A Coaching Case Study: Self-Advocacy
Me: So, what encouraged you to start coaching? Meg: I’m actually not sure. My boss sent me here. Me: Why do you think he did? Meg: He said something like “the time has come for you to become a manager.” But, I don’t think he’s serious. Me: What makes you think that he’s not serious? Meg: Well, a bunch of things. I’m not young, I’m a black woman, a single mom, an immigrant… Me: Anything else? Meg: There is no vacant manager position for me. The position that I would consider as a promotion is occupied...although I do a lot of the responsibilities of this role when the manager is off, and my boss asks me to help...It seems impossible.
It was the start of 2020, a tough year for everyone, and I was offering pro-bono hours for high-potential employees with the organization I was working with who were not originally part of my formal coaching agreement.
My conversation with Meg happened during one such coaching session, and it was clear from this initial meeting that, though Meg wanted to progress in her career, she felt stuck. It seemed nearly “impossible” for her to move on to her next opportunity.
What were some of the areas that were holding her back?
First, Meg had trouble seeing the possibility of a promotion or new role, as she saw no clear career path within her organization. She acknowledged that because of differences in their identities (she is a Black woman, immigrant and the majority of the organization’s leadership is white, American men), she didn’t believe, deep down, that her boss was serious that she could be a contender for a role.
Additionally, she thought it might be too late for her, given her age and tenure in the workforce and, as she continued to point out, there was only one clear path for her to move up and someone was already in that role.
As we dug deeper and deeper, at the core of it - due to all of these factors and more - was Meg’s fear of articulating her desire to be promoted.
Because the situation felt impossible, speaking up felt pointless.
In a word: Meg.
Together, we began the process of awakening her awareness about her strengths and her narrative about the situation and herself. She began to look at herself differently and opened herself up for opportunities.
We peeled back the layers; she was not used to speaking about herself, her interests, and what she wanted. As we continued to meet, she became ready to act, but realized she needed tough conversations. It was somewhat of a painful process for her, so we talked through how to schedule and conduct this conversation; we practiced how it might go.
Instead of focusing on the fact that the role was already held by someone else, she focused on her own leadership potential, outside of any one specific job. She invited a supporter and an accountability partner into her life and she began to prepare.
Then, Meg took a critical step that so many people feeling “stuck” never take.
She advocated for herself.
She had the conversation. A very straightforward conversation. She was clear about her expectations, her needs and her goals.
The end of this story? Ultimately, Meg did not get the position.
In fact, they actually created another position just for her.
That’s right. She never dreamed that she would get promoted because someone else was in the next role and ultimately she was right; but then she took action and opened the door for this brand new opportunity.
It had once seemed impossible and it all happened because Meg chose to leverage sounding her boards, create the possibility, and prepare for and face tough conversations. She opened the door and walked through.
And in the process, Meg learned that even the (seemingly) impossible can be possible.
*A caveat - Not every self-advocacy story ends exactly like Meg’s, but, through articulating your goals and developing proficiency around speaking to your aspirations, you will increase your ability to have open and transparent conversations about the seemingly impossible.