Susan finally got the opportunity to take time to think of the action items which she needed. The action plan and clear timeline help her develop a road map to follow, so that she can track own progress and stays focus on her decision making and not get distracted by other challenges.