Coaching shows the way ahead
Jonathan is the CEO of a very large financial institution here in London. He called me to arrange a meeting away from his workplace, and explained that he was giving this ‘coaching thing’ a go, on the recommendation of a close friend, but that normally he doesn’t go in for ‘such things’.
So an interesting beginning, but one I couldn’t help but get excited about, as I was reading all sorts into just our brief and very guarded telephone conversation.
The first thirty minutes of our first face-to-face meeting were even more guarded; littered with comments such as - “In my position people rely on me and I cannot let them think I’m weak, so they wouldn’t look kindly on me doing this.” As if ‘this’ would be seen as failure, or was some sort of illicit engagement!
“I don’t really need your help, I just want to share some thoughts with someone who is trustworthy and above all is unconnected from my world of work.” Familiar phrases from our website; so he had obviously done some research!
Our sessions revealed a highly skilled person who had completely lost his confidence and was so worried about losing his job, and all it represented to him, that he invested nearly all his energy in giving the appearance of having everything under control. The problem was the financial reports showed this was an illusion.
Jonathan felt as though he was losing control of every part of his life; he was exhausted, his work/life balance was out of kilter, he was regularly looking over his shoulder, the original gloss of his position had vanished and now the prestige was not worth the hassle. He wanted to air his problems without appearing to be weak.
He expressed his huge disappointment at the ‘opportunists’ in the ranks, especially as these included some of the people he had personally helped up through the organisation; these people were now watching him like vultures circling at the slightest whiff of death. As the floodgates opened Jonathan disclosed many other concerns such as balancing moral and ethical issues, managing shareholder and stakeholder concerns, anxiety over business performance, managing redundancies and strategy change; he felt lonely and unrewarded.
One of the techniques I used enabled Jonathan to relive experiences where he was directly responsible for creating positive outcomes. This helped him to strip away the current personal threats on his position and see the facts as they were. It allowed him to reengage with the confident, assertive, clear headed, forward thinking professional that had always been there, but had become obscured by the relentless build up of economic pressure during the recent global slowdown.
Being able to talk about the immense pressures of leadership, the emotional side of decisions, concerns about his loss of confidence, creativity and trust etc., was becoming a very useful experience for him and helped reveal to me a very different person to the one I first met.
I provided him with a listening ear, empathy, confidentiality, unemotional objectivity, and reconnected him with his skills and in particular, by using a non-directive approach I allowed him to be the creator of his personal re-emergence and the strategist for his organisation’s recovery.
Too often when we are going through tough times we can be too quick to focus inwardly, and put all the blame on ourselves. Once we start down this road of self-condemnation it can lead to all sorts of negative behaviour that drives you further from a solution.
Seeking out unbiased, confidential support is a good starting point.
I was able to reunite Jonathan with his former self, but what is more important is that the coaching process enabled him to become the author of his own resurgence.
Jonathan stated that business coaching had improved his levels of motivation, enhanced his relationships with colleagues, removed his performance fears, put things into context, re-established job satisfaction and reduced stress and anxiety.
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