In a new series, management coaches tackle HSJ readers' issues. This week, Dorothy Larios helps a trainee frustrated by a perceived lack of opportunities
Coaching has become a recognised global profession established within a diverse range of organisations worldwide.
The NHS and other healthcare providers are demonstrating that executive coaching offers a huge contribution to people in times of turmoil, transition or professional development.
However, confusion still exists as to what a coach can offer and who is deemed to be coachable. This may be due to years of using external facilitators, business consultants and mentors, of action learning sets, mentoring programmes and, for the higher echelons, executive coaching.
In a new series for Working Lives, executive coaches will work with NHS managers.
They will summarise the topics presented by each client and outline the process and skills used in coaching and the outcomes for each person.
Coaching is a journey of discovery and not always a simple goal-setting activity. It is used to facilitate the person in self reflection, acknowledging and taking responsibility for adopting change and outlining choices.
As the series will show, coaching can be used appropriately for people who need to review their career, to embed learning, to work more effectively or facilitate personal growth and empower through professional challenges.
LB is a male nurse who is in the early stages of the graduate management training scheme. Initially he voiced a need to map out his future career plans and how best to tackle the demands of the course.
However, coaching has allowed him to explore immediate issues and expand his thinking to his whole life, including other business ventures.
The call to coaching
"Having undergone a gruelling six months of assessment competing for a place on the scheme, my excitement and joy has fluctuated greatly and occasionally been replaced with confusion. Having started my placement, I felt well received and inducted. The professionals who welcomed us displayed a vast amount of knowledge and expertise, all of which I couldn't wait to be a part of.
"Despite all this presence of opportunities and the ever present media reminders of the NHS crises that need resolving, somehow I can't help but feel held back and underused. My expectations of plunging into the murky waters and helping clean up the problems suddenly appear unrealistic and I feel muzzled.
"I've wondered whether I'm being too impatient and expectant but in the end I realise that my expectations are built from the 'taster' of management expectation that was portrayed throughout my recruitment process."
LB and I had two telephone coaching sessions over a week.
From the coach's perspective, I recognised a bright, eager client who had trained as a registered nurse. Through his diligence and determination he had worked towards a career in management and embarked on the management training scheme.
However, not only was he feeling stuck and deflated in his placement but he had a failing business venture which had been concerning him for over 10 months.
In session one I acknowledged that he felt underused, and was experiencing limited communication with his line manager and difficulty clarifying their working relationship and had not yet established rapport with his junior staff.
He felt frustrated that he had not been given a specific project to work on and had had to show assertiveness to be allowed to attend meetings that he deemed of value. Negativity bred negativity and the whole of the NHS crisis became a weight around him.
My questions included:
How do your personal goals match your professional goals?
What do your see as the challenges in your department?
What would be a positive challenge for you?
What is your learning/communication style?
How can you verbalise your needs?
LB had mutually agreed weekly meetings with his line manager and had "planted the seed" about his need for more. He described his learning style as creative, using mind maps, graphs and visual cues as part of the way he learned and communicated.
I enquired as to how he could "water the seeds that he had planted". How could he express more of who he was?
The eureka moment was: "I have done a Myers-Briggs type indicator personality profile; I must look at it again."
Self-awareness was out of the box and my client was then in a more positive frame of mind as he realised that he had tools and resources and inner strength and skills.
At the beginning of the second session, my client was in a very different place. He had met with his line manager, expressed his needs and been asked to work on a very specific project which involved other managers.
He sounded empowered, in control and had forgotten about his low time. Energised and enthused again, he had met with his team, built rapport and felt that at least some members were now bubbling and energised.
So what was niggling him today?
Focus shifted on to the business venture he entered into with a friend. Ten months of conflict, stalemate and a huge amount of frustration and worry followed about how to move forward.
I asked about the implications of living with such stress during the time he was applying for the graduate scheme. I checked how he had been physically, mentally and emotionally during this time. How was his health, his thinking and attention span and how had he felt?
Transferring our life pressures into work is normal for many people. He recognised times of lack of focus, difficulty in making decisions, feeling exhausted and knew his work-life balance was out of kilter.
To allow a forward movement I asked:
How can you work differently?
What have you learned?
How do you self-care and self-manage?
What can you put in place to support you both outside and inside work?
These are the outcomes and actions that he has listed:
to pull out his Myers-Briggs profile, review it and share with colleagues. Learn how to apply this to working with other people;
find a mentor;
to ask sisters to become his virtual assistants;
seek other work colleagues who have external business interests;
to recognise the transferable management skills that apply to his business venture;
find connections between self-awareness and self-care by checking in with his physical, mental, emotional states and his true purpose.
LB named three positive actions that he is ready to take to solve the business issues.
By the end of the coaching there have been positive actions, shifts in perceptions and a whole new attitude to working with small manageable steps rather than the overwhelming bigger picture. Well done to LB and congratulations on all that he has achieved.