Coaching Case Study By Olga Shkut
(Career Coach, Leadership Coach, GERMANY)
The case study presented below is about one of my clients, a successful Finance Director of a big multinational company. Her name is Victoria; I was coaching her in the period of November 2019 – February 2020. The name has been changed, and some details omitted or changed below to protect the client’s confidentiality.
Victoria was successful at her job. She made a career in Finance, starting from the position of Chief Accountant. In 5 years she managed to become a Finance Director in one of the branches of the large pharmaceutical company. For almost 7 years she has been leading a big department and ruling the corporate world.
When we first met, Victoria said that she was stuck and lost. The previously interesting job gave her nothing except boredom. She didn’t want to get up in the morning and go to the office. During important meetings, she was drawing and couldn’t concentrate on the topic. She was facing some difficulties with subordinates that she didn’t even want to solve. Although earlier she liked to set up regular meetings, coach employees, and resolve conflicts. I could see her low energy and motivation when she spoke about her job. She told me it was nothing more to achieve. She felt frustrated and she was almost at the point to burn all the bridges and make a sequel to “Eat. Pray. Love.”Only her family that she loved and the feeling of responsibility were keeping her on board. The worst thing to her mind was that she couldn’t see the solution herself. That’s why she wanted an accountability partner with whom she could explore the situation, find her passion, and understand what she can do next.
First session – coaching agreement.
We had a session on the coaching agreement in order to introduce ethical standards and establish the coaching program, outcomes, and key success indicators. The main areas of our focus were:
- understanding her strengths as a professional, her motives, and her core values. For many years of working in the same position, victoria didn’t review her own capacity. She felt she had achieved everything, but what if she had the potential to achieve even more (it was my question to her that appeared to be a powerful one and shifted her perspective a little).
- building a career strategy with several options and with deep analyses of all pros and cons. Victoria was pretty sure that such a job she had now, she couldn’t find anywhere else. That idea made her stuck and unhappy, it limited her. She just couldn’t see other options.
- making a decision on which direction to go and what the first steps could be there. Victoria had some ideas on her mind but she thought they were not good enough, she should stay where she was and try to enjoy.
Second session – talent review.
With Victoria’s permission, I introduced and applied several assessment tools to give her an overview of her strengths. I used the Professional Styles Assessment, which explores an individual’s motives, preferences, and talents in critical work areas by Saville Assessment Ltd. I also used a Wheel of Life and job Performance Wheel, so that she was able to identify what was really important in her personal and professional life.
I introduced the results to Victoria and used some powerful questions to explore how she can apply them in her current situation. Victoria was surprised by the level of her leadership competencies and strategic thinking. Together with her preferences in working with challenges, the constant need for development, and growth. These were some reasons for her mind, why she was so demotivated at her current position. There were no more challenges, everything was stable and predicted. However, Victoria mentioned, the company was facing some issues and there was a strong need for changes. Why not her to lead them. One of the insights during the session was a contradiction between what she really wanted and the fear of challenges and uncertainty she needed to overcome.
Next 3 sessions – career strategy development.
I noticed that Victoria was overwhelmed with her negative thinking. One part of her saw the possible solutions, but the other one was looking for reasons why not doing them. I asked her permission to do a visualization exercise.
At first, it was hard for Victoria. But after a while, she began describing herself in 40 – 20 – 10 years. Where she was, with whom, what she was doing, how she was feeling, what kind of life she lived, what interests she had, and so on.⠀
After completing this exercise Victoria said she could feel the difference. She had so bright pictures of her future and herself. In this state of mind, she could easily describe her vision as a professional and her goals. Creating awareness, powerful questions, and listening, were the skills I used within the coaching sessions so that Victoria was able to change the perspective and create a few options for her. She described very thoroughly each one. I asked her to change a way of thinking a bit and look at these options differently. In a way of how they helped the person from her visualization to accomplish her goals. The insight Victoria had while answering this question helped her to align each option with her vision of herself in the future.
Last 2 sessions – action planning.
One of the options Victoria explored was starting her own financial consulting business. At first, she was quite negative about this idea. She saw mostly a lot of risks and uncertainty. But then with exploring other career options she constantly returned to that idea. Her energy and motivation were very high when she was talking about this and eyes shined. I used direct communication skills and shared my observations. I asked as well how she could use her professional style assessment outcomes from our second session to build an action plan. Victoria found that nothing stopped her from taking 2 days a week at her current job and devote them to her own business planning. I supported her in creating a detailed plan with timeframes and outcomes for this transition period, supporting structures and resources that she could use. We decided to come back to our coaching relations in a while when she worked on the plan and saw how it went on.
Victoria managed to change her perspective and find motivation in her current job while doing some steps towards her dream and passion – helping other people in challenging and uncertain situations. She is up to register her finance consulting business to entrepreneurs and small business owners. She found energy and her own way of building the career she was always delaying. I found our coaching journey very successful in Victoria. It helped her to see her strengths and values, deal with limiting beliefs and perspectives, and build an action plan to achieve her goals.
- Start from the visualization exercise when the client is blocked and can’t understand what he wants. Perhaps, start from the visualization at the beginning when I noticed that Victoria was in a very skeptical and negative way of thinking about herself. And then do some assessments when needed.
- Make a detailed agreement for every single session, though we agreed with the client for the next topic. That helped me not only to be aligned with the coaching process. But also it helped the client to clearly see the results of every session and to build trust in the coaching process itself.
- I would like to have one more session with the client just to see how she is proceeding with the action plan. It could give the opportunity to explore some triggers that might have kept the client from accomplishing in the past as well as today.
- I’ve forgotten the reward part. How the client will reward herself when she accomplishes her plan. Victoria is such a person that usually does what she commits to doing but forgets about the pleasant moments after accomplishing. We were talking a lot about this, but finally, I didn’t ask in regards to her plan. It could be a great point to call a client and use it as a reminder.