Helping clients thrive in 2021

This is the transcript of a podcast Tessa recorded for the International Authority of Coaching and Mentoring with one of her clients about how she works and how coaching benefitted her client, helping her client to feel excited about her career in 2021. Do have a listen to the podcast using the link above or, if easier, have a read of the transcript below.

Tessa, tell me about yourself

As you said I am an accredited career and performance coach, I specialise in all aspects of careers so redundancy, career change, confidence building, and I often help people return to work after a break.  I also have personal experience of a career change. I used to be a family law solicitor.  I then took a short break and pursued a career change into the charity sector where I worked as a Major Gifts Officer. I then set up my career coaching business which I have been running for over 10 years and still absolutely love doing the work that I do.

In the last year, who has your typical client been?

My clients come to me from all different backgrounds and for lots of different reasons, but I would say the underlying theme at the moment is really searching for fulfilment in their careers.  I think over the last year, the pandemic has thrown lots of questions for people and this has made them question their career.  Many are coming to me quite unhappy or dissatisfied in their career or current job and considering a career change or seeking help within their current role because of challenges they are experiencing. Obviously, many are coming to me who have also been on furlough for quite a few months and then are being made redundant. There are lots of things going on at the moment for individuals and it’s really my turn to start helping them find that fulfilment again and find those opportunities that will best suit them.

Where do you start?

This year the focus in my coaching has slightly changed.  As you know, Covid-19 has not been easy for anyone and there is certainly a much stronger focus in my programmes on wellbeing and helping people overcome many more negative beliefs that have arisen over the last year.

Prior to lock down, my  focus initially in a career coaching programme would always be on wellbeing to help increase confidence, productivity, and ability to overcome challenges which then forms a good foundation for leading me to a more detailed focus on careers.  I get clients to score the five recognised areas of wellbeing (being active and health, contribution, relationships, learning and relaxation) out of 10 for how satisfied they are with each area.  With low scores, we would work together to put some goals in place to help raise these scores.

Since lock down, I have noticed that these scores have become exceptionally low and there have been many more negative beliefs due to the continued restrictions we are all experiencing.   A client referred to this as ‘mental overload’ and I think she is right.  Many are suffering and so a stronger focus on wellbeing has been needed to maintain a steady rise in those wellbeing scores to ease this mental overload and ensure motivation and good health are maintained. 

When people have scored themselves, as a coach where do you take them next?

When they score themselves, we then prioritise the areas that have the lowest scores, work out what is going on for them now in terms of those scores and start putting in place small changes to help raise those scores.  For example, someone I am working with at the moment is working such long hours at home and doesn’t even go outside and so a very small change to put in place is a 10-minute walk. These little changes will then make more significant changes later and help these individuals to think about what career they could do in the future because they are feeling better about themselves.

How to you bridge the gap between what’s needed now and what’s needed in the future?  Do you set a vision for them to achieve or do you start very much in the moment and see where that takes them?

It’s actually a bit of both. The initial focus is on the present.  As I said before about the wellbeing areas, what’s going on for then now and encouraging them to make those small positive changes so that they feel more positive. Alongside that it will also be a matter of helping them with changing any negative beliefs, discussing the triggers for those and going through a belief change process and encouraging a more positive way of thinking.  Once I know that is underway and being established and, from the language of my client, they are becoming more positive, we build in the future.  Their mind will be in a better place to visualise their future and work out what will be the best for them.

As coaches working with clients, in 2021, what other tips have got to help people thrive this year?

Again I think it’s about the present, then looking to the future.  Firstly, it’s being really aware of the impact the pandemic may have had on your clients and be ready to help them address negative thoughts arising from this and genuine concerns about health and family members which are ongoing.  I have particularly noticed the affects of remote working and isolation on work relationships. This will have an ongoing impact on individuals. Building rapport has been tricky this year or even getting hold of colleagues or managers to ask a quick question to clarify an issue – that reassurance is not so readily available anymore.  This can lead to a questioning of abilities for many individuals. It’s really being aware of all these different things that clients are going through and ensuring you address those.

It is then about looking to the future. It is really important at this stage to free up their imagination. I always carry out a fantasy exercise with my clients where they have to imagine their typical day in their dream job.  We cover all details including what they are wearing for this job!  This exercise is so important because the inability to imagine an ideal scenario can be a real block to working out the future.  I was taking a client through this exercise a couple of weeks ago and we were halfway through it and she said, ‘This is where my imagination is going to fail me’.  I paused the exercise, and we discussed this statement and there were underlying thought patterns ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I won’t be able to do another job’ or ‘I don’t have the skills’.  Through a belief change exercise, she developed a positive way of thinking which in turn freed up her imagination. This was such a breakthrough for her that she cried.  The freedom to imagine enabled her to admit for the first time that she did know what she really wanted to do but was too afraid to admit it. Again, it’s the combination of now and the future and giving clients the space to work through any issues and then freeing up their imagination to visualise what 2021 could be like for them.

When you are working with a client and have a set amount of sessions and then they go off to fulfil their dreams,  how do you make sure that they spend time looking back and reviewing their progress to make sure they keep on track and keep flourishing?

During the coaching programme, I provide a number of exercises and templates and in the last session, for example, we revisit the wellbeing scores to ensure that they have all been raised slightly or a lot and then they can use that process to enable them to revisit it again in the future and keep track of that. We also, in line with the career side of things, develop a career vision which is set out on an A4 sheet of paper setting out their ambitions, the skills they are going to be using and an action plan so again they have something else to refer to when perhaps they are thinking things aren’t going quite right again.  I also make sure clients go away with a thorough action plan to enable them to meet their goal and the career aspiration we have come up with. This is also something they are able to revisit and adapt if necessary.

Is there anything else you would like to add at the moment?

At the moment, it is about being focused on short-term and long-term planning. There are two issues going on at the moment for many people who have been on furlough for many months and have perhaps now been made redundant.  There is therefore an element of short-term planning to recover that loss of income and to start earning again as well as the long-term planning of meeting their career aspirations.  There is definitely more of a focus on the two and trying to get the two in line with each other.

Tell me about working with Jenny

It’s been a pleasure working with Jenny.  She has a fantastic sense of humour and great determination.  As you mentioned earlier, she was made redundant due to the pandemic following 7 months of furlough. Together, we recognised current barriers and broke them down to help her overcome them. We worked on building structure and positivity back into her days focusing on the 5 areas of wellbeing to inspire and motivate her.  It was very simple and very effective. Her determination enabled her to explore career options for the future.  Her willingness to change and work with me helped her in just 4 sessions to develop a concise and inspirational career vision and plan for 2021.  She has already started progressing with this and it is very exciting!

Let’s flip over the coin now and speak to Jenny. Tell us more about yourself. 

Up until November I was a regional fundraising manager for Help for Heroes and worked for them for a couple of years, although 7 months of that was on furlough so I was not doing anything.  Before that I worked in hospitality and events.  I was head of events for the British museum and that was my last events role and I was looking to change direction and get a better work-life balance which was why I moved to Help for Heroes.  As Tessa said, the sessions I have had with her have really helped me to come up with a vision with what I want to do now given fundraising and events aren’t really in demand in the middle of a pandemic so it is a really good time for me to change direction and think about what else I might want to do.

Please can you give some insight into what tools and techniques she used with you that you found helpful for you at this time in your life.

From the first conversation we had I was at a low point and I don’t think I had realised that was the case.  When she took me through the five areas and looking at my wellbeing, I scored quite low in quite a few of the areas.  Because I had been stuck in the limbo of furlough, I hadn’t realised that was the case.  I am usually quite a positive and determined person and I ended up in a slump without realising I had got there. Finding that was the case was really helpful and spurred me on to try and take in everything I could from the coaching and make some changes. We got to the third session which was a breakthrough.  I was fixed on what I had always done and not opening myself to thinking about other possibilities. We went through an exercise where I came up with what careers I could possibly want to do if there were no restrictions. We scored these against the areas of interest and things I enjoyed doing.  We came up with a career that fitted every one of my goals, my skills and my interests that I really hadn’t ever considered as an option. That is the plan I am working on at the moment.  Without Tessa I would never have found that.

How are you going to keep yourself moving forward and motivated?

As Tessa said, I like structure and I like planning, so we did a lot of work around how I structure my days given I am not working at the moment.  I essentially do I what do at work.  I write myself a to do list and structure in around my day when I am going to do it. I make sure I am hitting every goal  on the action plan I have been working on so I have an action plan, that will take me through to this time next year, of things I want to do to start my own business and where I need to get to. That’s what will keep me on track. 

How do you feel about 2021 now compared to how you felt about it six months ago?

Six months ago was dread for the next year of my life. I was not going anywhere or doing anything, like most of us. I really didn’t have any idea of where I wanted to get to. Working with Tessa has really helped me to structure what I want to do next.  As I said, the activity around making an action plan, goal setting and a vision has really helped me understand where it is I want to get to and the path to get there. That is what I am working on at the moment.  I feel really positive about 2021.  I am excited about what’s in store for me, what’s ahead and what I am able to do.