I often get asked if there is a difference between coaching men and women. Do men bring the same issues to a coaching session as women? An interesting question, don’t you think?
What I know to be true is that success of any coaching lies in the coaching relationship. As a coach, I am never coaching the issue as such – what I am really interested in is the person, not the gender. What is important to them? Where are they compromising themselves? How is this issue stopping them living the fulfilling life they want for themselves?
Some years ago, I got to coach a senior executive of a large financial services company. In our first session I got him to complete a Wheel of Life. It’s a super tool designed to get people to reflect on different areas of their life and how satisfied they are in each one currently. Career, family, friends, health and so on. He was mostly a 7/10 but when we came to career, he scored gave it 4/10.
When I asked him what a 4/10 looked like he told me his role in his relationship was to be the provider. He was on a 6-figure salary that paid for his comfortable lifestyle, private school fees and exotic holidays. The weight of this responsibility to keep providing felt huge.
From his perspective he was stuck – at least for the next 15 years – in a job that was making his life a misery. He spent most of his week away working. His family time got sacrificed and when he was at home, he was always either in his home office or worrying about work.
When I asked him what a 10/10 would be like he told me that he would love to work for a voluntary organisation and work part-time doing something that really made a difference. The days when work had been his passion were long gone and moving to a similar senior role would be a little bit like moving the deckchairs around on the Titanic.
The role of the provider and its challenges regularly shows up in coaching regardless of gender. Being the main “anything” can make us feel weighed down with responsibility, trapped and hopeless. When we uncover what is missing in our life, it helps us to understand what is really important to us and shines a light on where we need to focus our attention and make changes.
Our starting point for the coaching was what needed to happen in order to begin making a difference to himself. We did some work around his values. What values was he compromising right now in his professional and personal life? What did he think working for a voluntary organisation would bring him? What was he avoiding?
As he reflected on the questions, new possibilities starting to open up. Small changes to his weekend routine gave him more quality time at home with his family. Curious conversations with people in his professional network created new opportunities. Letting go of the need to control and take responsibility for everything and everyone helped to lighten the load he had put on himself.
So, whether you are a man or a woman, coaching is a great place to try on a different perspective, reflect on what is possible rather than assume nothing is possible and make the choices that are right for you.