What prompted you to try coaching?
I was head of a large academic unit – I had about 50 staff reporting to me. I was pretty miserable in my job and felt that it would be helpful to talk to somebody who could help me clarify what I might do about that.
Before you began, what was your main hesitation?
The only hesitation I had was that it was going to be via Skype. I wasn’t really sure whether Skype contact would work. But actually, I’d have to say there was something about it that worked really well for me. Janet was extremely easy to interact with on Skype. She managed it really well and I had no problems with it.
What were the key issues or themes you worked on with Janet?
It was mostly to do with issues around feeling overworked, overloaded and stressed out [in my manager role]. When I started with Janet, I’d had quite a lot going on in my personal life and I couldn’t see a way out of the job, so I thought, ‘I’ve got to make the best of it’. My partner had just retired and was also quite ill. So there was a lot of personal and work stress all together. I was in a state of denial about how big it all was because I was just trying to cope. And in our very first conversation I found myself at the end in tears, thinking, ‘Shit, where did that come from?’. But then out of the process of talking things through, I’ve had an extremely good outcome, one I couldn’t have ever hoped for. Specifically what happened was I followed up a new opportunity: I pursued that and made it happen. Now I’m in a new job that fits better with my skills, and I don’t have to manage staff anymore. So I feel this amazing sense of relief and joy. It’s great.
What did coaching do for you?
I couldn’t have made the changes I wanted to make without Janet. One of the things she did was help me to see what was really going on and to reorient myself. She was able to help me see things more clearly and also helped me find within myself the courage to make what was quite a big change. It was a relatively big thing to leave my existing contract; and also I had to make an argument for what the new job would actually be. So there were multiple levels of complexity, but Janet helped me see what the different steps were, to work my way through them and get the outcome I wanted. She helped me to see pathways. She didn’t ever give solutions, but she enabled me to recognise how I was feeling and how that might be stopping me from doing something. She also was really helpful in giving me small strategies around noticing when I’m overloaded and unable to see the wood for the trees, so that was quite useful too – providing little techniques to see what I could do differently, to find where I wanted to go.
What was it like to have Janet as your coach?
I found her incredibly kind. I feel the kind of relationship I developed with her was personal in a good way, but also incredibly professional. There was this amazing kindness in her. There was just something about her that I responded well to. It was really an affirming experience.
Was there anything uncomfortable or surprising about the process?
It was surprising because – our first meeting when I ended up in tears; and then it happened again when I was at a conference overseas and I felt myself kind of disintegrating. That was surprising. But it was revelatory. That sounds like a big word, but Janet helped me make a major shift in perspective in myself. I’ve never really made that shift before. There was something in her technique that enabled me to make that shift when other times I might have been more resistant or afraid.
Who would you recommend should talk to Janet?
Anyone in an academic environment would find her useful. Anyone having trouble with writing, issues of dealing with staff – I think everybody, really, would find it helpful.