Ineptness as a Masterful Teacher
Hank is a young fellow working for a fifteen year old company in Sarasota, Florida. He is frustrated because there is a lack of momentum on the part of his manager to fully implement Hank’s gifts and skills. He’s frustrated because he feels underutilized and unfulfilled. He feels like a racehorse that isn’t given enough rein to really run the race and win. He’s being held back, but why?
More often than not, managers aren’t conscious of how they influence their team. They don’t even know that there’s a way that they are being that limits the success of their direct reports and the success of the company as well. Only sometimes are they holding back their direct reports in service to their own desired outcomes. Usually, they just don’t know.
What Hank hears from his boss is to not push for change too quickly; “Things take time around here. Slow and steady wins the race.” Hank isn’t a tortoise; he’s a thoroughbred. He was hired for his expertise and the results that he’s capable of. He has the passion and capability to make things happen quickly. After two years with this company under this particular manager, Hank has exhausted much of his creative energies fighting his manager for more free rein.
Hanks dilemma isn’t foreign at all to many individuals working under a management style that holds them back rather than supports growth and expansion. How does he bring the best he can to a situation where his manager really doesn’t know how to manage a thoroughbred like Hank? He could quit; however, is there something else that’s happening here for Hank that could bring value to his time in this company? What’s possible here as a learning opportunity?
Through our coaching, Hank gets clearer that he is being exposed to a management style that is ineffective for him and people like him. He wants things to change – he wants his manager to be more of a mentor; he wants to move up in the ranks and be a leader himself in bigger and better ways. He’s stuck behind a plow horse and can’t see his way clear to run the race he believes he is here to win.
A fascinating aspect of Hank’s dilemma is that he is actually in a perfect internship opportunity where he has the most to learn to be a really good leader for people like himself. Rather than focus on how ineffective his manager is, he can focus on two things:
- What’s missing in his manager’s style that if it were present would spur Hank on to greater success?
- What’s available in the current situation that can be of benefit to him and his leadership development? What’s incubating within himself that will bring about a much more powerful leadership style?
I believe that these questions are so essential in business coaching. Sometimes our clients can’t change their circumstance, however they can shift their perspective. I believe that every situation we find ourselves in is an internship – a place to learn what we need to learn. More often than not, like Hank, we didn’t consciously sign up for these internships – these learning opportunities. Thoroughbreds want to run – they don’t want to do anything else – there’s nothing else to do but get to the finish line. However, Hank has an opportunity to learn through experience and take notes on how to be a leader – committed to the best and highest contribution of his team. He can only do this through his current experience.
Being fully immersed in his current circumstances, Hank is having an experience that informs him about his own personal reality, needs and desires; informs him of what capacities he sees is required to work in the environment within which he finds himself; and, informs him of what capacities he wants to cultivate to be the manager he wishes he had for himself, and that he wants to be for others.
Hank’s practice is multidimensional: He has to get out of his normal operating strategies, which include the automatic generation of thoughts and feelings. He has to look around and see how his environment is currently affecting him. He has to think – I mean really think, about what there is to learn right now beyond perceived constraints. He has to accept that what he thought would be the rewards and outcome of this position in this company isn’t forthcoming, yet there are greater rewards far more rich, delicious and sustainable for him to achieve, right here, right now. Hank can get – and is getting, that this is a leadership development opportunity of a lifetime that isn’t available in any MBA program; not even at Harvard Business School. If he can shift his attitude and perspective, Hank will become an exceptional leader and manager.
We all have dreams about what we imagine our careers will reap. More often than not, we see it happening soon, faster and better than it actually occurs. We get frustrated, pissed off, resentful because it doesn’t look the way we imagined it. As we each step into being grown up and adult, realizing that life doesn’t show up the way we want, but shows up the way it does, we have a much greater capacity to choose willingly to explore the opportunities for growth and learning that are right in front of us. By meeting what feels like demands with openness and curiosity we will be given the rewards we anticipated in ways we’ve yet to imagine.
Though it appears as if Hank’s manager is inept at his job, he will actually be one of the greatest contributors to Hank’s development as an up and coming leader. However, it’s up to Hank to fully utilize his time under his guidance to fully benefit from his mentor’s style.
In the Pursuit of Mei-Li
Mei-Li has a Ph.D. and works for one of the biggest communication companies in the world. Originally from China, she has been in Silicon Valley, California for the majority of her adult life. Married with two children Mei-Li is very happy. However, she has been facing a very challenging dilemma for many years: Though she is happy, successful and fulfilled in her life as it is, she’s concerned that she should do more – be more.
Mei-Li observes her boss focusing most of his attention on getting ahead; she sees other women at her level of management working for the next promotion, the next level of leadership and responsibility. “I don’t want an increase in responsibility; I don’t want to work that hard; I don’t like talking with people that much that I want to move to the next level of management. But, should I want to? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want to do that? I’m afraid there’s something very wrong with me.”
As Mei-Li shares with me over many coaching sessions, her consistency of feelings and truths about what’s true for her has me coach her to see the dilemma she is currently constrained by. On the one hand, Mei-Li loves her job and the team she manages. She has the free time she needs to be available to her children and to her husband in a way that fits best with her sense of the quality relationship she wants. She isn’t stressed and unnerved by unmet deadlines. She’s actually one of the 10% of the workforce that actually is fulfilled in her career.
On the other hand, Mei-Li’s culture married with our Western culture attempts to move people into work that isn’t their’s to do. Mei-Li watches people spend more time being people pleasers than effective employees of this company and she finds this frustrating and confusing. “People aren’t getting their work done while they are schmoosing for a promotion. Should I be doing that? The fact is, I don’t like schmoosing; I don’t like going to cocktail parties, playing golf or any of those other social things that you are supposed to do if you want to get ahead. I’m a pretty reclusive person who enjoys my life the way it is. But, I feel like I should be doing more.”
Many of us face this dilemma of being more – doing more; at the same time actually finding fulfillment in what we are doing right now. But, aren’t we supposed to want more money and power? Aren’t we supposed to want the bigger office, more contact with the more influential people of the world? Aren’t we supposed to want more?
My sense is, and I shared this with Mei-Li in our session, that what people want is to get to a place where there is fulfillment in their work and personal life – that there is balance with health and happiness. I believe that most people want what Mei-Li has. She already has it. Though the current within the corporate structure drags many people in its undertow toward some fantasy life that is wrought with a lot of what they don’t want to do and perhaps aren’t really cut out to be with, there are few who willingly choose health and fulfillment with what they have, what they do and how they be.
Mei-Li laughs as she begins to see a bigger picture – one that allows her free choice to choose for herself what’s hers to do. She laughs to hear that what people are struggling for is what she already has. She laughs as she realizes that she is presently free to choose to be happy in the life she has created and if in the future she feels inspired to grow her career toward greater degrees of leadership and responsibility, she can do that.
Mei-Li isn’t out of the current, and as long as she is in the corporate environment there will always be that field of influence. The degree to which she can stay aligned with her commitment to well-being and fulfillment in her career, the stronger her dedication and the less pull this will have on her.
Christopher, who I spoke of a few weeks ago, shared with me that if he could do anything he would work with inner city kids, teaching them math and computer skills. Then, the litany of “Why I Can’t Leave My Job and Give Up Everything I Worked For” began. There was no stopping him; the who would pay the mortgage, who would take care of my parents, I’d have to give up my addiction to Siamese cats; on and on, fully engaged in the undertow of a make believe reality, for too many, is actually real.
Mei-Li has found an eddy for now where she is out of the stream of influence by others. She is finding herself – the one she believes she has to continually pursue. It takes strength and courage to step out of the normal way of being for the sake of what we are all striving for – well-being and fulfillment in our careers. Kind of crazy when you think about it! Perhaps the pursuit of Mei-Li has come to a happy ending; right here where she has been, but now enjoying it to a much larger degree!
What it is like when YOU are smarter than your Boss!
You and a colleague, Harry are up for a promotion. You know you are the better person for the job, but Harry got the position. He’s pompous, arrogant and doesn’t have the leadership skills that inspire you to generate, well, anything. You scratch your head in disbelief that he was chosen over you.
Part of you, perhaps wants to sabotage Harry’s efforts and do whatever you can to expose him for the inadequate, incompetent individual that you see him to be; however, that goes against your integrity, and you may end up looking bad and feeling worse in the end.
For some reason, even though the whole office knows of Harry’s incompetence, no one seems to take action. He’s that one rotten apple that spoils the whole barrel.
There are a lot of Harry’s and Harriets in the business world. As an administrative assistant, manager or whatever your position, you know you are smarter than your boss. You deserve his salary and every perk that goes along with his position, because you are working your butt off and he’s the one that is looking good! AAARRRGGHH!
If you go above Harry’s head to his boss, Glenda, you might be not only aggravate Harry but also be making it clear to Glenda that she may have made a choice that is creating negative consequences far beyond any expectations. She’s already regretting her choice and knows there’s nothing she can do.
This scenario is not uncommon. Probably 30% of my business clients are struggling with at least one particular individual that is a thorn in their side. They question their own sanity and the sanity of those who put the Harrys of the world in those positions. What do you do?
It’s a dilemma.
Do you stay or do you go? Do you ask to get transferred? Do you stay and suck it up, because you need the job? Do you try to go around Harry, or do you do what you do best and ignore what Harry wants from you?
My job as a transformational coach is not to fix, heal or convert clients, so they’ll have the answers to problems that they face. My job is to be a thinking partner, empowering clients to unravel all of the complexities that are bringing him or her to this dilemma and this choice-point.
Our businesses systems are no different than our family systems, in that they are generated and driven by survival mechanisms that most likely operate from a fear-based paradigm. They have been cultivated through generations of personal relationships based on cultural, religious, gender and racial factors. Too often wisdom and common sense do not enter into the equation when it comes to how a business or family is operating. We take for granted and assume intelligence and maturity would be foundational to choosing directors, managers and leaders, but trust me, and you may know from your own experience, most people running businesses, departments and corporations function, to some degree, from the emotional intelligence of an adolescent. It makes sense that you are going to think you are smarter than your boss; in some ways you probably are; in other ways you probably aren’t.
Notice the Pattern
The trick is to notice this pattern of operating. When you’re feeling smarter than – what’s the quality of the experience? Are you feeling righteous and arrogant, contemptuous and condescending? Do you feel frustrated and discouraged? What actions are you likely to take from righteous, condescending, frustrated and discouraged? What do you do to compensate for feeling this way? How do you avoid, distract, ignore or deny your own part in this dysfunctional process? By the way, we are all participating in having the Harry’s of the world be where they are.
The questions funnel down to just one:
What is it you are here to learn that has Harry be in your life, in this time, in this way?
Answer this question and you’ll understand what it is you need to shift in order to facilitate the learning. I guarantee that while doing what’s required in order to make the shift, you’ll notice that Harry will either change or go away! It’s fascinating to observe what changes within our environment once we get our part in maintaining it as it has been.
Entangled and embroiled in the cauldron of complexity of our work environment, its challenging to see all of this without a thinking partner or coach who can hold the bigger picture and who also holds you accountable for your participation in the unfolding of your life within this bigger picture. No coach or thinking partner? That’s okay. Just be willing to be truthful in answering the questions above. This alone will create a positive shift for you; and the Harry’s of the world will go POOF!
By the way, some of the Harry’s of the world are my clients too. Given an opportunity to look at what has them choose to choose to be how they be, they, too, willingly shift in support of a larger, more fulfilling outcome. Yay for us all!
L is for Loneliness
You probably thought that since we are talking about spirituality in business that love would be the L word for this week. No. Everything we’ve discussed and much of what we will be discussing engages and exercises the muscles of love. No need to go there today.
Though we spend hours with our cohorts, colleagues, team members, rarely do we engage in such a way that we feel heard and seen for who we are and for what we really bring with us to the office.
Loneliness is a spiritual crisis for every individual on this planet. It is isolation from ourselves, our highest truth and our highest good. It’s self-abandonment and self-deprecation that shows itself by the company we keep and the companies we work for.
We can’t blame anyone for this malady from which we all suffer and to which we all contribute. All we can do is to begin to cultivate the awareness that each of us can contribute to the resurrection of the Self through conscious and thoughtful connection with everyone at work.
It isn’t hard to cultivate connection– we’ve been discussing it all along. It’s just a matter of deciding what you are committed to. You heal others and the reward is you heal yourself at the same time.
Time to Google
There was a part of me that was unsure how accurate I was regarding the degree to which loneliness permeates our corporate cultures. Not every company or corporations is afflicted with employees that suffer from loneliness but there are enough.
I googled Loneliness in Business and found one website in particular that shared many views of loneliness and how sometime the loneliness and isolation experienced in the working environment led to depression, illness, stress, lack of motivation and the reality that nobody really cares!
Emily White, author of Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude has a blog site on Loneliness & Work. It is an open invitation for those who experience loneliness at work to write and share their experience. Here are a few comments that I found valuable to share:
“I feel invisible at work more and more. I’m a manager and my job is to promote the great work my staff does, which they do, but I find myself feeling sad that the people in our organization don’t come to me for questions and the like.”
“I used to work for a small advertising agency and in the beginning, I felt it would lead to more friendships, but it didn’t. … there were also the usual stresses of personality conflict and turf battles in the office. Plus, the … already well-defined cliques …”
“I work from home myself and the isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming. I do have to go to meetings occasionally, and I meet people for lunch every week, but it isn’t enough.
HR regulations ignore the fact that in many cases we spend more time with the people from work than we do with anyone else in our lives. Regulations in our lawsuit-fearful, spineless management work lives are imposing isolation – not alone-ness – on all of us. We become so fearful of lawsuits or invasions of our private lives by corporate attorneys claiming that associating in our private times with workers is the company’s business that we avoid making meaningful relationships or even attempting.
A Lack of Shared Values
I asked a friend of my, Jen, about her experience of loneliness while she worked in the corporate world in Silicon Valley. She expressed that she had a lot of friends at work but found they didn’t share the same values. This gave her a sense of disconnection and isolation. As she spoke about it today, eight years after leaving her job, she realized that she was unaware of the degree to which she felt disconnected from those with whom she spent the majority of her days. She didn’t have the awareness or the language to even know her own feelings. Her current lifestyle fulfills her requirements for connection and for solitude, which she says is so important to her.
Bringing awareness to the quality of life we live within ourselves and within the environment within which we not only work but create most of our significant relationships and with whom we spend the greater part of our day – this can only begin to break the barrier of silence we’ve created within ourselves and those around us. It means interfacing with vulnerability – as is always the case when growing ones spiritual intelligence.
Residuals of childhood patterning too often are the foundations for the choice-making process we enter into to create the social and professional environments we find ourselves in. Choosing to choose intentionally what it is you are wanting to create for yourself and others regarding your work environment will contribute in phenomenal ways to the actualizing of such a place. The question to ask is — What is it you are wanting?