Digital Manager, Public broadcaster, Mid-career, Publishing and digital media, New Zealand, Female, Early forties

What prompted you to try coaching?

I badly needed to make a change in my employment. I was in quite a toxic situation and needed to get out, and I knew I needed some help, but I didn’t know exactly what kind.

At the time I was working on a book with an academic who I noticed had made some kind of change in her life. She seemed focused and able to deliver in a way she hadn’t been before. I said, ‘What’s going on here? You’re really amazing and I’m inspired!’ and she said, ‘I’ve been seeing this coach, her name is Janet.’ So I got Janet’s contact details and gave her a try – and she was just great.

Did you have any hesitations before starting?

I imagine that for someone considering coaching, hesitations might include the possibility that the coach could be some sort of insane motivational guru pushing a particular angle, or that the focus could be on financial goal­setting above all else, or that the coaching could be designed for a discipline or profession that isn’t yours, or provide a cookie­cutter approach. In other words, the risk of a mismatch with what you actually need.

What I would say to anyone with similar concerns is that with Janet, it’s not some crazy guru, it’s not some cookie­cutter approach ­ there’s a lot of individual tailoring. You set the agenda and she meets you and challenges you every step of the way. She is first and foremost a good listener, so it’s not advice coming down at you. It’s someone listening to you.

What I thought was going to happen when I went to see Janet was that she would flap down from heaven like a guardian coach angel and she’d be like, ‘You Are A Gemini And You Should Be A Publicist’, or something like that. I actually wanted someone to solve all my problems for me and just give me the answer. But seeing Janet is an education in identifying your own needs and goals. It’s a constant challenge to do that, but in doing it you will take on your own fears and do things you didn’t think you could do and thus gain confidence and be able to deal with all the other things you didn’t realise were holding you back.

If you are hesitating about the cost, I can’t lie: [a one-to-one service] is pretty expensive. What I would say is that within the space of a single consult – and it was the free first consult, so if it had been crap I could have bailed – it became really obvious that there was value to be had in this thing, and it was worth me finding the money to do it.

What key issues or themes did you work on?

The first issue is that I was in a really complicated professional situation, which involved elements of organisational change, elements of conflict and intimidation, elements of industry disruption and elements of just generally being a bit over it. I needed to get out and I had no idea how.

Second, I had become paralysed about what direction to take in my career. I was concerned that the industry I was in was dead or dying, that I was approaching middle age, and that I was going to be completely unemployable. I didn’t know what direction I needed to go in, what skills I needed to get, even what I wanted to do. So both in relation to the specific situation and more broadly I needed to make a change, but I didn’t know what it was.
I had became anxious, lacking in confidence, and frightened to try some things that I wanted to, which only really became clear through the coaching and Janet’s independent external perspective. That was actually the the biggest ‘takeaway’. Once I could see that, it was easier to address it.

Also, I was in a situation where I was quite isolated. I now realise Janet was a great champion and set of ears when I needed a set of ears, and was on my side when it seemed there was nobody on my side.

What progress did you make?

More than 100%; more than 100%. All the things that were holding me back that I was frightened might happen didn’t happen. I got out of the bad situation and there was no financial disadvantage – in fact, the exact opposite.

With Janet’s encouragement I was able to set a goal and do this one thing that had been just a silly little idea ­ to approach an organisation I had always wanted to work at. They arranged a short­-term internship for me and just a few days ago, I signed a contract – a nice, good, long­-term, lucrative contract – to work with them using the exact skills that I had discovered I needed in order to stay employable into the future. And then this other good thing happened, and then this other good thing happened – I was headhunted by this international company in my original industry. Too many good things have happened, it’s almost too good to be true. And I have to track all that back to Janet.

Recognising that your achievements are all your own, what difference did it make to have Janet as your coach?

Janet was materially useful in getting me over the fear. I identified the specific ideas, but she helped me get over whatever it was that was holding me back from actually doing it.

She is also really smart. You know whenever you’re trying to make a change in your life, they tell you to identify your values. Well, I felt like that was another thing to be bad at and worried about. ‘Oh, great, now I need to figure out my values as well as everything else?’ And Janet was like, ‘Well, you could analyse the data of your own behaviour and you would realise that you have been acting according to a set of values all along. The data set is there; you just need to look at it. You don’t have to do this big, terrifying piece of homework where you figure out who you are. You already are that, and you’re acting according to that.’ So she is quite clever, which must help if you are working with brainy people all the time. She was really smart and really able to quickly and nimbly identify things that would help each individual, but also funny, and sage, and clearly no­bullshit. If something wasn’t quite working for me, she would have another angle to come at it from, or a new approach, or a new tool. And if I asked for an annoying what­should­I­be­when­I­grow­up tool she could arrange that ­ but she would add to it by framing the results in terms of what I could learn from them at this particular moment, and challenge me to do the real work of discovering what I wanted to do and be. So she was able to throw lots of different things at the problem. She had this arsenal. She is skilled and informed, and the real deal.

I think that the difference, the benefit of my coach being Janet was threefold. One, she wasn’t shonky. (It’s very easy to imagine a coach who would do you damage, so you would spend your thousands of dollars or whatever it is and be worse off in every way.) Two, she empowers the individual and teaches them ‘how to fish’ – which is scary and uncomfortable and hurts and is not always nice and you feel terrified all the time, but Janet correctly shows you that in the doing comes the confidence. And thirdly, her skills and knowledge make her more valuable than a just­okay person.

Was there anything uncomfortable, or that you really enjoyed, or that surprised you?

I spent a really long time being uncomfortable with identifying what I wanted to get out of the sessions or what I wanted to get out of the overall engagement. In some ways, I even ended not knowing quite what I’d hoped to get out of it – and then all these fruits to started to appear. I got so much, so many measurable good things out of working with Janet, that I’m only realising them now ­ almost 6 months later. It is kind of amazing.

So another thing to say about Janet is that she kind of leads you through an active process of realising the true value in self­-actualisation. Someone can tell you that the only way you’ll feel better is if you do the frightening thing, or some other truism, but it’s not until you actually have the experience that you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s really true’. Janet is very trustworthy, so when she invites you to try something, you can accept that and find the courage to do it, which opens the way for you to have those realisations.

If you would be comfortable recommending Janet’s services, to whom and why?

I’d recommend Janet to women generally, to people facing career change, people with unfulfilled life goals, those looking for creative solutions to medium or short­-term professional problems. People who have always wanted to write something – because I have directly witnessed her ability to get clients to deliver and empower them to feel they can produce something and the clever way that she turns that into action would be really valuable. I could go on… people who are in a difficult workplace situation; anyone who thinks that what they need is some more generic kind of professional development [should consider coaching with Janet instead].

Do you have a soundbite for prospective clients?

When you go see Janet she leads you on a process of discovering not only how much you can do, but how not to be frightened of doing it and gives you the tools to keep doing that forever and ever. And honestly, the results were beyond my wildest dreams. That transformation is the most powerful thing: truly doing scary things. And the other thing is just how awesomely there she was. She’s really good at making herself available, even if you email her months later, even though it’s not technically part of the deal, she’s the only one who knows how much a small development means. She has genuinely taken on your concerns and so she understands what a good result is. She kind of stays with you even if she’s not there, the idea of Janet – like a guardian angel. I thought I wanted one kind of guardian angel – but I got another kind, the kind I needed.