(Note: Names and other identifiers were changed to protect the confidentiality of my client.)
Debbie is a successful attorney and Senior Manager. She has more than eight years of experience providing legal counsel to major accounting firms, and hired me to assist her in upgrading her leadership presence for greater career advancement.
When we met, Debbie was on the high potential list and was being considered for promotion to Partner within a large, prestigious organization. But she had stiff competition from several other top candidates who were also short-listed for that lucrative position. Debbie wasn’t optimistic about her chances of winning the big promotion, and for good reason. She had already been a contender for the opportunity in the past – but was passed over in favor of someone else who seemed to command a more polished executive presence.
Debbie had always advanced up the ladder by playing to her strengths, which were her sharp intellect and brilliant legal skills. But she knew she needed to step up her leadership presence to play a much bigger game, because display of that quality – especially when under scrutiny and pressure – was not really in her arsenal. Meanwhile the organization had already announced that there would have to be fewer appointments to the coveted Partner status during that fiscal year, thanks to a tough economy and strategic belt-tightening and downsizing initiatives.
Since she was one of very few women up for the appointment, Debbie knew that she needed to be fully prepared – with a dynamic, high-energy presence that could make her stand out in a positive way over her rather extroverted and super-confident male colleagues/competitors.
But she was intensely motivated, too, because the substantially higher income bracket would provide her family with greater wealth and annual income. She would no longer have to worry about how she was going to pay for private schools and college tuitions, her own future retirement and funding of 401K savings plans and family vacations. This was her big shot at success on a truly grand scale, and I could see hope and determination flashing in her eyes the first time we met for an initial consultation.
Debbie and I began our work by trying to identify and isolate specific struggles and shortcomings related to her leadership presence. Along the way we quickly discovered that she was also challenged by limiting self-belief systems that she had unconsciously internalized – and that those were preventing her from having a strong positive outlook and attitude.
Subconsciously she was already convinced that she was not fully qualified for the job and that the opportunity would never be hers, so she was sabotaging her own chance at success. Those self esteem-based apprehensions and limitations were only natural, because they were motivated by the reality that she had, in the recent past, already been turned down for the promotion. As an experienced attorney she was also accustomed to analyzing worse case scenarios – so her mind had a tendency to readily acknowledge the very real possibility that she would not win Partner.
Debbie was intelligent, and she was aware that history often repeats itself, especially considering the fact that women rarely made partner within large, high-profile companies like the one where she worked. But she was also willing to do the necessary work to change those negative voices in her head and transform her attitude into one of success – so that her presence projected that of a consistent and confident winner.
Together we addressed those important issues and I offered some personalized and practical solutions, exercises, and techniques. We also collaborated to define a clear, authentic personal brand message that we could adapt to her company’s own unique corporate brand and culture. Then we laid out a step-by-step plan for leveraging that new brand and image. Debbie began to strategically market her enhanced value to the organization and to gain the attention of top level decision makers.
In order to prepare her for that extra exposure and for a new role within the corporate spotlight we next took on all the challenging facets of her visual and behavioral presence – so that she dressed and looked the part – and we refined her verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Debbie acquired new tools that allowed her to communicate with persuasive influence and build instant rapport. She became more poised and comfortable while promoting herself as the top candidate, and she began to visualize herself as not just another high potential but as the perfect choice for this prized promotion to full partner.
Soon Debbie was not only feeling more empowered but she was automatically and instinctively projecting that power to others. You could feel it in her handshake, see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice, and everyone around her seemed to notice it when she walked into the room. She evolved into a memorable and magnetic executive leader who was both assertive and graceful.
The coaching was intense, no doubt, and it didn’t happen overnight because Debbie needed time to identify and let go of self-limiting beliefs that she had held for years. She had to start seeing herself in the role of new Partner, and to feel poised and natural in a powerful executive leadership position. Every few weeks I observed her personal and professional growth as she stepped out of her comfort zone by practicing new techniques to change specific behaviors and habits. Soon she felt right at home in what used to be her uncomfortable area – allowing her to stretch again and explore new territory beyond her newfound comfort zone.
Within just six months of our first meeting Debbie’s career dream became a reality. She was promoted to Partner status in one of the biggest and best companies in the world – despite the terrible economy and gloomy recessionary climate. Today she exudes an inspiring charismatic presence and is enjoying the industry visibility and high salary that came with her well-deserved promotion. Debbie continues to think big and play a BIGGER game as a major contributor to the success of her organization.
He said he was the invisible person in the room, unable to get his contributions noticed and his ideas appreciated. Bob had difficulty being assertive and felt a total lack of visibility. He sensed that his career was being sidelined, while others around him made rapid advancement.
That left him feeling less confident, which only made matters worse. After all, today’s competitive business arena typically rewards those who aren’t shy about promoting themselves and who show no lack of confidence at the conference table.
“When your own boss doesn’t believe in you,” Bob explained to me, “it’s not that easy to continue to believe in yourself.”