The Executive Who Couldn't Hear What People Were Showing

Focus Mindfulness

The Executive Who Couldn't Hear What People Were Showing

Several years ago, VIM Executive Coaching attended a large executive development conference. The keynote speaker was a fascinating person who had at one time been an Olympic track star. As successful as she was, she was every bit as nice. She has made the transition to being an entrepreneur. In addition to her work with speaking and running workshops, she has a line of women’s fashion apparel, she coaches children from low-income families and she is a full-time mom! Before I go any further, I should share that she is legally blind.

The doctors have told her that before too long, her vision will be reduced to seeing shadows slightly lighter and darker. However, there is a distinction that needs to be made. Her vision has been reduced, but she has not been reduced. In fact, her employees (I met a couple) absolutely love her. They are authentic in their admiration, they were not saying things at a conference to simply be heard!

What makes you successful?

Over time, I have had a chance to get to know “Gloria” a bit better. It is hard to catch up with her but we did have some time at another event where we were both waiting to speak to different groups. As an executive coach, I am always fascinated as to what “secrets” executives wish to share that have made them successful.

There were two that Gloria shared that I found fascinating. I incorporate both secrets (though they are really truths) into VIM Executive Coaching consultations and materials.

The first thing she shared was the idea of impermanence, though she did not exactly put it that way.

“There was a time when my vision was at least ‘decent,’” she shared. “I was able to see the beautiful face of my newborn, the flowers in our first garden and the smiles on the faces of the parents at our first club track meet!”

“How about your trophies and ribbons?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” she said, “but those are fleeting things that collect dust. You’ve seen one blue ribbon and you’ve seen them all. Glory doesn’t last, it’s all vanity.”

The point she was making was in regard to abundance. We must accept that nothing is permanent. Huge sales one year, could transform into a downturn the next. Arrogance can lead to humbling lessons. Decent vision may become shadows. I think it is why Gloria is so “in the moment.” She takes nothing for granted, especially abundance. It is why she values it when her employees practice gratitude.

“One day I will have no vision,” she shared. “I hold onto everything I experience each day.”

The second important point she made was in regard to having an open mind and hearing what people say instead of seeing what they say. There is an important distinction.

“Because of my disability, I don’t have the time to see people ‘rolling their eyes’ in meetings, or seeing their smirks, or witnessing their gestures. Quite often people use these demeaning visual cues to mock or demean others. I have no choice but to hear what people say and to respond to it. I don’t have the luxury of reacting to a shrug or an inappropriate facial gesture.”

I had to reflect on what she was saying, and she was right on the mark. As executive leaders, we are often caught up in whatever situation we happen to find ourselves in at the time. If sales are up, we are up; if there is a manufacturing problem, everything is a problem; if two employees are having a conflict, then everything is conflicted. It is the opposite of being mindful.

As to responding rather than reacting, she perfectly understands the dynamic. In hearing what her employees, vendors and customers are saying, rather than seeing them posture, she better understands the true meaning of the situation. She won’t regain her sight, that is true, but her journey has allowed “her heart” to expand. It is a tradeoff that has led to incredible success.

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