Coaching Case Study By Charity Crawford
(Healthcare Recruiter Coach, UNITED STATES)
Introduction & Background
My professional background is in healthcare staffing. I recruited travelling clinicians for several years, which eventually brought me into my current role as a trainer and coach for a small business. As a coach, I work with recruiters (my former role) to help them achieve goals, identify any obstacles, push through any plateaus, and provide general consulting and advice to help improve their performance.
Typically, my coaching clients are sent to me by the managers and C-suite members of agencies with whom we have contracts. Meaning, my clients don’t generally come to me on their own accord.
My coaching client in this case study is named Stacy. Stacy has worked as a recruiter previously for 10 years in a different segment (IT). She has been a recruiter in healthcare staffing for four years.
Stacy was referred to me by a manager at one of our client agencies who, along with Stacy’s direct manager, has not seen Stacy achieve the metrics and goals set for her.
The main reason why Stacy is my coaching client is that she is not achieving the metrics set forth for her by her management team. These metrics include calls and talk time, candidate submittals, and placements. For Stacy’s managers, her not achieving these goals means that the agency will lose revenue, and they are also concerned that Stacy is not a fit for the position. For Stacy, it could mean the loss of her job.
One of the challenging aspects of this scenario is that the metrics to which Stacy is being held accountable were only recently implemented within the past few months. Up until then, Stacy was not held to any firm standards, and she formed an assumption that she was performing to satisfaction as she had not been given any indication otherwise. Stacy believes that the “way she has always done it” has worked for her up until this point, and she is not sure why now it has become an issue and she has to meet these set expectations, in her words, “out of the blue.”
Stacy and I would both agree that the ‘worst’ part of this problem is that she could potentially lose her job. This, of course, affects Stacy’s livelihood in the most practical sense, but of course, there are other emotional effects of losing a job that could negatively impact Stacy in her future careers and in her assessment of self-value.
The other unfortunate side effect of the possibility of losing her job is that Stacy is now mainly motivated by her fear of losing her job, as opposed to being motivated by her desire to succeed and accomplish her goals for more positive outcomes.
I believe there are multiple reasons as to why Stacy’s problem(s) have remained unresolved up until this point, but the two main culprits are that there hasn’t been a lot of consistency and accountability with Stacy by her management up to this point, and Stacy herself possesses limiting beliefs that prevent her from taking appropriate steps forward.
Coaching Skills Utilized
With Stacy, and with many of my coaching clients who are directed to work with me, creating an environment where they feel that they can trust me is critical. Stacy, for example, was concerned and made a point to let me know that she didn’t want any of our conversations to be shared with her managers. In a sense, she didn’t want anything that we discussed or uncovered to be used against her if they were looking for more reasons to fire her. By applying the coaching skill of Creating Trust, Stacy was able to open up to me more about her struggles without fear of judgment or punishment. Where this can be a struggle for me as a coach is that I generally only meet with my clients for six weeks, one hour per week. A true trusting relationship often takes longer to build.
As recruiters in healthcare staffing, we are trained to ask many open-ended questions to identify the core needs and motivations of our travelling clinicians. In my role as a coach for Stacy, I applied the coaching skill of Powerful Questions to help Stacy uncover what was causing her difficulties navigating the recent changes in her company’s policies. When Stacy would say things like, “Well, that’s just the way I’ve always done it,” it was up to me to probe a little more to find out how that belief was serving her, and how that mentality might be holding her back. In this process, I was able to help Stacy understand that her frustration with the changes had less to do with the management team being “out to get her” and much more to do with her fears of failure and rejection.
Along these lines, it was clear with Stacy that she had some struggles with owning her role in her outcomes; in other words, I would need to help her establish Accountability in order for her to become successful. She had a tendency to point to other factors outside of herself that were limiting her success, such as her managers not spending enough time with her, and the “sudden” implementation of metrics that was causing her to stress out about not meeting her goals. This was an area where I often struggled as a coach, as I have always prided myself on being highly accountable to my own thoughts and behaviours, so I had to be very careful not to allow myself to be critical of Stacy in this aspect.
Another tool that I feel was useful for Stacy in this scenario was Visualization. Because Stacy had been focusing so much on what behaviours she was having to change and the potential negative outcomes of her not meeting goals and metrics set forth by her employers, she was limiting her vision of what was possible. I would ask Stacy to imagine what her job and her life would be like if she was actually achieving her goals, and what it would feel like, look like, and so on. What impact would it have on her family? I would ask her to imagine taking more trips with her family since she enjoyed doing this, and being able to relax knowing that everything back at work was settled. This had an obvious relaxing effect on Stacy and she was able to see another side of her success.
Prior to my clients commencing coaching, I send them the coaching agreement (contract) as well as a questionnaire. The agreement follows the ICA protocol and gains commitment from my clients as well as sets expectations for each session. The questionnaire gives me a snapshot of the recruiter’s experience, strengths, and challenges prior to digging into the sessions. Stacy answered questions about her healthcare staffing experience, her favourite part of the job, what she believes to be her strengths, the areas she feels she needs most help with, strategies she’s already implemented or tried in order to improve, what happens if she doesn’t improve, what limiting beliefs she has of herself, someone she respects or admires, what success looks like to her, what life will look like once she’s achieved her goals, what she is most proud of, what she wants to get out of the coaching experience, how she wants to be held accountable, and who else she wants to involve in the process.
In the first session, the bulk of the time is spent by me asking questions of the client. I went over the questionnaire with Stacy and asked her to share more information that might have been left off, or asked her to elaborate on what she might have meant in her responses. From there, I asked Stacy which areas she would like to focus on first, that she felt was the most important or detrimental to her success, and we planned on tackling that topic (or those topics) in the next session.
For the remaining five sessions of the coaching program, I opened up by asking Stacy how the previous week had been for her, and what was happening for her. She always had at least 2-3 questions and had some scenarios and challenges that she was working through that we’d navigate, and I would offer some advice for improvement. (This coaching program is unique from other coaching programs in that it is mainly coaching but also involves some consulting. There are often times where it makes sense for me to offer some tips or strategies based on my own experience or on my company’s training material that will likely benefit the client.)
Once Stacy spoke about her week, the remaining time was dedicated to anything else that Stacy wanted to work through or talk about. On occasion, I would task Stacy with “homework” such as creating new voicemail or email templates to send out to her candidates for us to review together for the next session.
A couple of times during the program, I would receive communication from Stacy’s managers about things they were observing about Stacy that they wanted to make me aware of, in the hopes that Stacy and I would focus on those items during our sessions. While I did welcome the feedback and let them know that it would be taken into consideration, ultimately, I wanted to make sure that I kept the focus on what Stacy wanted to improve upon, and tried to keep an unbiased perspective. This proved to be challenging at times, upon which I will elaborate later.
Ultimately, I believe the coaching program was most effective for Stacy, but certainly had some room for improvement on my part. Some of the positive results for Stacy from my perspective would show themselves in our later coaching sessions when she would process her thoughts aloud and ask herself questions that I’d asked her in earlier sessions. Or, she would catch herself in the midst of a limiting belief and address it as it was revealing itself in her responses to my questions. For someone like Stacy, or really anyone with limiting beliefs, this process of creating awareness in oneself is a very powerful thing. I was pleased that Stacy had shown signs of this self-awareness and she began critiquing her own thoughts more.
Because six weeks is such a short amount of time, it is difficult to gauge Stacy’s long-term success from the program. Ordinarily, we schedule follow-ups with our clients and their managers to see how our coaching clients have progressed 30-90 days out from the coaching program. In our particular industry, it’s very common to not see growth for a few months once initial efforts have been put in.
I had a conversation with Stacy’s managers recently and they decided that they were going to offer Stacy a different position within the company, which they felt was a good compromise, as they didn’t have the resources available to give Stacy the additional attention and training that I recommended for her at the end of the coaching program. This way, they could retain Stacy and keep her working within the agency, and this particular new role would highlight one of her strong suits, which was her keen attention to detail.
If I had the opportunity to have Stacy as a client all over again, there are some things I would definitely do differently.
One area of opportunity I’ve uncovered from the training and learning I’ve done as a coach through the Workplace Coach program is that I need to get much better at approaching my clients with as little bias and with as few preconceived notions as possible. Because I was a recruiter for several years before becoming a coach, I often fall into the comparison trap. When I am being more of a consultant, I must continue to remember that what worked well for me as a recruiter may not necessarily work for my clients. Each recruiter is unique, and my job, ultimately, is not to “fix” their lines of thinking or behaviours. My job is to help them identify their own areas of opportunity and their own solutions, and occasionally share tidbits of wisdom from my own experience that they could choose to implement themselves as they see fit.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that I need to be speaking more with the managers ahead of time to set some ground rules with them. With Stacy, I came under the impression that they were expecting me to turn Stacy around in the six weeks I had with her, and that sort of expectation wasn’t realistic for Stacy, and it’s unrealistic to expect a coach to transform one of their employees. Going forward, I intend to schedule a brief call with whoever wants to sign up their recruiter(s) for coaching to explain the process and what they can realistically expect from the program and from their recruiters during and following the program.
Speaking of bias, I’d mentioned previously that Stacy’s managers sent me emails a couple of times during the course of her coaching to indicate where they believed that Stacy was still struggling and where they wanted me to spend extra time with her. I believe that this information, while intended to be helpful, caused me to make assumptions about what Stacy was or wasn’t doing correctly, and I’m afraid it directed our coaching conversations more often than it should have. The more appropriate and helpful response would have been to acknowledge the feedback and explain to the managers that as a coach, I would be asking Stacy questions about her challenges and letting her direct the conversations and that typically, the work we do often resolves some of the concerns they were expressing. I believe that the managers still need to take responsibility for continuing to work with Stacy outside of our coaching sessions instead of relying on a coach to address all the concerns. I believe better explaining the coaching program and process ahead of time will again curb some of these issues.
Additionally, what I learned during the Workplace Coach program about powerful questions and powerful listening was certainly reinforced during my coaching time with Stacy. As a coach, I know that I need to continue to focus on being a present, active listener. Making a commitment ahead of our sessions to be present will help me in this endeavour. It is challenging for me to avoid listening with the intent of responding. I often worry that I will forget something that I want to ask or something I want to mention as the person is talking. Taking quick notes as the client is speaking so I can later address it and get back on track will help.
Finally, I’ve learned that I have a limited amount of control of my clients’ outcomes. It is difficult for me to say and think that, as I have a strong desire to help people and a lot of my own fulfilment comes from seeing them succeed after the fact. However, my role, once again, is not to be a “fixer” but a guide and a resource. By asking the right questions and applying the coaching skills I’ve acquired during this program, I will undoubtedly see more successes than failures with regard to my clients’ outcomes.