QUICK OVERVIEW: We are not emotional file cabinets that can be shut and locked up on command, even at work.
It is shockingly consistent – people in all positions, all disciplines, all over the world have blissfully ignored the impact their past has on their present. We’ve had clients have enormous breakthroughs in coaching when they realized how vividly their past was affecting their future.
Your family is still impacting you at work – trust us!
Dodie Smith described family as “That dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape.” That was true for one of our clients, who was seen as lacking fire in the belly and said “I come from a family of farmers. My folks didn’t voice their optimism much. Inspiration didn’t matter on a farm. The cows don’t care how you talk to them as long as you show up on time.”
It’s so easy to assume that we are totally divorced from what has happened to us in our families or with the way we were imprinted by early bosses. That’s never true.
We’ve all seen terrible behavior from executives, today even more than in the past. The reason we can learn just as much if not more from bad examples of leadership than good examples is because they’re so powerful – they really pack an emotional wallop! If you think about it right now, you can remember experiencing or observing some really rotten approaches to management, can’t you? How long ago did they happen? The pain you see people going through because of poor management is memorable for years and years – sometimes decades. First bosses are a lot like our parents in our early formative career years.
Transplant the tulip bulbs
We had a client who had been in the military and had been raised in a military family. This awareness explained why she was so silent in meetings with senior leaders, why she couldn’t rapidly organize her thoughts under pressure and why it limited her ability to influence in the moment. She thought she was being appropriately respectful to authority figures. Once she saw on video and in her data how it was reducing her ability to impact those around her, she was able to be strong, clear and powerful when she needed it most.
Ironically, her ability to be vocally assertive with authority figures was pronounced in her life outside of work – she’d proven that in effectively fighting for her community in contentious city council meetings with local leaders. By seeing how that looked on tape when she projected such power, and coupling that with her awareness of her family history, she authentically transferred this power and presence to meetings with senior leaders. She had to learn how to transplant the skills from one part of her life to another part of her life – and she did.
Just knowing that you have a past, and it’s always part of your present, will help you manage your future.