Coaching Case Study By Sophie Barcant
(Parenting Coach, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO)
I am calling this case study Conscious Coaching because I came to realize how conscious I must be to follow the coaching process. While I coached my peer, having very little coaching experience and just trying to follow the steps prescribed to follow the coaching agreement and think of appropriate questions, I was not conscious of the coaching process. I was not fully conscious or mindful of “WHY” we ask what we ask in coaching, and why in the order it must be asked, only partially. I then recently had an AHA moment or an AHA 24 hours when suddenly it all made sense.
1. Who are the main players in this case study?
Melda is an executive in her late fifties. She aspires to be a coach and do meaningful work when she retires.
She describes herself as someone who is very serious about planning and needs to have master plans to perform her duties as executive, wife, mother and coach.
We met several times over a six week period. She sought to coach for different issues each time. She claimed that she achieved her goals for the sessions each time and was grateful for the coaching. It was quite a big surprise however when at the end of the 3rd session, she realized the real issue was something entirely different to what she brought as the topic to be discussed. This was a shock to both of us and it confirmed the premise that what clients bring to a session is more often than not, the “real issue”. It was amazing how she felt she gained or achieved her goals from the session with me being so semi-conscious.
2. What is the core problem or challenge you applied your coaching skills to?
The main challenge I faced while coaching Melda was that while communicating her story she raised so many different issues, it was difficult to hone in on what the deep issue was for her. She rambled a great deal.
- Why is it a problem?
This was a problem because it was difficult to pinpoint which of her responses to follow on with. I did succeed in repeatedly clarifying her goals for the session so as to maintain the coaching agreement, but still, I found it hard to know what to respond to and to explore deeper. I now realize this was hard for me because of my lack of understanding of the coaching process.
- How long has it been a problem?
This tendency persisted throughout all the sessions. I also sensed quite a bit of heaviness on her part throughout, but I believe we succeeded to gain some lightness towards the close of the sessions.
- What is the worst thing about this problem?
I think the worst thing about this problem was that the heaviness lasted long and I feared the session would end with her feeling heavy and not light as she wanted to feel. Also, I felt so lost for questions so much of the time, I just floundered and hoped I would ask appropriate questions at the appropriate time. In my mind, it seems I did this about 50-60% of the time.
3. What specific coaching skills or approach did you use in this case?
I believe I created trust and Intimacy,
I believe I demonstrated Coaching presence, Active listening and
Using my active listening I made sure to pick up on any positive insights she had re ways to solve her issues and I was able to affirm and acknowledge her wisdom and recognize how well she was living her values (which became evident as she spoke). I used this to bring lightness that she sometimes specifically said she was seeking. I did manage to bring her to arrive at actions steps and to the goals for the sessions.
4. Explain your process in detail.
On all 3 occasions I asked what topic she wanted to bring to the session, what she wanted to leave the session with (was it a plan, actions or feelings or clarity of thought?) I asked how she would know she had arrived at her goal, what success would look like. We looked a little at the importance of achieving her goals. I made her feel very accepted and I welcomed all she had to share. She clearly felt comfortable opening up to me and being vulnerable. I commended her for this as well as on the insights she would discover about herself and issues at hand. She often acknowledged she was having new insights.
My active listening enabled me to make observations and ask questions related to her values. I reflected some of her language and emotion words back to her asking what it meant and what more she wanted to explore those things. I used my intuition and shared my observations when I noticed she was unsure of issues and seemed confused and when I sensed heaviness, I attempted to explore the cause and what would bring her to lightness. I believe I was weak here and did not succeed to do this until many many minutes later.
Reflecting back now I believe my Powerful questions and Direct communication were also weeks, I think the client needed to be challenged and I did not know how to do this: how to challenge her assumptions, beliefs, needs and wants. I did not fully know how to explore beyond her current way of thinking about herself and her situation. I never managed to pick up on her learning style. I believe I was also weak in asking her to clarify what she learnt about herself and the situation during the coaching session. We did explore options for taking action, evaluating them and when actions would be taken. Also what structures or support could be sought and used. We also did explore the progress towards what she wanted to accomplish in the session. I was weak in using the measurement concept, asking how we would measure success, referring to target dates etc.
There was a lot of confusion when it came to defining what needed to be addressed and resolved in order to accomplish the goal for the session or issue at hand. The rambling about so many different things confused us. So many different variables were being presented. I suppose were I more skilled I would have been able to filter them and hone in on the main issue to explore.
5. What were the results of your process? Was your coaching/program effective? Why? Why not?
According to my client, my coaching was effective and the results were to her satisfaction, she got some insights that seemed to help her, she arrived at the goals for the session every time. This was due to the competencies I was strong or somewhat strong in. Due to the fact that different topics were brought to the coaching session every time I am unable to ascertain whether the coaching was effective on a long-term basis. As already stated, being aware now of my weak areas, I know my coaching could have been far more effective.
6. If you could approach this problem again, what would you do differently?
I would learn and understand direct communication better. I would put more emphasis on discovering how important the goals raised were to her. What meaning she has attached to the many different variables she raised. I would challenge her assumptions, beliefs, perspectives, needs and wants. I would explore her current way of thinking about herself and her situation. Exploring more deeply the causes of her heaviness would be essential. I would seek to understand her learning style. I would take time to ask her to clarify what she learnt about herself and the situation during the coaching sessions. Certainly, we would explore more thoroughly options, blocks and support structures she would need to achieve her goals. Finally, we would set clearer actions steps and establish ways to measure success.
7. What are the top 3 things you learnt from this experience?
I learnt a lot from this experience.
- Primarily that I must pay greater attention to a lot more of the competencies. I now understand how important they are and why we follow a particular process in the coaching session. I am more Conscious of the process.
Asking a client what is important to them I realize is vital in order for them and coach to assess their level of motivation, similarly how to measure success. The more important, achieving the goal is to them, the more likely and motivated they will be to implement the actions to achieve it.
2) My understanding of what powerful questions actually do is clearer so I see my need now to put more effort into practising this and how to explore and challenge their way of thinking about themselves and their situations, their assumptions, beliefs, values, needs and wants.
- Finally, I realize that asking the client what meaning, they attribute to things they say can bring great clarity to themselves about their situations, beliefs and emotions.
In closing, I must say that I felt quite daunted to do this case study since I have coached so few people. I have felt very unsure about the accuracy of recounting how the coaching sessions actually went. I wondered and doubted if I was remembering and interpreting what transpired accurately. But I just started to write. I am pleased with my end result as I learned a great deal.