In my role as an executive coach, I have the privilege of working with my high performing clients on so many different challenges and opportunities. It’s one of the things I really love about what I do. In particular, I really get excited when I can help my client see an open door or window that helps them move forward. Helping them get to that “aha” moment is priceless.
So, today’s article is inspired by one of those important “aha” moments. In my coaching sessions, I often see my clients failing to see the choices right in front of them or failing to see the indirect choices they are making day-to-day. And both significantly influence their level of success.
To explain what I mean, let me share an example. I recently worked with a senior executive whose board suggested he work with a coach. To give you some context, he is an incredibly talented individual who dramatically turned around the financial performance of his company within a short timeframe. Given his unprecedented business results, he questioned the value of working with a coach. But his board felt he needed to adjust his working style despite his results.
The first time we talked, I remember wondering if he would see the choice and the opportunity in this situation. I could tell he was frustrated and going through the motions because he had to “check the box” for the board. And I think it may have been a bit of a blow to his ego – like there was something that needed to be “fixed.” So, I asked, “Whether or not you agree with the board, how can you turn this into an opportunity?”
I wanted him to understand that he had a choice sitting in front of him, to fully take advantage of the resources in front of him or not. His frustration had kept him from even seeing this as a choice or opportunity. I have to say that he is one of the most fun clients I have ever worked with. Once he viewed this situation less as a risk and more as an opportunity, he was so willing to take a hard look at himself and take action.
Let me give you another example. I have another client who has been very successful in her career, getting promotions at an unprecedented pace in her company. However, like most, she hit the natural place in her career where her pace of progression slowed down because there were skills she needed to further develop to take it to the next level. However, she was so focused on getting that next promotion that she didn’t see the opportunity or choices in front of her…and she was frustrated.
Take a look at the questions I asked her, and her responses. These may help you the next time you feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, and don’t think you really have a choice.
1. How do you see the situation? What are your underlying assumptions?
“This situation is unfair. I deserve a promotion and I’m ready for it.”
“I have all the right skills, but this is a tough environment and I just don’t have the right team.”
2. What is outside your control?
“Although I can influence their perceptions, I can’t change who makes the decision about my promotion. Several team members do not have the level of commitment or work ethic that I think is necessary, but my boss disagrees with me. So, I have to make it work with this team.”
3. What is within your control?
“My own attitude, thoughts, actions, and performance.”
4. If you can assume for a moment that you are in this situation for a reason, what choice can you make right now that will help you make the most of this situation?
“Although I disagree about whether or not I am ready for a promotion, putting that aside will help me focus more on what I can control. At the end of the day, that’s all I can do.”
I have to say that this client has achieved, and continues to achieve amazing results. Her leadership team views her so differently today, and her next move within the organization is in the works.
So, I want to leave you with this. Just remember that we all have choices in front of us – even in the most difficult, frustrating, or demanding situations. The question is, “Do you see them?”