Five years ago Julie* was perpetually overwhelmed. Daily work issues left her no time to make long-term career decisions; work distracted her from many of the small moments that comprise family life with young children; she struggled to manage her extended family life and her health. Then coaching with Valerie helped Julie compartmentalize her life. When she put it back together, all the parts began to fit.
“Everything’s important, but what’s more important,” Julie said of her decision to seek coaching with Valerie. “I knew I couldn’t do this on my own.”
Valerie and Julie established a routine of three coaching calls per month. During these sessions Valerie helped Julie work through each aspect of her hectic life – by asking questions, setting coaching assignments and using deadlines to make Julie accountable.
“At the bottom of my list was family, and that’s terrible!” Julie said. “But at work I am being evaluated. At home, where love is unconditional, it’s very easy not to be in the moment with family.
“Valerie asked how I could be more present when I’m with them. Now, if I don’t put that family time in my calendar I could reach for the blackberry and before you know it the night is over.”
Being more present for her family alleviated stress and guilt in Julie’s personal life. It also gave her breathing space to work deliberately, not defensively, through pressures that piled up in 2011. There were problems with her children’s school and her home renovation plans had hit a wall. She was working towards a new job within her company as part of a self-imposed deadline of September 1, which she and Valerie had set earlier that year. She assumed something had to give.
Yet by September 1, Julie had made a smooth transition into her current strategy role. She and her family had moved into a new home and her children started at a new school. The whole family had a fresh start.
“We called it our Life Upgrade!” Julie said. “Over the 2011 summer, things just all came together as Valerie helped me manage it all – step by step.”
While coaching with Valerie, Julie discovered that she is a natural learner. She enjoys researching, discussing ideas and seeking advice. Valerie convinced her to exploit this strength.
The challenge: to seek a meeting with one of the Vice-Presidents of the company to discuss what it means to be a female executive. It took three months to get the interview. During coaching sessions preceding the meeting, Valerie equipped Julie with support strategies.
“We even worked on a mantra that I was to use any time I got nervous – and I was!”
The mantra? “No Bad Outcome” – and there wasn’t.
“The first thing the Vice-President said when we met was that she applauded my courage in coming to her.
“She said no one had ever done this before, that it took courage to seek advice, and that she was so happy to give it.”
It was a major coup for Julie, who had never had time to imagine this bold move, let alone act upon it.
“After that I fired out three more meetings and I’m better in my day to day job because of the confidence those meetings gave me.”
Julie’s friends and family have even commented that her coaching has affected the way people respond to her, a change that evolved from sessions focused on Julie’s extended family life. During these sessions, Julie learned to take responsibility for how she’s treated.
“Valerie taught me that what I do forces people to take a certain tone with me, but I control the way I speak to people,” she said.
Coaching is still an integral part of Julie’s life. It helps her balance work and family with her personal goals, including a new career deadline she is working towards. Coaching with Valerie has even improved her health.
“I always wanted to run. I mentioned it to Valerie and she said okay, what race are you signing up for?
“That’s how coaching helps you achieve – If you have a goal in life, what are you doing about it? How deliberate are you in reaching for it?
“Make yourself accountable for delivering it. Use coaching to work towards it.”
*Name changed for privacy.