A favorite coaching client is playing small.
She’s a top performer, professionally driven, highly capable – “But anybody could do what I do,” she says. This is a manager who gets top performance reviews, has a staff that would follow her anywhere, is widely respected and admired and liked – and who wants to play big.
“What does that mean that anybody could do what you do?” I asked.
“I don’t want to seem conceited,” she said. “I don’t want to seem like I have a big ego.”
I asked her about a time when she had that “anybody could do what I do” feeling. She described excelling at a high-profile, high-stakes presentation recently. When colleagues asked her afterward how it went, she told them: “It went okay. We did a pretty good job.”
I looked at her.
“I want to be gracious,” she said. “Humble.”
“You call it humility,” I said. “I call it self sabotage.”
This client is a very left-brain linear thinker. Way smart. I decided to torture her.
“Does this humble feeling have a tone of voice?” I asked.
My client looked at me blankly.
“Come on, play with me,” I said. “What does this humble feeling sound like?”
My client hesitantly held up her thumb and forefinger in a measuring gesture. “It sounds small,” she said. “Meek.”
“And when this feeling shows up, where do you feel it?” I asked.
My client shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “In my shoulders,” she said at last, shrugging off the feeling.
“What is the shape of its body?” I asked.
My client cupped her hands protectively, like she’s holding a mouse. “It’s small and round,” she said.
“Does it sit on your shoulder?” I asked.
“No, it hovers, kind of ‘foop foop,’” she said. She’s no longer squirming and can clearly see it foop fooping in her mind’s eye.
“Him or her?” I asked.
“Her,” she said without hesitation.
I ask my client to pay attention to when Foop Foop shows up. The small meekness should be easier to spot now.
What my client will do when she catches Foop Foop in the act is the topic of another coaching conversation. We’ll talk about how she’s going to be humble and gracious and successful all at the same time.
About how she will play big.
Note: This article was written and published with the express permission of this client.