sfwork’s Mark McKergow is featured in the current issue of Coaching At Work magazine (http://www.coaching-at-work.com). In the Troubleshooter column, a difficult case is presented and expert responses are sought. Here’s the problem:
A colleague who knows you specialise in career coaching has recommended you to a senior academic in a leading university. The university has a large deficit and will have to retrench. Eight posts are being whittled down to three to form a new executive team and all the current post-holders have been invited to apply. There is no time for a proper ‘chemistry meeting’ but you have a phone call with the client about what he needs to get out of the four sessions. The client becomes distressed and tells you agitatedly about a campaign of personal vilification that he believes has been directed against him and that his newly-appointed boss is a dyed in the wool feminist who ‘can’t tolerate male rivals’. He also describes having applied for three other jobs in the last year, getting shortlisted with no difficulty but failing to get any of the jobs.
The client appears for his first session. He is dishevelled, extremely overweight to the extent that he appears to have some difficulty walking, is wearing clothes that look as if they have been hastily assembled from a charity shop and a strong tobacco odour comes into the room with him. It is immediately obvious to you why he has failed to get any of the jobs he applied for.
Mark’s answer to this challenging situation:
Firstly, I would ignore any fattist and smokerist assumptions – the client has it tough enough without me leaping to conclusions about his shortcomings. He’s a senior academic, not a game show host. I would start by welcoming him and inviting him to tell me a little background – his subject, his academic achievements, what he’s been doing lately, what he is proud of recently in his work. It’s important to listen carefully to his answers – there may be valuable clues about his strengths, what fires him up, what he really enjoys doing. I would also listen for any indication about what he wants to have happen here – it’s not at all obvious from the brief that he wants or needs a post.
I might then muse that he’s clearly facing a tough situation, and ask him about what he wants here. Giving plenty of space and time to think would be important, of course. If he is totally clear that he wants one of the posts, I would ask him to scale his confidence of getting it from 1-10, follow up on whatever helps him be confident – how come he is that high on the scale and the signs he might be a little higher tomorrow. If he’s not sure about wanting the job, I might ask him to elaborate on the kinds of things he’d be doing in a better future.
What do YOU think? Comments welcome below please!