Coaching Case Study By Masilamani J Suresh
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
In my coaching journey, I was approached by Jason (not real name), who was aspiring to become a coach with a longer-term vision. We exchanged few emails,where I sensed that Jason was looking for a professional with leadership experience to be his coach. We both agreed to meet on skype for a discovery session.
The discovery session started off with Jason on Skype-video and myself on audio only. I clarified to Jason why I was unable to turn-on the video and ensured that there is no ambiguity or insecure feeling. Jason acknowledged the environmental limitations. We exchanged our brief backgrounds at the start. Jason is a Marketing and Sales specialist based in Australia, while worked in a European Country until a year back, for 4 years. His needs for coaching was to get some clarity with respect to where should he head to in his career and wanted to explore how best the coaching program can help him achieve his long-term goal. My patience in listening, sharing of my background and openness with the probing questions (ensuring them to be open-ended), gave a warm and inviting feeling, which moved him to get started with the first coaching session at the earliest possible.
Jason and I worked together adjusting both our time availabilities and fixed our 1st session within 2-days after the discovery session. Just before concluding our discovery sessions, I probed little more about his self-awareness with respect to his potentials, personality, strengths and weaknesses. As a wrap-up and to further prepare for the next session, introduced him to the strength finder tool.
In the next session, rather the first formal coaching session, I approached it ethically & formally, after the initial greetings. Walked him through the coaching contract, shared what coaching is/is not all about and indicated that we have 1 hour for the session. Jason wanted to discuss about his coaching career planning. I steered him with powerful questions, such as what drives him to switch career into coaching profession? I was attentive to his responses and taken note of his passion, vision and enthusiasm towards planning his future.
At a point in discussion, I felt I was little lost with respect to his priorities in the current day-job versus the efforts to lay the ground for the coaching profession in 6 months, I stepped back to paraphrase what I heard and moved on with further clarifying questions. This direct communication technique helped us both to get to a common ground, that lead Jason to startvisualizing a mid-term picture of 2-years from now. We progressed the discussion, ending up with granularizing the mid-term plan into smaller short-term actionable tasks. As we approached the 50-minute mark, I prompted Jason to reflect his key take-aways and actions from the discussion. He was glad that he could see a sense of direction, as well as shared 2 actions that he could embark on, within a week.
The assurance that I was able to lead the discussion with the right set of questions by connecting back the information Jason shared throughout the session, was then evident. I am amazed to self-reflect the power of active listening. As part of my conscious W.A.I.T mode engagement, at least couple of times, I sensed asking closed questions, though I managed them through a coaching lab learning (Thanks to Merci Miglino for the advice of, pause with let-me-rephrase approach). At the end of our 1st session, Jason’s energy levels were high, which prompted him to ask for more sessions with me.
It was “Aha” moment for Me, as I felt that I succeeded in gaining his trust to travel further with additional sessions.
I was careful in managing Jason’s enthusiasm of open ended sessions. I brought him back to the coaching agreement, suggesting for 3 to 5 sessions instead, while encouraged him to find more coaches to learn from as well. Before ending our session, I clarified his queries about strength finder. Shared with him the power of knowing his top strengths through the proven approach and motivated him to leverage them to his advantage achieving his goals and vision. We ended the session with an agreed schedule for our next session.
Just a day before the 2nd session, Jason dropped me an email sharing how thrilled he was to see his Top-5 strengths from the strength finder exercise. I was equally excited to know more and awaited to hear his discussion topic for session-2. On the day of next session, we exchanged some learning points, after which, Jason wanted to continue his coaching career journey discussion with an update from the previous session actions. He confirmed that he had started practicing open-questions with his day-job sales clients, which was good. He then jumped straight, even before I could probe, to discuss about his strengths and how to leverage them in his coaching journey planning. Being sensitive to keeping the anonymity, I wish to just share 2 of his top-5 strengths, though we discussed all the 5.
Jason joyfully acknowledged that most of the strengths reinforced his underlying driving forces, though he was little surprised with couple of them. He did not disagree to them, but something he did not feel as if they were strengths. Jason is a maximizer and futuristic. These were evidential during the first session. Jason became aware during the 2nd session with further deep analysis of how these strengths can shape his coaching future. While he is in the early stages of learning through self-paced training, labs and more, he realized that smaller parallel steps as part of goal setting will fast-pace his journey. At the end of 2nd session, the following are the actions he had in his list:
- Continue to practice some of the competencies such as active listening and powerful questioning with his sales clients
- Explore the option and engage with informal coaching sessions with his business associates
- Employ at least the 2 of the 5 strengths during the informal sessions to strengthen the practices
This is just a start of Jason’s journey to achieve his 3-5 years vision of making Coaching Career as his main-steam. A good stepping stone for a greater achievement with a clearer vision and I enjoyed the partnership while acted as a sounding board to Jason. During the next 2 sessions, we agreed to monitor the progress and I will ensure that Jason is accountable for his focus, pace and achievement.
I am delighted to reflect my learning as a Coach with Jason as a client, who was engaging, cooperative and trusted me as his coaching partner.
The key take-aways are:
- Gaining Trust was a very important. I felt successful in achieving that through openness and engaged presence.
- It is not too easy to be asking open question The act of avoidance ended up with stacking of question. An area I am consciously working to improve with Merci’s suggestion of pause and re-phrase approach.
- Being in a quieter place is critical to ensure active listening. Deep breathing and some meditative practices helped clearing up the mind as a coach to ensure presence.
- I enjoyed asking the expected outcome question at the beginning and concluded the session with the same question, gave a sense of belonging to the client to connect the end to the start.
- Flipping of Coach hat to an Advisor hat is another improvement area I sensed randomly during coaching sessions, which is being unlearned. [this is a habit from the corporate/leadership role]
- Though not directly connected to this case study, I have observed coaches getting emotionally attached to the clients rather than the situation being discussed. Something I am keeping in mind to avoid.
- I am practicing to maintain neutral and supportive tone &body language to make the clients feel comfortable, as it plays a crucial part in maintaining trust and intimacy with the client.