Few, if any, prospects

Barbara had been in her job for three years, in a french industrial group, and had started off very successfully. However, she was by now feeling stuck in a role in which she lacked autonomy, and she was suffocating due to a lack of interesting projects.   She was spending hours being busy at work, while her management structure was stagnant and the workplace environment very negative. Her income had not improved over the years in the job, and she was certainly not being recognized in the way she felt she deserved, despite having given her all in strategically important and very visible projects. Barbara was struggling with a substantial work/life balance problem, and she was truly fed up. Her options appeared to be quite obvious: take sabbatical leave, or, if that were not possible, resign and move on.  After a six month break, Barbara came back, refreshed, full of energy and enthusiasm, and knowing that the company was going to help her find her way. However, she was quite determined to take better care of her personal life, especially her passion for sailing. She would take any opportunity to get away to the waters of Brittany.

The first part of the solution

1On the recommendation of the HR Director, Barbara took back her old job, as the environment had changed for the better in the interim, and things were both calmer and more dynamic.  She was then offered the chance to explore and define her dream role, taking the time necessary to do so. A company-wide initiative to nurture and develop high potential women in the company had just been started, and Barbara was included in the group, with personal coaching featuring prominently. Barbara reacted strongly against this move, saying “I couldn’t see why I needed coaching, especially if it was just supposed to make me like the men”! However, when she thought back over the past three years of lack of progress, and her work encroaching on her personal life, she realized she had nothing to lose, saying “and anyway, I can do whatever I like with the coaching!”

The choice

Two potential coaches were referred to Barbara, and it turned out to be a simple decision for her. Antoine listened carefully to her from the outset, without offering a solution on a plate, while the other candidate seemed to be more focused on operational issues, was older and more complacent, and far less likely to be supportive to Barbara. She was feeling deeply in need of support at this time.

First steps, and a little disappointment along the way

Antoine put Barbara through the Hogan test, which is not only well-known and highly rated, but also frequently very impactful in a coaching context. However, this time, Hogan was not of much help in getting Barbara to see herself clearly. Antoine agreed that this was one of the few times that the test had not delivered convincing results. Without hesitation, he recommended moving on with the adventure by looking at the situation differently. Antoine chose to move swiftly on to look at why Barbara was so frustrated, and to examine her deeply black mood. She could not understand how, in the space of only nine months that had gone by since her return, she had gone from elation to huge frustration. Not only had she sacrificed her trips to the coast for her sailing, but also, the project which she had been chosen to run had inexplicably been axed. Antoine could see that he needed to help her manage her frustration – fast!


2“Antoine helped me to analyze every element, and to decipher what made me happy and what made me unhappy. Not only could I see more clearly the reasons for my frustration, but also I could start defining the key aspects of my future role.. The day that he made me do a “head/heart/guts” matrix, so as to understand my values, my reactions and behaviors, as well as their origins, I really began to understand myself and to learn to manage myself.” Barbara finally grasped the fact that her future success depended not only on her undeniable intelligence, but also on her interpersonal relationships, as well as the courage and desire she brought to the workplace. This understanding would help her later in the new role she took on.  And thus, Antoine nudged Barbara into defining and analyzing the critical moments at which she would need to hold back in order not to fall into an vicious circle of reactions. As someone who tended to rush into things, driven by her emotions, Barbara needed to learn how to moderate her reactions. She commented, “how could I have taken so long to put my limits into words?”

The new role

With this new self-awareness, Barbara realized that she could avoid making the same mistakes over again. She could see that she herself had changed, and that she was in charge of her future. At that time, the HR Director offered her a new, strategic role, which was operational, and had a significant international team management element. Compared to her former role, this one was global, on the ground and would take her into areas she did not know well, such as marketing and innovation, as well as virtual team management. The challenge was huge, but she decided to accept the post, for two main reasons: (1) it was obvious, given the nature of the role, that the whole company, including the CEO, believed in her, and thought her capable of this professional “stretch”; Antoine had raised the possibility that she might find other ways to reconcile her work/life conflict.

The transformation

The first three months of settling in to her new role were absolutely critical for Barbara. Antoine supported her through this time, as both coach and management consultant. They worked together on an analysis of each and every tension to be found in her integration – from that of just taking on the new job, through her values and relationships with others, and on to everything involved in the change. A simple but forcefully striking matrix tool helped Barbara to work through this time, and aided her in managing the inevitable challenges involved in this fresh start. Antoine also showed Barbara that it was possible to work from home for a part of each week. She decided to try to put this into action, though she took a very soft and progressive approach. Now she has been in her role for 10 months, she has been working from her seaside home two days a week, for the past few weeks. “I did not push for these terms at the outset, but I got up the courage to ask at Christmas. Antoine helped me to frame my request better, as I know that if I had done it alone, I would have waited to be in a position of ultimatum.” The coaching period was coming to an end, and Barbara had been in her new role for several months by this time. When she felt ready, she expressed a desire to “live this role” on her own. The timing was excellent, as the company coaching programme was coming to an end at that time. In the closing session, Barbara said, “he could do nothing more for me anyway!”

The result

Barbara has quickly had a very positive impact on her new environment, on both the people with whom she works, and the strategic ambitions of her company. She says that she knows what she needs to do, even if she does not carry this out exactly every time. She knows that she is currently experiencing some frustration on certain aspects, precisely because she has not always followed Antoine’s advice. She is booked to see him again soon, to discuss this. Overall, she feels that she is making great progress. She spends less time suffering and more time creating positive outcomes or indeed sailing!

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