Coaching Case Study By Maria Belen Rodriguez de Alba
(Expat Coach, Transition Coach, SWITZERLAND)
Client’s Journey Towards New Professional Project During the COVID-19 Pandemics (Using an adapted FLIP IT coaching model )
I would like to share the experience of coaching a woman, entrepreneur, in her early fifties, to whom the COVID-19 pandemic obliged her to stop, re-think, and re-direct her professional and life goals. The coaching period started in March through Mid-May 2020.
At first, Ms. Martin and I agreed on the timeframe and the coaching agreement with the overall objective of finding out whether her new project of re-investing herself in a new professional path was worth it.
The coaching journey was organized by several sessions. I decided to structure it around the new coaching model developed by ICA -FLIP IT- adapted to individual coaching, with some additions such as the enneagram test and structured in five sessions.
First session: The challenge
During the first session, she described her current life. She was financially independent, having income from different sources, had lots of quality time available, and no family constraints. Also, she owned an Art Gallery that had given her a lot of satisfaction since she opened it two years ago, but she had lost motivation, as she always does after some time on a new project. She explained how she learned that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the most vulnerable, children in particular, and had made her realize that the Art Gallery she owns was not motivational anymore. Instead, she would like to shift and explore a new project of working with children in difficulties during and after the health crisis. She felt the pandemics had hit children the hardest and that they were the forgotten ones.
She came to the first session with a lot of preliminary work done. Therefore, she immediately moved on to describe her weaknesses for such a project: lack of self-discipline, less and less interested in making big efforts (getting out of her comfort zone), and no need to earn money out of the project, which could lead to an earlier drop-off. She also reflected on the constant search for enthusiasm in her life, which used to make her feel very excited at the beginning of each project but little by little to a lack of interest.
Second session: the feeling and the values
During the second session, we explored, through powerful questioning, why she wanted to shift her professional life. What was important to her in the new project, what does it mean to be motivated, what were the values behind, and the emotions generated by the new project, how she felt about it? She found some answers herself, including the following; compared to ten years ago, she had moved from valuing in life “curiosity, adventure, recognition” to “stability, being grounded, fairness and generosity”.She wanted to devote her time to other people. We also explored her emotions about it. She felt confident, excited, and hopeful. However, she was fearful of becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined, and at some point, wanting to drop the project. When exploring what could shift the feeling of indiscipline, or lack of motivation as the project would evolve, she realized that the human aspect of it could make the difference.
She reflected upon her habit to defend herself by justifying or rationalizing away negative feelings. Despite the self-reflection, she immediately wanted to discuss future steps to put in place for the project to be successful. Which organizations to contact or whether she would start something herself. She also wondered whether she wanted to be a pro bono worker so that she could enjoy more freedom and at the same time, drop it if she was not interested anymore, or engage in a contractual professional agreement. She self-explored the type of structure she could fit it. She was against formal constraints but she recognized that the human aspect could compensate the rest. She also reflected upon being stuck in just one location when she is used to moving from one location to the other, as she has different properties where she can live.
Third session: A deeper exploration through an enneagram test
For the third session, I had previously asked her if she would be ready to do an enneagram test, which she did. We, therefore, devoted the session to see how she felt regarding the enneagram results. We explored through questioning her results. In the enneagram test, she showed she is “the Enthusiast”, which is type 7. Enthusiasts are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences, but can become distracted and exhausted by staying on the go. They typically have problems with impatience and impulsiveness and the key motivations are wanting to maintain freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, and to avoid and discharge pain.
During this session, she developed some self-awareness. She acknowledged this is something common in her behavior; keep herself busy and entertained to avoid pain. She realized that this time, she had decided she wanted to work with children because she had gone through an adoption process that failed and that this recent episode in her life had left her somehow hopeless and with a lot of sadness. We ended the session here, with this very important self-awareness moment.
Fourth session: the perspective
During this session, we had the objective of identifying the client current’s perspective on the challenge of starting this new career path/professional project. To do this, we used the ICA power tools cards. She picked up commitment versus trying. I asked what she noticed about herself when she was trying to address the possibility of taking the new professional path. She expressed a certain feeling of disempowerment when she thought about the steps. She anticipated she would try to achieve a professional change that would make her happy and motivated but somehow, after the initial enthusiasm and steps, she would not succeed in the long term and would drop it eventually. I asked her what would be the outcome if she holds on to this perspective. She answered she would, in one or two years, find the project limiting in terms of her freedom, not intellectually challenging and that the people she would work with would not be interesting enough. She had already, when trying, a negative outcome.
Fifth session: the shift in perspective
During this session, we had the objective of shifting perspectives. Shifting from Trying commitment. We used again the power tools cards to flip the card and change the perspective. During this session, we focused on questions that could lead to a level of commitment on her part. She was aware that some kind of structure around the professional project would give her the option to be self-disciplined. She also acknowledged that working with and for children would give her a mood and energy that was instrumental for her to be committed, after the adoption procedure’s failure. I explored if there is anything that could come in her way of committing, a more important commitment at play at this stage. She said that this commitment was very important to her and that she would need to stick to it because one cannot let children down in the middle of the accompanying process, as it would be very traumatizing for them. She explained how the unachieved adoption process had traumatized her. She did not want to make children experience what she had experienced herself. Therefore, if she committed to this project, she would be morally committed for a long time.
Commitment attached to her values would make it last.