Coaching: Deal with INVOLUNTARY MEMORIES .... for FUTURE Success!
Focus on strengths to overcome challenges
I was conducting this coaching session with a highly successful senior leader in a multinational company who was tipped for a forthcoming country role.
We were discussing the 16 Personality Factors & Rorschach test outcomes conducted by our team Psycologist, while sipping our cappuccinos. During discussions, I probed her for what were some notable distressing moments in her professional life in the recent past which still lingers in her. My idea was to understand her perceptions of events which may have led to the cementing of a limiting factor, to her focus & effectiveness in her current and future role.
This innocuous probe, led to a significant insight on the self inflicted emotional turmoil and subsequent building of her self doubt, which lingered somewhere in her even today.
She visibly looking a bit wounded as i probed her on this. Taking a bit longer than usual time to sip this time, as i waited intently. She recalled this incident, a few years back in one of her appraisal discussions in her past company, her then manager, remarked on her weak management style, that she was too mild with her team and if she did not take care, she may find it difficult to grow in future to manage bigger teams. He further advised her to be more strict with team members who were delivering below expectations and gave the example of another manager to make his point.
In my mentee’s perception, this manager whose example was being given, was aggressive and brash with colleagues and his team. She could have never imagined to become someone like him as her value systems would not allow her to be disrespectful with her colleagues. She was competent, diligent and anyways getting work done from her team members. She felt a severe disconnect between her values and her manager’s expectations. She did try to explain to him, however he seemed to have a strong opinion on what may be needed to deliver on stretch goals next year. This while her team KPIs were above targets.
This feedback had stirred her and she started to breed a feeling of self doubt, that possibly she had something inherently in her DNA, which predisposed her to settle for a limited future. Although, she respected this manager who was a powerful man in the company and had always kept him in high esteem. He had also played a big role in her getting promoted. This feedback from the same person, thus, was even more painful.
The world inside her changed drastically post this. For many months ahead, she was operating with that burden in her mind and often she started to remain under unexplained stress and stopped enjoying work. Interestingly her busy manager was oblivious of what had crept into her. Fortunately before her performance got impacted, she was picked up by a competitor company, where her new manager focussed and appreciated her strengths of being sensitive towards people. This manager, helped her to learn courageous communication with colleagues and how to hold them accountable, while being respectful to the team member.
As she concluded, I imagined how sometimes, well intended feedbacks too delivered callously, can play havoc on our team members. Today she remembers both managers for different reasons, however one who believed in her strengths & her values and invested in bridging her skill gaps, are the managers she would love to work for.
Interestingly, an HR reference check firm did a check with her for the same manager a few months back. She is still in touch with her past manager, even after few years of that episode, the distressing memory is still stuck with her. She had that doubt about herself, possibly reinforced through some recent triggers, leading to an involuntary memory recall of the episode sapping her of her focus when it was needed the most. We discussed this in greater detail and I found she had all the answers, for the subsequent probes designed to help her think through the whole experience and leverage the same for building herself for the new role. In the end, she looked visibly relaxed to have purged this out of her system.
While driving back home from the meeting, I pondered on the power of managers to INFLUENCE AND INSPIRE with their feedbacks… or often, un-intendedly do the opposite. Most managers know it, but it is that very moment in the feedback process, that we want this wisdom to dominate our minds, without losing focus on the deliverables!!