If you’ve ever wondered what executive coaches really do that’s truly valuable, it’s this: We create a relationship that enables people to clearly see reality.
Life isn’t a part of business; business is a part of life. So, everything of consequence leads to confronting and resolving some kind of issue that leads to a choice about personal change. All of the choices aren’t always huge, but they are necessary in order to develop more healthy and effective patterns of work and leadership.
What To Look For
I started thinking about the kinds of signs that flash to indicate the person across the table really does need to make a change. Maybe one or more apply to you as well.
Here are five that stand out for me:
1. People whom you trust strongly believe you should make a change. Let’s be honest: sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves. Sure, it’s important not to base your life on what others think. But if six people who have your best interests at heart all tell you the same thing, it’s a good idea to pay attention.
Note: Last year an executive client who received almost unanimous feedback on certain behaviors chose to explain away every last one, attributing the information to the fact that ‘no one really understands me’. Actually, they did. He is no longer working for that company.
2. You’re holding on to something and just can’t let go. It’s happened to all of us: we have an incident or a nagging situation, and are then unable to forget about it. That’s a signal that you just might want to make a change. If you can’t accept the fact that your manager won’t acknowledge your contributions, maybe it’s time to update your resume and put it into circulation. There are times when letting go requires real action, not just a mental exercise.
3. You feel envious of what other people have achieved. This involves action, too. Jealousy can devour us from the inside out if we let it. At the same time, it can be a signal that we have some meaningful goals on which we’ve taken zero action. If you find yourself resentful of a colleague who recently earned a professional certification, maybe you should ask yourself what kinds of professional accreditations you’ve been putting off. That could be the springboard to an advanced degree or a special class in your particular discipline.
4. You deny any problem–and are angry in the process. I do a lot of confidential, ‘remedial’ coaching for people who have been accused of acting in a harrassing or hostile manner. Anger is a common symptom of denial. (Assuming that the evidence is valid; otherwise, there’s darned good reason to be angry). One way to get through the whole denial thing is to look for–or help someone else see–an abundance of objective evidence. That’s why, in business, 360 feedback is usually pretty effective. The truth will, indeed, set you free. It does, however, seem scary in the moment.
5. If you do absolutely nothing, the problem will continue. Interpersonal ’stuff’ is common in the land of cube-dwellers. Let’s say your next-door cubie listens to news radio all day, and you are really tired of hearing “Traffic on the Twos.” Perhaps if you just let her know it was getting in the way of your work, she’d get a set of earbuds. Or, maybe not. But nothing will happen unless you broach the issue in a calm way. And you’ll know that you took action, which will give you an internal sense of honesty and integrity. That almost always leads to a better sense of self.