Something’s strange in the neighborhood. Who ya gonna call–Ghostbusters?
I was given an assignment by a new client, the president of a fast paced, sales driven company, to train a dynamic manager at one of his satellite offices in skills he needed due to his growing facility. I spent two days with the manager, establishing a great connection so that he would trust me and learn from me around time management and delegation skills. I put together a summary that outlined what we had covered.
When the president read what I had written, he emailed me with a biting statement: “This is not what I asked you to do. Call me immediately.” My heart pounded out of my chest as I read this.
After some deep breaths I called him, and he began to yell at me. His frustration was paramount because of the manager’s workload, long hours and therefore imbalanced life. He felt the manager’s lack of time management and delegation skills was going to kill him if he didn’t get some training. And while he thought I could assist, instead my report outlined the connection and rapport that was established, the understanding of his style in relationship to his staff, and general understanding of the business’ growing pains. It didn’t address the specific changes in his approach to time and delegation.
He tried to cover it up, but he was livid. I sensed that to hire someone like me to do this type of work was a first for him, and then to have it appear that I didn’t deliver on what he wanted, he sounded angry, frustrated and exasperated. He carried on for five minutes on how I missed the mark and how I was taking this in the wrong direction after both he and another leader had spelled it out so clearly. I felt him pummel me with energy bullets and it took a lot to not cry or put up a strong defense. In truth, I was paralyzed with no words, so I suggested we both sleep on it and discuss it further the next day. He readily agreed.
Step #1: “I BLEW IT”: We don’t always get a say in what is next for us to learn.
As I got off the phone, I realized I was shaking. Here it was a new client and I blew it. Did I really misunderstand the assignment? Did I miss the mark? Did I know how to deal with this type of in-your-face, intense leader?
If I am not open or aware, the first place I go is doubt. I started to think about not sending him an invoice for my work. I would just concede that I’m not the one for the job. I’d just slide away and not charge him any money for my time and efforts. Yeah, like that would be a solution!
These were old tapes, and earlier in my career I was driven by these lies. I have learned to rise above them by asking for assistance, admitting I have something to learn, or facing the courage that there’s more to do.
Step #2: STEP BACK AND HEAR THE TRUTH: Asking for assistance can be a brave demonstration of wisdom.
I asked Jerome, my husband and business associate, what he heard as I described the interaction. Jerome himself has some of the traits of this boss, and so I knew he’d tell it like it is. He thought I probably did do what was needed to make a connection with this manager, and establish the trust needed so he could learn from me. He thought I just needed to say that the initial time together was spent setting the foundation and more could now be done by phone to hit the targets he asked me to work on. I took a deep breath and relaxed. It’s really, really valuable to have someone who can listen to the truth when you are emotionally involved. Jerome is an awesome listener when I am stuck!
Step #3: SLEEP ON IT: Things are clearer after a great night’s sleep. Sleep is a time of learning.
The greatest thing I did was to suggest we sleep on it. Part of that was to step away and give the space to release any emotional charge of failing, not being the right one for the job, or doubting my abilities. But a huge part is actually in sleeping. When we sleep, we recharge and we learn. Many issues get sorted out. I often find I awaken with clarity and courage to face the day new. The troubles of the day before seem to get upgraded with magical answers on how to proceed. That’s what happened for me: I awakened feeling ready, willing and able to back what I had done and how to proceed going forward.
I also awakened with an awareness that my summary was too vague for the president: it offered the foundation upon which I could further drive the learning of new principles, but it didn’t reassure him with tangible outcomes and specifics of how the manager was going to change his ways. I didn’t see that until I slept on it.
Step #4: PURIFY AND LIFT OTHER’S JUNK: It takes courage to hold on when attacked. It takes heart to purify the junk.
Often when people yell or attack, they are releasing frustration and anger that’s not fully directed at the attackee. Somebody attacked them, or something happened that got them frustrated, and then this opportunity comes up and then unleash. It takes courage to be attacked and not wilt like a flower. It takes courage to “lift” the situation by staying present and engaged vs. making the attacker wrong. I could feel the automatic reaction building inside to defend, attack back and make him out to be the villain. But the truth is that we all have our days and moments, and I am the one that loses by getting caught up in making him wrong. It takes courage to purify someone’s junk or discharge.
What do you do with other’s “slime?” Like the Ghostbusters, developing a way to capture and transform it clears the way for further connection and communication. I often put a black bull in my heart to engage my courage to stay open and curious to find a way to proceed forward.
Step #5: CHANGE IS GONNA COME: Trust that you assist people to change if you stay open.
The next morning I called back the president. He ducked out of a meeting to take my call and started with a very warm tone, “I know you are competent and the right person for this job. I want you to continue working with the manager. He can learn from you in ways he can’t learn from me because I’m his boss. I have full confidence in what you two can do together.”
Wow, sleeping on it worked for him too! We had a very concrete discussion about the specific next steps, and this conversation inspired me to write up a target list of the measurable outcomes we would work on together. The manager enthusiastically jumped on board, the boss luvved seeing the specifics, and we were all able to proceed together in alignment.
My sense is that the training will accelerate as a result of us all learning how to work better together. It took learning, listening, lifting, and luvving through this process and I am stronger as a result of it. I am also grateful for the way life provides opportunities to learn, if we will.
Next time you get attacked or yelled at, courageously hold on and take the ride.