These case studies illustrate some of the benefits and results that can come from a coaching partnership. Because confidentiality and privacy are so important, some identifying details have been changed to maintain anonymity.
Situation: James was a successful executive coach with a thriving business, working mainly with city-based companies. He obtained a great deal of satisfaction from the challenge of working with corporate leaders although it often meant working long hours and time away from home. Although James used to be a keen sportsman, he realised that exercise was at best spasmodic and that he was not fit. In addition he had not been able to give up smoking, something he wanted to do.

Reason for Coaching: James wanted to give up smoking, to eat more healthily and to do more exercise. He understood motivational theory and was used to helping clients to set goals for themselves, and also knew what he needed to do to become healthier. However he also realised that he was not paying sufficient attention to his own needs and that these should be given greater priority. James wanted a coach to help him to set and keep to realistic goals, even or especially when he became ‘too busy’.

Type of Coaching: Whilst focusing on specific goals relating to giving up smoking and exercising (Coaching for Solutions), James appreciated that it would be helpful to look at how he managed the challenges in his working life which had often resulted in lack of care for himself (Coaching for Wellbeing and Quality of Life).

Outcomes: James reviewed his work patterns and decided to diary in regular ‘exercise times’ with himself that would be given the same priority as work-related meetings. On the whole he managed this well. He identified specific triggers that led him to want to smoke and more effective strategies to deal such feelings of anxiety.

‘I knew what I needed to do — I had all the theory — and had also helped other people to achieve goals around getting healthier. But I found it really difficult to motivate myself sufficiently to change my own negative patterns, and to stick to goals I had set myself. This is where coaching really helped. I had a space that was ‘just for me’ in which I could work out what would work best for me … that was not necessarily the same as a formula for someone else. I was also able to explore my coping strategies and to try ones that were less familiar to me. Coaching also helped me to stay focus and acted as a reminder of why I had wanted to change my behaviours in the first place.’

James is now very much an ex-smoker and exercises regularly. Of course there have been ups and downs but he feels more able and confident of being able to ‘get back on track’ should he need to.

Situation: A young mother, Mia was deeply concerned for the state of the earth her children would inherit. As a practising Buddhist she felt a responsibility to do what she could, and wanted to do more.

Reason for Coaching: Mia was very knowledgeable about ‘green issues’ and already tried to live in sustainable ways. However she wanted to ‘do more’; and yet felt that she needed to clarify what would most relevant to and possible in her current situation. She hoped that coaching would help her to achieve greater focus as she brought about changes in her life, and to deal better with her sense of disappointment that she could not ‘do even more’.

Type of Coaching: Coaching for Wellbeing and Quality of Life invited Mia to consider which particular values were most important to her, and to reflect on ways in which she already ‘lived’ her Buddhism. The positive aspects of the solution-focused approach helped Mia to recognise what she was already doing and to build on this, whilst also deciding on specific goals that would help her to build the type of future she wanted for herself and her family.

Outcomes: Mia had been feeling despondent about not ‘doing enough’ for the planet and that the ‘small amount’ (her words!) that she already did would have minimal impact. In the first coaching session, however, her perceptions shifted:

‘I was invited to write down all the ways in which I was already actually living or trying to lead a ‘greener life’, and begun to appreciate that I was doing more than I realised.’

At a Buddhist study group Mia gained support of others in developing her lifestyle in ways she wanted and subsequent coaching complemented this learning:

‘What was missing was being able to see the bigger picture and clarify where I wanted my energies to go. This focus through coaching helped me to decide on specific changes I could make that were supported by the two things in my life that were so important, i.e. my children and my concern for the environment. I begun to appreciate that I was on a journey that had already started and would continue, and that even small steps could make a difference. For example, choosing to walk my children to school rather than take them in the car was good for our health and good for the environment, whilst also offering a model of sustainability to my children. Whether small actions such as this actually support the environment in the longer term I may never know, but I feel better knowing that I can make an immediate difference and that this is important.’

Situation: Relatively successful exporting business, now ‘ticking over’ due to exchange rate problems, but still bringing in a sufficient return. Rob no longer felt that he wanted to invest all his time in this area (that in any event only took about 2 days a weeks) and wanted to look at more productive ways of using his time. Rob’s partner was a successful entrepreneur running her own (separate) business.

Reason for Coaching: Although his partner was very supportive, Rob decided that he wanted to review his career, rather than work with her (they had tried once before and it had not been successful). He would maintain his current business whilst exploring other options. Rob was clear that he wanted the focus of the coaching to be personal, rather than concerned with business development.

Type of Coaching: Coaching was supplemented by a number of validated psychometric tests. These presented Rob with aspects of himself and his life he had never considered before. ‘I am amazed by the accuracy and sensitivity of the ‘test’, and to have a set of conclusions that apply to me is really interesting.’

Outcomes: Rob also began to appreciate the links between the different components of his life. We considered the type of working environment Rob might prefer, and the situations and people he might find most challenging. The assessment confirmed to Rob that he was happiest when working alone for much of the time, and responsible primarily to his customers and himself, rather than to colleagues. Rob chose to continue with coaching in order to decide whether to move on from his current business, to diversify within it, or to wait for it to pick up again.

Rob decided that he really enjoyed the work he was doing but that he would now treat it as a part-time job, rather than as a full-time one that was only keeping him occupied for some of the time. As an entrepreneur all his life, Rob also concluded that employment was not for him, but that he would begin a new business in an area he felt passionate about, ceramics. Unlike his exporting business, carried out mainly over the Internet, this new business was local and more ‘hands-on’. Rob is now thinking of taking on a manager to run the first business so that he can devote more time to the second.

‘For the first time ever, I have spent time thinking about what I want, rather than just what the business needs. It helped that I was able to do this with someone who had not only the necessary professional skills, but also seemed able to really understand where I was coming from. It wasn’t always an easy process but it has been very worthwhile’.

Rob was able to give time and resources to examine himself and his career, something he had never really done. Coaching offered him greater insights and understanding, which he used in order to bring about change. He always had the ability to bring about his own success, but was able to use the coaching process as a means of keeping on track.

Situation: Health much improved although with some permanent loss of physical ability. Emotionally much stronger than after the accident, but also feeling unfulfilled and unchallenged, both personally and professionally. Annabelle was aware that she had lost confidence in herself and her abilities, and that she had begun to feel increasingly helpless about changing her situation.

Reason for Coaching: A desire to discover what she really wanted out of life, and to regain the confidence that would be necessary for her to take back control and make changes to her professional and/or personal life.

Type of Coaching: A combination of various types of coaching. Weekly coaching over a couple of months, (telephone, e-mail and face-to-face), followed by less frequent contact.

Outcomes: Coaching helped Annabelle to define what ‘fulfilment’ and ‘challenge’ would mean in her life, taking into account her values and her changed circumstances. Having discovered the future she really wanted, she was encouraged to set (and achieve) appropriate goals, at the same time noting her achievements. This she did with increasing energy, enthusiasm and confidence.

‘Coaching helped me to identify and remember all the things I could do, rather than dwelling on those that I could no longer manage. I realised that I wanted to work in a completely different area and was able to set out a plan for making this happen. I gained confidence and was determined to make positive changes to my life. I was also supported in practical areas, such as enhancing my interviewing skills (as it had been a while since I had used them), and I was encouraged to see setbacks as opportunities not failures.’

Annabelle is now in a job that she really loves and is happier and more fulfilled than she has been for a long time. Her personal life has also been transformed. We meet occasionally still by telephone or e-mail, so that Annabelle can share her achievements.

Clearly, Annabelle had considerable courage and determination to succeed – what coaching did was to remind her of her many talents, qualities and skills, and provide her with structure and encouragement to locate and use them.

Situation: Long hours were a norm for Anil, sometimes working through the night due to time zone differences. Anil had a flat in a desirable part of town, and had accumulated large amounts of money – but rarely had time to enjoy either the flat or the holidays or other pleasures that he could easily afford. Anil was aware that he was living on adrenaline; eating whatever came to hand, and drinking in increasing amounts. He accepted, however, having to work exceptionally hard until his mid-thirties, when he could then ‘settle down’ and take things more easily.

Reason for Coaching: At a yearly medical a doctor expressed concern at the lifestyle Anil was leading. The doctor suggested that unless Anil changed it, or at least slowed a little and reduced his drinking, he may not be fit enough to enjoy the rewards when they came. Anil knew that he would find it very difficult to alter his way of life without the structure, challenge, focus and support that a coach could provide.

Type of Coaching: Telephone and e-mail over a year, sometimes daily; on-going coaching, although now less frequently.

Outcomes: Anil was extremely busy and very driven to succeed. He was encouraged to identify the priorities in his life, and his wishes for the future. He was also invited to consider the potential consequences of following certain paths. Anil re-defined what he meant by ‘successful’ and this resulted in a more realistic view of the future. He would still be wealthy, but not to the extent he had originally thought. With this in mind, Anil mapped out a route for himself that would enable him to achieve much, if not all that he had hoped for.

Anil also began slowly to make lifestyle changes, which included eating healthy meals more often, taking time to go to a gym, and reducing his drinking. He also started thinking about what he could do after 35, in the leisure time that he will theoretically have available. Most importantly, Anil realised that it was up to him to makes changes, and that although coaching could support him in this, the decisions and choices were his.

‘There have been times over the past year in which I have wondered whether it has been worth it. Trying to fit a coaching session in most weeks, on top of a really busy schedule has been difficult and sometimes I have not managed it. I have needed to be reminded sometimes why I wanted things to change in the first place and have certainly had my complacency challenged. However, I now feel that I am much healthier (and happier) than I was. I’m still working long hours but think that I am more efficient and so can also fit in other activities. The discipline of regular coaching has kept me on track and I will continue with it for a while longer.’

Situation: Ruth had followed what she saw as her vocation with commitment and energy. She was successful, travelled widely with her work, and rarely took holidays. Consequently, Ruth had little time available outside of work for relationships or leisure activities, and she had begun to feel a need to bring more balance into her life.

Reason for Coaching: Ruth recognised that she would need support in bringing about the changes she needed, not least because this would mean spending more time on herself. She was always on the move, and so telephone and e-mail coaching seemed ideal. Ruth also felt that it was important to be able to work with someone who had nothing to do with her work, and who would be honest with her and challenge her.

Type of Coaching: Telephone and e-mail over several months.

Outcomes: Ruth had tremendous energy and enthusiasm but had never really put herself or her own needs first. Through coaching she was able to acknowledge that it was important to look after herself if she was to be able to continue being effective in her work. Ruth examined her values and how these were expressed in her life, and also what needs were being met through her existing lifestyle. We also explored ways in which she could delegate parts of her work to others, and have confidence in doing this.

Ruth recognised that many of her social needs were being met through work and that she had many friends in the same or similar fields as herself. What she was able to do was to make more time in her life for these people by allocating space for this. Ruth also began to allow herself treats, and re-discovered pleasures from the past, such as painting. Now when she travels, Ruth takes her watercolours with her and tries to bring back some kind of record of her trip.

‘Although I was very happy and fulfilled in many ways, I realised that I was really just living for work. I had seen a close friend become burned-out and I didn’t want the same to happen to me. I now build in time off after each trip, before I return to work, and also try to include activities that I know make me feel good, or relaxed. It has been difficult at times because I feel guilty, but this happens much less often now, and if anything, I feel the quality of my work has improved. I also delegate more!’

Situation: Jonathan had worked in the same company for most of his working life, and was well regarded and successful in his particular technical area. Through a 360-degree feedback process that had recently been introduced, Jonathan learned that a number of colleagues considered his communication skills to be poor although they acknowledged and respected him as an expert in his field. Some also indicated that they would prefer not to have him as part of the team or project. Jonathan was concerned about how he was perceived and decided that he needed to act. It was also important for the company that its employees were performing effectively, especially as more and more team working was required.

Reason for Coaching: Jonathan came to coaching having decided that he wanted to work with someone external to the company, who would be objective and to whom he could talk in complete confidence. He hoped to be able to find ways of enhancing his communication skills and to explore the way he functioned in a team.

Type of Coaching: Following an initial assessment that included the feedback from the company, Jonathan followed an individualised development programme that focused on enhancing his communication skills, both with individuals and in a team or groups setting. Coaching was by telephone and face-to-face and included role-play.

Outcomes: Jonathan was clearly very successful in his field and highly committed to his profession. However, he had been left behind in terms of the new ways of working within the company. It became clear that Jonathan was essentially quite shy and non-assertive, and that this sometimes led to him appearing disinterested in others, somewhat arrogant, and unwilling to contribute beyond his technical skill.

Jonathan gained confidence and self-esteem. He was encouraged to examine situations in which he already communicated effectively, and was supported in applying these skills to other situations. Jonathan learned different strategies to deal with situations in which he felt especially unsure, and was able to practise these in a safe environment. As his confidence increased, Jonathan began to find that he enjoyed the social side of work more and felt more able to ask for support. His colleagues responded to his expressed interest in them, rather than just in the work or getting the task done. The 360-degree feedback the following year reflected the changes that had taken place.

‘The comments from colleagues really came as a bolt out of the blue. I had no idea that they felt as they did – nor was I aware that there was a problem with how I communicated. Having someone from outside was really important to me, as I was able to talk about what bothered me, knowing that it would not go any further. Although I knew the theory of effective communication and the importance of working in teams, coaching enabled me to make this real and gave me the confidence to try out new things. Perhaps most of all, it reinforced what I already knew and what worked, rather than focusing on my failings.’

Situation: Although Lisa understood the need for autonomy and independence felt by those in a professional role, she was finding it very difficult to manage Rosemary, who worked for the organisation on a part-time basis (as did a number of others, very successfully). In particular, there were concerns about Rosemary’s lack of accountability and commitment. There had been no complaints from clients (yet) but her co-professionals had begun to feel that she was not pulling her weight, and was only putting in the bare minimum.

Reason for Coaching: Lisa came to coaching concerned that she was not handling the situation as well as she might. Strategies she generally used seemed to have little effect with Rosemary. Lisa was especially concerned that she too was losing respect for this member of staff, and was beginning to think that she would prefer her to leave.

Type of Coaching: Lisa requested Coaching for Solutions, rather than on-going coaching, as she was asking for support in a very specific area. Three sessions took place, spread over 6 weeks, and were carried out by telephone.

Outcomes: As Lisa says, ‘Coaching helped me to focus on the issues, rather than the symptoms, and to consider and follow-through well thought out strategies, that I could then evaluate.’ Lisa was a skilled manager who had never been faced with a situation before that she felt quite unable to deal with. Through coaching she developed practical strategies but also explored the way she coped when things became difficult. She now feels stronger in her role as a manager, as well as having dealt with the particular situation.