From Stressed Control Freak to Liberated Leader – a Coaching Case Study

by | 13 Jul 2015 | Coaching

So last week I shared  Hannah’s case study of how she went from being unhappy and confused to thriving and relishing life through the realisations coaching opened up for her. This week I thought I’d share another case study – again I’ve changed some details and the name to protect confidentiality.

David has risen rapidly in his company since joining it as a graduate 5 years ago. He is seen as talented and bright, but his most recent promotion 8 months ago has been a big stretch and he realised the strategies and strengths he’s used so far in his career were not having the same impact in his new role. He had a much broader remit and span of control, but with less direct reports.

He has to achieve much through influencing other people and when he came to our coaching sessions he was feeling powerless and frustrated that he just couldn’t get things done in the way that he wanted. He was over-compensating by trying to do everything himself and was quickly becoming stressed and exhausted as a result.

He felt he didn’t have the experience or credibility he needed in his new role, and what was worse for him he no longer was a subject ‘expert’ in the field he was leading, so he felt vulnerable and exposed.

It became quickly clear that David was worrying a lot about what he didn’t have, so much so he’d lost sight of what he does have – good strong communication skills, quick learning on the fly, and a strong drive for results.

The change started for David as soon as I started to ask how he could use the strengths he does have to help him in the areas he found challenging. He no longer felt so powerless or inadequate.

We also looked over his life at the times he’s been most thriving and alive, and those times he’s found least fulfilling and looked for the patterns and themes.

It became clear that David has a strong drive to ‘be the best’ at whatever he does and his inner critic is quick to point out when he does not achieve in the way he ‘ought’.

What also emerged as a key insight for David is that he had become a human ‘doing’ rather than a human ‘being’. Through looking at his highs and lows it was clear that he was ‘being’ the best that he could be in all the peaks. It wasn’t about task, it was about how he chose to be.

Suddenly the aha – David got the control paradox, and realised he’d been focussing on the wrong thing. There was so much he couldn’t control in tasks and in other people, but he can always control how he chooses to be, and when he’s at his best, his power, impact and influence are exponentially greater.

At his best, when he stops trying to control, David feels liberated, passionate, energetic, creative, motivated and influential. When he slips into ‘control freak’ mode, he’s less aware of the impact he has on others and becomes stressed, irritable, tired and unimaginative – constrained and powerless.

Talking to David now is like talking to a different person – he’s no longer insecure about what he doesn’t know and what he cannot do. He’s inspiring, influencing and engaging others – he’s open hearted, vulnerable and joyful; people want to do things for him and they learn and grow in the process. He has more time, less stress and enjoys every aspect of life more fully.

Our coaching hasn’t finished yet – his drive to be the best is still there, and like a top athlete, he’s always looking to see what he can retune, but now he does it joyfully, creatively and with humour – truly inspiring to work with!


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