"I am so sick of the lack of support and the way my boss engages with me," a client told me in our last session. "Support arrives too little too late, I don't have a defined career path beyond my current role, and to be honest with you, Paul, I am bored. I believe my destiny is bigger than this job, and even though I am not sure how that's going to manifest for me, I know for sure it's not here." With that, they exhaled and let the silence sink in between us.
Perception. It is your reality. Before I continue with this client's journey, I wonder what work issues came to mind for you as you read the paragraph above?
It took 40 minutes for this client to let it all out, and as they neared the end of their rant, they asked, "Paul, do you think it's a good idea if I ask for a meeting with the CEO to talk about all of the problems I see at this company?" I smiled.
As you and I both know, my job as an executive coach is not to mentor, advise, or counsel. My job is to listen and ask provocative questions to get my clients to connect to their stories differently. As a coach, I pride myself on being able to show my clients a side of their story they might not have ever considered.
A few hours later, I received an email that read, "Paul, I have a meeting scheduled with the CEO on Thursday at 4 pm. Wish me luck."
At 6 pm that evening, my client wrote: "That was the worst meeting of my life. That conversation was horrible. I feel even worse. I think I am going to get fired." My client was given the feedback that their lack of focus was creating obstacles for their team, and they hadn't promoted due to "outburst" issues during leadership meetings. "They clearly have a perception of me that is not true, and I am now 100% convinced I need a new job," they wrote. My client took Friday as a mental health day.
While this story may sound unique to this client, it is as old as time. It's what I call the "blind-spot" story. A blind-spot story includes externalized frustration that entails the identification of everything that is externally broken and needs to be fixed, but leaves out the most crucial part of the equation. The client's role in creating the problem.
It's not uncommon to discover a pattern of continual job unhappiness. Your job makes you miserable, so you jump ship and move onto something new. But, sure enough—just like clockwork—sooner or later, you feel that same way all over again. Sound familiar? How often has the grass looked greener on the other side?
Feeling unhappy in your job can sometimes be rooted in the fact that you're uncertain about what exactly you want from your professional career. Just like my client, it's easy to externalize the blame to avoid introspection. A coaching relationship is here to help you avoid stinging feedback, and work through it should it happen.
The following Monday, my client wrote, "If I am honest with myself, I knew about these issues but didn't think they were severe enough that I needed to address them in our coaching sessions. Do you have time to talk this afternoon?" My client was ready to show up and get to work!
If upon reflection, you notice a similar pattern in your life, it might be time to take a closer look at your situation. As an executive coach, I help clients clarify their position, align their intentions, and create meaningful action. Yes, it would have been optimal to work through my client's behavioral issues before they were given "out of the blue" feedback, but that wasn't their reality.
We all have a blind-spot story in our lives. What do you think yours is?