While VIM Executive Coaching clients are always valued as individuals, there are some coaching sessions that are hard to forget. They stand out from the crowd. It is fun to watch them grow as people, and in turn they transform us as well.
Gina came into our office that start of January, downhearted and down at the mouth. She should have been ecstatic as her new boss had gone to bat for her and smashed some old glass ceilings that had been in place for far too long. She was promoted from a senior marketing counselor to group marketing counselor, with a nice raise in salary and benefits including a company car. However, she was more near tears than approaching anything near laughter.
It did not take her long to admit that despite her promotion she was afraid of being found out as a total failure.
“I am not a very good role model,” she said. “I am a poor manager, really and I have not always been a very good mentor. It won’t be long until my people will refuse to listen to me. Frankly Russell, I don’t think I have very much to say. Please don’t tell anyone that I feel this way!”
Time to Relax
As I let her talk she even confided some personal details about her relationship with her daughter, family struggles and a few poor financial decisions. She had just turned 50 and felt washed up inside. She even suggested her new boss had taken pity on her rather than seeing her positive attributes. I let her talk that way for 10 or 15 minutes more.
After I assured her, of course, that VIM Executive Coaching holds confidentiality sacred, I responded to what she said by saying, “Gina, you have one of the toughest bosses I have ever encountered.”
“Oh no,” she said. “He’s new, he seems very nice.”
“I am not talking about him Gina, I am sure he is kind and nice. I am talking about you. I want you to take some time to relax and to understand why you are so harsh on yourself.”
It was true. She hated herself. She hated most everything about herself. She was bound up in self-mockery, anger, doubt, fears and failure. I am not a psychologist, only dedicated to counseling executive leaders and entrepreneurs to become better; more authentic, more responsive to others, more effective and more courageous in their approach to life.
Self-hate among executive leaders is not quite as rare as we might imagine. It is not just a matter of the loneliness at the top, it is far deeper than that. These feelings may start early in life, and prevent many otherwise terrific people from believing they are capable of leadership. They are plagued by self-doubt, of believing they can be good leaders and of convincing themselves that they are frauds.
They are not “fraudulent” at all. They must learn to accept they have value, purpose and self-worth. If any leader or indeed, any employee has grown up with the thought that they lack value and self-worth, they will react to others in the same fashion.
Learning to Accept
VIM Executive Coaching has worked with many leaders to help them to make better friends with themselves. The important aspects of our work include the teaching of self-acceptance and responding to others rather than anticipating what their reactions might be. We want authenticity and real reflection. We want to see the world as it really is, versus how we believe the world sees us.
It is ultimately all about acceptance. We are decent and kind at heart. Sometimes the last people who can really see it, is us.
Gina went on to become a wonderful, giving and respected manager. Others saw the greatness she always had within herself. She just needed to be nurtured a bit in order to make a fantastic nurturer.