Your Assumptions Are Misleading You

Blog | June 1, 2021

One of our MettaWorks coaches recently worked with Julia, a newly-promoted executive who felt she couldn’t possibly meet the expectations of her new role. She was working harder and doing more than ever before—but even so, she wasn’t hitting the goals she was responsible for.

Sound familiar?

Julia is a Chief Operating Officer. Most people in these types of roles are very execution-oriented, and Julia was no exception.

The problem was, she was drowning—trying to deliver on her own tasks and her team’s—while managing a family at home during a pandemic, no less.

Over the course of months in coaching, Julia talked a lot about her worry that she wasn’t meeting expectations, from her boss or her team. She felt she couldn’t deliver fast enough, even though she was working harder than ever before.

Our MettaWorks coach reminded her that in her new leadership role, she now had enough team and responsibility that her reports needed to execute tasks, not her.

(Hint: It’s related to the sexiest word in the English language.) Check out that article here.

Julie’s coach helped her step back from her situation and see it in a new light.

Namely, that it wasn’t other people’s expectations that needed adjustment. Instead, it was her own assumptions—and she needed an entirely new approach to the challenges she faced.

Julie’s underlying mindset, based on a decades-long career, was that her value was based on doing. Delivering on tasks was the very basis of how she felt useful.

She realized that she had to release her need to control every step; her old way of doing things before both COVID and a promotion changed her reality.

And she had to be willing to let go of any sense of identity or self-worth that was tied up in her doing the things, rather than leading the people doing the things.

(These are among the many reasons why executives DON’T delegate, a topic we’ll tackle in a future article. There is a 180-degree mindset shift to go from, Who am I if I’m NOT doing all the things? To People, not projects, are my deliverable as a leader.)

“Maybe we need to talk about my team,” Julia sighed.

Her coach beamed. It had taken them about 40 minutes (and 4 months of working together) to get past Julia’s fear of disappointing senior leadership to arrive at this revelation.

Julia’s team output—not hers—was her new deliverable. She just hadn’t been able to step back from her old way of working long enough to realize it.

Put another way: the problem wasn’t that there was too much work to do, or that Julia’s senior leadership had unrealistic expectations of her. The problem was that she was trying to meet their expectations single handedly, without leveraging the best tool at her disposal: her team.

This is where an unbiased coach is critical.

If we’d come to Julia in the first session and said, “You need to learn how to delegate,” she would nod, annoyed—what leader doesn’t know this?—but would still have the same trouble implementing it. Without doing the inner work first, Julia would have resumed her old working habits as soon as a delegated task went awry.

After all, who on her team could execute tasks better than she could?

A good coach can reflect back to you the assumptions you don’t even know you’re making.

If you recognize yourself or a senior team member in Julia, we can help. MettaWorks’ coaches transform tech leaders like you from the inside out, to become the leader they’ve always dreamed of being. Take the first step today by scheduling a complimentary discovery call.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant