In this month of giving thanks, I pause to consider all the wonderful people with whom I am lucky to encounter in my work. First, I acknowledge that I am among the small percentage of people in this world who get to do what they love for a living — super grateful for that. Mostly I am grateful for the people I coach, who are making the effort to improve the world one communication event at a time.
What I see in people is their willingness to embrace change, both personally and organizationally, in order to improve the status quo. I see people finding ways to keep a human connection. The leaders whom I coach prefer anonymity, but here I share a few stories with changed names to highlight the human wonder I encounter daily.
Embraced Discomfort: Sitting in a room full of boisterous men, Brenda has a hard time getting a word in edgewise. She is an intellectual equivalent with good insight, but was not taught to raise her voice to get attention. During communication coaching we address the at-odds values of her family culture and corporate culture. We generate ideas on how she can be heard in the boardroom and keep true to her own values. What is amazing about Brenda is her willingness to step into discomfort and try new techniques. She experiments with ways to grab attention that are foreign to her upbringing and she pushes her colleagues to consider ways of working that are more inclusive to every person in the organization, not just her.
Faced Fear: Herman is an awesome communicator in small groups, but goes into a panic speaking in front of an auditorium of people. At our initial meeting, Herman wants tricks to get around the panicked feeling. He asks where he should look in the audience and how he should hold his hands so people can’t see them shake. I give him the hard news that those tricks won’t really work and he needs to take a deeper look at the source of the anxiety. Amazingly for a successful, high-powered executive, Herman is willing to look inward and do the challenging work of self-discovery. Over the course of several months, he addressed the internal fears that he had never previously acknowledged. We brainstorm ideas of facing those fears in the moment while speaking and he puts them into practice, improving his public speaking dramatically.
Dealt with Difficult People: Jane says her boss doesn’t listen and has nothing positive to say, but she likes her job and feels a strong connection to the overall organization. During communication coaching Jane wants to know how she can change her boss. Unfortunately, she cannot. The power to change lies only with ourselves, a fact that Jane comes to accept over time. We brainstorm ideas and Jane finds ways to shift her attitude, in a genuine way. What is wonderful about Jane is that she learns to listen to her boss in a completely different way, hearing what is not being said. In particular she starts to hear the incredible pressure and stress her boss is under. This allows her to become more compassionate about the negative talk and being brushed off. She also finds ways to be more direct in asking for what she needs from her boss. It would be much easier to blame her boss and just complain, but Jane does the challenging work to improve the situation by changing what is in her control.
These three stories are just a few of many that bring me joy in working with wonderful people willing to face and overcome communication challenges. In this month of gratitude, my hope is that you too encounter human brilliance at work.