Resident coach Richard Hawkes looks at a conversation one would expect occasionally in a long-running coaching relationship.
Our coach has had a coaching relationship with Jon for a long time. Jon is a senior manager in his organisation. They have built up a trusting, long-term relationship and during that time Jon has had successes and failures, highs and lows with the business and on odd occasions with himself.
Coach arrives to find Jon uncharacteristically sitting on the wrong side of his desk sideways and somewhat slumped in the chair at his meeting table.
Coach: "Good morning Jon how are things today? What would you like to talk about? I was glad to read your last year results in the press – great effort, well done."
Jon: "Yeah, I suppose so. It was really down to James and the success he had in his division. There was a huge upsurge in demand and he had quite a job to keep up as you well know."
Coach: "So where are you going next, what is the next great objective?"
Jon: "I am not sure. I do not seem to have the enthusiasm at the moment. I cannot see why. Everything is going well as usual."
Coach: "I there any area that is not happening as you would like it to?"
Remember, Jon is in a very successful business and has not had any failure for many many years so is used to everything going well. That has become the norm.
Jon: "Not that I am aware of."
Coach: "Okay, let’s have a look at the various areas of your life one by one. Business?"
Jon: "All going according to plan?"
Coach: "What projects have you got going at the moment? Where are you with the new factory at the other end of the country? What about the acquisition of ABC Ltd? Where are you with the joint venture with DEF Ltd?"
Jon: "All going well, Dave is now running the project for the new factory, Bill has got control of the acquisition and Jill is working on the joint venture."
Coach: "Okay. How about outside work then? Clare, your wife, the family all the boys and girls."
Jon: "Well Will is struggling with his job and that is a bit frustrating bearing in mind all the effort, time and money I have put behind him, but he will no doubt get there. As you know Liz’s husband is not the man I would like him to be, but there is not much I can do about that."
Coach: "How about you, how are all those various projects of yours coming on – the building, the garden pond, the painting, the summerhouse, the boat you are building etc?"
Jon: "I don’t think that it is Will that is getting to me . . ."
We are going to interrupt this conversation whilst our coach works around the three areas that may be getting to Jon. Digging deep around all three whilst Jon prevaricates and says all is well in each area.
We now rejoin it some 25 minutes later.
Coach: "Jon let me tell you what I am hearing. Work is, at the moment, not really challenging you as an individual, you are frustrated that Will is not performing as well as you would like, but what you keep coming back to time and time again is that boat you are building. If that is frustrating you, why don’t you get somebody to finish it?"
Jon: "Well you want to do these things yourself but . . . you may have a point there. Let me think about it. Ummmm. I have got myself into a corner, trapped into the must-do mentality. I think I may be churning over and over about all these bits I have got to do and it is building up in my mind and blocking everything out."
Coach: "So what is the cure? Create more time for yourself?"
I think we can allow our coach to make a suggestion in this case. There are a few times when it can be helpful.
Jon: "I cannot take time off."
Coach: "Well how about switching off those emails?"
Another suggestion by the coach, but again probably justified.
Jon: "Phew, no emails. How will they manage without me?"
Coach: "How will they manage without you if you become ill due to overwork."
This is a great example of the right question at the right time. Well done our coach.
Jon: "I think I will make a list of all those outstanding items and see if I can get some of them done by others to clear my mind. I think also that I will have a week off to get the world into perspective. Thanks coach. I feel a lot better."
You could argue that this conversation was not a true coaching conversation. The coach has, in fact, been rectifying a problem rather than extending the coachee to improve their potential, however in a long running coaching relationship, one would expect occasionally to have a session like this.
However, the coach needs to be careful not to get into a position where they are just empathising. There must be the element of challenge and the metaphorical holding of the mirror up to the coachee.
This is a real example of how the coach must go with the situation and never try to dominate it.
Richard Hawkes is a leading business coach with Unlimited Potential .
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