At the end of each chapter of my book How To Get Out Of Your Own Way, For Women Who Want To Win, there is a coaching story. These are real stories from my coaching sessions; personal narratives from female professionals have touched me. All are changed for confidentiality purposes.
Sangeeta worked part-time since her children were born and felt stuck in her role at work and wanted more. However, Sangeeta, through her own admission, was not clear as to what that looked like. She spoke at length about her frustration with her current position, and simultaneously she talked about the fact she had freedom and time with her two children.
As Sangeeta discussed her current context, I noticed an incoherence and shared my observation with Sangeeta. Indeed, she proceeded to tell me that she had spoken to her line manager the previous week to negotiate a pay rise.
“It went terribly wrong. I wanted a salary increase and walked out with another project and less pay. I was so set on asking for what I needed and walked in intending to resolve the salary issue, and I walked out with two problems. More work, same pay!”
We looked at this situation together, and I asked her, “What happens when you ask for something for yourself?”
“I tend to speak long sentences that are disconnected. I feel that my peers have covered what to say and know how to say it really well…I am not precise or clear. I just ramble on and on… I can actually see myself doing it and can hear myself, but I can’t stop myself. When my boss asks me what’s going on with an issue, I can’t seem to get right to the core of the issue. So, he avoids me, or he asks me by email because it’s quicker. I guess I am doing it now…..”
Sangeeta had many anxieties about her communication and how it was affecting her image and influence at work. She often used minimizing phrases like “I am just a manager.” She apologized a lot and often marked herself down. I emphasized the impact of her self-discounting, and I assured her that even the most successful people have fears, but they use strategies to deal with them. Some of the most successful people I have encountered know when they are Wrong. That is a genuine asset.
I sensed that a great deal was happening for Sangeeta even before she even spoke. The inner noise was impacting her daily work and life. Consequently, we acted out various candid scenarios together through the power of role-playing. In my opinion, life is one big role play as we are continually playing one or many roles.
Accordingly, sometimes she was in the hot seat, as I sometimes was. I tried to give her alternative approaches to dealing with situations, not providing recommendations. This was a powerful exercise for Sangeeta as she saw that her micro-behaviours had a significant impact on others. And she could now see why.
Her biggest takeaway was the importance of being prepared before any meaningful exchange. She realized that if this was not possible, she should remind herself that she did not have to say what she thought but rather ask questions and empathize with what the other person might be thinking or feeling. Only we have the power to change our world. By using her words consciously, Sangeeta created a shift that gave her the confidence and control needed to go forward.
Reference How To Get Out Of Your Own Way