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Coaching Case Study: “I don’t want to be here at all!”


In this month's coaching conundrum, Richard Hawkes looks at how to deal with an unhappy coachee who is frustrated in their job and wants to leave.

How many times have we been in the position where our coachee does not wish to be where they are at that moment? This may be fine for an individual, although when we are working in a company environment it can prove quite a dilemma for the coach.

This conversation may go something like this:
Coach: “Well Simon, what do you want to talk about today?”
Simon: “I have been thinking about this quite a bit and I feel that I am currently at a dead end with my career here. There does not seem to be anywhere I can go as all the people above me seem to be really well settled in their jobs – so I think that I would like to go and start my own business. That seems to be a great challenge.”
Coach: “Tell me about the business you have in mind.”
Simon: “I have always dreamt about having a village store; out of the pressures that I have on a daily basis here and being in control of my own destiny. I can take time off when I want and do those things that I do not have time to do today.”
OK let’s go with this and see where it leads. The coach is quite right in allowing Simon to follow this route and fully explore it, so he will now put some questions to make Simon question his motives etc.
Coach: “Tell me what you know about running a village store.”
Simon: “Easy isn’t it. You go and buy all the things that you like and set them out and people come in and buy them.”
Coach: “Well tell me who you have spoken to who runs a village store.”
Simon: “Nobody; but I have seen it on the television.”
Coach: “How much money will you make in a year?”
Simon: “I don’t know, but I am sure it will be enough.”
Coach: “Have you spoken to your wife about this?”
Simon: “Yes and she asked me a million questions about the mortgage payments, bringing up the children, holidays, pensions – and it went on and on.”
Coach: “Has she got a point?”
Simon: “Ummmmm...never thought about that.”
Today’s light bulb moment. Simon has just fully realised what he is suggesting for himself. There is no point in the coach continuing with this line of questioning. Move on, but just make sure that Simon is clear in his own mind what realisation he has just made. The coach will do some feedback.
Coach: “Feedback what you have heard yourself say so far in this conversation Simon.”
Simon: “I have heard myself say that I want to go and have a village store. Oh dear, I have just realised that I have heard myself say that I do not know anything about village stores, but more to the point, I have heard myself say that I have not listened to one of the most important people - my wife. Yes that has really become clear to me. I need to decide whether I am better off here or I do want to go off and start that shop. Don’t I?”
Coach: “That is what I have heard you say Simon.”
Simon: “I need to go off and think about this and talk to my wife. Can we come back to this at our next session?”
We are going to break here and continue below with the next session, but in the meanwhile examine the dilemma that the coach is now in. Has Simon opened a can of worms in his life? Has the coach, possibly, reflected Simon into a position where he may leave his job (what will his current employer say about that?).
This is a pure matter of professional judgement and fully understanding what Simon is thinking. The other dilemma is, should the coach have tried to conclude Simon’s thinking at this session or should he, as he has, given Simon extra space to work out what he really wanted to do?
So let’s move onto the next session.
Simon: “I have got to tell you that I have decided that I should stay here and work harder on getting promotion. I would like to spend some time around that today. I have spoken to my wife and whilst she is very happy for us (and she wants to take part) to have a village shop in the future, now is not the time – mortgage, children etc.”
Phew! The coach made the right judgement to give Simon enough space to make his decision and not to push it through too rapidly. This is a very good use of all the techniques in his tool box.
Coach: “So where do you want to be in two years time?”
Simon: “I have also been giving this some thought. I am close enough and have enough experience that I would like to aim for the General Manager’s job. This would give me great satisfaction and would give me some of the autonomy that I would have got with my own village store.”
Coach: “So what is the first step you need to take to start you on the path to becoming general manager?”
The coach will now move forward and coach around the goals that Simon has, the barriers he perceives and for Simon to set himself an action plan to move forward. The fundamental issue has been resolved.
So the dilemma for the coach here is – how far should he push in getting Simon to fully resolve the issue in one session? What responsibility does he have to Simon’s employer if the sessions result in Simon putting his notice in? Finally, is it good practice the give a coachee space between sessions? It is so important to make sure that if a coaching session takes somebody apart, it should put them back together at the end of that session. Did the coach do the right thing here?
Let us know if you would do things differently...
Richard Hawkes is a leading business coach with Unlimited Potential You can follow their tweets: @unltdpotential


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