A Coaching Story: The Power of Patterns

Today we have a guest post from Collective Gain Coach Laura Foster about the power of identifying patterns to shift our life experience.

I didn’t expect to discuss emotional energy with my client, a high-powered C-suite executive, yet there we were, both silent on the phone after he had a realization that would shift not just the way he operated at work, but everything in his life.

He began coaching with me because he felt there was something lacking in his life. He didn’t have a clear understanding of why he was where he was. He felt that he had somehow stumbled upon his good fortune, that he hadn’t truly earned his success. He was prone to defensiveness and felt obligated to overcommit.

He’d tried meditation. He’d even tried medication. Both seemed to help him feel more balanced, but he was missing a deeper understanding of “why”.

As the Chief Revenue Officer of a tech start-up, he traveled constantly. He felt like he worked all the time and didn’t have the time or the bandwidth to enjoy his personal life.

He’d been at this start-up for almost four years and had dedicated long hours to building out the sales division. He personally hired a number of salespeople and felt emotionally invested in their development and success. The company had experienced tremendous growth and he had co-created a new role for himself focused on international expansion. His success in this new position hinged on hiring an SVP to take over much of his day-to-day responsibilities with the sales team.

Unfortunately, the company was struggling to hire the right person for this SVP role and my client was frustrated because he kept getting pulled back into managing the sales division.

Soon after we started working together his company hired yet another SVP to fill the role he was leaving behind. Initially, he was optimistic that this person would blend in well with the company so that he could finally turn his focus to projects that excited him.

Within a few months, he began to see signs that this new SVP might not be the right fit. There was a serious morale problem. Employees who used to report to my client didn’t trust the new SVP and were still reaching out to my client for support.

He came to one call exhausted and frustrated. He was worried that some of the employees he’d hired and nurtured would leave and he felt like all the work he’d done to build up this division would be wasted. The thought of letting this SVP go and setting himself and the company back was overwhelming.

He said, “I’m not sure I have it in me to rebuild this again.”

Then he said, “I’m tired of putting out emotional fires at work.”

We had already discussed in a previous meeting the concept from Jill Bolte-Taylor about being conscious of the energy you bring to a room and he’d been diligently paying attention to how his own emotions impacted his conversations.

We slowed everything way down and I asked him to consider how he was taking on emotional energy from others at work, whether it was in a 1-1 meeting with a subordinate who wasn’t meeting his numbers or as someone who had to emotionally handle the fallout if they fired this SVP.

We talked about this for some time and then he fell silent.

I held for him.

When he did speak, he said, “I’ve always absorbed way too much of everyone’s energy. I take on too much from too many people, and it affects me negatively. I feel their joy and I feel their pain.” He said that he liked to be liked AND he saw the price he was paying for these behaviors.

He clearly saw a pattern that had been operating for most of his life.

Once we identify patterns, we then have the power to shift our experience.

In almost every single subsequent session the topic of emotional energy came up. He devoted himself to working with his own emotional energy- with what he brought to others and with what he did or did not take on from others.

A few weeks after we spoke about this pattern he said, “I’m no longer fearful of what happens when this SVP leaves. I can’t control whether or not people quit. My job is not to save anyone or anything.”