Into A Powerful Mindset From A Powerless Situation

“- There are so many people around me who only do the minimum at work. Enough to get the job done, to meet expectations. I want to do more but I don’t know how to. I don’t want to show up as too ambitious, or too full of myself. It’s not like there’s anything really wrong at my work. Life and work are good. I am just a creative person and I see all kinds of ways how things could be improved and slightly changed and would make a big difference for the people I work with and for our organization. Yet, I don’t want to suggest that people are not doing a good job, because they are. I don’t want to be perceived as a jerk for speaking up. But it also drives me nuts. Sometimes it shows up as some temper at work or I totally disconnect and don’t care to share my knowledge, or other times I lose my patience with my kids and my wife right after I get home. Have you been in a similar situation before?

- Yes, I have. When I was working at Boeing I had a similar experience.

- And how did you deal with it? What did you do?

- I did the same thing that you did. I went to talk to someone I trusted. He was my coach, even though I didn’t know it back then. And he asked me one question.

- One question?

- Yes, one question. He asked “In this situation, what would you like to create?” And that slowed me down to see the big picture. I have been living in that situation for a while before I went to see him, so I was deep into the blaming, finding excuses, feeling unhappy and having made-up reasons for everything that was happening to me. I felt like a victim who was trapped in this world and had no power to do anything.

- Yeah, I feel like that. Trapped and powerless…

- But that question evoked my creator to show up. I had many ideas, ones better than the other ones, and he helped me shift from victim mindset to creator mindset.

- How do you think he did that?

- I know I always felt safe speaking with him. He created a safe place for me to share anything and it was never a space to complain either. I hate complaining. I grew up in a society that was all about complaining. It’s our national pride. No, I just wanted to honestly tell someone what I saw and felt and I didn’t need someone to feel sorry for me either. I guess, I didn’t really want help either. Or at least the help most people wanted to give me “Oh, you poor thing, you are powerless, let me make you feel better of yourself.” No, I wanted to be seen as powerful and capable. One who just had an obstacle in her way.

- Interesting…

- And actually that’s what happened in that conversation. He helped me choose one idea that was standing out from the rest and one I was passionate about. He helped me see the obstacle that was keeping me, in my mind, from putting it into place with my team. And I committed, and I remember feeling actually excited about this, to one small step to see what if.

- One small step. Feels like also a very small risk to take. Like almost risk-free.

- Yes, that’s what it was! It got me out of my victim mindset and into moving again. Any small progress is progress in my book.

- So, what happened?

- If you want the full story, l would be happy to share. In the end, my small step lead to the next small step, and to the next and I ended up pitching my idea to my senior manager. He liked it and gave me a chance. This idea was not part of my job description. He literally gave me a chance to do it both. Now looking back, I realize I was great at my job so doing something else and my job was risk-free for him. Disappointing him was never an option in my mind. I was so grateful for him trusting and believing in me, I wanted to make him proud. Actually, now that I think about it, the success of that idea that turned into an organization-wide effort and success got me my next job. Then that job got me to be where I am right now.

- Wow, one conversation with the right person who you trust and who trusts you to be capable…

- In this situation, what would you like to create?”

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The Engineer Whisperer. Transforming great Engineers into impactful Engineers. Coach.

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Andrea Clough

Andrea Clough

The Engineer Whisperer. Transforming great Engineers into impactful Engineers. Coach.

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