They had just begun talking when her client started to cry.
“This is hard for me,” she said. “It’s the first time I can remember failing totally and publicly. I’ve tried so hard to make it work I’m exhausted from the effort.
“I took this job for two reasons. First, I was flattered. I was ‘perfect for the position’, they said. ‘Exactly the person’ they sought. Yes, it would be a challenge, but with my ‘keen intelligence and natural talent’ it was a slam-dunk. I was so flattered, so elated by their belief in me that I didn’t question their assessment of my abilities, nor did I question the scope or specifics of the assignment.
“Second: I said yes because it was a double promotion and big jump in pay. I’d go from sharing one support person to managing seven directs. I’d have a big title, big job, and a big office. I wanted it all.
“At first I felt overwhelmed but thought I’d get a handle on it. The more time passed the more anxious I became, despite assuring myself I’d succeed as I always had.
“My anxiety didn’t go away. New information, multiple requests, constant demands came at me at an alarming rate and unrelenting pace. I wasn’t learning and growing, I was panicking. The more hours I worked, the less I accomplished.
“I’d come in early, stay late, and leave more confused and frustrated than when the day began. Weekdays and weekends blurred in my relentless effort to catch up, hang on, and keep my head above water.
“Sunday nights were awful; my stomach would knot, my head would pound. My typically comforting husband would tell me what to do and I’d tell him where to go.
“My once available, supportive boss, turned cold and inaccessible. When I’d snag five minutes with her, she’d say I was making it harder than it was, that all she wanted were broad-brush solutions to big questions. ‘What brush? What solutions? What questions?’
“ ‘We’ll talk next week’, she said. And we did. She apologized for hiring me to do a job that was clearly over my head. And she let me go.
“Here I am,” the client said. “My confidence and self-esteem are in free-fall. I don’t want to make another mistake, yet I don’t want to limit my potential. What should I do?”
Instead of answering, her coach asked, “What will you do differently next time?”
And she answered, “I’ll ask about the accountabilities, responsibilities and deliverables of the job. I’ll clarify goals, learn what’s expected of me the first 30, 60, 90 days, and be sure they know what my strengths are and what they aren’t. Then I’ll listen to my gut: If the people, place and purpose connect with who I am and what I do best; if their expectations of me are well defined; if I can stretch in ways that work for me, I’ll take the job. If not, I’ll keep looking.”
“Yes! the client said. “Instead of allowing anxiety to overcome me, I’ll act to overcome anxiety.”