To illustrate the coaching concept, the concrete procedure is described using the following case: Mr. Smith is 36 years old and is working as a freelance technician in the IT sector and studying computer science part-time. He has been living with his wife for 4 years and is planning to renovate the house in the coming years. As part of his freelance job, Mr. Smith supports several customers, although if unforeseen problems arise he attends to them immediately, even though he may be busy with other work-related tasks or out of the office for work-related tasks. Meanwhile, he also sometimes receives additional telephone and email inquiries from new customers. He often forgets important details of the telephone inquiries or he is not able to find crucial notes afterward if he took them on the go. These circumstances create an additional workload concomitant with high subjective stress as he has to ask customers for specific information once again. This matter, among other things, has a negative effect on his leisure time and the relationship with his wife.
First Session of the Case Study
At the beginning of the first session of CBSM coaching, Mr. Smith describes his increased workload and decrease in his free time caused by interruptions at short notice by customer inquiries. These often lead to conflicts with his wife. In the past, Mr. Smith has read several time management books and tried to implement methods. However, these only resulted in short term success in particular areas – i.e. he designated specific days of the week for his work on customer projects, though after several weeks he stopped following this schedule and relapsed into his former pattern. To date the client has no experience with stress-related coaching or training. Following the coach’s question, as to what tangible benefit the client expects from the CBSM coaching, Mr. Smith describes his expectations to find a realizable concept for his daily routine at work, which he is able to adhere to over the long term and to be motivated by the coach. Mr. Smith wishes to be able to work more effectively and therefore reduce the perceived stress level. Regarding the above mentioned, the coach describes his/her general role in the coaching process and states that he/she will ask questions with the aim of improving the client’s viewpoint towards the stressors. With regard to the coach’s question, which aspects at work are already working in a positive way, the client states that he feels very competent in his area of expertise and is therefore able to find solutions to customer problems efficiently, which partly compensates for his problems in planning activities at work accurately. In addition, tasks and learning content for his studies are easily implemented, if he is able to find time to study.
His primary coaching goals correlate with the described coaching motives and were quoted on the application form for coaching participation and sorted by priority, as follows:
scheduling – don’t get overwhelmed by everyday life and don’t get caught in a rat race
In the following goal-definition process the client’s goals are discussed, formulated in the SMART way, and visualized. For this purpose, the coach introduces the intervention “miracle question” (deShazer 1988) and describes that this question may seem unusual at first but could be beneficial. The coach encourages Mr. Smith to imagine the following: “After we finish here, you go home tonight, watch TV, do your usual chores, etc. and then go to bed and to sleep. While you are sleeping, a miracle happens. The problems that you presented here have been solved, just like that. However, this happens while you are sleeping, so you cannot know that it has happened. As soon as you wake up in the morning, how will you go about discovering that this miracle has happened to you or how will your wife know that this miracle has happened to you? Please describe this fictitious day in as much detail as possible”.
Mr. Smith describes that he stays in bed for a short time before contemplating about the day ahead and finally gets up. At the same time he feels confident, reassured and joyous as he is looking forward to breakfast with his wife and he also knows that he has university courses in the morning. At work in the afternoon he has customer appointments and he even has additional time for potential customer inquiries. During breakfast his wife also acts joyous, as she perceives Mr. Smith as relaxed. Lacking of negative thoughts the client is able to show interest in his wife’s well-being and daily plan. At university his fellow students notice that Mr. Smith is more open and communicative, he shows involvement in group tasks in a very productive way. At the university he is also able to finish several other study-related tasks, which he is very proud of. Afterward he is able to eat dinner with friends and keep customer appointments, which run smoothly. His customers feel they are being treated in a professional manner and think he is well prepared. After that, he drives home and still has time left to work on customer inquiries or to prepare for his next appointments. He is happy and relieved since he thinks his day has been very productive. As a result his breathing is much calmer and smoother; he is happy that he can spend the rest of the evening with his wife. His wife smiles as he greets her.
The coach asks about a moment in the client’s past, which was similar to this fictitious day. Mr. Smith states that he had a similar feeling about a year ago when he tried to formulate a weekly schedule after he read a book about time management. He tried to stick to this schedule for a certain time but relapsed into his old habits. The coach begins to talk about the answers to the miracle question in detail and he connects them to the goals defined by the client in his application form. The coach then supports the client in setting his goals using the SMART method with goal specific questions. At first the coach addresses the feeling of confidence mentioned after the client gets up out of bed and asks how he perceives himself when he feels confident and secure and how this aspect could connect with the goal “scheduling”. The client describes that he is more flexible when he feels confident and therefore knows that he is able to manage his tasks at work more efficiently. It would be very important for him that he has easy access to the schedule for the upcoming day after he gets up out of bed in the morning. Following the question from the coach, what this schedule should contain in detail, in order for him to be able to fulfill his work obligations and obligations at home adopting his described feeling of confidence, the client states that he would need a daily checklist and list of daily appointments regarding his studies and work. Furthermore, it would be important for him to have enough free time between appointments, so he is not constantly running from one appointment to the next, or – formulated in a positive way – he would be able to calm down and regain energy.
The client observes that his two goals overlap and considers them to be consistent – scheduling would result in reduction of perceived stress. He would like to subsume these aspects of his goal under “better time management and scheduling”. The coach poses further questions so that the client is able to substantiate his scheduling plans (i.e., the included tasks, time frame). Mr. Smith describes that he would need a detailed weekly schedule, which he would draw up every weekend from a general monthly or annual schedule and also refer to new upcoming appointments. He likes to have his schedule at hand all the time.
In a further step, the coach supports the client to find key elements of goal-achievement whereupon Mr. Smith states that he would recognize it when he gets up in the morning and feels confident – with a feeling of calmness – when regarding his upcoming tasks and is happy to start the day. Moreover, he would have his weekly schedule at hand which he believes is absolutely necessary for a successful and sustainable time management. The client likes to work and study and is happy in his marriage as he has time to spend with his wife without thinking about work-related topics too much. Mr. Smith considers his goal “better time management and scheduling” to be realistic as he was able to implement a schedule to some extent in the past and wants to make an effort to achieve a sustained benefit. The client would like a draft of the schedule in no later than two weeks after the coaching session and based on this he would like to have improved his time management skills within six months.
Subsequently, the coach clarifies with the client in the context of a goal process evaluation where he perceives himself on a scale from 1 to 10 at the moment and what his goal status should be. Regarding his current status Mr. Smith rates himself currently on level 3 and defines his goal level as 9. As an answer to the question what needs to change in order to reach level 4, the client answers that he needs to prioritize his weekly tasks and appointments. The coach further asks what would change on the next levels reached from 5 to the goal level 9. In the end, Mr. Smith formulated the following goals for himself:
I would like to enhance my time management skills so that I am able to plan my appointments at work as efficiently as possible, so that I am able to complete them successfully and still have time and energy for unforeseen short-term tasks as well as for private life (wife, friends, hobbies, house renovation). Sub-goals are (a) prioritize job and studies duties and responsibilities as well as periods for stress reduction and prevention, (b) draw up weekly schedule of prioritized tasks, (c) establish more efficient workflow, and (d) take care of myself (health).
I will have my weekly schedule at hand all the time. Furthermore, I will have time for private life at the weekends and on at least two evenings per week.
I will reach my goals of getting up out of bed in the morning feeling confident, of having a balanced mindset as well as enjoying a happy marriage and maintaining existing friendships.
My goal is realistic because for the first step I have sufficient time (two weeks) and will be able to optimize my schedule and time management capabilities to fully integrate it in my everyday life.
First draft of my weekly schedule within two weeks at the latest as well as implemented optimized time management skills within six months.
In conclusion of the first session, Mr. Smith states that he has only reacted to the job-related requirements up to date and did not take time finding ways of being proactive. After the review of the coaching process and unanswered questions, the coach presented the task energy card (Braumandl et al. 2013; Weisweiler et al. 2012) as well as the stress processing questionnaire (SVF-78; Janke et al. 1985) to work on at home for the second session.
Reflection from the Coach’s Point of View
The client carries out several tasks at any one time in his everyday life, which he considers a positive aspect in order to be reachable by customers anytime. However, as a negative consequence he feels he is caught up in a rat race. He does not take time to reflect on his thoughts, feelings and alternative approaches for a better work-life balance between his freelance job, studies, marriage and friendships. The client’s summarized goal topic “better time management and scheduling” and the associated reduction of the perceived subjective stress level suits the process of the CBSM coaching because the aspects in this regard are being discussed in the third session (i.a., clarification of the term better time management, assessment of stressors and supportive factors, concrete action plan for goal attainment).
During the first session the concrete goal declaration, prioritization and scaling represent the main interventions. In this regard sub-goals and behavioral characteristics in connection with goal attainment are being developed together with the client. At first he names the areas which he chooses to work on (i.e., “scheduling – don’t get overrun by everyday life”) but is not able to specify them initially. The goal reformulation (i.e., SMART way of defining goals) as well as setting sub-goals in combination with goal visualization on cards and via goal-attainment scale support the client concerning this matter.
Second Session of the Case Study
First, the coach asks Mr. Smith about the current goal status. The client tells that after completing the tasks at home he thought about his goal and has already begun structuring and prioritizing his tasks and therefore estimates the goal status with 4. After the goal process evaluation the coach asks the client about the task energy card. The client states that he has a good overview of stressors and possible resources and that the stressors currently predominate his everyday life and drain energy. The coach is interested what precisely has become clearer for Mr. Smith. Although Mr. Smith’s studies and job have a lot of positive aspects (i.e., interesting topics, a lot of positive social contacts). Since last year, they are draining his energy, especially his freelance job. He notices his work flow is unstructured but does not know where to apply countermeasures. The coach asks Mr. Smith to what extent a working day would differ, if he had attained his goal. The client describes that he works focused on the planned tasks and projects and that there is also time left for dinner and breaks, which is not the case at the moment. The coach asks Mr. Smith what he would think about arranging dinner with a friend, after having attained his goal. The client replies that he would have planned free time for dinner so he could meet up with friends in a relaxed setting. Besides, he would know that he would not have to be afraid of short-term telephone calls. On request of the coach, Mr. Smith describes this aspect in more detail and states that he does not take time for dinner anymore as he may have to respond to customer inquiries on the telephone or via email, which he partly answers en route. As a consequence, it often happens that scheduled appointments have to be postponed. The coach asks Mr. Smith which findings are to deviate regarding his coaching goal. Mr. Smith states that this is a very important aspect and he needs to change this in order to create and follow a weekly schedule. Therefore, Mr. Smith likes to put his sub-goal (c) “establish more efficient workflow” in second place before his goal of putting together a schedule (previously sub-goal b).
The coach asks the client which options a (potential) customer has to contact him. Mr. Smith explains that he has a homepage with a description of his services and his contact details for potential customers. Existing customers prefer to contact him via telephone or email and are used to his prompt answers.
In addition, the coach and Mr. Smith talk about positive aspects which he can build on and which give him energy. He highlights his marriage as he receives unconditional support from his wife, even if he sometimes seems to be a bit absent in stressful times. They share many common interests (i.e., sports) and Mr. Smith considers this to be a good opportunity for achieving a work-life balance. Furthermore, his friends and hobbies are positive aspects and he has neglected these in some cases as of late. He perceives himself as qualified and motivated in work-related things but he wants to please everybody without caring for himself.
The next part of the second session consists of the discussion of the results of the stress processing questionnaire. For this purpose, the coach presents the profile of the different coping strategies to the client. Mr. Smith finds the highly pronounced coping response “mental continuation” particularly conspicuous as he perceives himself the same way in his everyday life. Regarding his coaching goal and previous thoughts, he identifies a correlation in the fact that he has to be available around the clock. In addition, he worries about days with a high workload in advance. He knows that this would be a starting point. Therefore, he would like to consider his options at home for the next session. Moreover, the client likes both coping strategies “distraction” and “substitute satisfaction” which will help him to reach his sub-goals (a) “stress reduction and prevention” and (d) “take care of myself” more effectively in the future. In the past, he would pursue his hobbies in order to relieve work-related stress. The perfect situation would currently be that he would be able to do sports at least once per working week as well as at the weekends (i.e., biking with his wife, climbing with friends). The client makes a note of these findings on his goal card. In addition, the client chooses “reaction control” and “positive self-instruction” as coping strategies. In day-to-day life, he considers himself to be able to control his reactions and use self-instruction. Accordingly, he is able to deal with single stressful events positively. As an insight regarding goal-attainment, he is certain that he shows perseverance in work-related areas. However, he does not like to be in stressful situations for long periods anymore – he wants to be able to enjoy a relaxed working environment most of the time due to better scheduling. The coach asks about other useful strategies and the client replies that he could use “situation control” which reflects aspects of his coaching goals, hence situational analysis, scheduling and implementation of problem-solving capabilities. The client seems to be reassured and states that he feels he is heading in the right direction.
After today’s findings, Mr. Smith believes he has moved forward one step and is on level 4.5. At the end of the session, they talk about an exercise to be carried out at home – drawing up an individual stress processing plan. The client is able to formulate up to three concrete measures for improving his stress management.
Reflection from the Coach’s Point of View
In the second session, the results of the energy card and the stress processing questionnaire are discussed. The client is able to categorize all relevant areas of everyday life as energy drainer or energy contributor. At the beginning of the coaching, he mentioned that he feels like he is in a rat race. During the ongoing coaching process, the client realizes that being available for customers all the time via telephone and email drains a lot of his energy. He states that this aspect prevents him from advancing in his goals so he would like to implement concrete steps as soon as possible. Through repeating asking and paraphrasing, the coach tries to give the client the opportunity to be as precise as possible when describing his situation. As there are energy draining aspects in the client’s situation, it is of importance to also demonstrate energizing areas of life. In this regard, the client considers his wife as a very important support, which motivates him to achieve his goals.
As the client realizes that freelancing is very stressful, the results of the stress processing questionnaire are a suitable tool to observe the professional situation in more detail. The client sees the stress response “mental continuation” as the key to his occupational problems he wants to work on. In the further reflection of the results of the stress processing questionnaire, the client is able to identify further coping strategies (e.g., distraction, substitute satisfaction, reaction control, positive self-instruction) that will help him to achieve his goal.
Third Session of the Case Study
When asked about the current goal status, Mr. Smith joyfully replies that he has, among other things, worked on the implementation of the weekly schedule so he estimates his goal-attainment at level 5. The coach asks Mr. Smith about his specific implementations in the last week. The client reports that he has made some straightforward adjustments, which he had not considered before. At first, customers receive an automated email stating that he will answer within 24 h, or sooner in an emergency. This relieved some pressure and he did not feel the urge to answer immediately. Furthermore, he has added hours when he is available for work-related telephone calls to his website.
Following the invitation from the coach to present his elaboration on the individual stress processing plan, Mr. Smith mentions his first measure, namely the improvement of communication with customers. Concerning this, he plans to upgrade his website with a system for customer inquiries. The coach asks which information would be important for customers and for himself. Mr. Smith sees a benefit for the customers, as they would be able to send him an inquiry anytime in a straightforward way. The automation of his services will be personally beneficial as most telephone calls are not necessary. Moreover, the notes for the inquiries are created automatically and correctly. The coach asks the client how the inquiries will be preprocessed so that he is able to use them in an efficient way. Mr. Smith states that he could categorize and prioritize them automatically in a task list. The coach wonders which aspects would be important for customers so that they would use this system. Mr. Smith observes that many customers have small inquiries and send emails but they do not receive an automated completion status. With such a system, it would be easy to send status updates to the customers. As the system is very straightforward, it would be easy for customers to use. Mr. Smith considers the implementation as very realistic as he is able to program most of it himself and if he needs support, he could ask a fellow student. Regarding the preparation of his weekly schedule, Mr. Smith has included his lectures at the university, studying periods as well as time for customer appointments and processing inquiries from home. He also added sufficient free time, which will act as a buffer between appointments. When asked once again about the current goal status, Mr. Smith evaluates that he is on level 5.5. Afterwards further steps were discussed which would be necessary for further goal-attainment. As support, the client mentions his wife who is proud of him and assures him every day.
Finally, the coach and client summarize the coaching process. Mr. Smith is surprised that he uses a problem-oriented approach in computer sciences. However, he has not paid enough attention to adopting this approach to cope with problems in everyday life. He is very motivated to continue working on his goal and finds it very realistic to implement the weekly schedule in the upcoming week and that he will notice improvements in work-life balance in the next months.
Reflection from the Coach’s Point of View
During the third session, the task of creating an individual stress processing plan is discussed as the client has indeed formulated all relevant aspects regarding goal attainment and defined important stress processing strategies and energy boosters but hasn’t elaborated specific steps fully. As a specific step, the client names the implementation of a system for customer inquiries. As the system will have positive effects for both customers and the client, the coach found it important that the client is able to express his own needs as well as customer needs in detail. To consolidate the upcoming steps, regarding goal attainment, the client finally discusses them in as much detail as possible. Furthermore, the client is able to find potential support in case of expected setbacks.