Helping a Seasoned Leader Transition with Confidence
A mid-level leader at a large organization found herself with a pink-slip in hand and some difficult decisions to make. She had been employed with this particular employer for a great many years – her whole working life, essentially, and during her last few years, she had worked on the team of an unsupportive manager whose management style eroded Laura’s* confidence in her skills and her work.
The organization had been going through a massive re-structure and just before the fiscal year-end over 100 employees, my client included, were told their jobs would no longer exist at year-end. The icing on the cake was a performance review immediately following Laura’s lay-off notice that was harshly critical to the point of feeling like a personal attack. While more senior managers and others who had, in the past, directly supervised Laura stepped in and told her they had no problems with her performance, this was not enough to assuage Laura’s nagging doubt – ‘maybe she really is a bad manager’.
She was feeling exhausted, reactive, her zest for doing her work had dissipated, she had been feeling increasingly ostracized by the team and it had all taken its toll on her self-esteem and well-being. I had worked with Laura previously as she took on an assignment under a different manager. During our coaching and her work with that team, her confidence in her communication and leadership skills grew and she received many accolades from co-workers, her immediate manager, and senior executives throughout the organization. I was saddened to now see what an impact returning to her former team had on her well-being.
When someone is in this type of situation, it is so important to recognize how vulnerable that person may be. My goal as Laura’s coach was to support renewed confidence in her skills and help her really own her core strengths and the depth of her knowledge and experience as she embarked on not only a job search, but on creating a new career for herself. Laura’s goal was to complete her job assignments, hand over her files and exit her career with this organization with grace and a sense of pride. Together we developed these desires into three clear goals:
1. Honour the truth of her leadership growth, experience, professionalism and sense of gratitude for all she had gained and sense of pride in how she had served what she viewed as a terrific organization and separate this from her recent soul-depleting relationship with the current unsupportive manager.
2. Address her current state of dissipating well-being and create a joyful foundation on which to build and maintain her resilience.
3. Clarify her strengths and experience and develop a communication plan for her job search.
To address the first goal, I drew on the Co-Active Coaching model developed by The Coaches Training Institute. We tapped into Laura’s core values and used these to guide her perceptions and create a vision for how she would complete her employment and honour the relationships she had developed with colleagues.
To address her sense of burnout and the stress she was naturally feeling at finding herself in such a daunting transition, I employed some basic in-house developed assessments to help her map out what balance and well-being look like for her and to engage her in her sense of self-care and accountability to establish habits that support her in building up the muscle of resilience.
To help Laura quickly re-engage in owning her strengths we used a simple online tool developed by Gallup called StrengthsFinder2.0. We chose the short version to avoid bogging down and to help her focus in on her top five core strengths and how she uses them. This allowed us to further the discussion through coaching and allowed her to develop a resume and prepare for interviews and gather her resources and network of support for her job search.
Laura quickly worked through her emotions over the trauma of facing a forced career change and recognized that it was actually long overdue. She was also able to come to recognize that she was denying the impact her work environment was having on her and create new strategies to recognize early warning signs and develop new skills to nip work relationship problems in the bud or know when it is time to move on before her own well-being is eroded. The magic was created when she tapped into her values and allowed them to guide her perceptions and decisions in ways that will be more fulfilling for her – for example, recognizing when a core value is being stepped on and having strategies for handling that.
Laura also reconnected with her sense of confidence in her skills and wealth of knowledge and she was more confident in asking key people for their support, and was delighted to discover an overwhelming amount of support which helped to further dispel her growing belief that perhaps she really was as incompetent as her manager’s behaviour seemed to be conveying. This supported her in a very brief and successful job search, and with her new vision of what her desired, supportive, engaging workplace should look like, Laura was better able to evaluate potential employers and workplace cultures and she is currently highly satisfied with her new role with a new employer. She began her new role with a clear road map for building successful relationships and quick on-boarding.
*Names changed to respect confidentiality