Real e-coaching session part 3

This is the 3rd part of an e-coaching session I conducted with a young Mother we are calling Karen who was stressed and in overwhelm about the school run. Reviewing it I found some interesting parallels with business and life generally. This is in the areas of trying to do everything herself and not stopping and standing back to view how she might be contributing to the situation.

We are using the GROW model but not rigidly as when someone is in overwhelm their need is often for grounded human contact before moving onto problem solving. Parts one and two have already been published covering the goal, current reality, and obstacles section.

Karen: but because I know I am like that I factor in the fact that I am 40 and kids don’t have the same life experience

Bob: very true!

Karen: yes..if I am working to a deadline I can get ultra focused and I enjoy that though it is tiring. So that kind of stress is good. But conflict stress is not.

Karen: and I worry about effect on kids.

We are now moving onto the Options stage of the process. Taking the work that we had done in the Reality and Obstacles stages and taking it towards solutions.

Karen tells me something about her attitude to stress that does not work for her when the stress is related to conflict. So working on the conflict element could be key to moving forward.

I try and focus Karen on how she can use what she has already discovered in the next section.

So Karen: given what we discovered in the obstacles stage what would be a first step to get around the pattern.

Karen: so is a vicious circle

Karen: well I can only change myself….

Karen: so it is the first one and the last one…

Karen: in some ways I am aware of the first belief so I try to challenge myself on it

Karen: but the last one….not sure where to go with that

When a client makes this sort of remark you know you have at least the basis to create a solution. Karen owns that her belief that trying to accommodate everyone is not working but is not sure how to deal with the fact she tries to avoid stress. I try and move her onto solution based thinking.

Again Karen is able to reflect about her role in the situations that have led to bad situations.

Bob: yes and what practical things could you do differently in the way you react to conflict?

This could be an opportunity to work with Karen on how to be more aware of her feelings in the moment so she is not left with a load of anger to deal with later.

Karen: I know it has caused me problems in relationships because I have not challenged awful behaviour and therefore it has got worse…

Karen: I am not sure!

Karen: a lot of the time I am just in the moment and I don’t judge it then I reflect on it and feel angry later on….

Karen: when the moment has passed

Bob: Ok let’s look at something else first.

Karen: ok

I decide to refer Karen back to the person she mentioned in the Obstacles section (see last blog) who was so effective at getting her children out in the morning. Often by referring clients to examples from others you can create new options that they have not considered. It is a useful advantage of text coaching that you have a record but in this case it appears to not really work.

Bob: Who do you know who handles this issue well? You mentioned someone

Karen: oh yes she is an acquaintance…but I don’t know…

Karen: she seems to be a bit sharp with her kids..

Karen: I will have to think of someone

This magic wand question is another existing question in the options stage which sometimes helps free up clients thinking. Interesting that Karen starts by coming up with ideas that are more of what she already thinks and then comes up with the idea of talking to her sister. Which seems like a good option.

Ok Karen, if you had a magic wand to use on this problem what would you do?

Karen: if it was magic…I would duplicate myself temporarily so I could keep an eye on everyone!

Karen: or just get rid of the school run

Karen: hmm I was just thinking of who is good at the school gate

Bob: good question

Karen: my sister normally seems to get places on time..and doesn’t seem especially stressed…but I think also she doesn’t care about keeping people waiting!

Bob: Could you ask her for advice?

Karen: Yes I will have a word with her…

Bob: And how does she do it?

Once Karen is in a slightly more resourceful state I suggest to her that she utilises her sister to get some support/ideas.

I try to get Karen to reflect on what is different about how her sister manages the school run compared to how she does it.

Karen: she doesn’t do a school run though.

Karen: my friends are mostly home educators….

Karen: so they do go to groups etc but it is not the same kind of deadline as school

I was not sure here if we were going anywhere so I try something else.

I got the impression that Karen thought solving the issue was all her responsibility. I wondered what it would be like to involve the children more consciously in solving it. This is a very interesting parallel to what often happens in management situations.

Bob: Ok Karen: let’s look at something else. Are you are taking all the responsibility to make sure everything happens?

Karen: do you mean like doing too much for them?

Bob: yes and not leaving them to deal with the consequences if they are not ready.

Karen: There are certain aspects…for my 6 year old…I ask him to do certain things and he doesn’t…e.g. asking him to get clothes ready the night before

Karen: the problem with that is that it reflects on me at school!

Karen: but yes there is an element of that…

It was interesting to hear that Karen thought she had tried this but was worried how she would look if she let go of control. Again you can see how this might be reflected in business situations.

I try and create some structure around the discussion to focus Karen.

Bob: So is your concern about how you will look like another obstacle?

Karen: yes, absolutely

Karen: things have happened like…he has lost his book bag…lost his shoes (!)

Karen: they turn up again eventually

Bob: So given what we have discovered what is the single thing that you can do that would make the most difference?

Karen: to me spending time on those issues is a waste of time…there are so many other things in life to enjoy…so if they get on with the boring stuff then we can devote time to fun things!

Again it feels as if Karen needs to vent about the situation.

This is another standard coaching question built into CoachMaster®. I try and help Karen to think about how she might respond differently.

Bob: so what are you willing to do differently in practise?

Karen: I think I need to decide what is the baseline

Karen: I don’t want them going into school looking neglected..

Bob: So what deal will you offer the boys that lets them take some responsibility for getting ready and appearance?

Karen: I told my oldest I am not buying him clothes unless he hangs them up

Bob: ok that’s a threat. Not necessarily bad. But what are you prepared to let go of?

So Karen has it set up that if she ‘let’s things slip’ there will be consequences she finds too difficult.

This is another good coaching principle that if something seems to be working or the client is perusing a useful line of thought it is worth keeping on that track and seeing if you can get more information/ideas or insight from that line of enquiry.

Karen: I am thinking I could delegate

Bob: good tell me more

Karen: eg I make toast in the morning for them to eat in the car…maybe he could make the toast

Karen: he is good at that

I was not sure this would work and I thought it would probably create more struggle but I wanted to ask Karen what she could more positively do to change the situation.

Bob: good can you build other ideas on that?

Karen: I think I will ask the older one what he might be willing to do.

Karen comes back to me with a rather vague idea of asking her older child what he might be willing to do but it seemed the best we were going to do at this moment so I accepted it and summarised the discussion for the options stage, as usual asking Karen if she wanted to add anything.

Karen gives her agreement so I summarise the options in CoachMaster™ I am very aware that ‘look at’ is vague but my observation from many e-coaching sessions is that it is more important to keep the session moving than to completely satisfy the requirements for each section.

Let’s summarise the options Karen:

You can talk to your sister about how she gets to places on time and without stress.

You are going to look at your pattern of avoiding stress and trying to look good.

You will let your younger boy make toast in the morning

You will ask your older child what he is willing to do.

Anything else?

Karen: That would be a good list.

Bob: Lets move onto actions

We could then finally move onto the way forward or actions stage. I try and move the discussion along a bit by asking for a time scale for Karen to do most of the to-dos. Which she gives.

I think talking to your sister, delegating the toast and asking your older son what he is willing to do are fairly straightforward. When could you do them by?

Karen: by the end of the week should be possible.

We then come to the most difficult option. I was aware when I suggested it that it would not be easy to convert into a to-do – because ‘look at’ is pretty vague. But I decided to ask Karen first what she thought she might do about it as suggestions from the clients are nearly always better than the coach putting their ideas forward.

Bob: What could you do to start looking at your pattern of avoiding stress and trying to look good?

Karen: I’m not sure

Bob: Would you like a suggestion?

Karen: Yes please

Bob: Keep a simple ‘awareness diary’ of how you are doing in those 2 areas. So the idea is not that you must instantly stop those behaviours but you note each day what has happened in respect of those 2 issues and how you responded. Then we can discuss it at the next session.

But Karen could not come up with an idea so I offered her a simple monitoring exercise. If you don’t have an immediate way forward with a client then suggesting a way they can monitor their behaviour or thoughts often leads to progress as it raises their awareness of the pattern they want to change.

Karen: Great I like that idea.

Bob: Ok will you keep that for 3 weeks until our next session?

I tried to support Karen in not beating herself up with the assignment by explaining the exercise was about awareness rather than instantly stopping the behaviour. Karen liked the idea so I set a time boundary around it, so she was clear she would not have to do it for ever.

Karen: Yes fine.

Bob: Are you satisfied that the action steps will enable you to achieve your goal?

Karen: I think it is going to be a good step forward.

I then summarised the to do section. But I did want to check that Karen had got what she wanted from the session. She came back to me to say it seemed a good step forward and I was ready to accept that at this point.

Summary of Way Forward actions.

You will talk to your sister, delegate the toast and ask your older son what he is willing to do by the end of the week.

You will keep an ‘awareness diary’ of how you are doing avoiding stress and trying to look good for 3 weeks.

Email summary sent to everyone.

Reflecting on the session now I think it is useful to recognise a few coaching lessons out of the work.

Firstly on one level it is about a stressed Mother having to deal with her kids when they were not cooperating very well. On another level it has lessons for all of us about:

How to deal with others when you don’t have direct power over them or they don’t accept your authority

How we all tend to go into excess of our coping patterns when we are under stress, even if they are not working for us

Some people have a pattern of taking all the responsibility themselves rather than asking others to pitch in.

I hope you have found the sessions useful. Please contact me if you would like to know more about how to use e-coaching to train and develop your coaching capacity

Email summary sent to everyone.

Reflecting on the session now I think it is useful to recognise a few coaching lessons out of the work.

Firstly on one level it is about a stressed Mother having to deal with her kids when they were not cooperating very well. On another level it has lessons for all of us about:

How to deal with others when you don’t have direct power over them or they don’t accept your authority

How we all tend to go into excess of our coping patterns when we are under stress, even if they are not working for us

Some people have a pattern of taking all the responsibility themselves rather than asking others to pitch in.

I hope you have found the sessions useful. Please contact me if you would like to know more about how to use e-coaching to train and develop your coaching capacity.

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