“Who can you go talk to about this?” is one of my most frequently asked coaching questions. Often when we get stuck, feel unsure about something or like things are not going well, we go inwards instead of reaching out. The question itself is a reminder that we are surrounded by people who know things. People who surely have useful ideas about what we are wrestling with, and who are navigating our same organizations and careers. Often the answer to my question is, “I don’t know.” So we consider, who might have even tidbits of useful information? Who might be able to help nudge a ball forward? Who might be able to point us in a helpful direction?
Our organizations are filled with people who can help and who likely want to help. Often there is no structure in place for people to help us, nor is there a clear way for us to seek out the information we want. A lack of structure does not mean our leaders and organizations intend for us to struggle silently. We must look for ways to get what we need and almost always this means us figuring out with whom to talk.
It’s tempting when we feel defeated, lost, overworked or unseen to sink into victim mode. This thing is happening to me. This place is doing this to me. These people won’t pay attention to me. Even when aspects of this are true, allowing ourselves to settle into this role is dangerous. It dissolves our ability to take action, seek information and generate the change we want. I catch myself going into victim mode when I get angry and frustrated—this is human. And always, what I must do to pull myself out is take action. Usually this means starting a conversation something like: “I think we need to get clearer about how this decision impacts everyone…” or “I’m feeling like I need more information/context to do what is being asked of me…” or “Can we talk more about this…”
Common limiting beliefs that keep us from a variety of professional conversations are, “Oh, I don’t want to bother that person,” or “I don’t think they can really do anything about it anyway.” Push past those. We are tribal; we need each other. People need to be needed as much as we need them. A client recently told me, “ I love it when people come to me for advice and guidance at work because believe me, making my rich clients richer is not what gets me out of bed in the morning.”
I’ve never had a client regret having a conversation they’d previously been nervous or uncertain about having. They always gain more information, more clarity, more courage, sometimes better relationships and better roles. Sometimes they get clearer that they are in the wrong role. They never say, “Oh, I wish I hadn’t put myself out there and asked those questions. I wish I hadn’t learned more about this organization and that human who is in it with me. I wish I had stayed privately wondering what I should do and what’s really going on around here. I wish I still knew less about what’s possible for me here.”
So, initiate more thoughtful conversations. Show you are trying to be efficient with people’s time and they will give you more of it. Be a little vulnerable. (if you haven’t already, check out Brené Brown’s masterful work and research on courage and vulnerability) You might be surprised how much people will offer up if you ask thoughtfully. You might discover that people are quite curious about your perspectives as well. You might find out that the only thing between you and feeling a whole lot better and more empowered are the right conversations with the right people.