A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I started working with an executive coach.  Part of the process is a 360 review (and I won’t receive the results for a bit still), but in addition to helping me learn to see myself better through that process she is also helping me through some of my challenges.

Last week she had my prepare a few response to some questions and here were the notes I sent her:

The best thing to prepare is your estimation of what people will say in your feedback, what you should stop, start, continue doing.    That will better prepare you for their comments.
* Using phone during meetings
* Sending terse emails
* Having emotional reaction to crisis/mistakes
* Talking too much, controlling the conversation

Start – If I knew I would start doing them 🙂

* Caring about the team
* Taking the time to understand and follow up on details
* Giving people responsibility and opportunity

I’d also like to hear about a time in which you were given difficult feedback and what you did with it.
Previous job, emailed status and progress, but my manager didn’t review my emails and when a project was late because he didn’t provide feedback, accused me of mismanaging and not driving the project.  This was hard to take.   In the end I asked lots of questions to understand his opinion on how I could have done things differently (since I thought I had communicated the situation clearly). I learned 3 key things:
1. Leadership means that people don’t have to ask for status (so pre-emptively communicating)
2.  To communicate in multiple mediums (verbal and written)
3. To write more concise and easier to read emails

Last, you talked about a pattern in your current and prior jobs and life in which you feel unappreciated.   If it’s a pattern, then it’s very likely about you.  What is it about you that is creating this pattern?
* Work is a big part of my life, since it is in many ways how I define myself and my value.
* I give a lot to work, but am not good at showcasing my efforts and results.
* Part of my job is to make sure things go well, not necessarily the details on how I make that happen.
* Misaligned values?  Maybe I am working really hard on the wrong things…..
* Expectations that rewards should happen automatically – perhaps I am not patient enough to see the recognition in time.

We spent a lot of time discussing these topics and I came to some interesting realizations (that may be useful to others)…

One thing I recently started doing was scheduling 1:1 meetings with peers.  This has been very productive, but I was wondering on how I could build those relationships to be stronger and more meaningful – very similar to the relaitonships I tend to maintain with people working directly on my team.

You see I have a problem – I am very transactional in general.  I don’t sugar coat things, my emails have very little fluff, I am a straight shooter and incredibly direct.  However, people that have regular 1:1s with me, see a different side – a softer more relational version of myself.  And part of that is that I let my vulnerabilities show – however, I tend to do that less with my peers – I make an effort to appear more buttoned up and pulled together.    So we worked on some tactics to make more peer 1:1s more meaningful – through encouraging collaboration on problems, soliciting advice, and paying closer attention to my peers’ actions so I can give them real compliments.

She also gave me great advice on compliments – instead of just complimenting the action, compliment the person. Instead of saying “that was a great status mail”, say something like “wow you have such great attention to detail and it really showed in that status mail”.  In this case you are complimenting the status mail, you are complimenting the person and those things are so much more meaningful.
This one is harder for me to do but I am working on it – at this point I am noticing when I should have done it 🙂

Another interesting topic we discussed was people’s reaction to crisis/conflict (see the “Stop” section above).  She suggested that most people have one of two self soothing reactions to crisis – to act, or to think.  It is likely many people on my team prefer thinking, whereas I am comforted by taking action (which is so true!).  She suggested some ways to deal with this reaction – from realizing that I am doing it, to explaining to the thinkers why we are taking certain actions and not thinking in the heat of crisis.  I haven’t had a chance to apply this yet, but it is definitely interesting to think about…

We also talked a bit about my boredom and lack of attention to things – she recommended I pay attention to my physical reaction when these things are happening and try to understand the real emotions underlying these manifestations.  The theory is that understanding my bio feedback will help me be able to diagnose and understand when these things are happening, and hopefully be able to control my reaction better in the future.

And finally we talked about the last part around my feelings of under appreciation, and perhaps the most telling moment was when she said “well you need to find something you think you did really well on, and go to your superior and ask him how you did from his perspective – to true it up”.  And the thought of doing this was what struck fear into my heart.  It is weird because to me, work is a passion, and for better or worse in many ways I define myself by a job well done; so like an artist or a writer with their work, I am a bit overwhelmed by subjecting it to criticism.  Obviously this is something I need to work through and figure out how to overcome.  She also recommended that I quit defining myself through my work and learn to be 100% comfortable with who I am as a person.  Wow.

This is going to be challenge for me.  Work (and school before I had a job) has been one of the only things in my life that the more I gave to it, the more I received in return.  And it is a bit daunting for me to try to look at the world differently – but I am trying and already excited for my next coaching session.  Yay for personal growth.


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