How I felt as a client?
When I look back at the last 10 odd years of my life, there have been significant shifts in my outlook and way of thinking. In comparison with this, the previous 20 odd years in my working life now seem little slow paced in terms of changes, both within me as well as in my environment. When everything seemed to go in a comfortable pace, you don’t realize that there is a need for change.
Not that I was lazy. I did switch my jobs to three different organizations, two locations and five different businesses. I had grown from an individual contributor in the beginning of the career to a leadership role involving business and people. I did undergo changes in my personal life – Got Married, shifted residences, met a lot of new people in every stage and attempt to settle down quickly in the new situations. The one memory that I still have was that I was going with the flow, sometimes just adopting the guidance received and adapting it in my own way. There was a tremendous focus on aspects that I considered were important and aspirations were very near term – next month, next year and the next couple of years. And, a sense of pride in achievement when I had crossed those milestones. Both in professional life as well as family life.
Was it ignorance? Was it contentment with what I was experiencing?
I didn’t know it then. Never thought about it.
Somewhere things began to change. When I look back now, I would attribute it to the Mentors that I was fortunate to have. Some of the conversations that the mentors had with me were more coach-like. They were genuinely interested in ‘knowing’ what I want and ‘how’ I can look at shaping my career and life. They were immensely positive individuals, for whom I hold a tremendous amount of respect and regard. They challenged me, they devoted their time, and in the process helped me to start planning how I should shape my professional life. They were unconditionally extending their support for my growth.
These mentors as the definition goes, were very accomplished individuals in the organization. That was the first time that I could even understand what it means to interact with someone who is not an immediate boss. Their genuine intention to lift my thinking, my aspiration and my approach were significantly enhanced my ability as a person. I became a lot more stronger, I was experiencing a ‘freedom’ in my mind as I did not have to hold anything to myself, got my what if questions answered with empathy and got guidance on ‘how to’!
I realized that I had the freedom to define what matters to me!
This freedom gave a very different sense of push in my personality. I now realize that I became far more confident, determined and decisive. I developed a sense of responsibility towards me and felt that it comes with an accountability. If something did not go the way I had imagined, I was accountable to it.
After few years of working with mentors and going through a career transition, once my manager said I could work with the coach if I like. Didn’t know what to respond. It was a mixed reaction in my mind – why do I need a coach at this stage. Am I not doing well? Coaching as a word that time more resonated like a coaching class that people go to get special attention on the areas that they needed to focus – Math, Chemistry etc., as part of the education. As a parent, I had only that much knowledge about coaching and I wasn’t sure. The manager took extra efforts to explain to me that I can discover myself and become a better version if I choose to. Reluctantly I said I will take it and chose my coach. With a lot of ‘uncertainty’ as to what to expect from a coach, I ended up choosing someone who I really respected for his achievements. Unconsciously, I had used the same lens that I used to determine how I would identify a possible mentor.
Then there was a first meeting. The coach came, and I was nervous. I wanted to ensure that I create a good impression in the first meeting. The meeting was so pleasant, that I did not know how 90 minutes went by in a jiffy. He had an amazing technique of making me open up through his presence. He did ask few questions occasionally and he encouraged me to expand my thinking in different areas that I had never thought of it before. He was very patient to listen to my blabbering and would ask me to explore few dimensions. I did the whole work, yet he was there and intervened occasionally. This change was even wonderful. I felt good and empowered and started looking forward to my next meeting with some much of enthusiasm. I had a very positive feeling of meeting someone who I felt really close to. The entire engagement resulted in few lasting behavior changes. I am grateful to him.
I realized that I am empowered to choose what I want to accomplish and accomplish it with full concentration and effort. Like the old air force slogan – aim for the sky and touch it with glory!
In my own mind the three phases reminds me of a kid trying to see others and start doing a self-make up (all of us would have done it when we were infants!), a mother taking care of the kid and doing make up (reflects on how the mother would like the kid to be seen!) and a stage where you look in the mirror and start doing things in the way that you like (of course there will be people to comment, and give suggestions as feedback).
All three are beautiful in their own way. First one gives the curiosity and thrill of doing things by ourselves, the second one is a profound love and affection from someone to whom we are safe with and a third one gives an opportunity is a feeling of empowerment.
There is no one right way!
“You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.”
― Mahatma Gandhi