A multi-agency worker felt her confidence going to pieces. Could coaching give her a new direction? Isobel Gowan explains

B was a manager working in a multi-agency pilot assessing children with complex needs and their families across health and social care. She originally trained as a nurse and health visitor and has participated in an array of further development, culminating in an MA in healthcare and leadership, which she found particularly challenging.

During our introductory conversation and our first session, B expressed a high level of frustration with her current post and particularly about still being regarded as "a health person in a social care environment".

B indicated that her self esteem was being eroded, partly because of being constantly bounced between agencies but also because of changes in her personal life, including her second child recently going off to university.

She described some recent examples of her work not being valued by social care colleagues and then went on to describe herself as "at a crossroads". She added: "I need to think about moving on but don't know what to do next."

Finding focus

During the initial conversation and subsequent calls, B came across as a very talkative and slightly unfocused person. So I sent her an exercise to do between the first two sessions and she used this with her supervisor to help focus on her future actions, and especially on where she might concentrate her energy.

I often find in coaching that one way to help someone unlock themselves from an impasse is to help them think about where they like to focus their energy or indeed to realise what they are really passionate about.

B decided the best solution to the frustration was to apply for a new job that would allow her to maintain her pension but give her a more clearly defined challenge in the local implementation of a national initiative.

Some of our further work was around unpicking the job and person specification to help B understand what research she needed to do, how to identify transferable knowledge and skills and how to target her personal statement.

Given that B was feeling low in confidence and had been described by her manager as "too discursive", producing a focused, relevant and self-promoting statement was quite a challenge.

We worked through several iterations, which included work to encourage B to reflect on her achievements and core competencies. She succeeded in getting on to the shortlist.

The final bit of the jigsaw was a telephone coaching session the morning of the interview. This included getting B to focus on her breathing, encouraging her to take time to respond to questions and working out how best to position herself to give a good presentation.

B had done a lot of preparation, but we recognised there was a danger of her getting too immersed in the detail and not allowing herself enough airtime to convince the panel of her suitability for the role.

Readers will want to know - yes, she got the job.

As a coach, I found working with B quite challenging - partly because of her style and partly because I felt she was someone who probably could have benefited from more face to face coaching and from using an instrument such as the Myers-Briggs type indicator.

But B enjoyed the coaching and said: "I feel I wouldn't have had the confidence to apply for and get the new role without this support."

This case study shows how the presenting issue can often turn into something quite different and also how short, focused interventions can be highly effective with some people.