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The Choice to be a Leader


January 19th, 2017

- Updated on

October 21, 2019 - 4:42pm

Often the biggest obstacles to getting what we want in life are the choices we - ourselves – make!

Let’s look at a case in point from a client of mine.
Diane was a highly-skilled middle-level manager. She was composed, articulate, and well respected for her networking abilities, collaborative style, and visionary outlook. She could connect dots to come up with new opportunities and was highly passionate about her work. She was a go-getter whose work ethic was incredibly high. Her career, however, was at a standstill and she didn’t know why.
Through my discussions with Diane and others involved in her 360 assessment, I made some interesting discoveries about some of the reasons she was not yet promoted.

Reason 1: Getting Clarity On and Articulating Aspirations

Diane never told her management she was interested in moving to the next level. She just assumed they would know this and was astounded to hear they didn’t. In fact, they weren’t clear at all what Diane wanted out of her career. She gave every assignment her all, but never talked about her aspirations.

Diane made the choice not to speak up about what she wanted. And this put her career at a standstill. In coaching her, we worked on getting clear on her future and on confidently articulating her goals to her management.

Reason 2: Asserting Ideas Versus Conflict Avoidance

Diane had great ideas, but if a conflict arose, she was quick to give in. She would not defend her ideas, especially if she was working with others who were louder and more direct than she was. And yet, people could see how exasperated she got at times because of this.

Diane made the choice to avoid conflict versus stand up for her ideas. This gave others the impression that she was more of a follower than a leader. Part of our coaching was focused on building her skills to manage conflict effectively so she would not avoid it and would be respected for her judgment and steadfastness.

Reason 3: Building the Business

Diane worked for a consulting firm, and her position allowed her to offer pro-bono services to clients as a way of establishing long-term relationships and building the firm’s global reputation. But she was also expected to contract with clients for fee-based services. Diane, being a people pleaser, was more reluctant to ask for a contracted deal.

Diane made the choice to focus on building relationships versus building the business. We worked on getting her refocused on beginning with the end in mind – a contracted deal - and building the relationships and having discussions that would lead to that end.

The Power of Choices - Leadership Development - Executive Coaching

In my book, The Power of CHOICE: Six Steps to Get What you Want out of Life, I talk about choices we make and the six steps we need to take to get what we want. In Diane’s case, it would be defined like this:
Conscious of the problem you have and why
Diane’s problem was clear. Her career was at a standstill. The 360 assessment helped her better understand why.
Hopeful of what you want to achieve
Diane wanted to ideally stay in the firm and get promoted. She stated it as such:
“I am a director in my firm.”
Note, she put it in present tense even though it hadn’t yet happened because it is much stronger and self-fulfilling to say ‘I am’ than ‘I want to be.’ Present tense influences our mind more to figure out ways to make this happen.  
Open to different ways to get there
Diane was open to changes that she needed to make to get her to be perceived as a candidate for the next level. She also was open to different opportunities within her firm and looked at different paths to get to the director level.
Informed about the possible ways to get there
Diane talked to her management about the different possibilities in the firm to reach the next level, and what it would take. She also asked others in the firm about their experiences to help her shape what she needed to do.
Conclusive about the path to take
Diane decided that she wanted to stay in her current division and get promoted there. She worked with her management and coach to put together a plan to get her to the next level. This included a development plan that would increase her ability to be a more effective and visible leader.
Executed into action, tracked and measured.
While promotion is Diane’s ultimate ‘measure of success,’ she knows it is not guaranteed. However, Diane is making great progress on her plan and is already being perceived as a more decisive, influential person. She is also more willing to ask management to share ongoing feedback to make sure she is continuing to move forward.
Diane made the choice to be a leader in her firm. And I am happy to help her get there.

Denise Yosafat - AJO Executive CoachThe Power of CHOICE: Six Steps to Get What You Want out of Life - Denise YosafatDenise Yosafat is an AJO executive coach and host of HR Studio Podcast. She is also a speaker, facilitator, and author. She's worked closely with top leaders in Fortune 500 companies and many others inside and outside the business world to maximize their potential and attain their goals.