Technology Technology

Coaching: From Frustration to Success

Janet's career as a software engineer appeared to be stalled. She completed each low level assignment competently, but felt ineffective in team meetings. When Janet asked for more challenging work, she was ignored, while other team members made similar requests and got the choice assignments.

Janet struggled along as best she could and tried hard to support others and be a good team player. She kept wondering why no one took her seriously. She had no idea that her team leader believed that she was always whining, and not really committed to her job.

Frequently, Janet wondered what was wrong with her. Others just seemed to know what to do to get ahead, and she was afraid that she would never discover their secret.

When a friend suggested working with a personal coach, Janet first dismissed the idea: "I'm well trained; I should be able to figure out what to do myself." However, she was so frustrated that she was considering changing jobs, and finally decided a professional's perspective might help.

Janet quickly learned that being coached in personal skills was similar to being coached in tennis (her favorite sport). Although the coach could not observe her "game" directly, Janet's reports of her behavior patterns at work and her actual behavior with the coach gave them plenty to go on.

She admitted to the coach that she had experienced similar problems in other situations, and they decided together that changing jobs now wouldn't solve anything. Janet decided to use the current situation as a laboratory where she could practice new skills.

Their discussions also touched on several seemingly unrelated areas of Janet's life. How did she manage her other relationships, what did she want to achieve in her life, how did she handle stressful events, how did she manage her personal space and financial affairs?

After Janet completed a series of self-assessment inventories about these issues, they identified several patterns that Janet wanted to modify. In several important areas of her life, including her job, Janet saw that she was doing just enough to get by.

Her coach challenged her to change the pattern. Janet identified three specific "extra" things that she could do at work that would have an impact on the project she was working on, and she did them.

She found it hard to admit that she really had ignored opportunities to polish her performance, until she realized that she was angry that she was not getting the kind of immediate feedback on the job that she could get from her coach.

Assured that her desire for feedback was normal, and recognizing that it really wasn't available on the job, Janet made agreements with her personal coach to report on her progress at work. She also reported on her progress in reorganizing her apartment so that she could really enjoy the time she spent at home.

As they continued to work together, Janet realized how unsupported she had been feeling in most areas of her life. Her belief that adults aren't supposed to need help (except in achieving athletic success) gradually shifted to the recognition that high achievers need coaching to attain superior results.

As Janet continued to recognize and do the important little things on her job, her team leader did notice. Three months after starting to work with her coach, she did get a more challenging assignment; the team leader even commented on how much she had changed. When he was promoted several months later, she was offered a better paying position on his new team.

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