I run a workshop for Vodafone UK focusing on work/life balance and transformational leadership. It takes the form of coaching a group of 15, accompanied by individual coaching sessions where necessary. The purpose is to enable each delegate to achieve an effective work/life balance that provides maximum benefit to both the company and the individual. For the benefits to be maintained it is imperative to ensure the learning is something each delegate takes on board as a true behavioural change, rather than just being a methodology that has to be consciously applied. Three months after the end of the program the delegates have to write a report explaining how by improving their own work/life balance and personal satisfaction there has also been a considerable financial benefit to the company.
This case study looks at the experience of Debbie, who is a regional retail manager and a single mother of three. She was spending a lot of extra hours on work in order to feel she was on top of it, and consequently fewer hours at home with her children. This case study contains perspectives of the process from both Debbie and myself.
Putting into practice the theories and models used to manage work/life balance.
Time management - actually creating the time to make it work.
Understanding the impact of how it could change my lifestyle.
My own personal fear that by using the new practices my life could have been a lot better balanced before - so there was a lot of soul searching and acceptance that life is all about learning and it never stops, and it's not that I was doing it wrong before but that a new way is just more effective.
I had used work as a crutch for a long time and would now be having to deal with 'real life'.
Accepting constructive feedback on my own style, on me.
Taking on board others' comments, instant perceptions of me and what impact I could make/had made.
Learning to listen, stop, reflect and act - and actually making the time to do it.
Learning to like myself - my personal life affecting my self-esteem and morale, and actually hearing that I was OK and that by liking myself and not personally berating how I managed work, family, friends I could actually improve all my relationships and be a better mother, daughter, partner, friend, manager, colleague.
My dedication, focus, time had been around work and I had ignored, even though I was aware of it, the importance and impact my closed approach to personal matters was having - if I stopped then I would have to deal with it and that is where the initial fear comes from - stopping, taking stock and realizing that the priorities had been in the wrong areas of my life.
I can do the work day job - what if I couldn't do the personal balance? Being competent, recognized, accepted in my work life made me question could I really do the life/personal job - juggling it was the norm, but actually dealing with it?
Could I do it?
Debbie's cynicism of the benefits of life coaching.
Her fear of changing a well-honed strategy of control that covered up stress and dissatisfaction, to replace it with one that would force her to look at other options that she hadn't tried and tested.
Her negative opinion of herself and her abilities, and her low self-esteem.
My coach overcame these by:
Having faith in my abilities and communicating them back to me.
Understanding my fears - even when I hadn't articulated them and even when I sometimes wasn't certain what they were!
Making it all clear, simple, practicable and user friendly.
Questioning - me, my lifestyle, my goals and aspirations.
Giving me the time to make my own decisions.
Using various models and theories and allowing me to choose the ones that fitted. One example was exploring a person's behaviour versus their intention. This blew me away. As a simple thought process it allows a better, calmer approach and understanding of an individual/group interaction and has most definitely helped me develop and understand people's behaviours.
Allowing me the time for trial and error.
I overcame her cynicism by building up her trust with me - allowing her the time to see that what I had to say made sense, and allowing her to go away and think about it. By having her create a realistic and personal vision of what things would be like for herself, the company and her loved ones if she carried on as she was, I helped to overcome her fear of leaving some of her old strategies behind to take on new, more effective ones. I run an exercise that has people realize that they can control what they do with their time, and that time is precious. It is a big motivator to ensure people are filling their time with activities that are meaningful for them. Debbie says about this:
the scariest moment was the review of our life - the walk and where are you now. Because it was made into a physical exercise it brought home the reality of what we can accomplish with the time we have left and there being very little of it, so time is a precious commodity and one that we effectively waste each day.
Having Debbie take personal responsibility for her choices and their impact was the key to turning everything around.
My whole demeanour has changed:
I'm calmer, more approachable, most certainly a better time manager, focused, don't procrastinate, more proactive, better listener, more aware of others around me and what impact I can have by my personal language patterns and also my behaviour.
I care, genuinely care, about others, what they can offer and what I can give back.
I don't make assumptions until I have explored, listened and questioned.
I bite my tongue - a lot! This is good for others around me.
Actually having a work/life balance and enjoying it.
Professionally working smarter but not harder - effective in the time I am paid to work (still not got down to exactly 40 hours per week but managing the day job in under 50!).
Displaying better behaviours, which are now commented on by my colleagues, staff and line managers.
I have more financial control! This has been achieved by better planning, being more organized - no guilty purchases for working late and having to buy the affections of others!
I don't squeeze time (ie by not doing five non-effective store visits per day but one very productive and effective store visit) - I work with the time I have got - priority management.
Personally - have met my children halfway - we all own our family relationship and they now do creative planning, mind mapping, are calmer and more supportive - I feel less guilty, for when I work I can concentrate on the task and know that when I am home I am there in body and mind! Not as previously just the body!
I have a new man in my life - one who had been there for nine years and I had never noticed!
As well as the observable benefits to Debbie, any coaching (however quick and informal) I do with her now is so much easier for me and for her. The process becomes faster and smoother.
For people to change the way they are doing things there has to be a genuine desire for something else. If there isn't, then the motivation for working at it won't be high, and the chance of maintaining the results will be low. Ensure clients are in a state where they are truly hungry for what you are helping them towards. Individuals may express a need to change for all sorts of reasons that aren't about true desire, e.g. peer pressure, doing what the boss says, boredom, and in those cases the coaching process usually won't work very well. That desire will come from something deep inside people, and there will be an emotional response to the thought of it. If you are not sure your clients have a real desire, or have the right attitude, to personal change then first find the emotional 'hook' that will facilitate it before starting on the process of getting them there.
Certain models had the greatest impact and are tools that I genuinely use daily.
There is a range of models and techniques that I use frequently to help move clients forward as quickly and effectively as possible, but those alone do not create personal change. It is the flexibility of their use and application, the selection of the right technique for each unique situation, and the sensitivity towards the client as an individual that create success. It is the skilful combination of those things that make for a great coaching outcome.