We all have one. When was the last time you shared your story with someone you trust? Like many of you it has been a very long time, or you never have done it.
It is important to understand how our experiences, and our story shape who we are and how we think and behave.
In my role as an executive leadership coach, I create a trusting environment that enable my clients to share their story with me. For many of them this is the first time they have had someone listen deeply, without judgement to their story.
I just completed a 12-month engagement with a gifted and passionate leader. Robert (not his real name) did a superb job transforming himself over the 12 months and it started when he shared his story with me. He has given me permission to share parts of his story and our journey together.
When I first met Robert, he was in a strategic senior executive role for a global mid-cap company. Robert was a successful, passionate, relational, and a go get it done leader. Robert was being elevated to President of a new and very important business within the company. Prior to this he was a successful corporate manager and held the highest enlisted rank in the United States Navy as a Master Chief Petty Officer. We started our work meeting with his boss, the CEO, to discuss coaching objectives. He told Robert and me “to work on polishing the diamond.”
Our work began with Robert sharing his story. When he started talking about his childhood and family situation, he expressed how positive and great it was. As he allowed me to probe deeper into specifics, he paused, collected himself and said, “let me tell you my real story.”
Robert grew up in a middle-class home as a single child with a loving, caring and supportive mother and, unfortunately, an abusive father and husband.
His father was very hard on Robert and would tell him he would never measure up and be successful. Robert would do just about anything to please his father and make him proud and earn his admiration and love. Nothing worked.
His father was verbally and physically abusive to his mother. The home environment was like having a bomb in it that was ready to blow at any time. Robert did his best not to provoke his dad’s anger and remained quiet and even submissive. Robert did not want to do anything that would cause his dad to abuse him or his mother. His emotions of fear and anger were ever present.
On the outside, Robert told others that things were great. A self-protecting strategy for an impressionable young man living in a horrible environment.
It took great courage for Robert to share his story with me. We talked for hours and at the end I asked him to identify the themes and behavioral patterns from his story telling experience. Robert and I held these themes and behaviors lightly until he received his Enneagram personality scores and his 360 feedback from the Leadership Circle Profile 360 instrument. The feedback he received from others not only expressed his strengths as a leader, the scores and comments also outlined the consistent passive, conflict avoidant, people pleaser behaviors he exhibited earlier in his life.
As we dug deeper in his feedback we came back to his story and to the themes and behaviors he identified earlier. He was able to see and understand for the first time how his story and experiences shaped his behavior and how he showed up. Through our continued work, Robert realized he needed to think, behave and lead differently. His self-limiting beliefs and protective strategies were tested and validated as a false narrative.
Robert lead an amazing transformational journey. Through his pain and reflection, he was able to see a new path forward. Today Robert is a different person and leader. Robert is more authentic, more confident and present leader who speaks his mind, deals with conflict and leads with vision and passion.
If Robert’s journey inspires you, I encourage you to find a trusted family member, friend or coach to share your story with. It can be powerful and can help you transform your inner game and how you live and how you lead.
Helping leaders be the best version of themselves is my passion. Send me an email if you would like to know more how our stories shape us.
LIVE AND LEAD WELL!