Case studies

False humility

Susanne Kaufmann* is a qualified architect. The 41-year-old feels that she is not sufficiently recognized and appreciated in her profession. She is disappointed by her colleagues and her boss because she was passed over for numerous promotions. In her view, much less competent colleagues are better rewarded. Therefore, she feels "in a crisis".

However, she does see the advantages of her current employment, as she has a comfortable part-time job in which she can work in a relatively regulated manner from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. so that she can then go home on time and devote herself to her children. Due to some unsolicited applications, she knows that it is very difficult to find employment with another employer at her age, "and then with a desire for part-time work". But she does not want to continue as before.

The assignment to the coach

Mrs. Kaufmann would like to gain clarity about how she should firstly formulate her new professional goal and secondly how she can find an adequate new job in the first place.

The reformulation of the coaching concern

Susanne Kaufmann wants - so it is clear after a few questions - to square the circle. On the one hand, she is dissatisfied with her hitherto small sphere of influence in her part-time job, and on the other hand, she does not want to go home any later than 1 pm. However, when we clarify the assignment together, she realizes that she cannot combine both wishes; power and part-time work in an employment relationship and in a male-dominated industry are not compatible. She therefore reformulates her original coaching concern: How can I gain more influence in my job and at the same time still have time for my children?

The steps to the goal

Mrs. Kaufmann and I initially decide on five coaching sessions. In the first two sessions we work together to decide whether Mrs. Kaufmann wants to remain in employment or not. Using a typical coaching model, we look at the tension between work and private life and discover that a position as a freelancer or self-employed architect could possibly give her the desired greater influence in the professional processes of architects.

In the following third coaching session, we make an as-is analysis of her current competence. We also look into the question why she failed in her last job. In her opinion, it was primarily due to an overly dominant boss who did not let her grow. We take a closer look at this topic and, with the help of a biographical digression into her childhood, we find out that she was shaped by the driving force "Be a nice girl" and "please everybody", which earned her a lot of recognition and goodwill as a child. But in her last male-dominated job, this driver became her undoing. Because Mrs. Kaufmann tended to always behave politely towards her boss, like little Susanne from her childhood, and not to "speak up too cheekily". As a result, she very rarely took the opportunity to communicate her competence herself in joint meetings. Rather, she left it to her self-confident colleagues or her boss. In doing so, she mistakenly assumed that she would be particularly popular and cooperative. Unfortunately, she made a mistake, because her colleagues got used to selling Mrs. Kaufmann's ideas as their own and at the same time Mrs. Kaufmann felt ignored, overlooked and not appreciated enough. As a result, she involuntarily ended up in the second row and was therefore not sufficiently recognized by her boss.

In the further coaching session, we would like to work out a new role definition for Mrs. Kaufmann, which should make her a more self-confident personality from now on. We also drew up a to-do list of the tools she needs in order to be able to offer her services as a self-employed architect to an architectural office on a daily rate basis.

In the final session, we set a timetable in which Kaufmann can acquire the additional skills she needs for her future self-employment. Here it becomes particularly clear that she firstly needs to further her education in the field of accounting and secondly to expand her network with other female architects.

The realization

Susanne Kaufmann has gained an important insight during her coaching: The adapted and shy restraint of "little Susanne" stands in her way in her current profession. Therefore, she now wants to develop a new role definition for herself and start to gradually practice the requirements for a more self-confident appearance - especially with regard to her planned independence. This includes above all that she formulates her competences confidently towards her boss and her colleagues and that she frequently takes on the role of a speaker during presentations.

In this way she will try to present her knowledge calmly and confidently. She is particularly motivated by the thought that she must have practiced these skills well if she is to work independently. Finally, we agree to meet for coaching every three months, because it "gives her the assurance", as Mrs. Kaufmann says, that she is better prepared for the new challenges. She also wants to work with me in the future on feedback from her colleagues on her new, changed behavior.

* Name changed for privacy reasons.

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