This week a fairly new client of mine -let’s call him Phil- showed up to our coaching session very agitated. He was about to walk into a 1:1 with the CEO. Their relationship was not going well. (A reason why we started to work together.)
The CEO was new and stepped into the role with little faith in Phil’s ability to run his department. Phil felt frustrated and angry with the CEO. Phil felt like the CEO was continuing to be unclear about what he needed from Phil. Phil felt like they had differing opinions on how the department should be run and conflicting priorities for the department.
But worse than how Phil was feeling inside, was that Phil was showing up pretty poorly with the CEO. The CEO would barrage him with questions and aggressively own their meetings, so much so that Phil’s response would be to retreat into himself, lose his footing, and be on the defensive.
This dynamic was not working for anyone. The CEO knew it. Phil knew it. And Phil was about to walk into another 1:1, feeling dread in his stomach, not knowing how to disrupt his own habitual pattern around retreating and becoming defensive with the CEO.
Phil is a new client. I knew that over the next year we would have an opportunity to dig into this pattern of behavior, do some deep inner work to help him understand what specifically triggers it, how it has served him in the past, how to shift it and create alternative ways to show up differently.
However, in this moment, we had to triage immediately. We needed to help Phil be successful in his meeting later that afternoon. I pulled out a favorite hack of mine: how to show up differently – fast. Here are three steps that can help:
#1. Play out the Worst Case Scenario: Let’s take the pressure off
#2. Identify a Role Model: Invoke a different energy
#3. Invoke, Emulate, Repeat
I play the worst-case scenario with my clients a lot. Often the first response is: “Ugh, Rachel. I don’t even want to think about that. I don’t want to go there.” But once I push a little and have them explain exactly what they are terrified of, it becomes clear that:
a.) The worst-case scenario is often very unlikely.
b.) Even the worst-case scenario can be dealt with.
Phil’s worst-case scenario was that the meeting would go poorly again, the CEO would continue to think badly of him and he would soon be fired. Fair enough and all possibly true. However, so many meetings had gone poorly already, so that wasn’t news. We knew Phil wouldn’t be fired immediately after this afternoon’s meeting – after all, the company was investing in him as a leader by hiring me. This was just one more meeting with the CEO. The stakes now felt a little lower. Once Phil and I talked through the worst-case scenario, he was in a better mindset to step forward and problem solve.
It was now time to help him bring some new energy into the room, a new way of showing up, a new way of thinking.
“Who is a favorite leader of his? A leader he strives to be like, a leader he has a great deal of respect for?”
Phil knew immediately – a previous boss of his came to mind. Phil’s previous boss is serene in the most stressful situations, he never raises his voice, and yet his voice carries weight. He was like a kung fu master who never broke a sweat even with 30 people coming at him from all sides.
As Phil talked about this leader, he settled. I could feel Phil coming to a more solid place inside himself. From this place I asked Phil how he would like to respond to the CEO today – what would he like to say?
What came out of his mouth was exactly what was needed. He was clear, concise, confident.
He reported that is exactly what happened later that afternoon with the CEO as well. He was clear, concise, and confident. The meeting went well. He was hopeful about what was to come.
Who triggers you? What’s your worst-case scenario? Who’s your role model?
Invoke, emulate, repeat.
Try it for yourself.