Forging a New Path
(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report)
Fran was elated when she won a competition with the federal government as a director in a large and very busy policy shop. She came from the private sector and was chosen over ten other candidates for her expertise in the field of marine science. Her new job included managing a team of 15 employees, providing policy advice and participating in national and international fora.
Two months into her term, the confidence Fran had shown at the interview faded. She felt like an imposter, ill-equipped to provide advice. She spent long hours in her office with the door closed. At meetings, she was quiet, rarely offering her opinions on issues being discussed around the table. She shied away from the stack of reports her staff had prepared for her to read, overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork and feeling she could not keep up with the pace. She avoided holding regular meetings with her employees, two of whom had applied for the same position. She wondered if they resented her. She felt nervous and was sleeping badly.
At our first meeting, Fran and I identified the fact that she was well-qualified for her new position and that our work together would focus on building her confidence.
One of the first exercises I designed for Fran focussed on bringing awareness to her current interactions. Twice a day, for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, I had her tune into the feelings and sensations she felt in her body when talking with people. Gradually, she was able to identify a pounding heart, shallow breathing and a tendency to cross her arms at the chest, constricting her breathing even more. Once she connected to her breath, she was able to relax in the moment.
I also encouraged Fran to arrive five minutes before meetings began and to engage whoever she was sitting beside in light conversation. I asked her to drop by the cubicle or office of someone she did not know for a chat. To bolster communications with her employees we worked on establishing weekly meetings with an agenda. For her first meeting with them she arrived with donuts from Tim Hortons -a small gesture that proved so popular she made it a bi-weekly habit.
I also gave Fran a poem that I thought might serve as a powerful doorway to a wider and deeper perspective on her coaching topic. “The Importance of Setting Out” by Rumi moved her so much so that she carried the poem with her in her purse and posted it on the wall beside her computer. Rumi’s words sparked a discussion between us about how winning the competition was just the beginning of something new, not the end of a process. Fran had been chosen for her expertise and skills. Now it was up to her to actualize them within a new context and to forge her new path with confidence. That helped shift her feelings of inadequacy to claiming her own power.
The Importance of Setting Out
If a tree could fly off, it would not suffer the saw. The sun hurries all night to be back for morning. Salty water rises in the air, so the garden will be drenched with fresh rain.
A drop leaves home, enters a certain shell, and becomes a pearl. Joseph turns from his weeping father, toward Egypt. Remember how that turned out.
Journeys bring power and love back into you. If you cannot go somewhere, move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light, always changing, and you change when you explore them.
Batia Winer is a meditation teacher and a certified Integral Master Coach™. 613-327-7522; firstname.lastname@example.org