Wake up calls can happen at all kinds of times of our lives. Evan’s came one summer Sunday. He’d driven back from holiday that morning, and the kids and his wife were unpacking the car. He’d sat on the patio recovering with a beer after the long drive from the ferry from France. It had been a great holiday. But as he sat there, he felt a dread rising in him. Instead of looking forward to going in to work the next day, he was thinking of all the problems he just knew he was going to encounter. Over the last fortnight, there’d been a few messages on his Blackberry, but they weren’t too problematic, but now he was beginning to worry that his team had been shielding him from the bad stuff until he got back. He knew this wasn’t right, but he simply didn’t know how to shift it.
Evan’s PA is a star. She really does manage his world for him. He’d been a bit reluctant to take her on initially. Whereas most of the people put forward by the recruiters were young, vibrant, and positive, Ellie was far older, had been working for a senior civil servant beforehand, was more serious, but projected the personality of someone who was completely unflappable. When he’d gone off two weeks before, protocol meant he had to leave the ‘reins’ to the FD but, actually, he’d got far more confidence in Ellie.
It really felt as though he had to drag himself into work on the Monday. By mid-morning he was seething. The FD had managed to avoid dealing with some extraordinary shenanigans between two of the divisional MDs and as a consequence one major customer was seriously angry, two significant bids had folded, and one of the Deputy MDs had left a sealed envelope for him tendering her resignation. Ellie went into his office and shut the door. “Look, I know this probably seems the wrong time, but I really think this would be a good one to think about yourself and what’s right for you before you get involved and try to sort everything single-handed. You’re having lunch with someone, he’s been recommended by my old boss. He’s not exactly a coach; he’s not a consultant; he’s not a shrink; he’s sort of bits of each of those.” It was an interesting introduction!
That lunchtime, Evan discovered a different side to himself. That afternoon his two MDs discovered a different side too. Strangely, to some, they have found a new appetite for the business. The new Deputy FD has transformed the focus of the Finance Department and she is clearly on a fast path to becoming a great all-round Chief Executive. Evan has elevated his own playing field. He’s now got the time he needed to engage with his industry on a wider platform, and has already led one successful take-over of a niche competitor.
Wake up calls happen to us all from time-to-time. Too often we try to battle on. Sometimes, a friend, member of staff, or one of our family, spot the issue before we do. The need though is to act on them when they do happen, to really understand what they are telling us, and to find ways of acting appropriately.
The abstract above illustrates typical situations that arise in the course of my work with leaders – it should go without saying that permission to quote has been given, names have been changed, and a few details tweaked to preserve confidentiality.
Psychodynamic confidant, working behind the scenes, helping those of power see organisations, situations, themselves, and other people differently
grahamwilson.org – businesscoaching.org.uk – inter-faith.net – thefutureofwork.org – corporate-alumni.info