Her VP made her life miserable at work. Her ideas were shot down and ridiculed publicly, her performance scrutinized and criticized. She could do no right. Her team was mostly sheltered from the brunt of the VP’s displeasure. She would cushion the blows as best she could. They could still see the impact on their team leader, whom they liked and respected very much.

She asked for executive coaching. The request was granted as a remedial measure. Maybe a coach would help her focus on the right priorities…

At first, she would simply shake her head in disbelief as she recounted story after story of being dismissed or ignored, challenged and found wanting. This had been going on for months and she was about to burn out. She was proud of her staff’s accomplishments, of their creative ideas and hard work. Would she be able to continue in this buffer/cheerleader role while her team’s proposals were regularly sent back to the drawing board? 

Maybe she’s the problem and she should just leave.

At our third session, I asked her to draw a continuum. At one end she was to write ‘obedience’ at the other end ‘insubordination’. The next task was to list all the behaviours in between.  She looked at me stunned. In her childhood when she questioned, disagreed or disobeyed, she would be punished physically and emotionally. There was no in-between. Could she assert herself against an abusive authority without coming into harm’s way?

We started exploring the grey zones: the resolute challenge, how to calmly disagree, the counter argument… The more we explored and pushed the envelope, the more her eyes lit up. By the end of the session, we were laughing. Maybe challenging authority didn’t have to be so dangerous after all.

Within a few weeks, my client had a new bounce in her step and mischief in her eyes. She was now flexing her muscles and expressing herself clearly whenever she needed to counter a disrespectful behaviour. Her VP started to change her behaviours towards her. My client’s boldness was keeping her out of harm’s way more effectively than her submission of old.

The 4 basic steps my client used to take back her personal power

    • She closely observed the VPs tone, language, and actions, and named those she didn’t want.
    • She spoke calmly of the impact the unwanted words and actions had on her.
    • She presented her conclusions as hypothesis rather than fact: “I’m wondering if……”  instead of “You are never….! She asked for the same courtesy in return.(More on this important point in future posts!)
    • She proposed a way forward and asked for input.

All in all, she was genuine and strong, taking the reins and getting her life back!The reaction of the VP went from disbelief to defensiveness to grudging respect. Within six months, my client was the golden child. Sadly, the VP’s negative attention turned to another manager. My client chose to leave the organization for an exciting leadership role in a less toxic environment.

We have lunch on occasion and after catching up, she never fails to ask me if I am staying my own course and having the genuine conversations I coached her to have! Her strength comforts me in my mission to help courageous leaders step into their power.  

For executive coaching with Dominique email Dominique@dennery.ca.
Connect with Dominique Dennery on social media.


2 thoughts on “Taking Back Your Personal Power”

  1. Marilyn Domagalski

    What a wonderful blog Dominique! It is so balanced with the good, bad and ugly of organizational relationships. I think it will resonate with many as it does not have the fairy tale ending but all that matters is victory – victory of self-empowerment!

    1. Dominique Dennery

      Thank you for your insights Marilyn. As we know, the best ending is when the client takes charge of his or her destiny again. This is a true story and this individual is a wonderful model of courage and compassion.

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