A coaching client approaches you with the following question: “’I'm thinking of changing my career and starting my own business, but my wife is worried. What can I do?” As his coach, what would you suggest? Zahava Starak, LCI Master Coach, answers…
 
As a coach faced with this question I would not be surprised if you took a deep breath before answering as you will need to approach this subject from two perspectives. You will be looking at the client’s stated desire to change careers and you will also be looking at the marital relationship and the role that the client’s partner plays in any final decision. In fact at this stage it might be advisable to ask the client a few questions to determine the stability of the marriage so as to validate your ability to work with this client.
 
If your client’s answers indicate that the marriage is strong and is merely needing some guidance in weathering a potential life cycle then you are on familiar territory and can proceed. However, if you feel that the marriage is shaky and that this talk of a career change may end this relationship, then your ethical responsibility is to refer the client to a relationship counsellor.
 
Once your competency to handle this situation is established you can explain to your client that you are certainly able to work with them in taking steps towards attaining their career goals, but it is recommended that their partner also be present for some of the coaching sessions as it will be beneficial for the client to have the support of their partner in the career decision they are hoping to make.
 
Let us take a case perspective in exploring this question. The client is David, a man in his early forties who has been employed as a sales rep for an IT firm for most of his working life. For the last five years he has been studying part time to become an IT technician so as to branch out and work on repairing and installing computer programs.
 
He now has his qualifications and has been looking for work and has not been able to find anything that excites him. He has therefore decided that he wants to quit his job and start his own business, and perhaps buy a franchise. Penny, David’s wife, is concerned that David will not be able to take the ups and downs of working for himself. She is also concerned that David will not be able to make enough money to pay his contribution to the household expenses. Penny works three days a week as an accountant. They have three teenage boys aged 14, 16 and 18.
 
Penny and David present as a solid couple. They have worked well together as a team to buy their house and to raise the children. Up until now they have easily agreed on any major decisions. Penny is more than happy to work with David to find a solution that works for both of them.
 
The angle you (the coach) can take with this couple is to encourage them to look at this challenge as an opportunity to enrich their relationship and move unto a new stage. Before attempting to work their problem you can explore their values and visions and see how in sync they are in these two areas. David and Penny can be presented with a list of values that they can take home and individually address and then discuss together.
 
Values are the base upon which we build our belief systems and when we live and work with people who share the same values we are better able to deal with the obstacles that life presents. As a result of this exercise it is evident that David and Penny share similar values. High on both their lists are family, commitment and loyalty. Penny also highly values stability. These values have anchored them as a couple and the other values that they share such as excitement, adventure and fun have enabled them to share many good times.
 
When asked to discuss their vision – both Penny and David have little to say. They have not really thought past paying off the family home and seeing the three boys through high school. They however can see the benefit of having a vision as a couple as well as their own personal vision which blends in and may complement the bigger picture. You can now spend some time with David and Penny asking them various questions to help them gain a focus on where their relationship is heading.
 
Questions are adapted to address the relationship such as: What do you want this relationship to look like? What do you see for yourself in this relationship in the future? Is what you are doing helping you attain what you want for yourself in this relationship? This process can be quite involved as you will be addressing all facets of David and Penny’s life together and separately. Areas to be covered include: their finances; social life; fitness and wellness; family; and inevitably career.
 
By answering these questions and then by encouraging David and Penny to complete a collage (in which they both sit down and on a large piece of paper paste pictures of how they want their relationship and their own individual lives to look like), the couple will be more focused on where they are heading. They will then be able to discuss how David’s personal vision to own an IT repair franchise can fit in with the relationship’s bigger picture.
 
Penny with her financial expertise may be able to realistically explore the viability of owning a business and if the proposition is viable she and David could work out a time table as to when David could quit his full time job and start the business. David could consider taking a small business course in the meantime which could alleviate some of Penny’s concerns.
 
At this stage Penny and David are working together on taking the first steps to actualise David’s vision – as it is now established that it fits in with the bigger picture of the relationship. You now can start working with David and perhaps even Penny on how to make David’s dream a reality. Some of the groundwork has already been covered by the work that this couple did earlier. It is still a good idea to clarify David’s goals, review their feasibility by perhaps implementing a benefit and drawback grid and then look at the options available and the way forward.
 
David and Penny’s relationship has been enhanced by this coaching experience and they have visualised a future that they both want and can both work towards together.
 
Author: Zahava Starak