COACHING CASE STUDY: From Barely Surviving to Thriving

With over 15 years of experience, Colleen (name changed to respect her privacy) ​had worked her way up to become a Director of Operations at a large manufacturing site. She was responsible for a team of 200 with 5 direct reports. A year and a half into her new role, the company began making changes that made Colleen anxious about her future.

Some of my peer leaders were fired and it really threw me for a loop. There wasn’t a lot of feedback happening. It wasn’t clear what was not going well or what needed to change. All of the sudden, it felt like anyone could get fired at any time.

I went into freeze mode. I wasn’t able to take action and really think about how to drive things forward because I felt under threat of losing my job. Everything felt like it was do or die. It felt like we were all going to get fired tomorrow. I didn’t think I could ask for the resources I needed, because if I asked for help, well that would be my job. Everything was so difficult and strenuous.

Colleen came across an article Alida wrote about how to cope when work feels like it’s spinning out of control. She wanted to know more about that.

At the time I was thinking, I’m pretty miserable right now. How does this get better? Is there some sort of change I need to make? I was spending all this time working and if we weren’t getting the outcomes, if I wasn’t happy doing it, why would I keep doing it? I wanted to find meaning and happiness at work.

Around the same time, Colleen had a skip-level meeting with her boss’s boss where he told her she needed to find her own leadership style if she wanted to be successful as an executive.

That made me think. What type of leader am I? What am I good at? What are my strengths? How do I really drive our work so I am successful?

Colleen decided she needed the support of a skilled coach to help her answer these questions and define her own leadership style. She also needed support to get out from under the daily pressure and anxiety she was feeling about her lack of job security.

Colleen reached out to Alida to explore working together. She appreciated the approach being offered.

Alida’s approach of giving you the tools you need and supporting you as you focus on the most important things, provided the flexibility I needed. Instead of giving me a long list of things to do in a certain order, she worked with me to focus on what was most important in my situation.

The piece they tackled first was Colleen’s insecurity about losing her job. Alida helped her prepare for and carry out important conversations with her manager to better understand the current situation. Colleen was surprised to learn that she was not actually at risk of being fired. She discovered her manager was simply using that threat in a misguided attempt to motivate the team.

With coaching from Alida, Colleen was able to tactfully tell him that scare tactics like that were not motivating to her at all.

After this conversation, Colleen began to notice other assumptions she made regularly.

I was able to step back and look at my thoughts. These ideas in my head seemed like facts to me, but when I looked closer, I realized I was making a lot of assumptions. I began asking myself, what do I actually know? And what am I just making up as I interpret what’s happening around me?

After getting the facts about what was actually going on in the company, Collen had the mental energy to work with Alida to create a vision for her career and what her department could achieve. Colleen made big plans for her team.

In the past, if I was worried about losing or failing, I would just take myself out of the game. But working with Alida has taught me to think, ‘Okay, yes, I could fail, but I could also succeed.

I am now not afraid to think up big, aggressive plans. I envision what I want to see happen and then think backwards to all the steps that need to be in place to get there.

This new way of thinking made Colleen feel more confident in herself and in her role. Others noticed.

I began noticing myself changing as I went through the program and after a couple of months, I started to get feedback about how I was more confident and sure of myself. My manager and my manager’s manager saw that I had a clear vision and I was executing it.

As I heard these comments, I realized I was previously kind of desperate for external validation. But now, while the feedback is great, it’s not as important to me as how I’m feeling. I finally feel like I really understand the most important aspects of my job and what I want to accomplish.

I now call that summer before I started working with Alida my ‘summer of misery’! Back then I was just in survival mode. But now I am completely focused on supporting my team in their work and I am ready to take on even bigger opportunities when they come up.

Are you ready to get out of ‘survival mode’ so you can thrive in your career? Let’s talk. Book a call with our team to discover how we can support you.


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