This Shit's Gonna Get Messy


In my last two blogs, I mentioned that I am enrolled in a leadership training program. The blandness of those two words, leadership and training, don’t elucidate the depth of excavation this program has generated for me. I expected to learn the habits and characteristics of successful leaders, and the training is delivering on that. What I didn’t expect to learn is when things are rosy, when everything’s clicking along nicely, when the engine appears to be running smooth, watch out. Because shit is going to hit the fan.

A few short weeks ago, I was on top of my game. I could see forward progress on all the right levels. In sessions with my coaches, I painted a picture of positivity. Opportunities for business were abundant. Interacting with my team, I offered support and encouragement. Every day, I meditated, spent time in nature and practiced yoga. I am now in the habit of reaching out to old friends and staying connected to my family. Looking at all the metrics, all was well. Super duper.

Then, on a group coaching call, a new coach stepped in and, like a virus, she started randomly picking on my fellow members in an effort to take them down. She criticized our agreeable nature and challenged our satisfaction in one another’s responses. She called us complacent. When I tried to paint a rosy picture she grilled me for results. Once she was done with me, this coach went after my friend, making her squirm as she tried to defend her lack of fortitude.

I was triggered. I couldn’t wait for this Zoom call to end. One member closed her computer laptop abruptly and got off the call. There we were, nine faces in a Hollywood Squares grid, all looking like deer caught in headlights. And this coach continued, unphased. She called us out one by one. We weren’t being urgent. We weren’t being generous. We weren’t giving it our all.

When it finally ended, I shook it off. Then I lamented with one of my fellow teammates that this is not the style of coaching that works for me. And then I missed an important call. And then I couldn’t sleep. And then I woke up, still triggered. I heard from other group members what a great call we had and how they really appreciated that approach. How we needed, as a team, to be shaken up. Then I got angry. Then I felt despair. Then I got scared and I reached out for help.

After spilling out my anguish, I realized that behind the rose-colored glasses I was wearing, lies a whole lot of uncertainty. Trying to keep a stiff upper lip didn’t mitigate the dread of failure looming below my surface. It only suppressed it. It became apparent to me how much I placate and try to restore balance. How I resist messiness and discomfort. 

But with all my resistance, the discomfort didn’t go away. I was forced to acknowledge the underlying obstacle--that I am terrified of failing. I was building my house on a faulty foundation. I lost my voice because I was afraid to reveal what was scaring me. Suddenly, it was apparent that this coach in my little world represented the pandemic in my big world.

What I’m trying to say here is that, with this pandemic, we have an opportunity to see what is not working in our lives, businesses, communities and country. This coach may look like Cruella De Vil, but she showed each of us our weaknesses. Just like this pandemic is showing us that healthcare for only those who can afford it doesn’t matter with a virus that doesn’t discriminate. It’s showing us that although we feel helpless, there are always ways we can help. It’s showing us that connection matters. That we’re resilient, creative, innovative and steadfast. 

I found the answer to my plight by reaching out for help and allowing the tears to flow. And I invite you to do the same. To paraphrase professor, lecturer and author, Brene Brown, our strength lies within our vulnerability. Our vulnerability is the source of courage, creativity, belonging and joy. Yes, there are times we need to put up a brave face, fake it until we make it, and ultimately visualize a better world. But before we lean into the possibilities, we need to acknowledge the hurt. Until we’re willing to excavate the soul of ourselves, our organizations and our society, we’re missing the greatest opportunity we have for transformation.

Fallen House photo by Daria Sannikova from Pexels

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