Research Paper By Jacqui Ariaans
(Life Coach, UNITED KINGDOM)
This case study is a description of a journey one of my clients asked me to be part of. I will call her Jennifer.
At the time Jennifer approached me, she has a full time job which is home based, but requires weekly (inter)national travel. She is a wife and a mum of a 6 year old daughter and a 4 year old boy.
She tells me her family is active. The week prior to our first coaching contact, her husband completed a marathon. There are the swimming, ballet, music and football lessons for the children and she is…..
That’s her question. What do I do? When do I have time?
During the first contact, I mainly let her talk. This is driven by how she opens the conversation. She says: ‘Oh Jacqui, I am so glad we are finally able to meet as there is so much I need to tell, so much going on.’
She tells me about her work, I understand that she has a home based position, but that a large part of her role involves travel to visit hospitals country wide. These visits require overnight stays on a regular basis. She feels this is expected from her by her employer and she has no or almost no influence on the travel. She also mentions that although it is a 40 hour job, she struggles to not do any overtime. Her regular work week consists of 45 to 50 hours.
When I ask her about her children she brightens up and tells highly of them. How they are doing at school, that they have lots of friends and about the swimming, ballet, football and music lessons. She is clearly proud of them and also of her husband. He also works full time, runs marathons and is a great father.
I ask her if I am correct that I hear she is proud of her family life. She doesn’t hesitate with her answer ‘YES, I am!’ But she doesn’t stop there. She feels tired. Tired of organising everything. At work, so the studies run smoothly, at home so everyone has what he/she needs and is at the place where they need to be.
She has a clear goal for the outcome of the sessions. She wants to be able to enjoy what she is doing, without feeling the pressure that she is feeling at the moment.
At the end of the first session, I ask her to visualise what her ideal world would look like and to write it down before the next session.
The second session, we explore her ideal world. She went into great detail, summarised she wants to spend more time with her children, do what she does well without being distracted by the world around her (think of other things). And she would like to start a hobby for her own. Something like painting or sculpturing.
She finds it very important that she is independent and supports her family in a financial perspective.
At the end of the second session she mentions that it is a great relief that someone is listening to her and takes her seriously.
I ask her what she sees as the difference between the ideal world and her actual life.
It is silent for a while. Followed by: ‘Time for myself, less pressure…..’ Not much more. But how do I get rid of the pressure, I have tried that for some years now. I don’t have any spare time, I don’t see how I can change my situation towards my ideal world’
During the next sessions she explores her work life balance. I am listening and reflect what I hear. By doing this she slowly discovers that she doesn’t want to work full time. She mentions that it is expected of her. Who is expecting this of you? It turns out her mom always worked full time when she grew up and she finds out that she always saw this as the standard to live up to.
We start to create an action plan. She heard she can earn more money with less hours if she becomes a contractor. Less job security, but more money and flexibility. The action plan is focussed around this. A couple of weeks later she gathered enough information on becoming a contractor in her field and feels confident this is the right way for her. Then everything starts to move quickly.
She resigns from her current job which means she will finish when the summer holidays start. She will use the summer to set everything up to start contracting and have fun with her children.
Her employer is sad to see her leave and offers her a contract position for 4 days a week at the end of summer.
In fall I have the last meeting with her. We reflect on the past 8 months. She is very grateful, happy and states that she found herself back again. She loves her work and the fact that she has time for herself and extra time for the children. She mentions that she signed up for a painting course to start early winter.
Looking back at these 8 months as a coach, my first priority was to create trust. Jennifer was working in the same area as I was working in, so I was really careful not to judge or provide my opinion. Jennifer new we were in the same job field and sometimes asked me what I was thinking. I explained the coaching process to her and that if she was ok with it, I wanted to respect this very powerful process. She was curious where it would bring her and agreed.
By the time Jennifer stated that she felt listened to and taken seriously, I knew that trust was established. By that time I was able to start asking more powerful questions. Because of the trust created but also because I became more familiar with her story. I carefully chose my questions to try and break the cycle. This slowly resulted in a change in her thought process. She started thinking out of the box and discovered she could and wanted to change.
That brought us to the next stage, the action plan. Up front I anticipated this to be a difficult stage. Especially in terms of not becoming leading, not providing advice. To my surprise by that time Jennifer got used to being coached and was ready for action. Her thought process changed from being stuck and thinking around in circles to a more open and action orientated approach.
I am grateful for this particular coaching experience. I learned that I can and have to trust the coaching process.
Jennifer in the end took a different approach compared to what I would have done. By trusting the coaching process and not providing her with the (sometimes requested) advice, she discovered her own way. In my opinion this has led to her happiness and to my own growth as a coach.