Coaching MCL

Services de coaching professionnel avec Michel C. Lavoie, PCC

Procrastination- ‘to act or not to act’.

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At our very first session, a client (Robert-not his real name) informs me that he has been put on probation at work because of his unsatisfactory performance. “I’m a terrible procrastinator. I’ve always been like that but it seems that I have been getting worst in the last couple years. In fact, my supervisor told me that I had been passed over for a promotion because of this habit. In a way, I think my days are counted with this company. It scares the hell our of me because at 44, it won’t be easy to find another job that pays as well as this one. I don’t hate the work and I have made a lot of good friends in the company. And, if I get fired, how do I face my wife and family?”

During the session, I got him to describe what procrastination meant to him and what he got out of it (the positive intent or secondary gain behind the behavior). He wasn’t clear when he tried to answer the question. “I’ve tried to change my behavior in the past. I have made all kinds of resolutions.”

Procrastination isn’t an easy habit to kick because it always provides a secondary gain for the person. A secondary gain is a benefit one unconsciously gets from a particular behavior. But in this case, it is one that could eventually sabotage his career. With more dialogue and questioning, I tried to make Robert more aware the positive intention that was causing him to behave in this un-resourceful way. The goal was to create a small opening so that he could see what motivated him to adopt this behavior. Because our rapport had clicked from the beginning of our work together, he felt in confidence with his coach and this contributed to him being less defensive and willing to take a good look at himself.

“I think I am a procratinator because I have this thing with needing to do a perfect job in everything I undertake. When my boss asks me to prepare a report, I get it out eventually but I always have the feeling I could make it better or that my boss won’t like it. I can’t stand to face that. That really stresses me. What if he doesn’t like it? He won’t trust me with future mandates. I couldn’t live with that. It is like nothing I do is ever good enough.” His coach asks him if his boss has criticized him lately for his work. He say no. He rarely does. “I am my own worst enemy. I am always harder on myself than everyone else.”

“Procrastination is a coping mechanism to deal with internal anxiety resulting from one of these deeply embedded fears: fear of failure, of success, of losing control, of separation (losing another individual’s affection), or fear of attachment.” (Yuen and Burke, 2006)

So, how did Robert come to adopt procrastination as a favoured coping mechanism? It turns out that, in subsequent sessions, he came to better understand his behavior patterns. He fits the typical profile of a procrastinator. As it turns out, he is not very realistic in his time management. He procrastinates in some areas of his life but not in others. You could find him on the golf course punctually at 6 in the morning. No procrastination here.
“What would be a more productive behavior at work, asks his coach.” “What would happen if you duplicated the same state of mind at work that you bring to the golf course. “On the course, I only please myself. I don’t feel I have to please a boss.’ With introspection and more awareness, Robert realizes that he can work on his perfectionism. He can choose to adopt new behaviors that will cut him more slack where in counts, in his inner self. You don’t accomplish this in a short time span, but awareness is the first small step towards new, more productive and resourceful behaviors.

In a subsequent session, his coach asks him: “What could a couple goal-setting and time management courses do for you to help you confront and solve the problem?” “What other resourses (people and courses) could help you to be better organized in the future? “how would your boss react if you brought him a focused training plan that would help you acquire key tools that would make you a better employee?” “What other things could you do to improve your performance and to feel better in your job? How can I best support you in the coming weeks as you move forward?”

Robert began dealing with his issues systematically. Once he was aware of the problem, he could begin dealing with it, one small step at a time, in an orderly fashion. Once he understood that the positive intention behind his procrastinating behavior was really based on his fear of not pleasing his boss (who reminded him of his demanding father), he could work on changing his state of mind and confronting his work in a more realistic way. He stopped sabotaging himself. He stopped being so demanding on himself and was under much less stress at work. HR helped him get some short-term training and he even became an expert time manager in a short period of time. The last time his coach spoke with him, he had applied for a more senior post in his company. Robert is a changed man. He still has a tendency to procrastinate but he is able to talk about it and make fun of it. “What do you expect from a ‘perfect’ employee?…that’s right: perfectionism!”

Written by Michel

January 15th, 2007 at 6:06 pm

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