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How Coaching Leads to Success at Work

by Nancy A. Ratey, Ed.M., MCC
Strategic Life Coach
Judy’s challenges at work were taking a toll on her personal life, diminishing her self- esteem and threatening her career. In supervision she always received comments such as, “Judy, you have so much talent to offer our company but you need to be more organized and less distractible. You need to put more effort into improving your work performance or you’ll risk loosing your job.” Judy had tried everything – making lists, coming in early, staying late and working weekends. Nothing seemed to work. Eventually, she sought the services of a coach to help her address these challenges.

In the initial interview with her coach it became clear that Judy needed to set up structures and organizational systems to keep track of her projects and paper work. Through discussing the details of a typical day her coach pointed out several areas where her AD/HD was hindering her work, contributing to her lack of organization, and impairing her ability to prioritize and manage her time. Together they developed a set of strategies to improve her work performance.


Judy and her coach set up basic systems to organize her projects into different file folders. When working on a project the coach suggested that she only have that project’s file on her desk. This helped her to focus better and decreased her sense of being overwhelmed.

Each day before leaving work she would allot 15 minutes to file papers and plan for the next day. Reporting in to her coach on a daily basis helped create the motivation and daily vigilance she needed to combat her propensity to let papers pile up on her desk.

Estimating Time

Each day Judy had the intention to arrive early to work, but always seemed to arrive late. Through discussions with her coach she devised a morning routine with set times to wake-up, get dressed, leave her apartment, get coffee, and arrive at work.

To create the accountability necessary for her to stick to the schedule, Judy left a message on her coach’s answering machine reporting that she had arrived at work at their agreed upon time.

Judy also had a difficult time accounting for her time while at work. To become more conscious of “the passing of time” Judy used a wrist watch that beeped hourly. She and her coach set specific time limits to her various work responsibilities. Using a “count down timer” ensured she would stick to the established time limits. This strategy not only helped her stick to allotted times but curtailed some of her avoidance behaviors such as surfing the web for hours.


Judy and her coach identified her long-term projects at work, setting timelines and defining milestones. In their weekly check-ins they broke Judy’s current projects into smaller steps. Together they would sequence the steps necessary for each piece with specified start and stop times for each. This strategy helped Judy to focus on the important parts of her projects and to see them through to completion. Additionally, at the end of each day she e-mailed her coach to report her progress. Defining which tasks had been completed and which were outstanding helped to prioritize for the following day.

Self –monitoring

She and her coach isolated AD/HD behaviors that got in Judy’s way causing her to loose sight of her work goals. She often wasted valuable work time checking her e-mail or surfing the web. Another AD/HD tendency that interfered with productivity was to hyper-focus and needlessly over-research background information for hours at a time. By discussing and analyzing her actions with her coach she was able to get feedback and create methods to divert these behaviors.

The coaching process helped Judy to create a greater understanding of how her AD/HD affected her work performance and productivity. The partnership and support she received from her coach helped Judy to develop the habits and tactics she needed to become more organized. Regular check-ins with her coach helped Judy meet commitments and follow through with responsibility. Through her new-found understanding of success Judy not only improved her work performance but the quality of her life.

“Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar,
Requires the sorest need.”
Emily Dickenson

Ultimately Judy better understood how her AD/HD affected her productivity and contributed to her lack of organization. She was able to create strategies to address some of her problem areas. The partnership and support that she received from her coach and the regular check-ins helped her follow-though on tasks and over time allowed her to gradually develop the habits needed to become more organized, feel better about herself and perform more effectively at work.

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