A favorite coaching client sat down and began talking about a meeting he was scheduled for later that afternoon. “It’s all executives at that meeting,” he said. “I guess they just need me there to actually do the work.”
I went all coach-y on him.
“Is there anyone else with your expertise in [xyz] at the meeting?” I asked.
“Were you self-sabotaging just then, when you concluded that you were invited just to do the work?” This client and I have done some work exploring his saboteurs — that negative self-talk that keeps him small and quiet.
“Well, yes, maybe.”
“In your wildest fantasies, what’s the best thing that could happen at this meeting?” (My mentor used a similar question recently and I now use it whenever possible.)
“I would help define the questions,” my client said. “I would feel like I have my fingerprints on this project, that I was creating and shaping the work, not just doing it.”
“Why else might they have invited you to that meeting?” I asked.
This client identified three points of view on what version of himself had been invited to the meeting:
- The Doer. This person is quiet, keeps his (strong, highly educated, and very experienced) opinions to himself. The person says “Yes, we can do that,” and is frustrated by how stupid it is.
- The Subject Matter Expert. This person expresses his opinions and applies his knowledge to the proposals presented to him.
- The Leader. This person asks questions to understand the business need of the analysis. This person is unflinching in expressing his opinion and offering alternate solutions, even if it means contradicting people senior to him at the organization.
“Who are you going to be at this meeting?” I asked my client.
This was a leading question, because we’re working together to help him evolve from Doer/SME roles and into a Leader role at his organization. My client identified several things he would do differently at this meeting, things that The Leader does — and which makes his saboteur (whom we’ve nicknamed Doubt) very, very uncomfortable.
“Would you email me how it goes?” I asked. I hate having to wait a week to hear how the story ends.
From his email later that afternoon, it was clear The Leader went to the meeting – Doubt never even showed up.
Note: This blog post was written and published with the express permission of this client.