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Coaching case study: Coach, change me!


This month's coaching case study comes from Richard Hawkes of UnlimitedPotential, who looks at what to do when your client believes that coaching will magically change them.

Business coaches often come across resistance from coachees, which can be the result of, for example, a lack of understanding about coaching or poor communication within an organisation.
Here's an example of an individual who has the misconception that coaching will bring about change instantly, but this is masking a different issue.
Bill is a senior salesman in a company that manufactures and distributes speciality chocolates throughout Europe. He has an excellent track record and, as a result, has been identified for promotion to regional sales manager and is booked into a Management Development Programme.
His managing director is very keen on coaching and has told Bill he needs some coaching sessions as part of his development. Bill is hesitant because he feels coaching is being forced on him, it's far too “touchy-feely”, and he wants to see results instantly because he doubts if he can be successful in his new role.
Bill: "Right, I have been persuaded to do this coaching, so off you go - change me."
Coach: "Bill, I am not sure that you have been made fully aware of how this works. The idea is that between us we look at various aspects of you, your career, personal and work expectations and objectives, and home life, and jointly come up with some ideas to enhance these areas and indeed some that we do not know about yet."
Bill: "You’re the expert so just tell me what you are going to do and what you need me to do."
At this point a coach could spend a great deal of time justifying and explaining what coaching is all about, but without any real end result. It will be most effective if the coach goes straight into some constructive areas of conversation.
Coach: "Well, first I would like you to tell me what you are going to do. Talk to me about this new post and what you are hoping to get out of it. Tell me how it's going to impact on your life and lifestyle."
This is a good open question to start the conversation and break down the barrier that Bill is currently putting up. The coach is asking Bill to talk about himself and is therefore beginning the process of 'holding the mirror up' to the client.
Bill: "Well, I suppose I would like to have a bigger house from this promotion..."
Coach: "What else?"
Bill: "Perhaps I should find out a bit more about how strategy works – my MD is always on about me being a bit broader than sales when I am in the new post."
A coach could now use the same probing question to help Bill to open up. In my experience, asking the question 'what else?' several times - I have used it 12 times on many occasions - will often get to the heart of the issue much quicker than talking in depth about specific subjects.
Coach: "What else?"
Bill: "I suppose I'm going to have to consider planning, how to motivate others and understand the company finances. I never thought I would hear myself saying things like that - in fact I don't really understand them."
Bill is now engaging with the process and it is beginning to have some impact on him. The coach can now move forward and work in those individual areas that Bill has identified.
Coach: "Tell me about that, Bill."
Bill: "I hide my lack of confidence underneath a mask of bravado and bluster. And whilst I am very upfront with everybody, underneath I am not sure that I am as good as them. I am not sure that I am really convincing. I am not sure that I shall not be found out for what I am."
Coach: "What are you Bill?"
Bill: "I have never expressed this before but I am always scared that somebody will find out that I do not know as much as I purport and that I will be asked a question that I cannot answer. That would make me look silly."
Coach: "You are describing what is often known as the imposter syndrome. Many people suffer from a lack of confidence or have doubts about their ability, particularly those who have been successful in a short space of time."
Bill: "That's good to know - I thought I was different from everybody else..."
Knowing that other people have the same feeling will be a confidence builder in itself to Bill, and the coach can now expand on the issues Bill has opened up about.
How else would you tackle this conundrum? Please let us know your thoughts by commenting on this thread.

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Richard Hawkes is Unlimited Potential’s specialist family business coach and you can follow his and Unlimited Potential's other activities on the news section of their website www.unlimitedpotential or for the latest on coaching follow them on Twitter @unltdpotential.

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