Cathy Turner | One-to-One Coaching
Cathy Turner is a 30-year-old chartered surveyor, working for an international property development company. Her role includes responsibility for working with developers and local councils and, every day, she meets senior executives, architects, town planners and project managers, the majority of which are invariably older than her, and male.
Sounds like a dream job. So what was it that led Cathy to have some one-to-one coaching?
It was actually my company that suggested it. I could have said no, but I tend to lack confidence, and I thought it might be helpful. Often I am the only female in a room of seven or eight, and I am always the youngest, so I can find meetings intimidating.
Did the coaching help?
Yes, definitely. I generally feel more confident and have a more positive attitude. Sharon made me realise that my point of view is just as valid as anyone else’s and that everyone around the table will have their own internal worries and concerns.
Do you act differently now at meetings?
To say I’m a completely new person would be unrealistic, but now my mentality is to at least say something at the meeting and get my voice heard. Previously, I would be nervous about expressing a view, so I wouldn’t say anything. But now I realise that, if you actually throw yourself out there and say something, very often someone says ‘oh, that’s a good point’, and that reaffirms that what you are thinking isn’t wrong so that next time you feel more confident.
What was the best part of session?
I think it was probably that Sharon challenged my thought processes. You don’t necessarily have these sorts of conversations with people at work, perhaps because it could be embarrassing or you feel you are showing weakness. So you continue to have these crippling thoughts that you aren’t very good, or that you didn’t come across very well. So having a trusted dialogue with someone who is slightly removed from the situation, someone who can challenge your thinking, really gives you a different perspective on how you perform and how you are perceived.
What skills do you think you have learnt?
Probably control. I am getting better at controlling the instinctive way I respond to a situation. For instance, someone might put me on the spot and I panic, but I am learning to just stop and think about it, and then give a response. Before I would think, ‘Oh God, now everyone’s looking at me, what shall I say?’; now, I shut down for a moment to assess the situation, and then speak. Sharon taught me that what seems to me like an eternity, isn’t to others in the room.
Did you pick up any helpful tips?
One of the techniques that Sharon went through was ‘anchoring’*. You think about a situation or a place where you were happy. You then have a trigger, such as putting your thumb and index finger together. The idea is that when you go into a meeting where you are nervous, you do the trigger and it should fire up your brain to recall the nice situation or memory. It sounds strange but it really works for me. I am still practicing, but it does calm me down and I have found it very useful.
One-to-one coaching, or training course?
I think it depends very much on the individual. For me, coaching was best. Having a deep dialogue with Sharon was useful because it made me talk about the things I found difficult, rather than opting in and out of a group discussion, which can cover several topics. Having said that, I did attend the Power of You course and it was useful to hear what other people felt about situations. But, for me, having a coach who is concentrating just on you means you can’t hide away from the issues and are more likely to try things out.
Has your employer noticed a difference?
They probably have, or maybe it is actually a case of, I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was! I did perform at work but it would take so much effort on my part to get me to speak. I would dread meetings. But now I channel far less energy into worrying about these things. So, maybe my employer would say ‘we didn’t think there was a problem in the first place’.
I am certainly much happier in my job. I feel I can adapt to situations and make a better impression if I am actually thinking about why I am there, rather than worrying about how I look or sound.
Perhaps it was a personal thing for me.
Sharon Jackson has been a trainer, coach and mentor for over 20 years. Her passion is helping people confront their fears and achieve their full potential. She is currently doing an MSC in coaching and behavioural change at Henley Business School.
When I first met Cathy, I saw a bubbly, confident, highly intelligent woman with a great career in front of her – a real go-getter. She was referred to Ucan Training by one of my corporate clients, a very enlightened international company that focuses on getting the best out of its employees and retaining talented individuals. Initially, I would never have known that she feared speaking out in meetings. Clearly, her employer was happy with her performance as, within just a short time of joining, she had been promoted to a senior position. So the issue was within Cathy herself.
We had six, two-hour, sessions over a twelve-month period. The aim was to challenge her negative thoughts, fears and perceptions, and encourage her to realise that everyone around the table has their own anxieties to deal with.
Very early on, I saw a change in Cathy. She responded well when challenged and I could see that she was giving a lot of thought to the coping techniques we discussed.
At our first meeting, I asked her to mark herself on a scale of one to 10 as to how fearful she was of speaking at these meetings; she marked herself a 10. When asked the same question at the end of the six-sessions, Cathy was down to a 3, and this had come about through her own efforts in using the different techniques and making a conscious effort to ‘get out there’ and practice in the workplace. I’m confident that it won’t be too long before she is relishing these meetings.
Coaching can help people overcome their fears.
*Anchoring is a useful NLP technique for inducing a certain frame of mind or emotion, such as happiness or relaxation. It usually involves a touch, gesture or word as an ‘anchor’, like a bookmark for a desired emotion, and recall it again later using that same anchor. It is particularly helpful in stressful situations.