Coaching Case Study By Line Kristensen
(Personal Leadership Coach, DENMARK)
My client is a man in his late thirties with a long working career behind him in different executive positions. He tells me, that he lately has been feeling tired and without the purpose and commitment, that he normally has. He has been very busy at work and he sometimes has the feeling that all the things he needs to deal with at work has too big consequences in his private life. His desire is to find balance in his life and to be better at putting work aside. At the same time, he describes that he wants more joy and happiness in his life – helping him to get a mental break from the big responsibility that he has to deal with at work.
The core problem is that the client is torn between a high demanding position, that takes a lot of his energy. He wants to reconnect to what is really important to him and make it a priority in his life. At the same time he has not allowed himself to enjoy life for too long. The coaching skills problem is to get him to dig deeper and feel what is important to him. He is not a person who finds it easy to “feel” and express feelings. My core challenge in this case is how to get him to open up and connect to his deeper self?
What coaching skills do I need to put in place to support him the best way possible?
The client tells me that he has had thoughts around wanting to change this situation for a long time, but he has not been able to prioritize time to do some thoughts around it. He has kept pushing the problem in front of him. The worst thing about this problem is that it affects his general mood and energy levels and performance at work. He tells me, that he has lately felt like he was trapped in a treadmill without direction and purpose. The problem has not been solved so far because he has not been taking responsibility for the situation. Now that this has started to affect his work performance he takes it seriously and starts the coaching partnership with me.
Among others I used the following coach skills on the client:
- Power listening: Being there as a coach and fully listen to my client. Listening on all three levels (body, mind, heart). Listening in a non- judgmental way and gathering all information. Making him feel heard and understood in a nonjudgmental space.
- Powerful questions: I used the powerful questions to help the client reconnect with his values and purpose. With the questioning I wanted to help him gain perspective and find out what is really important to him.
- Visualization: I used visualization and awareness exercises to help him connect with his values and purpose. The visualization exercises was in his case related to gaining perspective in his life since he felt trapped in the everyday treadmill. As he was not a person that found it easy to connect with his deeper needs, I was hoping that a visualization exercise could help him tap into himself, his needs, desires and purpose.
- Acknowledgment: I acknowledged him for his awareness and for making the issues a priority contacting a coach. For taking the first step towards a life in more balance.
The process in detail (1 out of of 5 sessions en total)
The process was as the following (coach questions in black and clients replay in blue). I have taken out the important questions to illustrate the coaching process. Not all the questions that were asked.
1) “What comes up for you today?”
The client answered that he had been feeling tired and down lately. He tells me that he, for a long time, has been thinking about how to get more joy and balance in his life, but without really doing anything about this dissatisfaction. He mentioned that he wanted to have more enjoyment in his life and feel more happy generally. He finds it hard to know exactly what brings him joy, because he has not been thinking that way for a very long time.
2) What would you like to focus on today?
The client replays that he thinks he wants to focus this session on how to get more joy and happiness in his life. He says he knows it is a big question, but he just want to spend some time reflecting on this issue. Since all his time has been about working lately – he needs to figure out ways to do some good and enjoyable this for himself and get his priorities right and get his mood up.
3) What would be a valuable outcome for you today?
The client replays that he would like more insight as to what makes him happy and how he can get more of these things back in his life. He wants to have a action plan, if the time permits it (or save for a later session).
- Insight to what makes him happy.
- A strategy on how to get more of those things that make him happy in his life. To prioritize them.
4) I am curious – what does happiness look like for you?
My client finds it a bit hard to define what happiness is to him. He mentions spending time with family and friends, but he also that it’s a bit hard for him to come up with things because he is not use to thinking that way.
5) I would like to invite you to do a small exercise with me. How would you feel about this?
My core challenge at this time in the session was finding a way to get him to tap into his deeper needs and self. As he was not a person that naturally found it easy to connect with himself I wanted to come up with tools to make this happen. My idea was to use a visualization exercise that would enable him to shift perspective and get that “helicopter view” that I thought was important to move him forward. The exercise I used was the following:
Close your eyes and breathe. Imagine you are very old (you decide your age) and you are sitting relaxing in your rocking chair at home. You are reflecting on your life and thinking about how you have achieved or experienced what is most important to you in your life.
My client reacted well to the exercise and he came up with things that was important to him in this life. One of the biggest insights of this exercise was the fact that his working life was not so important as he had assumed so far. The most important things in his life was to connect with his family. Having been a great husband and a great farther. He realized during the process, that he had thought that providing material things for his family was the way he would feel “good enough” in the family, but that he needed to prioritize more time with them, being present for them and cut down on his workload. We put down a action plan to make this happen for him. He also realized that he had to find ways to de-stress coming home from work in order to be want he really wished to be. He mentioned music and sports as ways to mentally recharge his batteries.
I think the use of the visualization exercise showed to be very effective and a great way to get him to shift perspective and connect to his deeper needs and emotions. It was an important tool to move him forward.
If I could approach this problem again I would have been more aware from the start that people are different and that some need a little more help to tap into themselves. For a person like my client that is use to spending much of his time in a cooperate work setting – it is not easy to get into the “feeling side of himself”. Concrete awareness and visualization exercises are a great tool in this respect. He came to the session because his work performance was starting to be impacted by the lack of energy and he left the session being more aware that the most important thing for him was to spend more time and connect with his family.
3 things I learned from this:
- People are different. For some people it is not easy to connect with their feelings and needs. It takes a bit more effort, but it can be done.
- Don’t be afraid try something new in your coaching practice.
- Gaining perspective is powerful.