Sue was a VP of Marketing for a nonprofit organization. She described her work and home life as a semi-organized chaos. “Overwhelm” was a frequently used word – Sue was overwhelmed with life as an executive, a mother of 2 teens, a wife to another busy executive, and a daughter of aging parents.
At work (an organization where it was hard to say “no”), she was constantly asked to do more with fewer resources. She worked a lot of hours and chores piled up on the weekends. She felt overwhelmed and paralyzed – if a task seemed too big, she wouldn’t start. She came to coaching to get more control over her life, lose weight, find ways to get fun and exercise into her life, and get more organized at work and home.
Sue’s Signature Strengths on the VIA (Values in Action; Survey of Signature Strengths) were:
In the coaching relationship, Sue immediately went about making a plan to get her life back in control. Planning and goal-setting were key coaching tools in this work. Sue realized that she did too little planning. She was too busy putting out the fires to plan her work. Sue used her humor, creativity and zest to rethink how she wanted her life to look. We worked through trouble spots in her workday. She made a plan for how to handle late afternoon fatigue.
Sue increased planning time in her work schedule. She set aside time at the beginning and end of each day to take stock. She found it helpful to look at her daily schedule, focus on priorities and make decisions about what to let go of.
Sue made plans for exercise as well. I helped her reframe her beliefs that exercise had to be hard and isolating. “What’s another way you could think about that?” She liked the idea that exercise could be fun and easy.
I helped Sue generate ideas about how to make exercise fun and easy that would also include her family. She loved activities like ice skating, family hikes on the weekends and working out with her teenage sons. With Sue’s top strengths being “to love and be loved” and “humor and playfulness”, her best workouts were fun activities that included family and friends.
Since Sue was a self-proclaimed perfectionist and high achiever, she tended to make everything into work. I requested that she be willing to underachieve in her exercise efforts, that she find a way to include her loved ones and make it fun and easy, and that she consider the possibility that even a minimal amount of exercise would be helpful to her. This was her most important homework. It shifted her perspective, helped her learn to have fun with her workouts and kept her in action.
Sue needed to learn to delegate. She realized that she expected a lot from herself and her employees, but little from her husband and kids. She was frazzled with constant demands and interruptions. “How do you want things to be?” She began delegating chores at home and recommitted some of her time to her own self-care.
She also began finding ways to delegate at work more. She had difficulty seeing herself as a leader. She thought of herself more as a team player who always pitched in to help. When she began to view herself more through the lens of leadership, she began delegating to her assistant more. She used her assistant to screen more calls, reduce her schedule and handle more tasks independently.
Asking for help wasn’t easy. I acknowledged Sue for her willingness to step into uncertain territory and her courage to try things that were difficult. We set up the structure of a “confidence file” in which she made a note in her planner when she did something well or met a goal. It was a way to acknowledge her own successes rather than gloss over them.
Sue learned to honor her commitments to herself and to hold herself accountable, something she never thought she was “strong enough” to do before. She learned to consider different perspectives and and be a more flexible thinker. She learned that a little planning goes a long way, and how important planning is to her daily schedule to help avoid overload. Best of all, she identified her strengths and learned to honor her strengths and values in more areas of her life.
Carol Solomon, Ph.D. MCC
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