Looking After You Too Case Study: Senior Manager
Role and Context
This Senior Manager works in a strategic management role for three days a week at a practice based in the South-East where they have worked at for over 16 years. In the last 8 years, the practice has been through mergers and relocated to purpose-built premises. The practice serves a community of over 20,000 patients and is one of several local practices in the area. The Senior Manager also supports the practices with their community contracts and works in this role for two days a week.
At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic there was a lot of fear and uncertainty among practice staff, and there was a clear need to ensure the safety of both staff and patients. Shielding by some practice staff meant that the Senior Manager felt they needed to step back into a more operational and reactive role.
Challenge of Covid-19 on own wellbeing
At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic the Senior Manager was working between 13-14 hours a day, six days a week (and often worked on the seventh day). They felt driven to work these long hours because there was a clear purpose to help patients and staff. They felt at the time “there was a lot of adrenaline” and a sense that the situation would be temporary. However, the pattern of work took its toll on their personal life and the lack of a work-life balance had a detrimental impact on their wellbeing. This focus on work created intensity around relationships with colleagues at work who became “too important” in their life, and this led to conflict in their work network.
“My life outside work was decimated by the whole pandemic and the need, or the perceived need, to spend so much time working. I have a group of good friends, but I’ve barely seen any of them since last March.”
How Looking After You Too coaching helped
The Senior Manager described themself as “not a workaholic” but someone who liked to feel on top of their work. Their coping strategy was to “step up a gear” and work harder. However, they started to recognise that they were not coping and having heard about the Looking After You Too coaching service at a webinar, they decided to sign up. Although they initially thought it would be difficult to discuss issues with their coach (as a manager they found it hard to show any vulnerabilities), the coach was empathetic, and helped them explain their situation.
“If you’re the manager you can’t display your vulnerabilities in the same way, so for me the coaching was somebody who was not at all in my sphere of work, where I could really just say all the stuff that I wanted to say, was just invaluable really.”
In their sessions, the Senior Manager discussed how they managed conflict in work situations. The coach asked “great questions” which helped them to understand that they were projecting feelings onto their relationships with colleagues in the practice. The coach gave them some phrases to say to improve relationships at work, to help understand the situation from other people’s perspectives, rather than making assumptions fuelled by their own anxieties.
To help improve the Senior Manager’s wellbeing and work-life balance, the coach encouraged them to make time to go for a walk with a close friend whom they used to meet on a weekly basis, which they did and “recognised instantly how much I missed being with a friend.” Interacting with someone as a friend, rather than as a manager, was very powerful and helped them to value how such activities were important for maintaining their wellbeing in stressful times. The coach helped them realise that little actions can make a difference to their general wellbeing. For example, rather than listening to the radio they now listen to their favourite music on the way to work “and it just restored [their] soul a little bit”.
Impact of the coaching
The coaching sessions the Senior Manager has received helped them to look at their management approach. In particular, the coaching helped them to consider the difference between their intentions and their impact. While they intended to be helpful and supportive to colleagues, they realised that the impact of the guidance they gave to staff made them feel that they needed to ask permission before they could do things. Without the coaching they thought they would have continued “rescuing rather than empowering” behaviours, which would not have been sustainable, particularly at a time when staff were looking for more guidance than usual.
The coach provided the Senior Manager with techniques to help other work colleagues find solutions to their problems, which they found particularly helpful. They have recognised the benefits of coaching for wellbeing and have started a coaching course themself.
“The liberation of someone coming to you with a problem and you not providing any answers is just fantastic really. Facilitating them to find the answers, because they do know the answers themselves, so rather than having that parental role of telling them what to do, just asking them ‘what do you think?’ and asking all those sorts of questions without even knowing the detail of the situation really and helping them to come up with the solution, that’s brilliant and empowering for them.”