Kate pushed open the glass door to the conference room at the business centre, and found Paul, papers spread out in neat piles on the large table.
“Hey Paul! Good to see you,” she said.
“Hi Kate. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve been prepping all week. Bob and Jane were so positive about their coaching!” I was bowled over with Paul’s enthusiasm; clearly the coaching had started long before I walked into the room.
“Wow, Paul. You’ve prepared! How about you catch me up.” I started.
“Well, Kate, I want to expand the business. And my role there. I have some great ideas, and I thought I’d better research them so I could talk to you about them.”
“That’s great, Paul. Let’s get started!” I didn’t want to try to get this horse back in the barn just so our introduction looked like I’d planned. I did take a moment to assure Paul that our session was confidential, and remind him that I wasn’t a business consultant, so wouldn’t be giving him advice on his ideas.
“I am happy to help you refine and develop them,” I said, “so your good work has the best chance of launching well. Tell me about what’s really energizing you today,” I invited.
“Well, after you met with Jane she seemed so … focused, which is weird for Jane. Not weird, but …different. And she talked about how glad she was that Bob suggested coaching. So she told me a bit about it and I got thinking.
“What is it I really want to do with my work life? What really cranks me?” Paul stopped for a minute to regroup. He looked right at me.
“Don’t get me wrong. I love working with Bob. He’s given me lots of chances to get experience. It’s been great.” He took a breath.
“And?” I asked. “It’s okay to talk about what could improve. That’s the point of this project, Paul. Loyalty to Bob isn’t about staying stuck in all the same ways of doing things. I’m hearing you are really committed to your work with Bob, but want to explore some new ideas at the same time.
“Don’t worry – I’m not spying for Bob. I’m not telling him about our conversations.” That reassured Paul and he continued.
“Well, you know Bob was an athlete at school. And now his practice is almost all focused on rehab for athletic injuries,” Paul continued. I nodded.
“I’ve learned a ton about high-performing athletes and injury at the clinic, but I want to do other stuff too.” Paul sat back. I was aware we still hadn’t considered the piles of paper.
“Where would you focus your energy?” I asked.
“Well, my Grandma is in a care home here. I actually like to visit her every week, and lately I’ve been noticing there aren’t enough activities to keep the Elders active. Get them moving. Maybe even improving their muscle health and agility. That’s where I want to work, I think.” Paul sat back and looked at me.
“I get why my Grandma lives there. Really. We couldn’t give her the care she needs daily, and she’d be lonely home alone all the time while we worked. But it could be so much better. I really don’t want her to get worse.”
“You’ve really noticed lots about the care facility, Paul, and you’re thinking about how to improve things there for the Elders,” I said. “You seem to be motivated by compassion. Am I right?” I asked.
“Compassion. And I just really like old people. The have great stories, and are really funny. And they appreciate when I go and do basic stuff with them. Balance beam stuff. Some easy chair or floor exercises. I’d like to explore doing more. Maybe even travelling to isolated elders to work one-on-one.” Paul was starting to reach for the papers, and continued sharing ideas with me. A few minutes later, I wanted to narrow our focus for the session.
“So, this is great Paul. You sound really energized by this.” I smiled at him. “I’m wondering for our time left – what do you really want to leave here today with?” Paul thought for a minute.
“I want a plan to take to Bob. I want to make sure he sees what I want to do. What it will cost, and how it will benefit his practice.”
“So, what parts of that do you already have, and what information do you still need?” I asked. We bantered back and forth, and Paul identified the research he’d done (about benefits to seniors, and different therapy regimens, group and personal, that had made a difference). He also figured out what he still needed to investigate (how to bill the medical plans for the services, how to ‘sign up’ clients). We also talked about how to gather some of that information, and who to ask for help. It all seemed too easy, perhaps a little superficial.
I sat back for a moment and thought about it.
“So, Paul, what part of this is really important to you?” I asked. And let it sit for a few minutes. Paul was thinking hard.
“I want to do this because it makes such a big difference. To people who really matter, who are lonely,” he said. I let the quiet stretch.
“It’s just, working with the athletes feels really productive for them and everything, but I don’t know if they really need my help, you know? They’re already so over-programmed, and have so much help. I just keep thinking about Mr. Gendron, who I helped last week. He’d forgotten how to get out of a chair by himself. And I know he may have forgotten again by today, but last week he just seemed so grateful. And it was nothing for me.” Paul’s voice got really quiet.
“I guess I just want to make a difference where it’s really needed.”
“And what part of this is really hard?” I asked. Again, Paul really considered his answer.
“Telling Bob. I know he hired me specifically because he needed hands-on help with the athletes so he could build the practice. He wants to manage, and I agreed to do the treatments. And I’ve really liked doing them.
“I guess I don’t want him to think I’m ungrateful. Or that I don’t want to keep doing this work. I just also want to learn a little more about the business, and feel like I’ve got a project of my own to work on.” Paul looked up at me. “Wow. I hadn’t realised that before. And maybe Bob’s not gonna like this idea, I guess.”
“Sounds like you think this might be a little risky.”
“Yeah,” Paul agreed. “I’m not sure I’m ready for risk. I’ve still got student loans to pay down.”
“So, security is important to you. And the pace that you’re working to pay things down is enough right now,” I said, truly curious. “You’ve been working for Bob for 18 months, and you’re happy to keep things the same until your loan is paid down?”
And Paul thought about that, too. We talked about some times when he’d played it safe (during his university education) and times that he’d been a bit more daring (during snowboarding competitions years ago), and Paul decided it was time to step back into a more daring place in his life. He wanted to build a career, and learn about business, not just be an employee.
“That feels really different to me now,” he said. “I want to step up. And I think it would actually benefit Bob.”
We spent some time talking about his plans, and what the benefits could be to Bob’s practice. He considered liabilities, both financial and professional. And how a series of packages presented to Bob might provide a starting place for a conversation.
A few minutes later, Paul had a plan that included time-lines and some indicators that would keep track of his progress. I got ready to leave the session, and was picking up my notes.
“You know, I hadn’t realised that.” Paul said.
“What? You did the work here,” I answered.
“I know I did. You let me, though. I didn’t realise why this is important to me. But more important, I didn’t get that I’ve been holding back with Bob because I feel indebted to him. And I really didn’t understand how my ideas could actually be great for both of us. Now I do.” Paul finished putting his papers into his messenger bag.
“That’s why I’m going to ask him for a meeting next week. This just feels so possible!” he said.
And with that we were on our way. I knew I was going to be glad to touch base with Bob next week to find out how his plans were going.
Meredith Egan is a certified executive coach with Wild Goat Executive Coaching. She is committed to high professional standards and a strong code of ethics. As such, confidentiality is foundational to her client work. This serial blog is a work of fiction, through and through.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.