Coaching Case Study By Lucinda Wells
(Career Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
I have been training with the ICA since the end of May 2017 and this week has probably been the most significant to-date in terms of learning. I wanted to share this particular experience because I think it supports the view that we often learn more through our mistakes than successes.
I have played the part of coach a few times now, both during peer coaching and mentor coach classes. The first 2-3 sessions went OK. Not great but reasonably OK. I was quite pleased although I thought that there was something missing and I wasn’t sure what had really happened during the process.I am also aware that I am still transitioning from my corporate mind-set of problem solving and providing solutions and that this is something that I need to address to be a good coach.
Then this week I had two sessions as coach that didn’t go quite so well. In fact one was very disappointing. I would like to share here what happened with this session as well as share what happened during a follow–on coaching session this week where I was the client. It was a really powerful session due to the approach and skills of the coach. The topic we covered was the ‘disappointing coaching session’ I had and it threw up many learnings and insights which add further to the case study.
Session One – Coach Perspective
A young woman living abroad with her family. She is married with small children. She is not currently working as she is not able to due to the local situation. Her husband works. She has held fairly senior roles prior to this period. She is training with ICA.
One of the local schools is recruiting for an office manager/administrator. This is not the school the client’s children attend. The client is not happy with the current school and would like her children to move to the school advertising the role. She has been in contact with the school and made a suggestion to them that offer her theadvertised role in exchange for the fees for one of the children to attend the school. The proposal was made about a week ago to the wife of the married couple who manage the school. The wife’s response was reasonably positive about the idea and she has suggested a meeting with her and her husband. The meeting was arranged but has now been postponed a couple of times and is now planned for the coming Saturday – but has not been confirmed.
The client has come to the coaching session explaining that she is feeling anxious about this situation. She has stated her desired outcome from the session as seeking to get some peace – from the anxiety and inner voice that has been bothering her.
Coaching Skills and Approach
The session started reasonably well with the contracting taking place. The client described the feelings of anxiety and desire to get some peace from this. Through questioning, we explored the meaning of peace for the client. During the conversation some other areas came out such as the fact that the client lives in the same building as the school managers; thatshe had heard them talk about money in a way that made her feel them may be careful with money and tough negotiators. This and the fact that the meeting had been postponed several times and then there being no specific time for the meeting the coming weekend were adding the client’s anxiety.
Sometime around this point the narrative started in my head and I started to direct the conversation. I asked the client what options there might be if this job didn’t turn out to be the right one/if she didn’t get this job or chose not to take it.
I also asked her about her experience in the working environment and whether she had experience in negotiating and might be able to offer herself some advice now that she was on the other side of the table so-to-speak.
There were other times during the session where the questions I asked were open and not leading and enabled the client to have some powerful insights. In the main these were around her feeling that this process was not in her control – that she was the weaker of the two parties in the negotiation. She also recalled that in her Strength finder assessment she came out as someone who needs external recognition and validation as well as being an achiever. She realised that these were key to what was going on for her here.
Results and Effectiveness
The coaching session resulted in the client gaining some insights into what was causing her anxiety but this really came quite a long way into the session. The fact that I allowed my own ideas regarding actions she might take come into the session got in the way of her space and reduced the effectiveness of the session. The client, being a fellow student, kindly provided the feedback to me – although I know this is an area of development for me, I hadn’t realised quite how much had leaked into this session.
What would you do differently?
The obvious answer is that I would not allow so much of myself into the session. Knowing this intellectually though is one thing, doing it is another and so this is why I took the topic to my own coaching session later the same week.
Session Two – Coachee Perspective
How to develop as a coach to the point where I am able to keep my ideas, solutions and problem solving out of the client’s space. How not to steal the client’s goal.
Coaching Skills and Approach
Having contracted with me on the desired session outcomes, the entire coaching session consisted of questions, summarising, paraphrasing my own words and statements and making of observations about what I had said. There were no leading questions. There were no opinions given or suggestions made by the coach.
- Some examples of the questions the coach used:
- How do you know when a coaching session has been of value to the client?
- What is the outcome for the client when you lead based on a solution you have in mind?
- What is it that y
- What is it that you are getting out of providing ideas and solutions to the client?
- What is going well with your coaching?
- What can you do to develop this area?
- What are your takeaways and what actions are you going to take?
Results and Effectiveness
The learnings and insights were almost too many to remember but here are some.
What is it that you are getting out of providing ideas and solutions to the client?
This was perhaps the most powerful question. I was able to describe my feelings of wanting to help or rescue the client from the situation. Additionally it makes me feel valued and good if I am able to provide a solution. As I talked this through though, the realisation of this being about my ego and the premise that I know better than them really shocked me. Being a person who self-deprecates with humour much of the time I have always thought that I was insecure and not very ego driven but realise now that these are very much linked. I had also created my Power Tool this week which looks at Self-Deprecation vs Self Worth and realised how much this could help my insights here.
What is the outcome for the client when you lead based on a solution you have in mind?
This was also very powerful. When I thought about this from my clients’ perspective I realised that leading them to think about the idea of alternative jobs if this one didn’t work out was not helping at all with the underlying beliefs and values that were being triggered for her. This was about my values and beliefs and desire to take flight from such a situation.
What can you do to develop this area?
This was a great question and I was able to come up with a number of ideas for developing myself that I hadn’t been able to come up with before. I had been frustrated and of the view that I couldn’t dee how to address this. I will be using one of the tools discussed during the E.I. session last week to help me acknowledge ideas or judgements as they arise during sessions and then placing them onto a leaf floating down a river (thank you Merci).
I will practice thinking of a coaching question instead of jumping into solution mode when I hear, see experience things on a day-to-day basis.
I will also be spending some time working on my self-worth. There are a number of tools and exercises that I uncovered in my Power Tool work and that have come up in the tele classes that I will use and practice.
In summary, I have realised how unhelpful it can be for a client and in a coaching session for the coach to lead because of a judgement they have or because of some idea they have about the right solution to the clients problems. I have seen first-hand how this can significantly limit the space for the client resulting in them not getting the level if insights and learning that they may have done otherwise. I have also experienced the opposite of this and experienced as a client the power of my own insights and learning that have resulted from great coaching.
One of the additional learnings from this week was how much of a difference, knowing about the topic a client brings to the session can make. In my earlier sessions as coach I didn’t know anything about the topics and so it made it easier for me to stay out of the client’s space. I genuinely knew nothing and so had no judgements or potential solutions playing in my mind. What happened this week was that I was presented with topics of which I knew (or thought I knew) something and this resulted in the challenges faced in the sessions. Thank goodness that this happened though as it means I can get on with developing this area.
And finally, in wrapping up the session I had with my coach we talked about the ‘dancing in the moment’ analogy that is used to describe the way it feels when the coach and coachee are working together in unison. I find this a little difficult to relate to. I prefer to think of two people passing a floating ball of light between them. The ball represents the words, meanings, feelings and energy that can arise when the coach and coachee are working together in perfect partnership. There is lightness. There is total focus on the client. There is space.