Original Prompt published on July 16, 2017 on Belle’s World.
Do your personal relationships affect your business success?
If you were to look at the world of business, many successful executives have business coaches. Business coaches focus on helping a leader become more charismatic, lead better, manage people or situations better and even become self-aware of themselves (a small list.) I’ve had multiple business coaches, in my career and they have supported me in very specific situations. Over time they helped me manage my emotions, the process of dealing with the situation and making me a better business woman. In all instances, they delved into my personal life, personality and way of thinking based on my experiences.
My first business coach spent more time on my personal life than on the business situation. I only had three sessions with my first business coach (Brandon) but our conversation Day 1 became a turning point for where I am today. Brandon was a year ahead of me in B-School and came back after he graduated to coach students still in the MBA program. I started talking about my aspirations of becoming a Fortune 100 CMO one day. On paper – I was on track – I had 4 years of marketing and branding experience at a Fortune 200 company and additionally, had 1.5 years with a top 10 global advertising agency. However, within 10 minutes he started asking me about my life – my personal life. At the time, I was living with my, to be second husband and dealing with hiding it from my parents. I was struggling with opening myself up to my parents about a large piece of my life and yet was living as the dutiful daughter completing her MBA and going on to bigger and better things. Emotionally I was all over the place and my coach could see that in the first 10 minutes. He started taking me down a path of helping me understand, that I was shouldering a lot of emotional responsibility for multiple people. He described it to me as a 2 story burning house. I could only save one person at a time including myself. My decision on who I saved wasn’t based on the fact that I did love or didn’t love the people in my life. However, he was trying to show me that burning house was my constant, in my everyday life and at some point would burn me. He gave me the example because my emotional dial was always burning and I wasn’t putting any emotional effort into what I wanted. If I wanted to be successful at business, I was going to have to learn to be honest, with those around me that I loved and additionally, with myself. Over the next two sessions, I started making progress on mentally understanding the path I needed to take to get myself in a good place to be the business woman I wanted to be. The self-awareness process took about 5 years including a second divorce, multiple promotions and eventually leaving the corporate world 3 years ago. The business success of multiple promotions happened when I truly remember starting to own my personal emotional health and it opened myself to becoming a better employee and leader. If you get a chance check out Brandon Smith who was my first business coach and made the biggest business impact on my life by focusing on my personal side.
My second business coach was given to me as a reward for dealing with a very intense personnel issue at work. I was leading a project to get data and evidence that a leader in our organization had committed fraud with the company and additionally was not doing any work. The individual and I had a good relationship because they didn’t like conflict. However, I had to change my personality to be strong about the situation and collect the information and yet keep a civil attitude in the situation. After the situation was taken care of, the company provided me a business coach, to groom me for the next level in my career. About halfway through our first meeting, my coach had somehow come to the topic of my second divorce, which had just happened, in the 6 months prior to this incident. She realized there were still some lingering emotions and conflicts that I was dealing with personally that were not allowing me to take my current job to the next level. Over the next six months we spent 50% of our time talking through and giving me homework on managing my emotional baggage and 50% of the time setting a specific goal for my role. To be honest, I spent more time on working through my personal stuff which in turn helped me exceed my professional goal we had set.
Over the years, I have met very successful business people and when we meet, we don’t talk about business. We talk about life – their families, their travels, their fears and other vulnerabilities that they don’t want to talk to others about. With me, I show them that I value my personal world as much if not much more than my business world even though I am an ambitious business woman. However, I give them stories on how each time I dealt with personal issues (whether relationships, money, love, family, health etc) that allowed me to take my business career up one level because of the lessons I learned from dealing with the issue, having honest conversations and processing the emotions that came out of it. The stories are based on a current issue that they are facing. Every time life throws a lemon, I try to make a stiff lemonade that will take me through an array of emotions and may not be the easiest thing to deal with (hence a stiff lemonade.)
So today, I work with business executives to understand their personal lives – the trials and tribulations they are going through. Understanding what are the hidden fear or issues they are dealing with that they don’t want to speak to others about, for fear of looking like they don’t have it together. I give them a safe space to unleash what’s in their mind by using me as a sounding board that gives no judgment but helps them become accountable for their thoughts and actions. I take them out of their comfort zone for a while so they can dig deep into what they truly want and how they want to move forward in their lives. All the self reflection and hyper awareness makes them cognizant of their actions and behavior in the business world allowing them to take themselves up a notch so they are not dealing with a burning house in the background but instead hearing the birds sing as they move forward.
So why do many executives roll their eyes when a life guide / coach comes to them to prioritize their personal life which in turn will make them better leaders / business person?
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