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On square pegs in round holes

When she returned from maternity leave Suzie was pushed into a role in which she did not feel comfortable, and she was not supported to make the necessary adjustments. As a result she was feeling like “a square peg in a round hole”, and failing to meet performance targets.

Suzie’s stated goals for coaching were to work out what she needed to do in order to make a success of her new job, so that she could feel less vulnerable and more secure about her future with the company. 

We established fairly quickly that Suzie actually had a good understanding of what her new role demanded of her, and we explored together the strengths and abilities she would need to develop to make a success of it. We also spent some time exploring coping strategies and working out what support she would need going forward, and where this would come from.

But the conversation got really interesting when I asked Suzie "Will achieving these goals bring you lasting fulfillment, or just temporary respite?". Her shoulders slumped and her chin dropped into her chest, and I wondered whether the challenge had been too strong. However, it proved to be a turning point, as it opened the door to deeper conversations about Suzie’s values and the things that are really important to her. One of these turned out to be working in an environment that fully supported the person that she, as a new mother, had become, rather than one that had put her in a position where she felt almost apologetic about her changed status.

During our remaining coaching sessions, Suzie developed a strategy to feel more confident in her current role but, more importantly, she identified that her medium to longer-term plan was to secure a position in a company doing something more closely aligned to her values. And I learnt that, as a coach, one of the most important things I can do is work with clients to explore whether, when something just doesn’t fit, is it the peg or the hole that is the wrong shape.

"One of the most important things I can do as a coach is work with clients to explore whether, when something just doesn’t fit, is it the peg or the hole that is the wrong shape."