Bob joined me again in the coffee shop where we had first met, and sat down and ordered. Some things hadn’t changed; Bob smiled at everyone he encountered. What was different, though, was the ease I felt as we ‘got down to coaching’. A few minutes of catching up and I reminded him of our agreement, the ethic of confidentiality, and our time commitments. Our salads would arrive in a few minutes, I was sure.
“So, Bob, how are things?” I asked.
“Great. Really. The office is more…alive, somehow,” he said. And I sensed he was holding back, too.
“Well, it’s all good, but…” he looked down, straightened his cutlery, and refolded the napkin it rested on. Then he looked right at me. “It feels like it’s heading in a bunch of different directions I’m not sure of. And it’s…out of control, or something.” Bob’s voice told me he was bothered, but not distressed.
“Hmmm…tell me about that,” I said, and Bob did. Jane was actively working with Tom to implement some “front desk” protocols, Paul was visiting the Elders residence in Mission, and trying to get a contract with the First Nations Housing Authority. He was talking about expanding his work to other senior’s facilities, and Bob wasn’t even sure he wanted to move his practice in that direction. Amanda, a massage therapist, had just told him she was pregnant, and would need to leave work in a few months. And this morning, when Tom had given him newly formatted financial reports, Bob was aware that his billing practices needed to be ‘stepped up’ or he would run the risk of a cash flow problem.
“I think I need some additional support, and I have no idea what,” he said, smiling. “It feels like my practice is on the cusp of something, and I’m not sure if it’s positive, or disastrous!” he said, smiling. “I just realized that!” He looked surprised.
“Okay,” I said. “Last time you talked about the atmosphere in the front office. How is it now?” Bob thought about that.
“Better. Good, actually. Jane and Tom seem to be intent on working things out, and I see them struggle with some personality stuff – I don’t think that’ll ever change – but they’re getting stuff done. Tom doesn’t come to me when he’s frustrated with Jane any more – he goes straight to her. That’s better.”
“And are clients being better served?” I asked.
“I think so. It seems more … professional. Jane has started to take a couple of courses on medical office management, and seems to focus there when there is a lull in the workload rather than chatting with the patients. It just feels…more professional, I guess.” Bob was nodding at his own comment when our food arrived. Bob looked up, as if surprised to see it. We got down to eating, and I saw Bob look at his watch.
“So, Bob, in the time we have left, what did you want to focus on today?” I asked, taking a bite of my spinach. He took a moment before he answered.
“I think I want to have a strategy so that I know we are moving towards something intentional. How do I know where we are going, or if we’ve gotten there, if we don’t have a clear goal?” he asked.
“Can I ask a question?” I said. Bob chuckled.
“Of course! That’s what you do, right? Powerful questions, your website says…” Hmmm…Bob had done his homework.
“Why did you start your practice?” Bob considered this for a few bites. The waiter refilled our water.
“I was an elite athlete for a bit, and I saw my friends getting injured and getting really bad advice about recovery. It didn’t just affect their recovery, for some of them it affected their career potential. I guess I knew I could do better.” Bob looked up. “And I have. I have some really successful guys I’ve brought back from injury. Women, too. It’s great to watch their performances after they’ve been told they won’t be able to compete at the same level.” Now I understood Bob’s passion a little more.
“And what part of your work really energizes you now?” I continued.
“Well, helping athletes. That hasn’t changed a lot, I guess,” Bob said. “But I’m not as connected to the elite market. It’s hard to stay as involved out here in the Valley, and I don’t want to go to Vancouver. THAT’s a tough market to manage – rents are astronomical, and that level of athlete can be fickle. It’s hard to keep patients coming back.” Bob was finished eating, and looked around to ask for a cup of coffee.
“Now I get a charge when I help high school athletes, and ‘weekend warriors’ understand their limits and how to train to support themselves to even really modest goals,” he said. “When I pass a patient out running and they wave and smile that feels good. And last year I worked with the local High School Football team to help rein in the testosterone and build solid workout and recovery plans, and it paid off. They won the Provincials!” Bob chuckled at his own enthusiasm.
“So, you know the client base you want to focus on. What else, Bob? What’s going to get you excited about your practice again?” I asked. “Take your time,” I reassured him. He added some milk to his coffee, and stirred it slowly. The restaurant was crowd was thinning out, and I knew we only had a few minutes left. Bob looked at me.
“I’m not sure. It was really fun building the business, but that’s done.” I let him think a bit longer.
“I think I want to see young health care providers go for their dreams, too,” he said. “That would be great, actually, to help them figure out what work is important to them, and how to be successful.” He took a sip of coffee. “I wonder if Paul has a really solid business plan. I could even get Gerry in to talk to him and Amanda. Maybe even whoever I get to replace her.” Bob was off and running creating a plan.
“So, you said you wanted a strategy to move towards something intentional, and I hear you making plans for mentoring success within your practice. What other information or resources do you need to include in your planning?” I asked. And Bob made a list of twelve questions he had that he wanted to research, from asking the other professionals at the office what they wanted to focus on, to finding out if the Community College offered an entrepreneurial program he could connect with. Soon, we were wrapping things up and planning our next meeting.
“One more thing, Kate,” Bob continued as he gathered his papers. “I get a feeling that the coaching has really helped the staff, but I’m thinking maybe we need a staff meeting to talk about this new direction,” Bob said. “I think that would help me, because frankly, I don’t want to have to explain things twelve times and get everyone’s input individually,” he said. “You’ve already got relationships with everyone. Could you take this on as a bit of a project?” he asked. I offered to send him a plan for a combination of surveys, one-on-one conversations and information collating that would culminate in a project workshop. We shook on it, and Bob headed back to the office.
“Star running-back has a sore knee. We’ve got to figure it out,” he said, “before he heads camping with his Boy Scout troupe.” Bob smiled and shook his head. “I used to laugh at guys like me, but now, I admit, I’m loving this,” he said as he headed for the cash register. I smiled, looking forward to meeting with Amanda next week.
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.