Sharmila was a senior marketing manager in a multinational company. Smart, with excellent analytical skills, she was on a fast track for a promotion but something was holding her back. When she received feedback that she needed to be more assertive and speak up during meetings, Sharmila wanted to be coached on her communication skills.
Over the course of coaching, Sharmila connected to her values of respect and need for acceptance. Growing up as a girl in a large family in India, she was taught not to express herself or voice her opinions in front of elders, especially males. She had an older brother who she looked up to, who was given more attention and respect by the family. To Sharmila, disagreeing with authority was disrespectful. Senior male members were supposed to take all key decisions. Girls did not have a voice in her family. Being silent and accepting others met her own need for belonging and acceptance from her family.
As a woman in the corporate world, she felt stifled and small during meetings when she could not contribute fully. She felt hesitant and unsure in large groups with men senior to her. She was not in her full power during these situations. Sharmila realized that her need for freedom and growth were being compromised by staying small and silent. She was also not getting a feeling of belonging and acceptance from the group. She was seen as a good worker but not respected as a potential leader. She realized the childhood strategy for acceptance would no longer work in her current scenario.
During coaching, she understood that she was not being disrespectful by voicing her opinions. Instead she was respecting her own needs for growth and her value of greater contribution to the organization. This realization gave her more confidence in herself and she was able to express herself more freely and without fear.
Written by Nirupama Subramanian
Excerpt from Coaching for Transformation by Lasley, Kellogg, Michaels and Brown.
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