Joy’s testimony, a Client-Manager whose name sets the tone….
Joy* has always been a successful Project Manager in the telecom industry. She was under pressure, short delays and tight budgets, had a demanding Manager, an unpredictable dotted-line Manager and a team of five to keep motivated and performing! She felt like a ram, headbutting all the time, she never had a rest. She was successful though and was satisfied with the great career steps she had achieved so far. And this morning of May 2015, after her 6 am run, hurriedly between brushing her teeth and putting all her personal stuff in her bag before heading to the office, she looked at this pregnancy test she had quickly taken… just to be sure… because she was 5 days late…
BANG! Not the best timing... They wanted a child, but later, when it would be the right time. Good for her, she had already the right partner, but it was absolutely not the right moment in her career. Everything was well planned, and it was working well so far. Joy and Patrick decided to welcome this baby as a gift. The 6 first months of pregnancy went well, she and the baby were healthy, and life continued pretty much at the same pace – morning runs, back to back meetings, regular medical checks fitted into her tight schedule, nice escapes with her lover in the week-end. On the 8th month, her projects did not appear to slow down, nor to terminate in a couple of weeks as her condition would want. That was the time of her PANIC! She felt stuck and struggled during her maternity leave until she decided to work with a coach and make sure she would DRIVE this huge transition instead of suffering from the revolution.
Joy accepted this interview and we hope her story will inspire other women in the same situation, since partnering with a coach successfully supported the integration of her new role as a mother in her career.
Joy, how did you come to coaching?
Thousands of questions came to my mind during my maternity leave. My employer had back-filled my position and I was supposed to have a real break and enjoy the time with my baby. Instead, I became worried: In which condition will I retrieve my projects? What about my business knowledge, my team, my skills? Would I lose some? What if this guy who took over my job was doing better than me? What if I lose my job? How will I handle my long days at work with a baby? Will I hear “good afternoon” when I’ll leave at 6 pm to pick up the baby at the care center? How will I keep performing in the days when I’ll wake up 3 times a night? When will I run and stay fit and beautiful for my darling… How? When? What? … I felt simply overwhelmed and could not look forward to the beauty of the event.
I shared a few words with this other new mum on a Saturday at the park when I went for a stroll. It’s funny like walking with a big tummy brings new parents into discussion, like dog’s walkers would talk with dog’s walkers. This is how I got to know about “Coaching for new Businessmums”. She simply told me her story.
What would you like to share about your coaching experience?
I can share two key moments: the coaching sessions I had at the end of my maternity leave and those I benefit from when I returned to work and the 2-3 months forward. I felt scared and lost confidence just before I returned to work. And what I recall is my feeling of loneliness when I was back in my role. I constantly questioned my decisions, I felt I couldn’t cope. I remember waking up at night and chewing over all my duties. I had nobody around me in the same situation with whom I could share. I felt lonely, had my team to lead and I could not show my distress and lack of self-confidence. I would have lost credibility if I “used” this human connection I needed at this moment within my team. I felt so glad my coach was there to listen to my feelings without judging.
Being heard and understood was important but this is not all about it. I did a great job thanks to her support, exploring my feelings and the options I had to move from suffering to driving my life, making small changes, and using opportunities that made a huge difference. Today I recognize I had lots of blind spots on the options ahead of me. I did not see the possibilities and was focusing on the complications brought by the baby, my tiredness, multitasking, juggling when unexpected sickness arose, etc.
Coaching was a lot about exploring MY personal situation, MY wishes, MY values and to assess what solutions would best match MY life and what we believed was best for the three of us.
I remember all these advises I received from our families and friends – I felt they were judging and trying to impose the way that was working for them. That was not necessarily mean, they just wanted to help. It made me feel even more despaired, having the impression of having no choice and no control over my life. Coaching respected that I was unique and that MY way would be the best way.
What has been your most significant take-away of your coaching sessions?
There are plenty actually! My coach pushed me to find my own answers and solutions. I would lie if I gave you one huge take-away. I got several A-HA moments and I always left my coaching sessions with my own action plan.
I changed several things and worked on my persona, in other words the image I decided to show to my team, and a clear communication in-line with my philosophy and values. This has been key, especially during the period my daughter was so small, and our entire life changed to welcome our sweetheart.
Examples of small changes I did were to delegate some tasks I used to do myself and developing my staff in the same time – double positive outcome! – plus change my perception and let go on some home duties that my husband is still doing now. But delegation had never been my strength so far – I could manage without it till then and it suddenly became a survival tool – so my coach helped me to notice and overcome my internal barriers. I would say the big benefit has been the effect of the regular interactions with my coach and feeling really supported on my way to find a new balance. She would never let me give up! She was amazingly supportive.
Where would you be today if you had not been coached after your maternity leave?
I would have made progress because this is how I am: positive and always looking for solutions. But this would have taken much more time and I would have struggled to get out of this negative spiral by myself, and I’m not sure I would have stood it long over time. I was in urge of changing something, I was exhausted and morally down, and the questions my coach asked boosted my adaptation to my new life. So today, I believe contracting these 10 coaching sessions has already paid back more than I expected and if I had to do it again, I would again work with a coach.
Would you accept to tell us who paid for your coaching?
Yes, I am lucky enough to work for a company whose HR policy is supportive. They considered obviously that investing on such initiative, supporting the well-being of their Managers and consequently their performance is worth. I was the first new mum requesting it and I sincerely hope that they will offer it to all new mums.
Yes, I was offered to meet two coaches and select the one I felt more comfortable with. Coaching is a people stuff, it’s all about relationship and you must trust this person.
* Joy (not real name, upon her request) has been one of Agilem’s clients. If you would like to know more about our service “Coaching for new Business Mums”, feel free to contact us: www.agilem.ch
Agilem Certified Professional Coaches