By Sondra Whitt
Clients hire us not just because they see a need to change but because they don’t know how to go about it or they’re not sure exactly what changes to make. Why are we able to help them? In addition to our expertise one of the things we’re able to bring to the party is objectivity. Since we are not emotionally invested we’re able to help them devise a step-by-step plan for change and then to offer guidance, support and encouragement along the way.
In a recent coaching session, a client of mine expressed deep feelings of sorrow that she had “really ruined things” because of the way she left her old job and the way she’d handled past friendships. She was depressed and thought there was no way to overcome these feelings of failure and no way to make things right with the people involved. I suggested that she make a list of all the people she wanted to make amends to and then think about what she wanted to do in each situation — what she would say, how she would approach each person, what their possible responses might be and how she’d respond in return.
It took a lot of courage to work her way through the list and she did quite a bit of procrastinating as she battled her fears of rejection. A lot of time had passed and she’d moved around during this time, so she couldn’t even locate some of the people. She had to accept that there was nothing she could do about them. My client also found there were some who didn’t feel the same way she did about picking up the lapsed friendship. One of the women of whom she had asked forgiveness didn’t want to resume the friendship because of things that were going on in her own life and her limited time to give. This was hurtful but my client had no choice but to accept it, understanding that she had done what she could do, what she felt like she should do and that things could possibly change in the future. But regardless of whether they did or didn’t, she knew she had done what she needed to do.
She also felt bad about the way she’d left a previous job. She felt like she’d never have a chance to make things right and that she’d ruined any opportunity to go back there and work, which she thought she might want to do because she liked working there so much. This feeling was compounded because she had already left this company once, gone back and worked about a year, and then left again. But as we talked about the circumstances of her leaving, she realized that she had left the first time because she felt taken advantage of and when she went back, the same thing started happening again. The people she worked with even admitted to her that they were taking advantage of her, basically because she let them. She realized it wasn’t a healthy situation for her and that she didn’t want things to get out of hand like they had last time, so she left again. Jane had apologized to her supervisor the first time she went back to the job so actually, she’d already made amends to her supervisor at that time. As I coached her through this process she eventually reached the accurate conclusion that she could let go of the undeserved guilt — and mark another person off her list.
The moral of this story is she couldn’t see the forest because she was standing too close to the trees. As her coach, I could help her see the solution to her problems because I was standing far enough away to have a clear view. All of us, like my client, find ourselves staring at the trees from time to time and can’t see a way out of the forest. When we do, we need to remember there is no shame in asking someone for directions. Sometimes we just need someone to lead us to a place where we can see the solutions, too. Then comes the hard part — we have to do something about it.