Leadership Challenges and the Coaching Process
Introduction: The Coach
This paper will document the coaching process from beginning to end. It begins with a self-assessment in which I will use the important qualities from the Flaherty text and create a measurement scale so that I can master these qualities. In addition, I created a project in which a client named Frank Herman has been laid off and needs job coaching in order to set new goals and eventually find a new job.
Throughout this process, I will remind myself that my job is the coach and I am merely the frame in which my client will create a picture of his new life. (nice metaphor!) As Frank’s situation will be the model for all future clients, it is important that I create a solid plan. The first part of this plan is the self-assessment.
The first step in the coaching process is to establish a relationship with the client (Flaherty, 40). I prefer that this relationship begin in a no-pressure environment. I met my client at my office, but then suggested that we take a walk (In the future, I may also suggest that we, have lunch, but keep it casual so that the client is comfortable speaking to me honestly and openly). During this time, I established my role as a job coach and explained exactly what that means. I also advised that we may need to create the role together: does the client want me to simply coach him through a career crisis, or does he need help in his personal life as well? While I established some of these issues, others depended on Frank’s comfort level.
The next step was for me to find an opening. (Flaherty, 42). Frank came to me for a reason – he wants to make a change in his life. Still, I recognized the need to listen to him and find the right opening in which my services could be used.
Part I: Self-Assessment:
The Flaherty text suggests that the assessment process is threefold and includes assessing the level of the client’s competency, the structure of interpretation of the client, and the array of relationships and projects that make up the life of the client (Flaherty, 43). For this reason, I made plans to meet with the client’s family, friends and colleagues in order to get an accurate picture of who Frank is as well as his strengths and potential weaknesses.
I created an assessment scale in order to determine my ability to measure the following important qualities in the coaching process. It is a scale of 1-5 for the following skills and qualities: speaking, listening, resolving breakdowns, assessing, designing, rigor, patience, self-consistency and creativity/flexibility. A score of “1” means that the skill has not been mastered; a score of “5” means that it has been mastered and that I do not require any additional work to master this skill or achieve this quality.
1: Client is completely confused as to my statements/instructions; 2: Client understands little of what I have said; I must rephrase and repeat most statements/instructions; 3: Client understands the major ideas but needs me to repeat the details; 4: Client understands most of what I have said and may need minor clarifications; 5: Client understands what I have said and can repeat it in his/her own words.
1: I do not listen to the client; 2: I listen to some of what the client tells me, but I find myself “zoning out” or ignoring what I am being told; 3: I listen to some of what the client tells me but often have to ask the client to repeat information; 4: I listen to most of what the client tells me, I occasionally have to ask for clarification or repetition; 5: I listen to everything the client tells me; he/she does not need to repeat information. In addition, I listen for the “story behind the story” that might contribute to what the client is saying; I will understand that the client may not feel comfortable telling me all relevant information right away.
1: I become angry and frustrated and take it out on the client; 2: I take my anger and frustration out on the client before allowing the client to explain his/her position; 3: I make it difficult to resolve problems with the client; 4: I work with the client on resolving differences but occasionally become frustrated; 5: I approach problems rationally and look for a solution.
1: I form a biased opinion that is not based on standards but on my own prejudices; 2: I allow my biases to color my assessments and my regard for the standards is minimal at best; 3: I usually keep my biases and prejudices away from my work and I pay some attention to the standards; 4: I refer to standards when making assessments while keeping my biases and prejudices in mind; occasionally I have to do a self-check to ensure that I am being fair; 5: I observe with an unbiased view while keeping the standards in mind and being aware of my own prejudices.
1: I am unable to set goals for the client; 2: My current plan will not allow the client to reach his/her goals without a re-assessment of the current reality; 3: I do not have a clear picture of the current reality, have set unrealistic goals, and do not have a feasible plan to attain them; 4: I understand the current reality, have set goals, but my plan to achieve the goals needs some work; 5: I understand the client’s current reality, I have set specific goals, and I have a plan to get the client from the current reality to his/her goal.
1: I unfairly apply standards and do not possess the flexibility and patience to achieve any outcomes; 2: I often fail to rigorously apply the standards and I usually lose sight of the desired outcomes; 3: I usually apply the standards but often have to remind myself to be patient and flexible; 4: I always refer to the standards in making decisions and I am working on being patient and flexible; 5: I rigorously apply the appropriate standards and combine patience and flexibility to achieve the desired outcomes.
1: I have no patience for the process of change and my client is feeling the pressure because of my unrealistic goals; 2: I have little idea of how long it should take to see changes and tend to pressure my client; 3: I often expect too much for my client and frustrate him/her with unrealistic expectations; 4: I encourage my client to meet his/her goals, but occasionally I expect too much; 5: I know that it takes time to see permanent changes and I encourage my clients without undue pressure.
1: My clients never know what to expect of me because I am never consistent in my expectations or applications of the program goals; 2: My client is often confused as to my expectations because I tend to be inconsistent; 3: I am occasionally inconsistent because I do not apply uniform standards to myself and my client; 4: I am usually consistent in my expectations but occasionally stray from my own standards; 5: Because I have rigorous standards for myself, my clients always know what to expect from me.
1: If my plans do not work out, I have no means of adapting and creating new plans;
2: Unexpected problems tend to make it difficult for me to adapt;
3: I usually panic when plans do not go as expected and it takes some time to develop a new plan;
4: I can adapt when necessary but I don’t always respond to changes quickly;
5: I know that even the best-laid plans can fail. I am prepared to adapt as necessary and have created backup plans.
Plan for Growth
I know that one of my best skills is that of speaking. I am very articulate and I find it easy to talk to different kinds of people. My friends come from a variety of backgrounds, so I am used to toning down my language with some people while expressing myself with longer words with others. In addition, I am not shy about approaching people I don’t know and I can usually make myself understood. If I find that the person I’m talking to does not understand what I’m saying, I know how to adapt my speech accordingly.
I need to work on my listening skills. While I am always willing to listen, I sometimes find that I will “zone out” unless a person is telling me information that I have specifically requested. I know that some people will give information that appears extraneous, but later that information becomes relevant. Because of my experience in different types of jobs, I believe that I can resolve breakdowns with a minimum of fuss. I do not become frustrated easily, unless I believe that the other party isn’t listening to me or that they have an agenda that is not in anyone’s best interest. I will become a better assessor when I remember to leave my biases and prejudices at the door and treat people based on the information they have given me rather than what I have assumed about them. Because my mind works logically, it is easy for me to design a program that combines a client’s current reality with a path that will lead directly to the intended goals and outcomes.
I will need to work on rigor, as I am more likely to treat people differently based on what I think I might have in common with them. I tend to lack patience and because I learn quickly, I expect others to learn quickly as well. I need to keep in mind that everyone works at a different pace and that I cannot expect instant results from anyone. I will also need to work on self-consistency as I should remember to apply the same standards to myself that I apply to my client. On a positive note, I am very flexible and I know how to adapt to new situations. I find that plans rarely turn out the way they’re supposed to and that a person needs to be able to adapt in order to survive.
My first goal is to become a better listener. I will do this by reminding myself to focus on what the client is saying, and to listen to more information than what I feel is appropriate for the situation. I must always consider my potential biases when dealing with a client and designing a program. My most significant goal is to work on my patience. I will do this by setting realistic goals and having those goals confirmed by another professional if I need to do so. In addition, I will check the goals and the schedule I set before trying to decide if significant progress has been made.
I am most concerned with my ability to be patient with my clients, and this is the skill for which I will outline a detailed plan.
Ø I set goals which are appropriate for myself, but may be unrealistic for anyone else;
Ø When the goals haven’t been met, I tend to assume fault on the part of the client rather than re-assessing whether or not the goals are appropriate;
Ø I tend to complain when progress is not being made according to my own timetable.
Ø Lack of experience in being patient with others;
Ø Tendency to complain first and ask questions later.
Ø Goals are set according to the client’s needs, rather than my own;
Ø I assess progress based on pre-determined standards;
Ø When goals haven’t been met, I do not complain; rather, I set new goals and encourage the client to continue on the prescribed path.
Ø First, I will set goals based on the client’s needs and abilities. I will achieve this by asking detailed questions and referring to the answers to those questions when I set the goals.
Ø Next, I will assess the client’s progress on a regular basis, without informing the client that I am doing so. This will allow me to keep track of progress without giving the client cause for alarm. This might lead him or her to become discouraged, which would be counterproductive.
Ø Finally, I will inform the client of his or her progress when it is appropriate, and I will remind myself to encourage rather than complain.
It is important that my client and I both have a system of support. I will need mentors on whom I can rely for advice or a sounding board; my client will need support so that he or she has close friends or family whom he or she trusts to lean on through the coaching process.
My support system will need to be long-term acquaintances that I can call on throughout my career. First, I will choose two mentors who have experience in coaching and who can give me advice – they’ve heard it all before. Second, I will choose a friend and a family member so that I can share the triumphs and frustrations of my career choice.
My client will need to choose between two to four people as a support system. Two people need to be a family member and a close friend. The other two should be colleagues or individuals who work in the same career field. The latter two people can offer my client advice as well as set an example so that my client is aware of the possibilities.
(Andrew, in this final paper I’d also like the results of your action plan. What has changed for you? Also here, and throughout the paper that follows, you have written in the future tense – e.g. I will do this, my client will do that. This paper should document the results of what has been done already.)
The Coaching Process
Once I have developed a method for self-assessment and I have an organized plan, I was ready to find a client and to put this plan in action.
My “client” is a man whose name is Frank he has lost his job and is in the process of finding another job. Having worked at his current position for a long time, Frank is apprehensive about the job search process and about working in a different environment than what he has been used to. Frank is suddenly experiencing problems he has never dealt with before now:
· He finds it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, because, as he says, “it’s not like I have a job to go to”
· Frank is not motivated to perform his usual chores around the house, because he feels that activities that don’t earn money are demeaning to him;
· He resists visiting with his friends and family. While they are very encouraging and mean well in asking him how the job hunting process is going, Frank is embarrassed to be having such trouble getting back to work;
· Frank is finding that he is jealous of those who don’t have to go through such a transition. What makes it more difficult is that one of his closes friends is still employed at the company from which Frank was downsized.
Frank is beginning to get discouraged over the lack of progress in his job hunt, and is starting to wonder if he should try to work in the same field or if he should change to a different field altogether. If so, then what field? Frank is unsure at this time of his strengths in other areas than the field he is used to.
I asked Frank what his goals were in terms of finding a new job: was he interested in merely finding a job in the same field in relatively the same geographical area? Or was he open to relocating, and/or working in another field altogether? I wanted to find out if Frank would be willing to go to school or to seek out more training for another job, or if he would prefer to find a new job based on his present skills and qualifications? These are important questions as they indicate whether Frank is going through a mini-transition or a life transition.
The next step is to determine the stage that Frank is in right now. Due to the fact that he was apprehensive about the job hunting process and was discouraged over his prospects to find a new job, this would indicate that Frank was in the beginning of Phase 2, The Doldrums. This suggested to me that Frank was not ready for major life changes at this point. He needed to accept that the loss of his job meant that he had no choice but to move on. Frank needed to consider looking for a new job while taking courses that would enhance his qualifications and give Frank a boost to his self-esteem. Finding a new job can be difficult, and for this reason it is important for Frank to network with others in his chosen field. Frank also needed to spend time with his friends and join a professional organization that would give him access to professionals in his field as well as those who might be able to lead him to a job opening.
Frank had many choices of developmental activities in which he could engage during this life transition. The first, of course, is to go back to school and to earn a qualification in a different field. Provided that it is financially feasible, he can research new fields by interning at different companies. He might also want to consider reading books on self-empowerment, managing his money (this is especially important while he has a limited income), and the best way to conduct himself during the job search process.
Frank’s resistance to moving ahead is that he is apprehensive about his place in his current job field. Having been on the job for ten years, he was aware that younger job-hunters with more education than experience might trump him in the hiring process: after all, companies can hire the new graduates cheaply and train them rather than correcting “bad” habits. In addition, Frank was concerned that if he jumps into a new job in order to meet his financial needs, he might be missing out on the opportunity to switch to a new field altogether. While he wasn’t entirely sure what he would do if he switched fields, he did know that there are more opportunities (especially in technical fields) than there were ten years ago. In order to support his family, Frank needs to make a certain amount of income. He does not have six months or a year to find a job; he needs to accomplish this task in the next two months. In order to dissuade Frank’s fears, I lead him through an exercise in order to help him decide if he wants to stay in his field or seek out a different field.
First, Frank made two pro/con lists, one entitled “Stay in Current Career” and the other, “Change Career Field”. He wrote out pros and cons of each choice underneath the title. I realized he might need more access to ideas; therefore, I made sure that he had Internet access while he was working on this process. This allowed him to do some research as far as the benefits of staying in his career (if there are new opportunities in different geographical locations of which he might not be aware), and to look into other opportunities in different career fields. Once he finished, we reviewed the results together and discussed which items in the “pro” section appealed to him.
If Frank goes back to school, he will be just as qualified as the new college graduates; if he switches fields, it might help prevent job boredom and a feeling of regret for not pursuing other avenues. I would also recommend seeing a career counselor who is trained in exploring new job options. Frank can be given a test that will indicate his aptitudes for many career fields and jobs. In addition, Frank has been working full-time for many years. He needs to take a short break in order to understand what he wants to happen in his future.
Experience is an important asset in the job-hunting process, and Frank has had ten years of experience in his chosen field, as well as another five years of general job experience. While the new college graduates have a degree with more relevant credits than Frank does, Frank has a proven track record of being a good employee. I reminded Frank of this fact in order to keep him from getting discouraged, and then worked with him on creating a new list – Frank’s Strengths and Weaknesses. He created two such lists, the first regarding himself as an employee, and the second in his personal life. For example, if he has trouble meeting new people in his personal life, this might indicate a reluctance to approach networking possibilities.
In the future, Frank would like to see himself in career that he not only finds fulfilling, but one that will be financially lucrative as well. In spite of his misgivings about job hunting, he admits that this period of time might be a time to make positive changes in his life and that it will provide an opportunity to see what else is out there. His sense of purpose and mission are not entirely clear right now. He knows that he needs to find a new job and preferably make a change to another field, but he is as yet uncertain as to what that field should be or how he would go about figuring out what to do next. The next assignment for Frank will be writing out a list of short-term and long-term goals. I will ask him to find at least two goals for each category.
The first external source of change is Frank’s family, who is encouraging him to find another career field. They want him to be respected and to like his job, and he wasn’t entirely happy with his former job. They are willing to support him during this phase, and this support will allow him to take his time in determining his future. The next external source of change is the changing job market. When Frank was first hired, it was more important to have job experience than it was a degree. Frank’s degree got him hired, but at this time it might be considered antiquated. This change in status will require Frank to think carefully about the changes he will need to make before he actively pursues a new job. I encouraged Frank first to think about what he wants separately from what his family wants for him. If he was determined to work in the same field and believed that this is where he will be truly happy, then I know that he needed to ignore his family and do what he wants. I encouraged him to consider their advice without giving in to it completely.
My client wants me to guide him through this life transition and assist him with a career aptitude test and analysis; preparing to re-enter the work force with more experience and less relevant education than his competitors; he also requested assistance in finding the proper training or re-certification courses to improve his chances of finding a job, and he requested preparation help for interviews. In short, Frank required assistance through this entire new phase of his life.
Franks indicated that the first planning item he needed was a letter of reference from his former employer. He wanted to make sure that he obtained this letter now, rather than waiting for his employer to be more difficult to contact. In addition, he assembled a list of professional references while he is still in touch with others in his field. Regardless of the field Frank chooses to enter, he will be prepared with the basic requirements for any job. Next, Frank needed the name of a career counselor who had experience with giving a career aptitude test and performing the necessary analysis. Frank asked me to find professionals in the fields he was considering entering so that he could interview them about how they like their careers. Finally, I gave Frank some simple exercises to boost his self-esteem in this difficult period.
When Frank begins his new job, he will need follow-up coaching in order to help him through the awkward transition stage of starting a new job. He may need an encouraging phone call now and then, or he may need me to find someone he can speak with about the more technical aspects of his job.
The assessment process required me to ask Frank a number of questions regarding his current situation and what he hopes to achieve in the future. I asked him about his current job, to which he responded that he had been laid off due to downsizing. When asked how that made him feel, Frank admitted that he was put off by the fact that not everyone was let go and that someone had to make the conscious choice to fire him. I then asked Frank if he wanted to stay within his current career field or if he wanted to seek out something new. This is the point at which Frank was confused. He realizes that if he continues in his current career field, it might be easier for him to find a job. The only barrier to finding a new job in his field is that there are more college graduates who will work for less money, and they are all looking for jobs.
Location is just as important as career field, and I asked Frank if he would be willing or even interested in relocating during this transition. He admitted that he would like to move to a different state; one with lower state taxes, a more affordable housing market, and especially an area in which his expertise would be invaluable.
From there, I asked Frank what his goals and dreams were when he was a child and if there were any career fields that he had always wanted to try but hadn’t. Frank was able to tell me a few, while adding that his family and friends were willing to support him in any way necessary in order to help him make this change easier. This was the point at which I realized that Frank was in a life transition rather than a simple mini-transition.
The first outcome was the realization that Frank is in a life transition. Not only does he want to change his career field, but he is willing to relocate and to depend on family and friends during this time. For this reason, I know that I can expect Frank to be a bit apprehensive about making such major changes and that he will need to be encouraged to keep going ahead even though it is less frightening to continue on the same path he has followed for the past ten years.
Next, I discovered that Frank has much to offer in his career field and that there are many other career fields in which Frank is most likely qualified. He does not need to be wary of the new graduates; he is a much more attractive job candidate due to his long work history, outstanding track record and superior references.
Due to the support of his family and friends, Frank does not need to rush his decisions in regard to finding a new job. He will have a greater window of time in which he can explore different career fields and decide which he is best suited for and which are fields in which he can excel rather than just get by. While it is difficult to depend on others for help, I will remind Frank to keep his eye on the future and remember that the sacrifices he makes now will pay off in the future. By the end of the year, he will most likely be in a new job with better opportunities. If he is truly willing to relocate, Frank will have many new adventures to look forward to and more possibilities of meeting new friends and colleagues.
The most important outcome of the assessment is the realization that Frank will need constant monitoring and an established routine in order to meet his new goals. I plan to set out a schedule for Frank that will prevent him from continuing the slump he has been in since losing his job.
During this time, I will need Frank to commit to enrolling in my coaching plan (Flaherty, 44). I will give him ideas about what he can expect from me, and he will need to tell me that he is ready to participate. Once he has decided to enroll with me, it will be time to engage in the coaching process.
Short-Term Coaching Goals:
My immediate goal as Frank’s coach is to lead him into and through the third phase of the transition process. He is reaching the end of the second phase, where he is just about ready to let go of his former life with his old job and older goals. He needs to successfully move into the third phase, Cocooning, where he will explore his interests and abilities in order to reach the fourth phase, Getting Ready. Frank will not be ready to make changes in his life until he spends time determining what he really wants out of life and where he would like to live. Once Frank has thought these things through, he can begin to seek out a new career.
My first goal is to help Frank create a daily schedule and to encourage him to follow it. It is jarring to go from a rigid schedule to one in which his days lack formal structure. While I will make suggestions, most of the activities included in the schedule will need to come from Frank. Not only will this motivate him to come up with new ideas for how to spend his time, but he will be more likely to follow the schedule if many of the activities are his ideas. I will include a few suggestions of my own that I believe will help him in this transition process. Following is a sample schedule.
7:00 Get Up – Shower, dress, eat breakfast, be ready to take on the day.
Because he is unemployed, it is tempting to skip the shower, hang out in pajamas, and to put off eating breakfast because Frank literally has all day to do it.
8:00 Self-Affirmation – Review a pre-printed list of assets that will help Frank
in his future endeavors. Spend quiet time envisioning a possible new life
and how you will go from where you are now to where you want to be. Pick
an outcome for this transition and imagine yourself in it.
This exercise is based on meditation techniques found in Dr. Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention. While many people have difficulty with the concept of meditation, I plan to present it to Frank and to future clients as a way to make one’s goals clear.
9:00 Activity – Find an activity that you did not have time to do when you were
employed full-time (working out, learning a new hobby, revisiting an old
interest). Spend at least two hours doing these activities. Do not think about
anything but how much you are enjoying this unexpected leisure time.
I believe that it is not only important to think about the future, but it is important to “live in the moment” as well.
12:00 Lunch – Rather than making a quick lunch, cook something that you did
not have time to eat when you were employed, or find a restaurant you
haven’t yet tried.
In the our fast-paced world, we don’t often have time to make a good meal or to consider food a sensory experience rather than just a way to keep our stomachs from growling and to keep the energy level up. As long as Frank has the time, he should nourish his body and his senses.
2:00 Career Consideration – This is the time in which you should consider what
you want to do in the future and how you plan to get there. You will be
have a variety of assignments – some of which will come from the coach, but
many of which will be created by you with my assistance. For example, you
may see a career counselor, find networking opportunities, and
possible educational resources for your new career field.
This part of the day can be more stressful than the other activities, for this is when Frank will need to focus on finding a new job. For this reason, he will have the option of choosing the time frame in which to schedule this activity. He may want to do it first thing in the morning in order to get it out of the way and not dread it all day; he may need some time to get his spirits up first.
This schedule will allow Frank to think about his future while engaging in activities designed to lower his stress level and to put a positive spin on this down time. In conclusion, I expect that Frank will not need more than a month before he is ready to move on to stage four of the transition process.
In order for Frank to trust that I have his best interests at heart, we will need to establish a relationship based on mutual respect and trust (Flaherty 51). The first important step in establishing trust is to make a good, honest first impression. It is important that I let Frank (or any other potential client) know about my abilities up front, as well as making it clear that he is my client and I plan to focus my attention on helping him to achieve his goals rather than using him to achieve mine.
Next, Frank will need to feel that he can express himself freely with me and that I can do the same with him. I plan to use Flaherty’s example of how to broach the difficult subjects as he describes on page 54. This involves giving my client a piece of paper on which they will draw a line down the middle. In order to adjust this process for a coaching client, I will have him make two lines so that there are four boxes on the page.
Ø Box One: The client will write down the subjects that he finds easy to discuss with me, or with any other person that he does not know well.
Ø Box Two: The client will write down the subjects that he always has difficulty discussing which individuals he does not know well.
Ø Box Three; The client will write down a list of subjects that he finds taboo for anyone to bring up with him.
Ø Box Four: The client will write down the ways in which I can make him feel more comfortable throughout the process.
I know that at some point, it is possible that the client will get stuck, or that the program will be stuck and I will need to come up with a solution that will help the client and will help me. When the client is stuck, the first step is for the client to keep in mind what I have already told him. Next, I should ensure that he is following a routine of eating, sleeping and taking care of himself. It is not unusual for a person who is unemployed to become depressed and uninterested in self-care. Finally, I will design exercises that will help the client scale his expectations so that they are realistic. One way I can do that is to create another meditation exercise. I will have Frank sit with me and close his eyes. Then I will suggest certain images to him.
1. Frank will think about where he is now.
2. Frank will think about where he wants to be at the end of the coaching process. This goal will need to be realistic, based on goals we have already discussed.
3. Frank will consider the first step in reaching that goal, whether it is networking, updating his resume, or taking classes.
4. Finally, Frank will go through the process step by step and think about realistic options for getting from one stage to the next.
In conclusion, I have developed a program that will help Frank, or any client, to achieve his goals while considering options that may not have been apparent to him on his own. My experience with Frank will allow me to revise my coaching style when necessary. While I had to make several adjustments in order to coach Frank properly, I believe that I have established a good coaching style. I kept a journal of this process in which I described the things that Frank and I discussed and my suggestions. I will keep track of which suggestions worked for him and which were less successful. In the future, when I have more clients, I can refer to this journal for assistance. At present, Frank has opted to go back to college in order to change career fields.
Sources: Please follow APA format for reference lists
Flaherty, J (2005). Coaching: evoking excellence in others. Massachusetts, Oxford: Elsevier