Coaching Case Study By Ramesh Kumar Dhalamal Tarani
(Career Coach, SINGAPORE)
Who are the main players in this case study
My client is Eric Choo, a 45 year old Singaporean single, Professional Manager working as an Academic Programme Manager in a Private Education Institute. He lives alone and has recently broken up with his fiancée with whom he had a relationship for seven years.
What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
Eric was of the opinion that he is stuck in a dead end job, feels so empty and unfulfilled in his profession. He reports directly to a Senior General Manager (Ms Katherine) who he said is very impatient and often criticizes him without valid reasons. Eric feels he cannot take criticism well and that he has a low threshold of stress. Eric wanted to know how he could get stronger to cope on his own and without changing his General Manager at all. Eric was also at a loss as to how he can improve his personal life especially with regards to the relationship with his ex-fiancée.
Why is it a problem?
The problem was that Eric was waking up feeling miserable every morning and had to struggle daily to drag himself to work every day. He was feeling moments of stagnation in his job and was beginning to wonder about the value he was bringing to his role in his workplace. Not just for his company but also for the students’ lives that he touched every day. This feeling of helplessness has also made him easily irritated, often losing his temper for trivial reasons. This was affecting the quality of his work and his interactions with people.
How long has is it a problem?
This situation had developed for Eric immediately after there was a change in top management about 12 months ago when the previous owners sold the company. Eric shared that the new management was more focused on generating profits rather than paying attention to student satisfaction and learning outcomes.
What is the worst thing about this problem?
The worst thing about this problem is that Eric feels he is completely boxed in with no way out. He does not feel useful and he feels helpless to do anything to solve the issue. He needs the income from his job and is extremely worried that due to the uncertain economic climate, he will remain unemployed for a long time if he quits. On the other hand, Eric also feels that he has a unique set of skills, talents and abilities which far outweigh the limited role that his new GM has tasked him with.
Why has no one been able to solve it so far?
Eric has always considered himself an introvert and preferred to devote himself completely to his work without much of a social life. He has a challenge communicating his true feelings and thoughts to his superiors, colleagues and friends. Eric also shared that he did not have any form of a social support network comprising family and friends. He has an elder brother who lives in USA and no other family member to rely on. Neither has Eric been able to establish any trusted friendships because of his introvert nature. Eric’s fiancée also decided to end their relationship as he was non-communicative with her about his future commitment to her regarding marriage.
What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
- Offering a trusted, safe and confidential space
- Establishing rapport-develop a climate of trust and intimacy
- Pacing and leading by matching & mirroring
- Outcome setting-crafting self-empowering outcomes
- Active Listening
- Observing-detecting non-verbal communication
- Powerful and Purposeful Questions
- Being Present
- Rephrasing and Reframing Perspectives
- NLP Presuppositions-beliefs that promote growth and change
- Expressing Gratitude
- Demonstrating Empathy, Compassion, Strength & Support
Explain your process in detail
Before starting our coaching session, I assured Eric that this was a safe, trusted and confident space between us. I then set the foundation by sharing with him what coaching is all about and that this will not be a counselling, mentoring or therapy session. I explained to Eric our coaching relationship and each other’s responsibilities.
I further told Eric that the agenda for the coaching session was all owned by him. As his coach, I was his partner and will facilitate a systematic coaching process which is very goal directed and results oriented towards achieving Eric’s own desired outcome. My goal was to help and support Eric to discover, expand and fully utilize his inner resources. It was my responsibility to draw out hidden or untapped capabilities from Eric and assist him to formulate effective plans to achieve his desired outcome.
After some initial nervousness, Eric became more comfortable and felt safe enough in this trusting space to talk freely about his fears, values, dreams, hopes and aspirations in complete confidence. He realized that I was there to accept his sharing and that I will act in his best interests at all times.
I remained present in the moment of our conversation by focusing on what Eric was saying to figure out what was important to him. By asking him purposeful and powerful questions, I encouraged Eric to talk to me and understand his needs. At times, I did a fair bit of backtracking, paraphrasing and reframing. This gave Eric an opportunity to confirm or disagree with my reflections of his feelings and made him feel that I was truly listening. This was very effective in gathering vital and relevant information from Eric. This was especially evident when two of my questions had the ability to create awareness and eye opening moments for Eric, enabling him to re-frame his challenge to see it in a new way.
The first shift in Eric’s perception and thinking came when Eric discovered his lack of assertiveness and his inability to say “NO” to a particular colleague who was adopting bullying tactics to pass over additional workloads to Eric. This colleague was also passing negative feedback about Eric in public which has come to the attention of Eric’s superior.
The second “WOW” moment was Eric’s awareness that he has yet to come to terms with a traumatic event, the end of his important long term relationship with his fiancée. Eric was responding with feelings of shock, being in denial, feeling angry and sad. Losing a partner whom Eric trusted and depended on completely was psychologically scary, painful, and stressful. As he was attempting to cope, Eric was displaying all of the normal responses to being in a high-stress state. His appetite and sleep, ability to pay attention and concentrate, energy and motivation, and immune system have all been affected.
My coaching session was guided by a structured process of:
- Setting positively stated outcome
- Determining effects of achieving this outcome
- Recognizing symptoms of problem
- Identifying possible causes of problem
- Resources/planning and goal setting
What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not?
Throughout this structured coaching session, I was able to facilitate Eric’s crafting of his self-empowering outcome and its ultimate effects. Eric was able to identify key symptoms and possible causes that were creating his challenges. At the close of the session, Eric was able to map out what needs to fall into place for him to move towards his goal of fulfillment in his personal and professional life.
It was fairly effective as I was able to offer Eric the following during the coaching process:
- Support to discover the answers within himself-his lack of assertiveness and need to communicate more effectively with his colleagues and superiors so as to improve his capacity to say “NO”
- Co-creation of an action plan using resources to achieve what he really wants-focus on his strengths while at work and not to stretch his work assignments beyond his job scope and responsibilities
- Support in making a life-changing decision-attempt to patch up and mend the broken relationship with his fiancée and commit to a long term relationship-learning to say “YES” to things that are important to him
- Acknowledgement and encouragement of a feeling of gratitude for Eric to overcome his feeling of dissatisfaction and unhappiness with his lot in life and thus enhance the quality of his life
- Accepting responsibility for and commitment to taking action to move forward and achieve his desired outcomes
If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
I would have given more support to Eric in identifying his underlying beliefs and to face them head on to make it possible for him to change his unassertive behavior.
At some times, I was too eager and enthusiastic in soliciting replies from Eric and need to refrain from entertaining judgments, opinions or even beliefs about the situation being described to me during a coaching session
I would also have used a NLP coaching technique known as Perceptual Positions that would have enabled Eric to see things from the point of view of others such as his fiancée, colleagues and superior. This ability is a key skill in understanding people and is very important in the communication process and relationships.
What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
- By establishing a safe & trusting place, I was able to make a strong emotional connection with Eric and enable powerful growth. However, to create this trust I had first want to commit to taking responsibility for creating this climate of trust and a positive outcome.
- Asking empowering questions and active listening to his responses energized the conversation with Eric. This helped to clarify strategy, action plans, vision and values thus leading to transformational change.
- As a coach, I am there to support Eric to enhance his happiness, productivity and life satisfaction. Much more than Eric, I needed to embody a state of mind of gratitude. About thankfulness and appreciation for what we have in life and that by giving to others and UPLIFTING them, we RISE too!
In conclusion, as I develop my coaching practice, I am continually on a learning journey as I value every coaching session to be an experience and opportunity to seek feedback, learn and improve.