As an executive in a large organization, Mary wanted to change her role and focus of her work from managing a service staff to coaching individual executives and teams. Transitioning to her new position came several challenges, including her current manager's desire to keep her new business direction under his management, not allowing her to develop the more independent identity required by her new role.
As is so often the case, Mary's job challenges matched her personal challenges. To present a strong and capable public identify in her new role, she had to break free of family conditioning such as the pressure not to stand out. With coaching, she was able to better establish and hold her boundaries with her manager, and got to enjoy more of the role she had worked so hard to create. She now is looking forward to having more autonomy and is truly loving the job she's created with the help of new alliances. Here's a summary of one of her sessions with Suzanne:
I could see that while talking about herself and her fears in her new role, Mary became young, almost to the stage of adolescence. She recognized this also and saw how this pattern limited her ambitions.
A few days after our coaching session, Mary's parents and sister would spend the weekend with Mary and her family. While the impending visit added somewhat to Mary's pressure, it also provided a limited but potent "laboratory" in which she could observe and change her behavior with her family. Feeling free to be more herself with her family, she would find it easier to be more herself at work.
I asked her to stand up and face the mirror with her feet apart, feeling the ground, her hands on her hips, chin in to straighten her neck and keep her breathing channels open. This was not a posture Mary was accustomed to. She said she felt like a child, wanting to slump over and whine. So I asked her to take the strong posture again. This time I also asked her to lift her spine, soften her knees, place her hands on hips and say loudly, "Don't mess with me!"
At first Mary could barely whisper the words, and she felt the muscles in her throat contract. After she practiced the words a few times, I asked her to walk around like an adult in authority by putting the heel of each foot down first, then roll onto her full step. This helped her remain straight, rather than leaning forward, and helped develop a more stable base for balance.
Then she came back to the mirror and said again "Don't mess with me!" This time her voice was louder, and it came from her mid-section, rather than from her formerly constricted throat. After several repetitions and coaching, her throat muscles relaxed even more and her voice resonated with authority from deeper in her body.
We continued practicing until she felt more comfortable speaking with authority. She committed to continue practicing throughout the weekend family visit, and also before meetings with her boss the following week. She also worked out a schedule that would allow her some time for working out and taking care of herself while her family was around - a new way of being with them while taking care of herself. She promised to send me a report on her observations and learning.