She was a “mature” executive, more positioned for retirement than for launching any kind of career. As she sat across from me, it was impossible to not admire her. In fact, she was an inspiring model I often cited in my coaching at VIM Executive Coaching. She entered the engineering field, the male-dominated engineering field, long before it was commonly accepted to see women in middle management, let alone upper or “C – level” management.
She had no choice but to develop armor and to be hard-charging and results oriented. She worked her way up and led her organization to great heights. For a while, she was well compensated – and then the bottom dropped out from under her company. They could not stop the worsening financial outlook, and the cuts ran deep. She was, as they say, made redundant. `
Letting down a guard
It is not uncommon for a business coaching client to let their guard down when seeking solutions. In fact, the sharing, reorganizing and re-defining of priorities is not all that uncommon in the coaching process. How else could we proceed without trust and understanding?
She blurted, “I feel old and washed up. I don’t understand the new way of doing things. I’d like to get back into the corporate world, but I don’t know who would hire me.”
I could see the pain on her face. I know all too well what it feels like when “the doors begin to close” on older executives. I also know that every generation around us has different attitudes and different work styles. However, I also know that what all of us, each of us shares are a lot more similar than different. Within a generation, or from generation to generation, there are aspirational similarities.
At its very simplest, we all wish for good health, for contentment, for happiness, for peace of mind and love. When there is a work place disagreement between two millennials, is it really fundamentally different than between two Gen-X or Boomer employees? When a millennial has a workplace problem with a Gen-X employee the language and opinions and problem-solving approach may be different, but the basic human needs are not all that different.
My client was a highly successful executive who had no choice but to make it in a tough, sometimes abusive (I am sad to say), results oriented, driven world. However, she also shared that she loves to be a part of her neighborhood gardening association, that she has friends of all ages and she is passionate about environmental causes. As we began our coaching time together, I pointed out that her experience plus her obviously empathic, passionate and authentic nature makes her extremely valuable not only as a leader but as a person.
“But how do I reach them?” she asked.
I gently chided her, “How do you reach yourself? How do you clear your mind and reach your core values each day?”
She shrugged. I assured her that if she developed her mindfulness and reached all of the wonderful qualities that made her unique, as well as allowed her passion for people to blossom, she could not only “recycle herself,” but be of immense help to others.
Over several executive coaching sessions, she proved me right. She allowed her inner self to blossom. She responded, she reflected and she understood that she had a great deal to offer. It was beautiful to see her cast away all those years of having to be a “hard-charger,” into someone who could take the time to be an outstanding listener, mentor and effective leader.
She now heads an organization that customizes “green solutions” for architects and builders. Most of her employees are millennials. They may kid each other from time to time, but there is tremendous respect and affection because she is someone who really knows how to listen.
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