“Marley was dead to begin with.” Jane pondered the opening lines of her favorite Christmas novel as she settled down for a long night of working through the paperwork for her company’s upcoming IPO. It was Christmas Eve and she would love to have been dreaming of sugar plum fairies, but since she’d taken the position of General Counsel in the predominantly male management team of Dickens Inc., she was under scrutiny to deliver. She knew that this was a test and if she failed her career would soon be as dead as the aforementioned Marley.
Jane had been through the wringer both personally and professionally. Her husband Tom, while supportive at the outset, was starting to resent the time needed to fulfill her new position. Her 16 year old twins, Marcia and Alan seemed to grow further away from her each day; soon they would be leaving the nest, had she really given them her best? She had worked very hard to get this position and luckily she had a supportive family, who filled in the gaps when either she or Tom had to make business trips overseas or work longer hours. It had worked this way for many years and their weekends were sacred, always had been. Lately though, there was an imbalance, work had taken precedence and she saw the kids less and less. Defensively she thought- “Of course, I’m a bit focused right now, we are out of balance but it will get better”.
She reported to the Chief Financial Officer, Lesley Ward. Her impressive career spanned two decades, also a mother of two, her husband had succumbed to Alzheimer’s a year before. Jane had initially been encouraged by the fact that Lesley as a woman had made it to the top of Dickens Inc. while having a family life with its unique challenges, she had hoped that they would get along but up to now they hadn’t really hit it off. Old insecurities based on bad experiences with female executives had led her down a spiral path of negative thinking. She knew she needed to find a way to get to know Lesley better but she was currently stumped.
Her smartphone beeped and she saw a message from her mentor and longtime friend, Mark Newtown. “Madeira Grill, 12 noon, January 3rd, 2015” They met quarterly to discuss her career path and Mark was in charge of choosing the location this time. She texted him a quick confirmation and thought again about the Lesley issue. Would Mark have some tips? He’d recently introduced her to a brilliant coach who came highly recommended. Diedre Baning was part Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and Coco Chanel. She worked exclusively with executives and booked fantastic results. In her brief conversation with Deidre she asked what exactly coaching was. She’d always thought of it as a combination of Hogwart’s magic, new age speak, psychobabble and fire walking. Deidre told her that it was a facilitative process as opposed to an instructive process. Her work centered on the areas of personal perception, behavioral change and leadership. Their conversation had been easy and pleasant and left feeling intrigued. She’d been considering getting in touch with Deidre to learn more. Maybe now was the time.
As she struggled to get her attention back to her paperwork she ran over every cliché of obstacles to female advancement that she knew. Issues such as Competence vs Likability, Mommy wars, Double Bind, to name a few. She realized that she had experienced each one of the stereotypes at some point in her career. Her supportive family unit and her mentor had helped her in the climb to the top but now that she had achieved her goal, she was being challenged in a different way. She was in the spotlight and everything was magnified. She required help from someone who understood the rules of the game she was playing now and who could help her to grow into the person she knew she could be both personally and professionally.
She rubbed her eyes and decided to take a power nap, she hit save on the file she was working on, set an alarm for 15 minutes and immediately dozed off.
She heard the beep and thought: “That was fast, I don’t feel rested at all…” a gentle cough alerted her that someone was in her home office. Her natural instinct was to bust an Aikido move on the intruder but she stopped when she realized that the ‘person’ in front of her was more hologram than flesh. She thought to herself: “This is either some freaky sci-fi crap or I have been working way too hard”. The hologram spoke, she had a commanding voice like Maya Angelou and she informed Jane that she was the first of three holograms that would visit Jane and take her on a trip through time.
Not one to be frightened easily, Jane laughed and said, “Listen Maya, I‘ve read all of Dickens’ novels and ‘A Christmas Carol’ is my favorite. I don’t need to learn anything about the road not taken, changing my ways or second chances.” The hologram laughed and said, “I like the name, Maya and I like your spunk. I see that you are struggling with some questions regarding coaching and if it’s right for you.I’ll make you a deal, instead of the trip through time bit, I’ll ask you three questions. After that you can get back to your roadshow presentation for your company’s IPO.” Jane thought, “Ok whatever anything to get rid of this crazy hologram”, so she agreed. Below are the three questions Jane was asked.
- “What is the best lesson that you have learned from your past?” Jane thought a while, she saw the successes and failures and her determination which never wavered. She realized that her resilience was her greatest asset and instantly felt better thinking of the ways she had bounced back from past disappointments. She relayed this to the Maya hologram, who nodded and proceeded to the second question.
- “What opportunity in the present are you not taking advantage of?” Again the answer came in flash- “I need to build a rapport with Lesley but I’ve built up a lot of resistance to doing this based on past negative experiences which is affecting the way that Lesley and I interact. Perhaps a coach could help me to gain some perspective and clarity.” Maya nodded and said, “Ok, third and last question.”
- “Where will you be in the future if you stay on your current path?” Jane pondered the issues in her life right now and her levels of action and inaction. Her marriage needed some honest conversation, TLC and a bit of give and take. She also needed to check in with her kids and to stop wallowing in guilt. All of her problems were solvable but they had to be faced and she also needed to do some work on herself to get to the solutions she needed.
Suddenly an Executive Coach seemed like a very good idea. She would give Deidre Baning a call as well as ask around about other coaches. A commitment like this required a high level of compatibility. Just as she was about to relay her thoughts to the Maya hologram, her actual beeper went off and she awoke, refreshed, feeling better than before and ready to try something new.
I hope that you enjoyed this Christmas story. Which questions keep you awake at night? Why not try asking yourself the same three questions that Maya asked Jane? If you’d like to know more about coaching possibilities send a request for more information.