A Coaching Case Study: The Challenges of Working From Home

One of the biggest obstacles to working with a coach is simply having no frame of reference for what working with a coach is like. It seems that the majority of my clients end up telling me they wish they had started earlier and that the actual process of working with a coach was not as scary or intimidating as they thought it was going to be. To that end, I'm going to start a series where I offer some case studies of real coaching engagements I've had with real people (with identifying information removed, obviously).

The relevant information for this case is that I'm working with somebody who is transitioning from a traditional 9-to-5 office job to 4 days a week of telecommuting. He's having troubles making this transition to working from home dealing particularly with distraction, lack of productivity, and procrastination. He thought it was going to be an awesome change to his life but now he's wondering if he made a huge mistake.

Here is what our coaching process looked like:

  • Our first session was centered on building rapport and me learning as much as possible about the client. He filled out some paperwork ahead of time to help get me up to speed so we didn't have to spend a ton of time with background information.
  • In addition to building rapport, we spend most of the session talking about why he pushed for this change in work arrangement and what his vision was for how it would change his work and life. I left him with a homework assignment to complete before our next session which involved writing about what being a successful telecommuter might look and feel like to him.
  • In our second session we talked about his homework assignment and really solidified what he's shooting for. We then spent the rest of the time doing a values elicitation exercise to help him get super clear on his underlying values. Once his values were extremely clear to him we started the process of identifying where his current behaviors were falling short of the values he holds. We also identified where in his life and work his behaviors and values are aligned. We started creating a list as we ran out of time in the session. His homework was to finish creating the list.
  • We started the third session by looking at the list of mismatches between his values and his behaviors. I had him pick the one that seemed the most important. He homed in on the idea of a lack of discipline in the way he has treated his working from home even though Discipline is one of the values that emerged from his values elucidation. We started talking about the changes he would need to make to bring more discipline into his work. We brainstormed a bunch together and I asked him to pick just one to focus on for the next week. He decided that he wanted to try a Morning Start Up Routine that involves planning his upcoming day, writing in his journal, and completing 20 minutes of his most important work task before checking email or any social networks.
  • I sent him an email a couple days later to see how things are going and offer some support.
  • We started our fourth session talking about how the Morning Start Up Routine experiment went. He found a decent amount of success when he did the routine but forgot to do it a couple of days. We talked about how he can prevent himself from forgetting to do it in the future and he decided to add it as a recurring task on his calendar and he made a little note to stick to the bulletin board in his office. He decided to try adding on an End of Day Routine experiment and we talked about how he could best install that habit given what he learned from the Morning Start Up Routine experiment.
  • Moving into our fifth and final session he felt pretty good about the two experiments he had done so far. In order to make sure progress was going to continue after this final coaching engagement we spent most of the session creating a list of other experiments he can do to reduce the gaps between his daily behaviors and the values we elucidated in our second session. We spent some time talking about the order in which he should tackle these and how he will judge whether he was successful. This led us into a brief discussion about the importance of self-reflection and this prompted him to add the development of a self-reflection routine into his list of experiments.
  • We finished up the final coaching session with a virtual high five and the promise to check-in after a couple months to see how everything is going and possibly consider an additional "booster" coaching engagement if he feels it's necessary.

Coaching Toward Self-Development

Across five sessions he made serious progress on tackling the productivity issues that emerged from shifting into a telecommuting role and not being used to that style of work. Most importantly, he built his capacity to self-develop by going through the process of identifying mini-experiments he could conduct by himself and then coming to conclusions about whether or not they are improving his situation. Any good coach should be able to teach his or her clients how to continue coaching themselves after the coaching engagement is completed.

Hopefully that gives you a bit of a glimpse into what a potential coaching engagement with me actually looks like. Do you have any other questions about the process of coaching? Shoot me an email (samspurlin@gmail.com) or leave a comment.

Photo by Arlo Bates