Coaching case studies

Insights from selected executive, life and
career coaching sessions

coaching case studies

Put in a box

1:1 Leadership Coaching, October 2019

put in a boxWhen occupying a leadership role (especially a new one), you will always have people projecting their own expectations and feelings on to you. Treating you in the manner that THEY wish you to be. Putting you in some kind of box or the other. And, the force of such projections can be strong.

Here, it is vital that you are very clear about how YOU want to occupy that role. About how YOU want to lead. So, discussions may need to be had. Lines in the sand may need to be drawn. Conflicts may have to be resolved. But, you must first decide how YOU want to act in that role and what you are prepared to fight for. Otherwise, you can become trapped in the box that they put you in and end-up resenting every bit of it!

Seeing eye-to-eye

1:1 Career Coaching, September 2019

constellations in coachingJust because you are working closely with somebody, that does not automatically mean that there is a definite meeting of minds. Physical proximity and regular interaction can strengthen a relationship up to a point. But, what is crucial is cultivating a real spirit of openness and trust.

Often, we can make assumptions about the quality of a relationship only to be surprised later! Because conflicting personal agendas and values are usually at play. Recognising and having a dialogue around them is the foundation for genuine, enduring professional and personal relationships.

Two sides of the same coin

1:1 Life Coaching, September 2019

london life coachArriving at what the real question is, often involves a process of excluding what the question is NOT.

Finding out what is important requires deeply recognising what is NOT important. Pinning down what is unclear requires noticing what already IS clear.

What-is and what-is-not are two sides of the same coin. Finding focus is then as much a matter of not doing what is unimportant as it is about doing what is important.

The two go together.

How you see yourself

1:1 Executive Coaching, August 2019

escape the cityI just see myself in a suit walking through the city and that makes me sad. Yet, I can’t quite picture myself doing what I really want to.” Often, we can get so stuck in a particular story, in believing a particular narrative about ourselves that it feels difficult to even imagine another way. And, we may continue to hold such beliefs despite them keeping us stuck in a place of frustration and psychological pain.

Much of institutionalised education and employment robs us of our creativity, self-expression and entrepreneurial spirit. Large corporations are really no different to mainstream schools, with their focus on bureaucratic box ticking, obedience and punishment! The first step to breaking free is really noticing the particular self-story that YOU believe about yourself. Noticing how this story keeps you stuck in a place of unnecessary suffering and discontentment. And, that you are not alone in being conditioned to settle for living like that. 

Expectations

1:1 Life Coaching, July 2019

life coach in londonSometimes we can feel stifled and trapped by the expectations of those closest to us, whether friends, family or business allies. Expectations that were perhaps formed at a different time in the past and during different circumstances. And, these expectations may weigh you down, particularly if you have changed as a person. If you no longer are on the same path that you were on when those people came into your life.

Embracing your personal journey and your growth is key. And, if that means some people are disappointed and unsupportive, well perhaps those people don’t deserve to be in your inner circle anyway? Noticing and acknowledging if and when you feel stifled by those in your life is the starting point for breaking free. It is then about asking what keeps you stuck in such a place? What would it take for you to break free?

Structure and flow

1:1 Leadership Coaching, June 2019

Structure and flowThe universality of the principle of “structure and flow” has important implications for organisational culture. For creating an open, nurturing and collaborative environment that produces high-quality work.

1) The purpose of structure here, is to very deliberately make time for checking-in with each other, especially when you have no time! For example, when going through hyper-growth. And, structure might come in many forms – regular meetings, coffee catch-ups or even drinks.
2) Flow, in this context, is about embodiment of the spirit of openness, collaboration and excellence. Where by your very way of being you create an environment of spontaneous approachability. Where people feel like they can reach out to each other and support each other at any time.
Structure and Flow are both necessary. They reinforce each other.

Dissonance

1:1 Career Coaching, June 2019

executive coachingWhat happens when the people you work with don’t subscribe to the same standards (quality, ethics, team work, loyalty) that you subscribe to? What happens when your organisational environment is structurally set-up to uphold different values? Big corporate hierarchies often drown the individual in a sea of rules aimed at furthering the organisation’s own ends.

The first step to breaking free is deeply acknowledging any dissonance that may exist between your values and the values of others around you. Deeply recognising the impact that such dissonance is having on you. It is then about really asking yourself what keeps you stuck in such a place of dissonance? A place which stunts who you are and what you value dearly. It may be difficult to stop a train that is going to a particular destination, but you do not need to stay on it either! 

Just because you can

1:1 Executive Coaching, May 2019

high achieversHaving many skills and abilities that you can draw upon is not the same as really wanting to use them. There is a particular danger for those to whom conventional success comes more readily — the so called high-achievers — that you get stuck doing things that you don’t really wish to. That you get stuck living someone else’s dream. You don’t have to do things just because you CAN.

You are allowed to do whatever you want even if some might falsely view it as a “waste of talents and potential”. Those who pass such judgement are almost inevitably projecting their own fears and desires on to you within a narrow view of what is possible. What is more important is not what you do, but how you feel about what you do. And, chances are that your many talents create infinite possibilities!

Deep acceptance

1:1 Life Coaching, May 2019

life coach londonWe can sometimes confuse acceptance with passivity and inaction. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Acceptance, be it of the past or the present, is about fully embracing the reality of the situation in all its ugliness and beauty, pain and joy.

It is non-acceptance that is in fact passive, as it can push us to feel that we have no agency. So, acceptance is then a very active state of full engagement with clear, unwavering attention. It becomes a fertile ground from which new and unseen possibilities can emerge. Because embracing reality requires you to fully see it and acknowledge it. To challenge the conditioned false beliefs that define who you think you are and should be. 

Effective delegation

1:1 Career Coaching, May 2019

executive coaching londonDelegating responsibility and nurturing new team members can feel tricky when the stakes are high. When you know that your experience and input will make a real difference. Understanding when it is safe for mistakes to be made, and when it is not, then becomes key to effective delegation. It is the difference between allowing a baby to learn to walk in a safe environment, versus encouraging them to play next to a dangerous fire.

It is crucial to distinguish between these two scenarios. And, a key question to ask is: “Am I introducing catastrophic risk by delegating?” Whether it is health and safety related or financial. If, “yes”, may be delegation is not yet possible. If, “no”, and the risks are negligible, what are you waiting for?!

The full picture

1:1 Life Coaching, May 2019

Executive coaching insightsWe are all prone to the one-sided story, to seeing only part of the picture. To accidentally missing elements crucial to making sense of a particular situation. And, we can make the same mistake in how we see ourselves and our life circumstances more generally. How, driven by dominant social narratives around “achievement” and “success”, we may ignore those things in our lives that are already amazing.

There very likely is a lot that is already present in your life today that is really worth celebrating. Doing so is not about ignoring the complexities and difficulties that inevitably also exist. Rather, it is about having a more complete sense of what-is, so that you can move forward from a place of clarity and deeper understanding.

Proving to yourself?

1:1 Life Coaching, April 2019

life coaching in londonWe’ve all got goals and dreams, things that we think we want to achieve. But, what is really going on here? Are these truly your dreams, or are you trying to prove your self-worth by living someone else’s? Our egos can play tricks on us, and even when you say: “I am only trying to prove something to myself”, is this not still the pursuit of social validation by the back door?

Because proving anything to anybody, including yourself, requires some external framework for confirmation. And is this not inevitably conditioned by experience? The first step to breaking free is looking more deeply into yourself and the motivations for your actions. Looking into your mind with unwavering courage and clarity.

Brutally honest

1:1 Executive Coaching, April 2019

confidence coachOne of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is honesty. Honesty about how you really feel and what you really want. Honesty about your worries and deepest fears. It is such clarity that surfaces inner contradictions and difficulties in your life that may otherwise remain hidden.

It is such clarity that ultimately becomes the fertile ground for uncovering new and unseen paths forward. Without being honest to yourself, you are never going to create the life that you really want. But, being brutally honest to yourself takes courage. The courage to really ask yourself the tough questions. The courage to examine those areas of your life that are uncomfortable and even painful.

From insight to action

1:1 Career Coaching, April 2019

career coach in londonHaving insights into your unconscious tendencies and what you need to do more of is one thing, putting such insights into action is quite another. Sometimes, insights are so powerful that they automatically lead to behaviour change, but often it takes practice. Much of the difficulty is simply remembering to do what you need to do.

Whether your desired behaviour change is more assertiveness during meetings or more compassion when giving tough feedback, the key is finding ways to support yourself to embody those states and then practicing. It is important to find what works for you, whether it is setting aside time to practice with someone else or having a pre-event ritual that allows you to be more prepared. It is practice that ultimately makes new behaviours stick.

Trapped

1:1 Career Coaching, March 2019

executive coachingIt is extremely problematic to work for someone who puts you in a double bind— a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation that is unsolvable. Often, double binds can present through inconsistent behaviour and contradictory demands. For example:
1) “That’s not enough detail” vs. “That’s too much detail!”
2) “You are too direct” vs. “Get to the point quicker!”

Double binds exist everywhere in life, whether professional or personal, and may sometimes be very subtle. The more subtle they are, the more they can trap you in anxiety inducing situations that make you feel like you are not good enough. Becoming aware of when you are caught in a double bind is always the starting point for breaking free.

Inside-out

1:1 Executive, Career Coaching, March 2019

career coachingThere are two kinds of success. Success from the outside-in. And, success from the inside-out. The former is about external validation and achievement, and constantly puts success ‘out there’, as some place to be reached. The latter, true success, is about an inner state. About living and working in congruence with your values and what you believe in.

When considering change, it is then very important to really ask yourself: What am I seeking at a deeper level? How in line with my values is what I do? What values are not fulfilled or even worse, violated? If there is such incongruence, what makes me tolerate it? And, if there is no incongruence, then why change? Is it change for the sake of change?

Holding back

1:1 Leadership Coaching, March 2019

career coachingHolding back your opinion as a leader may or may not be useful, depending on the situation. Sometimes, it makes sense not to influence the discussion too quickly. But, if holding back is a habitual pattern, rather than a very conscious choice, it begs the question, “why”? Especially, when you bring knowledge and experience that is very relevant.

What are the beliefs underlying your reluctance to speak-up? What is it that you fear about being more forthright?  The more inner clarity that you find around what stops you, the more choice that you give yourself to do things differently. Collaborative leadership includes providing a platform for all voices within the team, and that includes your own!

Another way

1:1 Career Coaching, February 2019

career coachingIt is easy to worry about being a pushover in an unforgiving environment. Equally, you may fear turning into an a****** that walks all over others. Though seemingly opposites, these are both places of fear and insecurity. But, there is another way – what we might call rigorous-compassion.

Rigorous-compassion is about speaking your truth from a place of deeper acceptance of both self and other. From a place of clear intention that seeks to collaborate and empower. It is more about your internal state, rather than about the specific words or tactics you employ. It is about coming from an inner place that seeks maximum rigour and clarity along with maximum commitment to open-hearted engagement. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, together they can be very powerful.

Stepping-up

1:1 Executive Coaching, February 2019

career coachingWhen a career opportunity to step-up arises and you hold back, it is really worth asking, “why”? Is it the critical voice of self-doubt that stops you? Or, are there tactical considerations that make it better to wait. It could be either, or a mixture of the two. And, disentangling them can be tricky.

That is all the more reason to dig deep and find such clarity within yourself. The more that you become aware of fears and doubts within you, the more that you empower yourself to break through these. But, that takes courage. The courage to look deeper at what might be uncomfortable.

Hidden dynamics

Systemic Team Coaching, February 2019

career coachingThe org. chart is rarely, if ever, how things actually work. Spatial system mapping can be a powerful way of uncovering deeper insights into how a team really works together. Insights into less visible dynamics that can create the basis for strengthening existing bonds and for seeing blind spots.

But, such mapping requires courageous leadership and open-hearted engagement by the whole team. It takes a willingness to really embrace whatever might emerge. And, it is such willingness that becomes the fertile ground for growth, impact and more meaningful engagement.

Internal conflict

1:1 Life Coaching, January 2019

career coachingHaving to make difficult decisions can often create feelings of confusion and anxiety. And, that can be because inner conflict is at play. Conflict between competing desires, expectations and values — creating an internal war within you.

The first step is recognising the different parts of you that might be at conflict. Really seeing and acknowledging the desires and fears that each part brings. And, from such a place of deeper understanding, a path forward can more freely emerge. A path that involves greater integration of the different competing voices within you. A path that leaves behind the false narratives and beliefs that hold you back.

Yes (wo)man?

1:1 Career Coaching, January 2019

career coaching case studiesSaying “yes” to everything can be a fast track to burnout and getting stuck doing less meaningful work. The more that you say, “yes”, the more your workload can pile up. But, the real question is: What causes you to say, “yes”, all the time? How aware are you of your pattern, what might be driving it, and when?

The path to breaking free is about more deeply understanding your own behaviour. About finding clarity around what keeps you stuck being a “yes (wo)man”. About really taking controlling of both the “yes” and the “no”. So, that you can empower yourself to decide either way.

Career crossroads

1:1 Career Coaching, January 2019

executive coaching case studiesArriving at career crossroads can be a tremendous opportunity to make meaningful changes in your life. But, that requires a deeper consideration of what any new career path is going to give you.

It is easy to carelessly jump from one thing to another without really asking “why?”. We can often neglect our deepest motivations for doing things — our values. The key questions to ask are: What are my values? And, how congruent is what I am doing with my values? What is truly important to me? From there, you can then consider if any career change brings you closer to, or further away from, your values.

What’s you edge?

1:1 Leadership Coaching, January 2019

career coaching case studiesYou can often spend a lot of time looking for ways to add to your skill set and to fill perceived gaps. That’s all great. But, it is as important to recognise what you are already good at. It is as important to ask: What is my edge?

No one can know everything, and effective teams are founded on collaboration amongst people with complementary skills. Of course, there is tremendous value in going beyond your core expertise and in understanding various interconnected aspects. That is a skill in itself. What you must not forget is the unique blend of skills and experiences that you already possess. The edge you bring that makes your offering uniquely valuable. And, yes, your edge can change over time too!

It’s almost never “laziness”

1:1 Life, Career Coaching, December 2018

executive coaching case studiesLaziness is rarely the real reason behind not engaging in something fully, be it at work or in a hobby. This is particularly true when you can find examples in your life where you do engage fully, with energy and enthusiasm.

It may have something to do with your degree of interest, (dis)passion or connection to the activity. It may have something to do with situational dynamics or people, but it is highly unlikely to just be a matter of “laziness”. When “laziness” appears as a diagnosis, it is always worth digging deeper. Chances are there is another reason hiding

beneath.

Performance

1:1 Leadership Coaching, December 2018

executive coaching case studiesSelf-consciousness kills performance. This is true whether you are at the podium presenting, leading a business meeting or playing a sport. Performance is directly linked to the strength of your focus. And, that involves keeping the rational brain on the task and not constantly criticising what you are doing.

Because if it is busy criticising your performance, it is not actually focused on the task! You are no longer in the moment and this is when things start to fall apart. Knowing what to focus on is then crucial. And, that will very much depend on the specific activity in question.

 

More clarity, more impact

1:1 Career Coaching, December 2018

executive coaching case studiesGetting the most out of professional interactions, be it meetings or calls, is fundamentally about clarity. Clarity not only about the agenda, but the various (hidden) agendas behind the agenda. About really asking, “What is the purpose of this?” and “Who is it for”?.

Meetings can often feel like dangerous places, where multiple egos are competing to assert themselves. Such behaviour can easily engender insecurity in you and in others. But, the more that you seek clarity and the more that this search for clarity is backed-up by competence, the less you will have to worry about insecurities and egos. And, the more impact you will have.

In a shark tank

1:1 Executive Coaching, November 2018

executive coaching case studiesBeing in a shark tank does not necessarily mean that you have to become a shark. It is more about a deep awareness of your business environment and seeing reality for what it is. In all its ugliness and beauty. With such an awareness, things are less likely to catch you off guard.

You can then make a conscious decision about if you too want to be a shark, the skilled diver that navigates through it all, or out of the tank altogether! The choice is yours. You must decide how you want to play the game. It all starts with a true understanding of what-is. Of self and other.

Different sides of you

1:1 Life Coaching, November 2018

executive coaching case studiesThere are different sides to you that constantly jostle for air time. Different facets of your character that make-up the whole you. Understanding what parts tend to dominate, in which situations and why, can be fundamental. 

What are the implications of having a particularly dominant facet? What does that mean for you as a person and how you live? Could it be pointing to an unhealthy imbalance?

Defining success

1:1 Life Coaching, November 2018

executive coaching case studiesIf true success is about an inner state of contentment, engagement and peace, what is it that stops you from allowing it? What is it that keeps you stuck in a different place?

Seeing the inner voices that distract you with their definition of “success” is crucial. Whom do these voices really belong to? Unconsciously, who might you be trying to please? Success is not something “out there” to be defined by others. It is something within.

Seeing what keeps you stuck

1:1 Executive Coaching, October 2018

executive coaching case studiesSometimes, what might on the surface seem like a tactical problem, could have deeper roots in how secure you feel about yourself, regardless of what tactical path you take. Seeing what keeps you stuck in a place of insecurity is often the first step.

The next is letting-go of what holds you back and allowing more trust in yourself to emerge. This is often a far more fertile place from which tactical decisions can be made.

Conflicts

1:1 Career Coaching, September 2018

executive coaching case studiesWhen conflicts arise, it is easy to be passively sucked into adversarial exchanges. Seeing and acknowledging the pressures that others are under can help you approach the situation with more calm and compassion. Remember that compassion can be very rigorous.

It is not about ignoring bad behaviour or letting people walk all over you. It is rather about setting appropriate boundaries and taking considered action from a place of deep understanding of both self and other. And, yes, that takes courage. It is far easier to unconsciously take on the role of aggressor or victim. But, it is also far less effective in actually improving the situation.

Status trap

1:1 Life Coaching, July 2018

executive coaching case studiesSometimes, you can fall into the trap of giving more value to work that is viewed as higher status by the mainstream, even when it is at odds with your own interests and passions. Such is the nature of social conditioning and status seeking.

Being a ski instructor or CFO of an airline are both equally valid. The question is, what really inspires you? What deeply resonates with you?

Seeing what distracts you

1:1 Leadership Coaching, June 2018

executive coaching case studiesWhen doing anything, whether it is public speaking, cooking or technical diagnostics, be aware of when you lose focus in the moment. Know both the specifics of the activity that require your focus AND what distracts you from maintaining such focus. They are two sides of the same coin.

Say “yes” to the former and “no” to the latter. What we are talking about then is a mindful state of clear focus in the moment.

Fear of failure

1:1 Life Coaching, April 2018

executive coaching case studiesAt times, the very act of noticing and fully acknowledging fear of failure and its roots can liberate you from it. Sometimes though, you have to actively focus your mind away from fear.

Focus on the resources and strengths that might allow you to cut through it. Focus on immersing in “the doing” and finding a mental place where there is then no room for fear.

Opening-up things

1:1 Career Coaching, February 2018

executive coaching case studiesSometimes, in order to get to the heart of a problem, you have to really open-up things. Really take your time to explore different interconnected areas.

The reasons for stuckness can at times be staring you in the face, and you just didn’t see it. But, sometimes the real nub of the issue might be concealed. And, often it is through careful and deliberate exploration that you begin to uncover what is going on. It is about taking the time to look deeper.

Things unsaid

1:1 Executive Coaching, October 2017

executive coaching case studiesEven long-standing and tightly knit teams can stumble. Paying attention to how well you are working together and communicating is as important as focusing on the job.

Nothing fuels resentment more than things unsaid and toes accidentally stepped on. Taking time out to nurture relationships could be one of the most important things you do for your team.

Find your calling

1:1 Career Coaching, September 2017

executive coaching case studiesWhen trying to find and connect with your calling, look beyond the surface manifestation of the possibilities you consider. What are the underlying characteristics that attract you to a particular thing? What are the deeper dynamics that you are curious about?

Example: It is one thing to like the idea of being a dancer, it is quite another to love body movement and yearn to tell stories and express yourself through it.

Closure

1:1 Life Coaching, July 2017

executive coaching case studiesClosure does not always need to come through dialogue with the person with whom you have had a conflict or difficult experience.

It is really about an inner movement within you that acknowledges what was. It is really about finding peace within yourself with what transpired.

In their shoes

1:1 Executive, Career Coaching, July 2017

executive coaching case studiesStanding in the shoes of your direct reports and experiencing what life might be like for them allows you to see more clearly the challenges they face.

The more that you become aware of the ‘hidden’ dynamics and pressures in your team, the more you can empower them and yourself.

Strategic planning

Team Coaching, June 2017

Starting with the future and first embodying having successfully reached your objectives can help unlock the elusive “how”.

executive coaching case studiesThe experiential exercise of team members looking back at “today” from the future and together tracing back their steps, can help uncover both the critical path and ways in which the team could work more closely together.

A walk in the park

1:1 Leadership Coaching, May 2017

executive coaching case studiesWhen your thinking and ideas are blocked, getting out of the chair and moving can allow you to access your brain in different ways.

What better place to do that than in the park on a sunny day. Changing your environment and movement can help unlock new and creative ideas.

Voices from the past

1:1 Career Coaching, April 2017

Lack of confidence in one’s self can sometimes be the result of limiting beliefs that have originated in the past, and which now keep you stuck.

executive coaching case studiesThe stories that you tell yourself about what you can and cannot do, should and shouldn’t do, may be a recurring voice from the distant past. A voice that belongs to someone close to you whom you trust and value.

Goal setting

Team Coaching, April 2017

executive coaching case studiesTransporting yourself into the future and brainstorming in that place together as a team, can generate both new thinking and surface things yet unsaid.

Coming together in this way is very effective for exploring, clarifying and agreeing priorities, in a way that goes beyond what is possible just sitting and talking around a table.