I watched as Amanda pulled her hair back into a messy ponytail, and dropped her gym bag on the floor of the back office in the gym where she offered massage two days a week. She was fresh and clean from her workout, and her yoga pants and loose tank top somehow looked professional. Maybe it was the glow in her cheeks, or her becoming-bump, even more evident when she pulled up her stool to the table pushed against a wall. I smiled at her as she made herself comfortable.
“I hope it’s okay that we meet here, even though this is about Bob’s space,” she began. “It’s just more convenient for me today because I have clients here starting in about an hour and a half,” she explained.
“No problem!” I reassured her. “This is as convenient for me as anywhere else downtown. And it gives me a bit more of a picture into your busy life,” I said.
“Yes! And it’s about to get busier!” Amanda exclaimed, patting her belly. “I work four days a week with Bob, and two part days here. I told Bob last week that since I’ll be going on mat leave in a few months, he doesn’t need to include me in the team coaching project, but he insisted. I’m excited! I have a sister who uses a coach and she raves!” Amanda was bubbling with energy, and I found it infectious.
“It’s great that you’re participating,” I shared. “Bob hopes this project has longer term effects on his office, and he sees you as a part of that.” After a few more minutes sharing a little about the main foci of the project, and a brief introduction to coaching and confidentiality, I turned our conversation to our session.
“We don’t have a lot of time, Amanda, so why don’t you tell me more about what excites you about this project?” I asked.
“Well, Kate, I want to make sure that when I go on leave that Bob is set up in the best way for servicing his clients while I’m off. And for the plans for my return, too,” she added.
“Tell me about those,” I said. “What are your plans ?” I asked. I acknowledged that she wasn’t under any obligation to confirm them now, and that plans change.
“Well, I know this sounds stupid, but I was thinking that I really want ensure my clients are there when I come back to work, and that I want them to get great service while I’m off, but don’t want to lose them to my replacement. Or have Bob find someone else he likes better while I’m off. I have some ideas, but I guess I don’t really know how to move forward when I’m heading off in a few months,” she said.
“Tell me about your longer term plans for your practice,” I said. “Say in 3 to 5 years. What would an ideal workday look like for you?” Amanda sat on her stool, looking down. Her hand rested gently on her belly, in an unconscious way. I wondered how many times a day she ‘touched in’ with her baby, being in a profession that was so healthy-touch focused.
“Ideally, I’d have my own practice as a part of a larger wellness-focused centre,” she said. “I want to have two or three tables, with one other practitioner, maybe two part-time, to give us each some flexibility about work commitment,” she said, looking up. “I haven’t said that out loud to anyone but my partner before now,” she continued. “I want to work about 30 hours a week, including all the administrative stuff, but I want to do it as a team,” she said. I let that sit for a moment.
“Not that it isn’t a team right now,” she continued. “But I know I ‘work for Bob,’” she said, emphasizing with air quotes. “I want to work more for me, to build something I can rely on, be proud of,” she said. Her gaze left no doubt this was a new expression of a long-held dream.
We spent a few minutes talking about her dream, and then I worked to narrow the focus of our conversation.
“So, knowing what you want to work towards, what are the pieces you need to research and put in place now, before you leave on Mat leave. A year’s leave is a long time,” I added. Living in Canada had benefits, but benefits had consequences. Amanda went into brainstorm mode, and I jotted down some of her ideas.
“I want to help Bob hire my replacement, which means I want to talk to him about what I hope to do,” she said. “I have to explore starting my own business, expanding it from just a sole practice,” she continued. After a few minutes, we had a list, and she had a plan.
“So, I’m going to spend some time talking to a couple of massage therapists downtown I know who run practices I would be proud of, find out their stories,” she began, ticking off the plan on her fingers.
“Then I’m going to talk to Bob about what I want to do, see if he is interested in partnering or staying connected in some way. I don’t want to mess with him if he has no interest; I really want be fair. He’s been really good to me; I’m not going to keep him hanging while I’m on leave,” she continued. I reminded her of the need to research her rights, and to not give them away too quickly. She completed the list, and then smiled at me.
“Can I ask you a question?” I could see she was “wrapping up” our session and getting ready to move on.
“Sure!” she answered.
“What’s the best part of this plan?” I asked, and then waited. She teared up a bit, which surprised me a little. I hadn’t expected my question to elicit emotion, but then, with coaching you can never predict which questions will strike a chord.
“I want to solidify my service to my clients, and build in some flexibility so that I can meet my family’s needs, too. And have a community of practice that includes other massage therapists. But that isn’t the best part. I want to show my daughter how a strong woman can take control of her life, and provide for her family,” she answered, again touching her baby bump. “I want my daughter to be proud of where her mom works, and what I create. I want it to be meaningful,” she said, smiling broadly.
“It sounds like you want to build a legacy,” I said. “I know you will have lots of support moving forward, and I encourage you to talk to Bob. Dreaming up new directions for the office is one of the goals of this project,” I continued. I wasn’t going to breach Bob’s confidentiality, but reframing the context of our work could provide encouragement.
“That daughter of yours will be one lucky little baby,” I said. “A mother who cares about her patients, her co-workers and her family. And seems to do it all with great ease!” I finished. I wanted Amanda to know I had noticed her capacity to juggle many things, and do a great job at it.
“Thank you,” she said. She bounced off of the stool, and grabbed her bag. “I have to tuck this into the locker room; let me see you out,” she finished, ushering me to the door. I tried to match the spring in her step as we made our way around the weights and machines to the foyer. And I didn’t even stumble.
It would feel good to make my way home, and take stock of where my project with Bob was headed, and what the next steps might be. I hoped my partner had cooked, and then remembered the last burned attempt at feeding us. I decided, with a chuckle, to stop for take-out on the way home.
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.