Coaching Case History

As part of the coaching accreditation I am currently undertaking with MOE Foundation, I needed to provide a Case History, a reflection on my coaching practice and experience. In order to help others who may be thinking of taking a similar course, I decided to publish it here.

A picture of some of my notes from coaching

In preparation for this essay I went back through some of my notes from coaching sessions. While I haven’t been keeping significant notes I have been using colour coding to highlight things that particularly resonated with me, so that I can go back over some of the insights or feelings I’ve had over the past few weeks.

I have also been taking some time each week to reflect on the previous week and understand more about my practice. I’ve shared some of my coaching journal in the open in the following blogs:

Weeknotes S11 Ep5 / Coaching journal Week 1

Weeknotes S11 Ep6 / Coaching journal Week 2

Weeknotes S11 Ep7 / Coaching journal Week 3

Some key insights for me have been:

  • Being coached can be a difficult and uncomfortable experience and, while I would like to make things more comfortable for people, the way to do this is not through empathetic association but instead through clearly setting boundaries and making sure that the parameters of the coaching are clear to coachees.
  • I’ve really enjoyed the “helicopter” exercises with new coachees at a first coaching session, because I’m enjoying learning more about people, however I need to work more on controlling those sessions slightly and making sure I’m focussing on what’s useful to the coachee and not just “interesting to me”
  • When I was able to relax into sessions and really concentrate on my active listening I really enjoyed looking for the buzz and identifying when my coachee was excited or inspired by something, then following that.
  • Coaching with a person from outside of the cohort, and then discussing this in coaching feedback with another member of the cohort, I realised that I needed to have set better boundaries about what coaching means, what it is and what it is not, in order to understand better what their expectations are and about the line between mentoring and coaching.

I’ve been reflecting on things I would like to do better within my coaching practice, and one of the things I’ve been concentrating on is finding balance between finding a flow, being myself and it feeling “natural” with the coaching models we have been learning.

I found that in the early sessions of the training I felt much more comfortable and actually felt relatively confident in holding the space for others. I was less concerned about getting to goals quickly because it felt that I had the time to get to know the coachee first, before launching into that more action-oriented thinking.

However, I think I probably let the approaches of some of my peers change my own, and I became more concerned with getting to goals quickly as a way to “show value” to the coachee. I noticed this acutely when I had a coaching session with someone from outside of the cohort. I felt very much like an impostor (“Why would they be coming to me for this?!”) and I almost wanted to get to goals as a way to prove my worth and effectiveness as a coach to them. This isn’t ideal as it is my need overshadowing theirs.

This coachee came to me with a goal around wanting to change careers or to do something different within the work they were already doing.

The pressure I put on myself to get to goals meant that the pace didn’t feel comfortable to me and, though this may not have been particularly jarring to my coachee (they did not mention this within the feedback) I think this prevented me from properly active listening.

However I did I use the GROW model and a number of questions to go back and forth through the G and R with them. I saw that when the coachee spoke about some previous roles or experience that their face became more animated and that they smiled, there was clear excitement. I hoped that by following this excitement that I might be able to get to a clearer goal for them, however when we came to goal setting I felt that this was more forced and not something that my coachee necessarily felt excited to achieve.

On a couple of occasions my coachee became quiet, and struggled to formulate their thoughts, and, though I held the space and silence for them, I did also wonder whether the formulation of my questions had been open-ended enough. On these occasions I tried to repeat their previous words back to them, and ask them to agree whether my understanding was correct or if they would say things differently.

If I could run this coaching session again I think I would pay increased attention to my questions and maybe spend some preparation time reviewing open-ended questions. I think in the moment I forgot some questions that may have been useful, around asking my coachee to imagine what a future scenario might be like for them and understanding more about how it differs from their current experience. I would try to use more phrases like “What would it feel like when you get there?” I would have used this to formulate an overarching goal that we could come back to at a second session and create smaller goals within.

Overall I think the thing that is clear to me is that coaching will need to be a practice for me and I will need to find opportunities to do it regularly within my day to day and working life if I want to become a really great coach, so over the next few months I plan to take on one or two coaching relationships to see how I might improve.

If you’re interested to learn more about MOE, and the coaching course you the link below will take you to their website.

Local Gov collaboration at MHCLG. Prev: Head of Digital at National Leadership Centre, Cabinet Office. Standards at GDS. Proud to be @OneTeamGov.

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