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Coaching Case Study: Where am I going?


This month's Coaching Case Study looks at how coachees can feel helpless and out of control when it comes to their own futures.

Whilst a lot of time is spent on getting people to meditate or live in the moment to help with the high stress levels which seem to be endemic in today’s world, some people seem to take this too far in order to protect themselves from what they may see as an uncertain future. This can result in paralysis for them in helping themselves for the future.
The coaching conversation could develop along the following lines;
Coach: “Shall we start by looking at what you want to achieve over the next few years?”
Amanda: “What do you mean?”
This is the first indication that Amanda has never thought about the future.
Coach: “Well, where would you like to be in say three years? Do you still wish to be at work; doe you wish to be head of department; would you like a bigger house; would you like a different challenge?”
Amanda: “I have been here for four years, and can now do this job very well. Nobody has to come back to me with questions and I take great care to do a good job. That is all I need to do to get where I want to be.”
Coach: “And where is that Amanda?”
Amanda: “Here making sure that everything goes the same each week; at the same time and in the same place. As long as I deliver what is asked of me at the right time and in the right place, that’s alright.”
This is a clear description that she wishes to remain in her comfort zone (or what she perceives to be her comfort zone). Why step out of line, she is thinking, it may be painful.
Coach: “So in ten years time, when you leave, what would you like your “epitaph” here to read?”
The first “killer question” has just been asked. Amanda has been challenged for the first time in years. The coach has carefully waited for this moment; just long enough for Amanda to begin, in a very small way, to question the status quo. The coach has been careful to ensure that the challenge is not to hard too soon.
Amanda: “She got on with her work, did it well and accurately and on time.”
Coach: “That’s all?”
Amanda: “Now that you say it that does sound a bit dull.”
A light bulb moment. This coach would probably use the power of silence now to allow Amanda to ponder and allow some work by her sub-conscious.
Coach: “So let me ask again. What do you want to achieve over the next few years?”
Amanda: “I had never thought about that. I do my day to day work; I go home and do that routinely and effectively; I tend to go to the same place at the same time each week; I never do anything spontaneously. This is a bit scary. I have never looked further than 24 hours ahead. I am stuck in routine and repetition, although I have always felt very comfortable.”
Coach would be well advised to use the power of silence again here and let Amanda run for as long a she thought it needed and then even more.
Coach: “Is that where you want to stay?”
Amanda: “Oh dear, I have just realised that I have got this far in life without any idea of where I am going, and thinking about it, that has not got me anywhere. Do you think I should change?”
Another light bulb moment. The coach has led Amanda for the second time into a fundamental realisation about her life.
Coach: “Do you want to change?”
Amanda: “I think I do?”
Coach: “OK; so imagine we are sitting here in five years time, and you have made changes over the last five years – now tell me where we are, what you are doing and how you have made changes since five years ago. Use your imagination, fantasise a bit if necessary.”
Use the NLP techniques (or your own version), they do work well.
Amanda: “Um, um, um. I am head of this division, living in a big detached house. I married my partner three years ago and we have just come back from a holiday in Antigua. – Is that what you wanted?”
Now we have found out what Amanda does want. Isn’t this a great deal more than when we started?
Coach: “Is that what you want?”
Amanda: “Well come to think of it, that would be quite nice."
Coach: “So tell me what is the first step you need to move towards the position you have just described?"
So the coach has carefully teased out some forward thinking form somebody that was not even considering what would happen in the future – today was good enough – and comfortable, until the coach opened it up with a well crafted set of questions.
The coach can now move forward in the session and use the rest of whatever model – e.g. GROW, CIGAR- they use to look at the barriers etc and to get Amanda to set a plan to start down the road to her new dream.
I bet that in five years time, there is a good chance that Amanda will be well on the way to being a new, improved person.
Read Richard's other Case studies: "I don't know! I don't know!" and The Confidence Barrier.
Richard Hawkes is a leading business coach with Unlimited Potential

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